You may have seen bulk bins of tiger nuts lately at your local grocery store, or noticed tiger nuts pop up on the ingredient list of healthier packaged snacks, from cookies to ice cream. The name of these humble little guys is misleading, though. Tiger nuts aren't even a nut, but an ancient root vegetable (a tuber, like potatoes!) grown primarily in Africa and Spain. Though tiger nuts date back centuries, they've flown relatively under the radar in the United States, until recently.
A few reasons they're trending now? Tiger nuts are a great substitute for those allergic to nuts: tiger nuts have a similar taste to nuts; they're rich in nutrients; and they can be ground up into a grain-free, tiger nut flour that's easy to bake with. Read on to learn more about the health benefits of tiger nuts, where to find them, and how to incorporate them in your diet.
Tiger Nuts Are a Healthy Superfood
Are tiger nuts healthy? In short, yes! Some of the key benefits of this tuber include:
They contain healthy macronutrients.
A 1-ounce (or quarter cup) serving of tiger nuts contains between 120 to 140 calories (depending on the brand), about 7 grams of fat, 14 to 19 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of protein.
Tiger nuts offer a healthy dose of key micronutrients.
These small pods provide magnesium, calcium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin E.
Tiger nuts are good for your gut microbiome.
They're a fantastic source of resistant starch, which acts as fuel for the good bacteria that live in our large intestines, says Nashville-based Arika Hoscheit, RD, LDN. "This is great for building a healthy microbiome and improving digestion," she adds.
Tiger nuts have a high fiber content.
A quarter cup of tiger nuts contains 4 to 10 grams of fiber, which is helpful for improving blood sugar control and cholesterol levels.
Tiger nuts have anti-inflammatory properties.
Delicious Ways to Eat Tiger Nuts
Eat them whole or raw as a snack.
When trying tiger nuts for the first time, keep it basic and eat them raw, right out of the bag, to get a feel for their natural flavor and texture and to see if you like them, says Hoscheit. Tiger nuts are often sold raw and dried and can be eaten that way as a crunchy snack. Raw tiger nuts may come peeled or unpeeled; the latter tend to have better flavor as well as more fiber, but it's a matter of personal preference. (And a fun fact: Tiger nuts are also used as fish bait. Though it's unlikely you'll confuse the two, make sure you buy the ones labeled for human consumption.)
Bake with tiger nut flour.
Baking with tiger nut flour is a popular choice for its impressive nutritional profile and the fact that it has a subtle taste that's comparable to other nut flours—but with less fat and more prebiotic fiber, potassium, and other essential nutrients. That's one reason Nicholas Naclerio, founder and CEO of Mmmly Cookies, decided to incorporate tiger nut flour into the company's low-carb snack line. If you're baking with tiger nut flour at home, you may want to consider sifting it first, as it will have a grittier texture than you may be used to.
Add them to cereal, granola, or trail mix.
Alternatively, Hoscheit recommends buying sliced tiger nuts (which are more like flakes, resembling rolled oats) rather than whole ones because they're easier to chew and to incorporate in recipes. If you do enjoy the flavor and texture of tiger nuts, an easy way to consume them is to add whole ones to a trail mix or add sliced ones to your morning cereal.
Enjoy soaked or cooked tiger nuts.
And if you don't love them? "[Tiger nuts] can be a little hard to chew, so I prefer rehydrating or boiling them," says Hoscheit. "Take it to the next step and soak, boil, or roast them," she says. You can add soaked and softened tiger nuts to smoothies, for example.
Where to Find Tiger Nuts
You can find a wide variety of tiger nut products online and in health food stores. For instance, tiger nut butter, tiger nut flour, and tiger nut hot cereals are all sold at Amazon. Shops like Tiger Nuts USA and Gemini Superfoods also have many tiger nut products available online.
Some companies are also incorporating them as an ingredient in unusual ways, which gives you a great chance to dip your toe into the world of tiger nuts. For instance, aMYLK, a plant-based milk company in Oregon, recently launched a tiger nut milk made with only tiger nuts, water, and salt. The result? A milk that froths like a dream, perfect for topping morning coffee. "One of the best things about tiger nuts is that they are naturally sweet, which means I don't need to add [other] sweeteners," says aMYLK founder Amy Colville. Colville also chose tiger nuts because the plants have a low-water, low-carbon footprint and grow quickly underground.
Another brand, plant-based gelato company Sacred Serve in Chicago, is incorporating tiger nut flour into its new "Cookies N Creme" flavor. Founder Kailey Donewald, a former health coach who created her gelato to be safe for anyone with nut or gluten allergies, says tiger nuts actually recreate the iconic cookie texture everyone knows and loves—without adding any cookies or cream.