Grains of Paradise

Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2014

Brace yourself, black pepper aficionados. There’s a game-changing spice out there you’ve probably never heard of, and it’s sure to rock your culinary world. With similar applications as black peppercorn, but with much more flavor depth, grains of paradise are soon to be your go-to spice for just about anything and everything.

These tiny, round dried seeds with a brown hue are also sometimes referred to as alligator spice and hail from the Zingiberaceae plant of West Africa. They rose to popularity several hundred years ago as an alternative to the then expensive peppercorn, but later waned in demand following black pepper’s subsequent fall in price.

While not as ubiquitous as they once were, today these hidden gems are adored by chefs and in-the-know food enthusiasts alike for their complex flavor profile. Grains of paradise impart a warm, spicy, woodsy and slightly citrusy flavor, with complex notes of black pepper, cardamom, cloves and lemon zest.

They make an excellent dry rub for steak, add warmth to curry dishes and emit a delicious citrus flavor when cracked and whisked into salad dressing. They can even be used in baking applications (especially ones involving fruit), and many home brewers are familiar with their delicious peppery taste.

For best flavor, toast before use and grind into your dish. Use a mortar and pestle or, even better, fill an empty spice grinder with grains of paradise and grind as needed, just as you would pepper.

Have you cooked with grains of paradise before? Do you have any favorite applications or recipes? Share below!