By Tom Havran
Wake up your palate and expand your cooking repertoire with spices you may not have experienced before. In this installment of our series highlighting “sleeper” spices, learn about the unique seasoning and spicing capabilities of grains of paradise — and get tips for using it to awaken your next cooking endeavor.
What it tastes like: With the most romantic name in all spicedom, grains of paradise warrant their illustrious title with their vivid, peppery flavor. Even though the flavor is reminiscent of black pepper, this exotic West African spice is actually distantly related to cardamom. It has an aromatic, volatile, slightly citrusy flavor and creates a pungent sensation on the tongue. People who find the taste of black pepper too sharp and unvaried may prefer the more suave, lingering heat of grains of paradise.
What it looks like: Whole seeds are brownish-black, 1/8-inch wide, irregularly shaped and grain-like.
How to use it: For optimum flavor, crack or grind grains of paradise fresh as you use them to preserve the subtle citrusy notes. The unique balance of flavors makes grains of paradise an appropriate addition to both sweet and savory dishes. As a general guide, try it wherever you would use cardamom or black pepper in baked confections, savory entrees or sides. Experiment and expand your palate!
Here are a few tips about how to use grains of paradise:
- Substitute grains of paradise for black pepper in any application.
- Baste winter squash with melted butter and cracked grains of paradise before roasting.
- Combine with lemon juice and butter to flavor baked fish.
- Use to flavor salad vinaigrettes and dressings, especially any salad that calls for citrus fruit.
- Combine with rosemary in a meat rub for lamb.
Have you ever tried grains of paradise? Share what you thought of them in the comments below!
About the author: Tom is communicator of natural living for Frontier, Simply Organic and Aura Cacia brands. In other words, he’s a very imaginative copywriter. A local boy, raised on a farm just down the road from the company’s headquarters in Norway, Tom enjoys drawing, plant hoarding, cooking and living the simple life in the beautiful state of Iowa.