Dandelion has a lot to offer, as every part of this common plant, from root to petal, is edible. Roasting the root to make coffee is a straightforward process that yields a health-boosting drink that tastes uncannily like the real thing.
The dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a great culinary imposter. The syrup from its flowers makes a convincing vegan honey substitute, its leaf can replace endive or radicchio in a salad and its ground and roasted root can be brewed into a surprisingly satisfying alternative to coffee.
Dandelion coffee has gained in popularity in health food stores in recent years but records suggest that dandelion root was well-recognised as a “cheap” coffee substitute in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. All-round culinary use of the dandelion stretches back millennia in Greek, Roman and Chinese culture where it was recognised as a “detoxifying” health tonic.
The health benefits of dandelion are becoming increasingly well-established, meaning roasted dandelion root isn’t just handy for anyone who enjoys the taste of coffee but wants to cut out the cost or the caffeine. Studies have suggested it has potential as an anti-diabetic because its chemical components are anti-hyperglycemic, anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory (Wirngo, Lambert & Jeppesen, 2016). Other reported properties comprise diuretic, hepatoprotective, anticolitis, immunoprotective, antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, antiarthritic, antidiabetic, antiobesity, antioxidant and anticancer effects (Di Napoli & Zucchetti, 2021).
Making a cup of dandelion coffee from prepared granules is a little more time consuming than your typical instant but is still straightforward: a heaped teaspoon of the ground root just needs to be boiled up in a pan with a mug of water (or milk, if you prefer a latte) for around 5mins.
Making the dandelion coffee granules themselves is a fairly labour-intensive task, although most of the time is spent digging up the pale, almost carrot-like roots. Larger plants are best targeted for this job for a greater yield. Those harvested in the spring before flowering are sweeter than the roots harvested later in the year, when they tend to turn bitter.
- After digging up the roots, give them a good scrub (a nail brush works very well). Top tip: do this in a bowl rather than the sink, to avoid clogging your drain with soil.
- Around 100g of fresh root will yield approx 40-50g of "coffee".
- Cut up the cleaned root into slices no bigger than 1cm.
- Preheat your oven as hot as it will go and then roast the root for 1hr with the door open just a crack to get rid of the moisture.
- You can also use a dehydrator for this process. Set it on its highest temp and dehydrate until the outside edges of the root start to wrinkle up.
- Remove the root from the oven and smash it up using a rolling pin or pestle and mortar.
- Return to the oven highest temp cook (with the door shut) until it starts to smoulder.
- Leave the roasted root to cool down . If you prefer a powder to "granules", pound it in a pestle and mortar or blitz in a food processor.
Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!
Di Napoli, A. & Zucchetti, P (2021). A comprehensive review of the benefits of Taraxacum officinale on human health. Bull Natl Res Cent 45, 110.
Wirngo, F. E., Lambert, M. N., & Jeppesen, P. B. (2016). The Physiological Effects of Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale) in Type 2 Diabetes. The review of diabetic studies: RDS, 13(2-3), 113–131.