Easy To Find Grains of Paradise Substitutes

Quite like its name, grains of paradise spice adds a heavenly taste to your dish. But, unfortunately, this seed has become a rarity these days. As I was planning to cook carrot-ginger soup with grains of paradise, I decided that a visit to the superstore was necessary.

Once I’d gathered all the groceries, I took a trip down to the spice aisle. Regrettably, but not surprisingly, there was no grains of paradise available. Since I’ve learned not to let such realities discourage me, I decided to substitute it with other ingredients. 

But before I start, let me indulge you in a bit of information about this amazing ingredient.

What is the Grains of Paradise?

The grains of paradise, also known as guinea pepper and melegueta pepper, is a seed. Originally found in West Africa, this spice earned a name worldwide. The grains of paradise is a tiny seed, approximately 1/8th of an inch in diameter. It has a reddish-brown color and imparts a pepper-like flavor with hints of citrus when chewed. This seed belongs to the ginger family.

Grains of Paradise Substitute

Grains of Paradise Benefits:

Grains of paradise is used as a medicinal herb worldwide. It is believed that this seed cures:      

  • Illnesses of the heart
  • Obesity
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Infections in kidney and urinary tract
  • Diminished sexual activity

Grains of Paradise Uses in History:

  • It was used to make European beer.
  • Used in winemaking.
  • Used for medicinal purposes.
  • Used for culinary purposes.
  • Grains of paradise recipes.

Grains of Paradise Recipes:

Grains of paradise is used in recipes like:

  • Stews
  • Chai
  • Salmon
  • Stir-frys
  • Salads
  • Tagine
  • Pudding
  • Steak
  • Skewers
  • Apple pie
  • Koch-Koch      
  • Ras El-Hanout

How to Use The Grains of Paradise?

Grains of paradise can be used as a seasoning in a variety of recipes. It is typically sold as a whole seed. So if you are cooking an Indian, African, or Middle Eastern meal you can use it as an aromatic. This means you may lightly tap the seeds until they crack a little. Then toss them in the rice or curry until cooked. Finally, scoop out and discard before serving. This process is very similar to how we use cardamom and cloves. 

If you prefer a more robust flavor, grind them to a fine powder. You can do so either manually with a mortar and pestle or mechanically with a grinder or pepper mill. Moreover, if you want to enjoy its flavor to the fullest, substitute half of the black pepper with the grains of paradise in Cacio de Pepe. To diversify the taste even further, finish the dish with ground spice.

What does Grains of Paradise taste like?

The grains of paradise has a complex flavor profile. It can be defined as woody, mildly nutty, spicy, peppery with a hint of citrus. Chewing grains of paradise gives you the taste of various ingredients like cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, coriander, and most surprising of all, juniper. 

Quick Fact

Selling liquor infused with grains of paradise is illegal in Florida under some vague law passed almost 150 years ago. Not conforming to this law can lead you to be charged with a third-degree felony. 

Substitute for Grains of Paradise

You won’t find grains of paradise in every shop. Therefore we must make do with alternatives. Isn’t it a good thing that this seed has such a distinctive flavor profile that you can replace it with a few other ingredients

1. Ground Black Pepper

This is the easiest grains of paradise spice substitute to find, and one always available at hand too. Black Pepper comes from the family Piperaceae, a flowering vine. Eating black pepper is beneficial for your health, as it is rich in antioxidants and possesses gastro-protective and antimicrobial potential. You can replace one teaspoon of the grains of paradise with half a teaspoon of ground black pepper.

Nutritional Value Per 100 g
Sodium 0.5 mg
Calcium 10.19 mg
Iron 0.22 mg

However, this might not be the most desirable substitute, flavor-wise so consider adding small portions of ginger and cardamom. But, It is also the best grains of paradise substitute for apple pie.

Grains of Paradise Substitute - Ground Black Pepper

2. Sansho Powder

Sansho powder or prickly ash powder is a Japanese seasoning powder. It is made from grinding the berries of prickly ash trees. Sansho powder has a pungent, peppery flavor with an undertone of lemon that gives an electrifying sensation when chewed. It has a refreshing citrus smell. It is not very spicy but has residual heat.

Nutritional Value Per 100 g
Sodium 20.8 mg
Calcium 0 mg
Iron 0 mg

Ki no me or the buds of the prickly ash tree are harvested during springtime. Sansho powder is enriched with vitamin A and B. Vitamin A is not commonly found in spices. Moreover, it is also packed with minerals such as sodium, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. 

Sansho pepper has been used to treat diarrhea for over a millennium. Moreover, this ingredient has anti-inflammatory properties that can relieve conditions like rheumatism and asthma. Finally, it is also known to prevent conditions like demineralization of bones. Half a teaspoon of sansho powder is enough to substitute one teaspoon of the grains of paradise.

Grains of Paradise Substitute - Sansho Powder

3. Cardamom

Cardamom is a spice that has been used by humanity for centuries. It has served us both in the kitchen and the infirmary. Cardamom is native to the land of India. However, it is famously used in Middle Eastern and Arabian recipes. Cardamom has a slightly piney and fruit-like taste but with a pleasant scent.

Nutritional Value Per 100 g
Sodium 18 mg
Calcium 383 mg
Iron 13.97 mg

Cardamom is exceptional for health. Some of its well-known benefits include lowering blood pressure, aiding in weight loss, and improving breathing. Moreover, laboratory studies have shown that cardamom helps us fight tumors, improve anxiety, and boost liver health. 

Guatemala is responsible for producing 55% of the world’s cardamom. Cardamom is used in recipes like lentils, red meat, and rice. It is ideal for recipes like curry, chai, and baked items. Remember to add cardamom early on in the cooking process, unlike grains of paradise, which is added near the end as it does not handle heat well. Half a teaspoon of cardamom with the same amount of pepper would be enough to substitute grains of paradise in any recipe.

Grains of Paradise Substitute- Cardamom

Frequently Asked Questions

What are grains of paradise so expensive?
Grains of paradise used to be a lot cheaper than black peppers a long time ago. But ever since its demand decreased, so did its production. Therefore, nowadays, grains of paradise are quite expensive to buy.
Can I grow grains of paradise?
Yes! You can grow grains of paradise. The plant takes almost 12 days to start sprouting from the seed. Although it is rarely used outside of Africa, where it is cultivated in Ghana and surrounding areas.
Is Alligator pepper the same as grains of paradise?
Yes! Alligator pepper is the same as the grains of paradise. Grains of paradise has many alternative names, such as African peppers, ossame, or fom wisa.

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