Hibiscus - or hibiscus sabdariffa, otherwise known as flor de Jamaica, Florida cranberry, Caribbean sorrel, roselle, krachiap and Indian sorrel, among many more names depending on where you are in the world - is a colourful and tasty flower, ranked as one of Whole Food’s Top Ten Food Trends for 2022.
We take a closer look at this vibrant flower that lends tangy notes to drinks, as well as sweet and savoury cooking, and explore why it's getting rave reviews.
What is hibiscus?
Hibiscus is a hardy plant, which thrives in tropical and subtropical regions, and is mainly produced in China (East Asia), Sudan (Africa) and Thailand (Southeast Asia).
While the fresh petals are edible, it's the calyx of the plant, the collection of sepals that protect the bud and supports the petals when in bloom, that are best dried and used for cooking.
What does hibiscus taste like?
Hibiscus has a tart and sour flavour, similar to cranberry or pomegranate, with floral overtones. It's also a great source of vitamin C.
How to use hibiscus?
Because of its tangy, tart and sour characteristics, hibiscus lends itself equally well to both sweet and savoury cooking. It is most commonly found dried, used to make tea, or cooked into jams and jellies because it’s pectin-rich.
In Mexico, dried hibiscus is commonly found infused in a cold fruit drink called 'aguas frescas', while in West Africa, it’s made into a tea called bissap or zobo.
Hibiscus also finds its way into many sweet treats - as flavouring for jam, jelly, ice cream, tarts, chocolate, puddings and cakes - and complements savoury foods like chutneys, marmalades, butters, sauces and even pickles.
Hibiscus drink recipes
In drinks, hibiscus can be enjoyed plain, sweetened, or unsweetened, and with a range of complementary aromatics like whole cloves.
Take your pick of zingy hibiscus alcoholic cocktails and non alcoholic drinks in the roundup of drinks recipes below.
Hibiscus syrup offers a floral aroma in bright margaritas created by Brooklyn-based cocktail consultant Shannon Mustipher.
Hibiscus pineapple cocktail
Rick Martinez mixes up a citrussy-yet-sour vibrant hibiscus pineapple cocktail with tequila, in the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen.
Hibiscus rose moon milk
Say 'bedtime' has arrived with a bright pink moon milk with delicate floral notes, when warm macadamia milk gets blended with hibiscus and rose hip tea, honey, ginger, and ashwagandha.
Hibiscus horchata recipe
This hibiscus horchata drink has a surprising earthy sweetness and packs an even bigger nutritional punch, with an extra dose of tiger nuts.
Hibiscus iced tea
Learn how to make an easy refreshing hibiscus iced tea, or aqua de Jamaica, which is enjoyed all over the world, from Central America to Asia.
Hibiscus savoury recipes
Hibiscus adds a subtle floral and tart dimensions to savoury dishes. Whether you want a riff on sauces, like Bon Appetit's hibiscus cranberry sauce, or a marinade for tenderising beef, or you want to kick up your pasta dish in this simple hibiscus and arugula pasta dish from Thyme and Love, see more video recipe ideas below:
Try this twist on tacos, with a vegan hibiscus taco that uses the flower of the hibiscus plant.
Hibiscus and pomegranate grilled chicken breasts served with a couscous pomegranate and naartjie salad
Hibiscus runs through this tasty grilled chicken and couscous dish.
Hibiscus Sweet Recipes
Hibiscus also adds delicate floral and tart notes to any number of baked and sweet goods, from cakes like Bon Appetit's hibiscus poke cake to Food 52's hibiscus lemon cookies, and this stunning and delicious dessert of hibiscus pavlova with lemon hibiscus cream from Epicurious.
Get started by watching Yewande Komolafe make hibiscus shortcake cookies in the video below:
Hibiscus shortcake cookies
Yewande Komolafe is in the New York Times Cooking studio kitchen making her hibiscus-spiraled ginger cookies with a swirl of floral hibiscus, citrus zest and coarse sugar running through a buttery shortbread dough.