Tiger nuts are one of the best kept secrets in the health food world!
What are Tiger Nuts?
Tiger nuts are not nuts at all. They are tubers with high amounts of resistant starch and fat. In most countries they are treated as a weed, with the official name Cyperus esculentus, but in countries like Spain and Nigeria they are cultivated for the preparation of “horchata de chufa”, a sweet milk-like beverage. Other terms for tiger nuts include chufa sedge, nut grass, yellow nutsedge, tiger nut sedge, as well as earth almond.
Personally I love the term earth almond. That’s what they taste like to me – a sweeter and healthier version of an almond. And while I don’t do too well with almonds or any other nut or seed for that matter, I do great with tiger nuts. These gems are also perfect for those with nut food allergies. Snack Safely recently added tiger nuts to their list of allergy-friendly snacks in the vegetable chips category. (Learn more here.)
The TV series Superfoods: The Real Story highlights Tiger Nuts in Episode 6. The segment begins at 15:20 minutes.
The history of tiger nuts
Tiger nuts have a rich history. According to the website Ancientfoods,
“Tiger nuts, called Hab’el aziz in Arabic were a great source of nutrition in Egypt since at least the 5th millennium B.C. According to Tackholm, V. and Drar, M. in Flora of Egypt, vol II, first published in 1950 and again in 1973, it was believed by them to be the most ancient of foods found in Egypt after Emmer and Barley. Illustrations of Cyperus Grass are found in many tombs and it was even discovered in the stomachs of pre-dynastic mummies by F. Netolitzki, in The Ancient Egyptians and their influence on the Civilization of Europe by G. Elloit-Smith.”
A recent Oxford University study concludes that ancient ancestors in East Africa primarily ate tiger nuts with some added grasshopper and worms.
“The Oxford study calculates a hominin could extract sufficient nutrients from a tiger nut- based diet, i.e. around 10,000 kilojoules or 2,000 calories a day — or 80% of their required daily calorie intake, in two and half to three hours.”
Uses for tiger nuts
Tiger nut milk, or horchata de chufa, is one of the easiest ways to incorporate tiger nuts into your diet. Horchata is low in sugar and high in arginine. Arginine frees up hormones to produce insulin and therefore makes an excellent drink for those with diabetes.
Tiger nuts themselves are very difficult to chew. Often they are soaked before consuming or you can purchase them already peeled. Tiger Nut USA offers both the peeled and unpeeled for the same price, because according to one of the owners, a UK native, “Americans don’t like to chew.” But if you agree that chewing is good for digestion, try the unpeeled, soaked version.
Here’s how I use tiger nuts and tiger nut flour:
1. Homemade granola
I add them to my grain-free granola blend. Find the recipe here.
2. Baked goods
I buy tiger nut flour in bulk to have on hand when making breads and muffins. Check out the tiger nut pumpkin muffin recipe here. I also substitute 1 cup tiger nut flour in this sourdough bread recipe.
I also add tiger nut flour to this Simple Egg-Free Paleo Almond Bread recipe.
Sources of tiger nuts
Health food stores around the country are starting to carry them. Next time you’re at your local health grocer ask them to stock them if they aren’t already. Online sources include:
Tiger nut oil is a bit harder to come by and expensive. As the word spreads about tiger nuts, I have no doubt demand will increase and prices will come down. I use tiger nut oil in skincare due to its high oleic acid and vitamin E content. Historically Egyptians preferred tiger nut oil to olive oil for beauty care.
Tiger nut oil is light brown in color and has a rich flavor. It works well as a cooking oil because it withstands heat, but since it is a luxury oil I stick with small amounts taken orally, or as a moisturizer.
Just So Natural products offers Tiger Nut Natural Soap combining the richness of tiger nut oil with the luxurious illipe butter. Find the soap here.
I can’t say enough about these health food gems. What are your thoughts? Have you tried tiger nuts?