What about brewing a spiced Saison today? Then you ought to have some grains of paradise to produce an exotic Saison. And if you can’t get it then you have to think of using a grain of paradise substitute.
In this article, you’ll read about this West African spice, especially its uses and substitutes.
Grains Of Paradise: An Overview
Aframomum melegueta is a species in the ginger family, Zingiberaceae, and is closely related to cardamom. An aromatic spice, similar to peppercorns, has its origin in West Africa. Other names for this spice include grains of paradise, alligator pepper, ossame, or melegueta pepper,
It’s popularly used as a spice, especially in African cuisines that have hints of citrus and pungent flavor.
This seed is reddish-brown and about ⅛-inch in diameter.
Over time, the grains of paradise lost their popularity to black pepper. Today, it is best known for its usefulness in the production of the Scandinavian spirit aquavit and flavoring beer and cocktails.
What Does It Taste Like?
Grain of paradise has a complex flavor: peppery, woody, herby, with a subtle heat. You’ll find some traits of other spices like cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, coriander, citrus, and juniper in each of the grains (seeds).
Its taste is quite identical to that of black pepper. However, its heat builds up slowly and is not instantly punchy and sharp like black pepper.
How it is used in cooking?
The piney aroma and a warm, peppery taste of grains of paradise seeds are a delicious way to season myriad recipes.
It’s a flavorful ingredient that can be used in any recipe that calls for black pepper. It works well in a spice rub for meat and fish dishes. In fact, use it in any recipe that needs to have peppery heat.
You’ll find it commonly used in West and North African cooking. A fine ingredient used in the Moroccan spice blend ras el-hanout.
Until the 19th century, it was one of the most sought-after ingredients used in European beer and winemaking. Some continue to use it.
The seeds are used as a whole and removed and discarded before serving. Cracked seeds are used to flavor oil or butter before sauteing vegetables. Nonetheless, using ground seeds in your recipes gives the maximum punch, heat, and aroma.
What’s A Good Grains Of Paradise Substitute?
As you know, the grain of paradise is a mouthwatering spice that you can use in numerous recipes. To your disadvantage, it isn’t easy to find this spice in most stores. Don’t worry! I have handpicked a few grains of paradise substitution ingredients for you. Here are they:
1. Black Peppercorn
There is no better substitute for grain of paradise than the black peppercorns. They both have the very same flavor profile and are often used interchangeably.
Interestingly, they share not only the flavor but also the appearance and aroma. So much so, it is difficult to distinguish between them from the taste of a dish using either of them.
As for a difference, the black peppercorns give an instant feeling of heat and punch, but grain of paradise slowly works its way up.
Cardamom and grain of paradise are members of the ginger family of plants. These two spices have a lot of things in common, especially the flavor and aroma.
Just like the alligator pepper, cardamom also pairs well with most other spices and herbs, and recipes.
For a notable difference, cardamom has a mild flavor of heat and adds a bit of sweetness to your recipe. Thus, when using it as a replacement for grain of paradise, adding a little black pepper to cardamom will be the game-changer.
Usually, grain of paradise is added towards the end of cooking but cardamom needs to be added at the initial part of cooking itself.
3. Sansho Powder
Sansho powder is a Japanese seasoning powder made from the ground berries of the prickly ash tree. Just like the grain of paradise, it has a peppery-citrus flavor with long residual heat.
Sansho powder is quite a popular spice that goes well with Japanese sushi, stews, and soups.
In place of grains paradise, you can use this powder sprinkled overcooked foods as a topping. As a substitute, use it in the same quantity as grains of paradise your recipe calls for.
4. Pink Peppercorns
Pink peppercorns are semi-dried, hollow, pink berries of the Peruvian pepper tree; not a true peppercorn. It tastes peppery with a strong fruity, citrusy note.
As a substitution for grain for paradise, it works well in sauces, meat and vegetable dishes, salad dressings, vinaigrettes, baked goods, and beverages.
Pepperwort, or field pepper, is a widespread weed originally native to Europe. The plant has midsized green leaves in various shapes and reddish-brown small seeds.
Pepperwort has a strong resemblance to melegueta pepper’s flavor. It has a citrusy note with mild hotness and a lingering aroma. The heat of this spice is short-lived, unlike the melegueta pepper.
In an emergency, you can use pepperwort in most recipes that call for grain of paradise.
The Bottom Line
Grains of paradise is a popularly used spice, especially in the West and North African recipes. The woody and peppery flavor of this spice with a lingering heat is a wonderful addition to any recipe with a pungency and heat flavor profile.
In the end, black peppercorn is my number one choice for grains of paradise substitute. Other replacement options worth trying are Sansho powder and cardamom.
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