Hibiscus is a dried flower that is found in many places around the world. In Mexico, it is used to make agua fresca, a cold tea made by soaking the flowers in water. The concentrate is then mixed with sugar and more water and served cold. Aside from being used as a cold brew, hibiscus flowers can also be used in vegetarian dishes, as a spicy snack or as a lovely syrup to have with gin.
Hibiscus has a very refreshing flavour, which is tart, similar to that of cranberries. Its beautiful ruby colour and its many properties, such as being rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants, make the hibiscus flower a fantastic and interesting ingredient to use. People in Mexico swear by its diuretic properties and other health benefits such as helping to control heart blood pressure and cholesterol. Hibiscus tea is naturally calorie and caffeine-free which makes it an ideal drink when on a controlled diet.
When used as a dish, it is recommended to cook the flowers in water twice or rinse them after cooking them one time to eliminate most of the tart taste. The texture of the flowers has a very satisfying bite that when mixed with other ingredients, can be used as a meat alternative as we will show you in our tacos recipe below.
Here are some basic recipes where we will show you how one cup of hibiscus flowers can be used and how to make the most of them in three different ways. No waste at all with these flowers!
-1 cup Hibiscus Flowers
-12 cups water
-½ cup sugar
-Ice to serve
1 Add four cups of water to a medium pot with the hibiscus. Bring to a boil and cook for no more than five minutes.
2 Remove from the heat.
3 Strain the cooled down hibiscus concentrate and reserve the flowers.
4 Add the sugar and the rest of the water to the concentrate and adjust to your tasting. More water or sugar may be needed.
5 Serve very cold and enjoy!
-1 cup hibiscus flowers from hibiscus water
-¼ white onion, sliced
-1 large tomato, diced
-1 garlic clove, minced
-¼ cup guajillo sauce (Optional, recipe below)
-Salt and pepper
-White onion, diced
-Feta cheese, crumbled
1 Rinse the cooked hibiscus flowers once more under running water to remove any extra tart taste and drain.
2 In a pan, add about a tablespoon of olive oil and add the hibiscus flowers. Cook for 10 minutes.
3 Add the onions and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If using the guajillo sauce, this is the moment to add it. Mix well with the hibiscus and cook for 10 minutes until all the flavours come together. Season to taste.
4 Serve with warm corn tortillas, beans and add fresh onions, coriander, avocado and your favourite salsa. Green salsa goes best with hibiscus!
-1 ½ cup water
-3 Guajillo chillies
-1 Ancho chilli
-2 Garlic cloves
-¼ White onion
-1 tsp vegetable stock (powder) or salt to taste
1 Remove the stem and the seeds from the chillies. You can use scissors to open them lengthwise to do this.
2 In a small saucepan, add the water and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the guajillo and ancho chillies. Let them soak in the hot water with the tomatoes for 20 minutes.
3 Blend the tomatoes, chillies, onion, garlic and the vegetable seasoning or salt until smooth.
- Sometimes, hibiscus flowers can come with little sticks or debris that are not a problem when making hibiscus water because they will be strained after cooking. However, if we are going to cook with the flowers, it is worth quickly checking for any sticks, leaves or other elements mixed with the flowers that are leftover from the packing process. A quick visual check should do and it must be done before cooking the flowers in water.
- When making tacos, it is worth boiling the flowers twice. This will yield more hibiscus concentrate for tea/water. This will also help to remove as much of the tart flavour and the flowers will absorb better the other ingredients. Cooking it once and then rinsing the flowers can also work.
Hibiscus Gin & Tonic
-1 ½ oz of your favourite gin
-4 oz tonic water/mixer
-1 oz hibiscus syrup (recipe below)
-Fresh lime juice and lime rounds to garnish (optional)
1 Fill a glass with ice and add the gin, tonic water, hibiscus syrup and lime juice. Mix well and serve with lime rounds.
-1 cup Hibiscus flowers
-1 cup water
-1 cup sugar
-Small piece of fresh ginger, about 2 cm (optional)
1 Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil on medium heat. Stir often until all the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let it rest for 20 minutes.
2 Strain to remove the flowers and store the hibiscus syrup in a glass jar until ready to use.
-Leftover hibiscus flowers from the syrup making
-2 Tbsp hibiscus syrup
-1 Tbsp Tajin
1 Once the flowers from the syrup have cooled down, add some of the syrup back to them and the Tajin. The amount of these two ingredients will depend on your taste.
2 Mix well and keep in a sealed jar inside the fridge.
Mexican snacks are often sweet and spicy and these hibiscus flowers coated in syrup and Tajin are exactly that. The hibiscus flowers have a very satisfying consistency and its flavour, similar to that of dried cranberries, is just beautiful with the chilli and salty addition of Tajin. Absolutely worth trying and excellent use of leftovers!
These are just a few of the many delicious things you can prepare with the humble hibiscus flowers. A refreshing cold tea, a fantastic vegetarian taco option and as an indulgent treat with a cheeky drink. Do you have a favourite way to use it?
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