Lana Camiel
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Food is Thy Medicine: My Favorite Ways to Smuggle Turmeric into Food

Several weeks back I wrote about 6 amazing benefits of turmeric. I also promised to share the ways to include this plant into your diet. 

Early on in my career as a pharmacist, I predominantly included plants into my life through supplementation.  Overtime I recognized this became a much less rewarding and exciting path than experimenting with healthy ingredients in my food.

The Problem

I was born in a country were only few spices were used commonly. Seven or eight years ago I took a class called Herbs and Spices in Cooking.  I learned about using turmeric in my daily meals.

One suggestion made by instructor was taking a large dose of turmeric (one to several TABLEspoonfuls) and just mixing it in some coconut milk.  

I knew of all the promised benefits of turmeric and decided to experiment and follow the recommendations.

In case you aren’t familiar with recipes employing turmeric – you typically see ⅛ up to 2 TEAspoons of powder recommended for each dish.  

Looking back, I think I just didn’t know any better.  For some reason I felt that drinking mega-doses of turmeric in my coconut milk would be a good and sustainable way to incorporate this spice into my diet.  

I forced myself to drink that first cup of turmeric coconut milk, but everything in me rebelled – my senses were too overwhelmed and overpowered.  There was no way I would put myself through this on a daily basis.  

In all honesty, I couldn’t smell turmeric without gagging for the following several months.

The Solution

Few year later I attended the American Herbalists Guild SymposiumA friend and a super talented herbalist, Bevin Clare, discussed the benefits of working with powders (rather than liquid tinctures).  

During her lecture Bevin demonstrated ways of incorporating medicinal plant powders into food and making them more palatable.  

My world has changed forever!

Reading, experimenting and learning

From that moment on, I started looking for ways of incorporating/hiding small and large amounts of powders (including turmeric) into my diet.

This is what I’ve learned about turmeric in the past few years.

Turmeric is NOT absorbed well.  To become a good medicine for your body, you must combine it with some type of oil (butter, oil, ghee/clarified butter, coconut milk).  

You also need to add black pepper.  Piperine (one of the active ingredients in pepper) makes turmeric much more bioavailable to our body, significantly increasing its absorption.

If you’re working with fresh turmeric root (similarly to ginger) the taste will be milder than if you use a dry powder.

Turmeric is a coloring agent that creates a gorgeous golden color if you color clothing or hair.  It also means it stains everything – your hands, counters, cutting boards, blender and more.  Be prepared for that.  If you plan to include it in many dishes – maybe consider using a separate set of tools/dishes.

I used to peel turmeric and ginger roots (with a spoon or a peeler), but no longer do this.  The roots work well even unpeeled.

Your supermarket is a place to look for fresh turmeric root and Mountain Rose Herbs or other good herb distributors can help you with high quality turmeric powder.

Start by integrating small amounts of turmeric into your recipes

Some potential places to incorporate turmeric (fresh or dry depending on the recipe) include drinks (teas, toddy, milk, latte), eggs, soup, stew, coleslaw, curries, honey, butter/ghee, chicken marinades, salads/salad dressings, saute with onions, sprinkle on grains (rice) or roasted potatoes or other veggies (cauliflower), smoothies/breakfast bowls.

When ready, explore these 3 ways to smuggle a LOT of turmeric into food

1. Chocolate

You can try liquid like turmeric hot chocolate or hot chocolate zen, or solid like truffles dusted with turmeric powder.  

My main go to recipe, however, is a medicinal chocolate bar/brownie. I learned the basics of the recipe from Bevin and experimented with it further on my own.  

It doesn’t taste like Kit Kat or Snickers bar, it has a distinct spicy flavor.  But if spiced chocolate can be your medicine, we live in a pretty fabulous world, right? 🙂

For this recipe you need to:

  1. Melt a large dark chocolate bar (1 lb. or so) in a double-boiler (to prevent burning) 
  2. Add several tablespoonfuls of coconut oil – the initial recipe asked for 4 oz, but I have learned that 2-3 spoons is sufficient
  3. Once chocolate and coconut oil melt, mix 4 large tablespoons of turmeric into the mixture
  4. I also add the same amount of cinnamon – you can add other spices
  5. Don’t forget to add some black pepper (pepper combines surprisingly well with chocolate)
  6. Mix well, make sure to disperse the powder throughout the chocolate
  7. Pour the hot mixture into a pyrex dish
  8. Add nuts (almonds/walnuts/pecans), seeds (pumpkin/sunflower), some Himalayan salt on top
  9. I also tried sprinkling the top with rose petals, hibiscus petals, pretty much anything that inspires you and looks pretty
  10. Put into your freezer

The hardest part is to cut into smaller pieces once it’s hard (thaw it for 20 minutes to do this), and of course not to overindulge in it.

2. Hummus/Tahini Dips

Another option is hummus or tahini dip.  If you are less attracted to sweet and spicy flavors of hot chocolate or truffles, this might be a good way to go.  The savory hummus integrates turmeric pretty well.   

These are some relatively easy recipes for making hummus from scratch (version 1 or version 2), and a less common tahini dip.

If you are in the mood to simplify the process even further, just buy some hummus in a supermarket and add turmeric to taste (start with ¼ tsp, go up to 2 tsp or possibly more if you still enjoy the taste)

3. Turmeric Milk/Tea/Paste

The last preparation to experiment is a drink – golden milk or turmeric tea.  They could be made directly from dry turmeric paste, but you can also prepare turmeric paste to simplify your preparation later.

Here’s a good post by Wellness Mama describing how to make turmeric paste or how to use dry powder.

A few of my ready-made favorites

If you’re wondering if there is a simpler way to go, these are two of my favorite companies that conveniently incorporate turmeric into their products – Pure Indian Food’s SuperGhee, (this is their clarified butter with turmeric) and Hope Hummus.
Question: What are some of your favorite turmeric-rich dishes/recipes?

About the Author Lana Camiel

I’m a college professor, drug information pharmacist and herbalist. I teach young professionals and students how to be less stressed and more focused with the right herbs and food.

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