You Can Cook with Dandelions! Find out How!
Whole industries have been created to combat them. Gardening books and magazines are filled with ideas for eradicating them. Homeowners everywhere scorn them. But dandelions persist and thrive – and thank goodness, because they are actually one of the world’s most nutritious foods – and good medicine, besides!
Turns out, dandelions aren’t native to North America. The prolific weeds with bright yellow flowers were actually brought here by European immigrants who valued dandelions as a superfood and medicine. Literally, dandelions have kept colonists and pioneers alive, and were highly valued during the Great Depression and WWII.
Today, dandelions are making a culinary comeback. You’ll find them in gourmet restaurants, high end grocery stores, and farmer’s markets throughout the U.S. But most of us have plenty of dandelions growing nearby, free for use, ready for the taking.
How to Identify Dandelions
There are a few wild plants that look similar to dandelions – and while they aren’t dangerous to eat, it pays to notice these important dandelion traits:
- Tooth-shaped, hairless leaves.
- Leaves and stems growing directly from the rootstalk in the soil.
- One flower per stem.
- Stems without branches on them.
- A milky white sap when a stem is broken.
- A thick root, looking rather like a thin parsnip. Growing off this main root may be smaller, hair-like roots.
- For safety’s sake, don’t harvest dandelions near roadways (where the plants soak up fumes) or from any location where chemical sprays, such as weed killers, may be used.
Nutritionally, dandelion leaves are right up there with – and sometimes supersede – kale, collards, and spinach. And if you pick the leaves before stems and flowers appear, they are less bitter than many salad greens. (If you pick them later in the season, one easy way to remove their bitterness is to bring a pot of water to a boil, then add the leaves. Simmer until tender; taste. If the leaves still seem bitter, repeat, using fresh water. Repeat as often as necessary.
Easy Dandelion Sauté
If dandelion leaves are new to you, this is a simple and easy first recipe to try.
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 lbs. dandelion leaves, chopped coarsely
1. In a small bowl, combine the garlic and salt.
2. Place a skillet over medium high heat and add the oil. Once warmed, add the garlic mixture, sautéing for a few seconds.
3. Add the dandelion leaves and season with pepper. Cook and stir often until the leaves are bright green and wilted.
Variation: Cook a few strips of bacon in the skillet; drain on paper towels. Add the garlic and salt mixture, then the leaves. When the leaves are wilted, remove from the stove and crumble the bacon on top.
If you like spinach noodles, you’ll likely enjoy dandelion leaf noodles, too. Eat them simply, with a little butter and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or try them with your favorite pasta sauce.
- 1 1/4 – 2 cups dandelion leaves (depending upon how much flavor is desired)
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 egg
- Fine sea salt
- 1 ¼ + cups all purpose flour
1. Place the dandelion leaves and water in a saucepan. Cover and cook until the leaves are tender. Allow to cool for several minutes. Add the egg and a pinch of salt.
2. Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor.
3. Pour the leaf mixture into a large mixing bowl and stir in 1 cup of flour. If the dough is still soft, add a little more flour and mix again, repeating until the dough is stiff.
4. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 1 minute. Roll the dough very thin. Let it sit for 20 minutes.
5. Loosely roll the dough into a cigar shape. Use a sharp knife to cut strips ¼ inch wide. Unroll and cut into noodles of whatever length you desire. Cook the noodles in boiling water.
Serves 2 – 4.
Serve this and no one will know they are eating a common weed – unless you tell them!
- 28 oz. enchilada sauce
- 1 ½ cups dandelion leaves, cooked
- 3 greens onions (scallions), chopped
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Co-Jack cheese
- ½ lb. cooked ground beef or cooked, shredded chicken breast
- About 8 (7 inch) tortillas
- Sliced black olives (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, combine ½ cup enchilada sauce, dandelion leaves, onions, sour cream, and 1 cup cheese.
2. Spoon about ½ cup of enchilada sauce onto the bottom of an 11 x 7 inch baking dish.
3. Spoon about ¼ cup of the dandelion leaf mixture into a tortilla and roll up. Place, seam side down, in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
4. Spoon the remaining enchilada sauce over the rolled tortillas. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top. If using, scatter sliced black olives over the top. Bake until cheese is melted and filling is bubbly, about 20 minutes.
Serves 6 – 8.
Other ideas: Use dandelion leaves in place of other greens, like spinach and kale, for making quiche, omelettes, a pizza topping, etc. You can even use them in place of basil when making pesto. For long term storage, dehydrate the leaves in the late winter or early spring; crumble the dried leaves into soups, stews, and other dishes.
Dandelion flowers contain lots of vitamins A, C, and B, beta-carotene, zinc, potassium, and iron. They are also a great source of lecithin – believed to maintain brain function while supporting the liver.
Here’s a superb introduction to eating dandelions. The resulting jelly tastes very much like honey.
- 4 cups dandelion petals
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons powdered pectin
1. Dump the dandelion petals in a stainless steel pot. Add 8 cups of water and turn the heat to medium high. Boil for 10 minutes.
2. Place a bowl in the sink and set a fine strainer over it. Carefully pour the dandelion petal mixture through the strainer. Press down on the petals with the back of a spoon in order to extract as much of the golden liquid as possible. Discard the petals. Thoroughly clean the strainer.
3. Put another bowl in the sink. Place the strainer over it. Put enough coffee filters inside the strainer to cover its entire surface. Carefully pour the strained dandelion liquid through the strainer again.
4. Clean the pot. With a clean measuring cup, measure out 3 cups of the dandelion liquid and pour it into the pot. Add the lemon juice, vanilla extract, and pectin. Bring to a full rolling boil that can’t be stirred down with a spoon. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
5. Bring the mixture to a full boil and, stirring constantly, boil hard for 1 minute. Remove the pot from the stove.
6. Ladle the jelly into the jelly jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process jars for 10 minutes in a boiling bath canner.
Every 3 cups of petal liquid fills about 4- 5 jelly jars.
Note: Any remaining dandelion petal liquid can be refrigerated for use in teas. Or, pour into ice cube trays and freeze for a sweet addition to iced tea.
Dandelion Flower Oil
This oil can be used in any recipe calling for olive oil.
- 1 cup dandelion petals
- ¾ cup olive oil
1. Pour oil into a saucepan placed over low heat. Add the petals. Simmer for 25 – 30 minutes. Remove from stove and allow to cool completely.
2. Strain through a sieve lined in coffee filters. Pour into a glass jar with a well-fitting, non-metallic lid. Use within 3 weeks.
Dandelion Flower Tea
This is a refreshing tea that may be served hot or cold. It also acts as a diuretic, reducing swelling and bloating.
- About 8 dandelion flower heads
1. Pour water into a small saucepan and place over high heat.
2. Pack the flower heads into a tea ball. Close ball and place in a cup. Once the water boils, pour it over the tea ball. Steep for 10 – 15 minutes with a saucer placed over the cup.
Simple Dandelion Flower Fritters
When I first served these to my family, they were very skeptical. In fact, I had a hard time getting them to taste even one. But once they did, they were hooked!
- Olive oil
- A couple of handfuls of dandelion flower heads
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup all purpose flour
1. Place a skillet over medium high heat and add enough oil to come up the sides of the pan just a little.
2. In a bowl, whisk the egg. Add the milk and flour, stirring until well blended.
3. Dip a flower in the batter, coating completely, and place it flower side down in the hot oil. Repeat until the skillet is full of flower heads. Cook until the batter is crispy, then turn the flowers over with tongs and cook the opposite side. As each flower finishes cooking, transfer to paper towels to drain.
Other ideas: Add fresh dandelion flower petals to your favorite muffin or oatmeal cookie recipe or your favorite salad. Make dandelion flower vinegar by stuffing a glass jar with the flowers (green parts removed) and covering with apple cider vinegar; cover and let sit in a dark location for 6 weeks before straining and using. Also, try pickling the flower buds, picking them while still tightly closed. The flower stems are edible, too, though quite bitter. Try chopping them into a salad. You may wish to boil them first.
The roots of dandelions are a terrific source of vitamins C, A, D, B complex, and beta-carotene. They are also high in iron, potassium, zinc, biotin, phosphorus, and magnesium, and are a good antioxidant. This is also the most medicinal part of the plant, used to cleanse the liver, gallbladder, and kidneys, and as a tonic for PMS.
Young roots taste similar to salsify or artichoke hearts. Older, larger roots are more bitter, but boiling or roasting reduces or removes their bitterness. When dandelion roots are roasted, they taste very much like coffee.
Dandelion Root “Coffee”
This drink tastes like instant coffee – but it’s much more nutritious and has no caffeine.
- Scrubbed dandelion roots
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
2. Place some scrubbed dandelion roots in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in the preheated oven with the door left ajar. Stir every 15 minutes until roots shrink, and are golden and without moisture, about 2 – 3 hours. Store cooled roots in an airtight container in a dark location until ready to use.
3. When ready for “coffee,” fill a small saucepan with water and place over medium high heat. Bring to a boil.
4. Grind the roots in a coffee grinder until they form a power. Add the powder to the boiling water, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. Strain.
Dandelion Root Cake
Dandelion roots add coffee flavor, minus the caffeine, plus lots of nutrients, to this cake.
- 1 cup quick-cooking tapioca
- 1 cup hazelnuts, roasted and ground in a food processor or coffee grinder
- 1 cup almond meal
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons chopped, roasted dandelion roots
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/2 cup coconut or olive oil
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch cake pan.
2. In a mixing bowl, stir together the tapioca, hazelnuts, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar.
3. In a small saucepan placed over medium high heat, pour the milk and the dandelion roots. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes. Strain.
4. Beat the eggs in another mixing bowl. Add the milk, syrup, oil, and vanilla and mix well. The batter will be thinner than average cake batter.
5. Bake in the preheated oven until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
Makes one 9 inch cake.
Dandelion Root Tea
This medicinal tea is a great way to reap the benefits of dandelion root. It is a bit bitter; if desired, add a little honey, or some dried red raspberry leaf.
- Dandelion roots
1. Scrub dandelion roots and chop. Fat pieces of roots should be cut in halves or quarters for easier drying and grinding.
2. Place roots on the tray of a dehydrator set at 135 degrees F. Dry until the roots are hard and no trace of moisture is left in them. Store cooled roots in an airtight container in a dark location.
3. Grind a small number of roots in a coffee grinder. Pour into a tea ball. Cover tea ball with boiling water. Cover cup with a saucer. Steep for at least 10 minutes.
Variation: Dehydrated and ground dandelion root can also be added to water, juice, or smoothies for a nutritional boost. Added to orange juice, it is tasteless.
Other ideas: Grind roasted dandelion roots and use them to add coffee flavor to homemade ice cream or baked goods, or use them as part of a meat rub. Try pickling roots harvested before stems grow on the plant.
Kristina Seleshanko is the author of The Ultimate Dandelion Cookbook – 148 recipes for dandelion leaves, stems, buds, flowers, and roots. She also blogs about homesteading, foraging, cooking from scratch.