Cooking

Moringa the Alarm

Step aside, turmeric: This superfood is coming in hot
Moringa Powder Uses and Benefits
Photo: Rachel Vanni/Tasting Table

Tired of turmeric? Over matcha and kale? Fear not. There's a new superfood in town, and it's sweeping the wellness world clean. We're talking about Moringa, a South Asian plant whose laundry list of nutritional claims leaves quinoa in the dust. 

Like most buzzy wellness ingredients, Moringa is nothing new; Ayurvedic practitioners have been using it for thousands of years. But thanks to a growing popularity and availability, with chefs like Hawaii's Chris Kajioka leading the pack, now's the time to get on board.

The leafy green plant, often sold in powder form, is said to do everything from reduce inflammation to enhance digestion and boost energy. And as Alter explains in her recently released cookbook What to Eat for How You Feel, it has seven times more vitamin C than an orange, 25 times more iron than spinach and a list of antioxidants that could fill a small notebook.

Just ask Lisa Curtis, founder of Kuli Kuli, the leading Moringa brand of wholesome bars, powder, energy shots and more. She first had Moringa while volunteering in Niger with the peace corps. Local friends suggested it to her when she complained about feeling relentlessly low energy, and she found that it worked wonders. After the Peace Corps, she went on to found Kuli Kuli, which supports women farmers and works to improve local nutrition in the areas where Moringa is harvested.

Divya Alter, Ayurvedic expert and chef at Divya's Kitchen in New York City, also knows the benefits of Moringa well. She cites its strong detoxifying properties as helping cure a past autoimmune disease (they're so strong, in fact, that she cautions against giving Moringa to pregnant women and young children).

Fresh Moringa looks like finger-long pods, or "drumsticks," as they're called. You can seek it out at speciality markets, and just like most fresh produce, it has a season—specifically in the spring and early summer. But in the off-season, you can also buy it canned. And with the magic of the Internet, you can find it year-round in all forms, from seeds and capsules to powders and botanical oils.

Though it tastes herbal, Moringa isn't like spirulina, which might make you feel like your mouth is a lawn mower. No, this superfood actually tastes good. Or, as Alter says, "unusual, but not unpleasant." Curtis, who eats a tablespoon of it every day for energy, describes it as "earthy with a peppery finish." Now get ready to pull back the shades and let the Moringa light in.

① Get Souped Up

Our favorite way to eat Moringa is cooked into Alter's refreshingly healthful soup (see the recipe). The Ayurvedic recipe is boosted with a flavorful masala blend and a Thai chile for just the right amount of heat. The pods can be added to heartier dishes like dal, and Curtis uses it to add even more nutrition to curries and stir-fries.

② Break the Breakfast Rut

Boost your morning smoothie with the nutrient-rich powder, or simply do as Curtis does and stir it into oatmeal along with almond butter and goji berries. Just remember to heed Curtis's advice: "A little bit goes a long way," she says in regards to Kuli Kuli's powder.

RELATED   What in the World Is Ashwagandha? »

③ Best Dressed

Whether you're a fan of tangy mustard-based dressings or the creaminess of tahini dressings, add Moringa into your normal routine by mixing in the powder to dress your salad to the nines. Start with a teaspoon and adjust according to taste. Beyond salad dressings, you might find Moringa used as a garnish at restaurants around the country. Take Senia for example, the popular Honolulu restaurant where chef Kajioka sprinkles it over charred cabbage in his verdant spin on a Caesar salad.

④ Drink Responsibly

Another Hawaii chef putting Moringa in the spotlight is Michelle Karr-Ueoka of MW Restaurant, who uses it in drinks, desserts and more. Alter uses the leaves to make tea, and Curtis likens the taste of Moringa to matcha. Larger brands are even taking note: Juice chain Pressed Juicery featured "nature's multivitamin" in its last year's limited-edition matcha hemp milk, along with other green all-stars chlorophyll and spirulina.

⑤ Get Clean . . . Literally

Alter wholeheartedly recommends Moringa soap from Chandika, and even includes Moringa oil in her skin care routine: Proof that it's not just what you put in your body that can make a difference. "We're only at the beginning of what we're capable of," Curtis says.

Portable Gadgets That Make Cooking Outdoors Easier than Ever

Keep Reading
RELATED Wellness Retreats for People Who Love Food
RELATED How to Buy the Best Real Matcha Around

Around the Web

Get the Tasting Table newsletter for adventurous eaters everywhere