Tiger nuts, one of the hottest superfoods on the market, are not, in fact, nuts. These wrinkled, marble-sized orbs are small, tuberous rhizomes of a sedge grass (cyperus esculentus lativum) that’s been cultivated for millennia around the world. Native Americans enjoyed tiger nuts, as did the ancient Egyptians. In Spain, where they’re known as chufa, they are the traditional ingredient for horchata.
With a flavor reminiscent of both coconut and almond, they earn their name from a tiger-striped exterior. They can be eaten freshly dug out of the ground, or cooked–roasted, boiled, or juiced. Packaged tiger nuts have been dried to make them shelf-stable; they’re also sold as tiger nut flour, and as a tiger nut milk. All come with numerous health benefits.
“Tiger nuts have been around for 4000 years,” says Jack Sims, who launched America’s first tiger nut company, Supreme Peeled in 2013. He attributes their appeal to the fact that they were a vital component of our ancestors’ diets—that plus the fact that the tiny tubers are high in fiber, low in calories and fat, and non-GMO, making them an attactive ingredient for low-carb and paleo dieters alike.
Jemma Claire, co-founder of UK-based wellness company Na’Vi Organics has been selling tiger nuts for almost three years. Claire notes that tiger nuts are also “high in magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, vitamins C & E,” and have been shown to help slow down cellular aging, control blood pressure and promote a healthy digestive system.
What Are The Actual Health Benefits of Tiger Nuts?
For starters, tiger nuts are superhigh in resistant starch fiber, which has been getting a lot of buzz for its weight loss benefits, says Gina Consalvo, RD. Resistant starch passes through the stomach and small intestine without being digested, and may even help you lose weight by reducing blood sugar spikes and keeping you fuller longer than other foods with the same number of calories, she says. It also benefits your gut by acting as a prebiotic, stimulating the growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract.
One ounce, or about 50 chickpea-size pieces of plain, raw tiger nuts, contains 120 calories, 10g of fiber (about 40% of your daily value), 9g of naturally occurring sugars, tons of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and iron, and 7g of fat, most of which is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that research shows can help reduce appetite and promote weight loss. For some context, a serving of almonds—about 23 nuts—has 163 calories and about a third of the filling fiber of tiger nuts.
What You Need To Know About Tiger Nuts Before You Try Them
People with digestive issues such as IBS or are sensitive to high-fiber foods might experience some gas, bloating, cramping, or diarrhea if you eat too many tiger nuts, says , says Consalvo. But other than that, there aren’t many drawbacks.
Ultimately, these delicious micro powerhouses of wellness lend themselves to an abundance of applications. Here are 9 ways to use them.
Eat Them Whole
Of course, tiger nuts are delicious in their whole state, and I often eat them by the handful. Note, depending on the brand you purchase, tiger nuts come either peeled or unpeeled, the peeled version being a bit softer and easier to eat. Think about the difference between the two as almonds that are blanched versus unbalanced. You can also soak tiger nuts for a few hours in order to soften them. I find after about four hours of soaking, the nuts inflate with water and take on the crunchy texture of a sunchoke.
Make Tiger Nut Milk
One of the first tiger nut recipes you’ll want to try, is making a simple dairy-free milk. All you really need is a high-powered blender, and either cheesecloth or a nut milk bag. (Although you can always skip this step and buy pre-made milks, too.)
I experiment with many nuts milks at home, and prefer a rich whole milk-style nut milk, as opposed to, say, a skim milk viscosity. Try soaking your tiger nuts over night and then blending them in a ratio of 2:1, two cups of water to 1 cup of tiger nuts, along with half a vanilla bean. Using a nut milk bag, separate the milk from pulp. (Keep the pulp to repurpose as tiger nut flour; see below.)
Once you have milk, you can use that liquid in countless ways just like dairy milk. Or, you can use the tiger nut milk base and add other flavors to create a horchata, oatmeal, with cereal, added to morning coffee, added to various baked goods in place of dairy milk, or just sipped as is!
Make Tiger Nut Chia Pudding
A natural way to introduce tiger nut milk into your diet is through breakfast cereal, oatmeal, or chia pudding. I love that tiger nuts add a subtle, natural sweetness to dishes, and the milk is perfect as an early a.m. addition to an abundance of dishes. Tiger nut milk is a great vehicle to rehydrate chia seeds, and once you mix the two, you can add any other flavors you like.
Make Tiger Nut Flour
You can take the leftover tiger nut pulp from step 2 and repurpose that into a “flour” by dehydrating the pulp. From my experience in baking with tiger nut flour, the flour acts in a similar fashion to almond flour, adding moisture and chewiness. So, I sometimes sub in tiger nut flour for almond. Tiger nuts are a bit sweeter than almonds, so they add a nice natural sweetness to recipes as well.
Tiger nut flour is an excellent option for gluten-free bakers. As mentioned, when baked, tiger nut flour works in a recipe similarly to almond flour, with the added boost of a slight sweetness. Here's a classic chocolate chip version.
Make Tiger Nut Pancakes
One of the challenges I’ve found in building gluten-free pancake recipes is that unless your ratios are exact, pancakes without wheat flour either come out dense and leaden, or don’t have the flop of traditional pancakes and fall apart in the pan. But using tiger nut flour, I’ve found that tiger nut pancakes remain moist but not too heavy, and the batter binds well. Feel free to jazz up the recipe with any baking spices you enjoy.
Make Tiger Nut Ice Cream
One of the downsides of non-dairy ice cream is that oftentimes the outcome is less creamy than one might expect. That’s because you’re not adding full-fat milk or egg yolks, ingredients which add to traditional ice cream or gelato’s creaminess. But because tiger nuts are quite rich on their own, tiger nut milk yields a great ice cream base.
Make Tiger Nut Bread
Tiger nut flour is a great ingredient to added extra moisture and fiber to baked goods, both savory and sweet. While you can incorporate the tiger nut flour into tart shells, tiger nut flour also works well in breads, which gain their lightness from the addition of baking soda, while eggs bind the loaf together.
Looking for more healthy cooking ideas? Check out this easy way to prep and cook a week's worth of lunches at once on a sheet pan:
Make Tiger Nut Burgers
Anyone who has ever tried a veggie burger will have noted the addition of ingredients like rice, lentils, beans, mushrooms, and, of course, vegetables. Some veggie burgers even incorporate flour or other such ground grains to help join the other ingredients together. So, in place of wheat, tiger nuts serve as a healthier gluten-free option when making a plant-based patty.
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