Can I Cook With Kava?

Can I Cook With Kava?With so many amazing recipes available online for Kava Kava, it’s tempting to cook with Kava!  Technically, kava is a dietary supplement and NOT a food ingredient.  So, as far as the FDA is concerned, one can’t go to a store and purchase any Kava products that are food items.  But that does not prevent the kava community from cooking to their heart’s content with kava! There are many foods and beverages that are enhanced by the earthy taste of kava. Also, foods with well-known relaxing properties such as dark chocolate often synergize extremely well with kava not just in terms of taste, but also effects.

You can look to our “Kava Recipes” page for any recipe we get and love enough to post.

Heat and Kavalactones- A Primer:

For a long time it was believed that applying heat destroyed the active kavalactones in kava—those compounds responsible for the root’s relaxing, analgesic and euphoric effects. The general wisdom still holds that kavalactones begin to denature (break down) at temperatures of 140 degrees Fahreheit and above [3], making cooking with kava a tricky proposition! In the South Pacific, kava is traditionally enjoyed as a cold tea, which reinforced the notion that kava could not be heated lest the kavalactones be destroyed.

However, it turns out that sometimes kava is heated: in Hawaii, a little-known way of enjoying kava is to briefly add hot stones to a bow of prepared kava; the brew is then whisked and consumed once it has cooled off [1]. A more in-depth exploration of kava’s heat resistance was undertaken in the blog at Kava.com in “Boiling and Baking With Kava” [3], with interesting results: the writer tried heating kava gently in water for 5, 15, and 60 minutes, and also tried immersing kava root in boiling water for the same lengths of time. They reported no diminishment in kava’s relaxing effects when the root was either gently heated or boiled for 5 minutes; after 15 minutes there was a noticeable dip in the strength of the kava, but it was not completely inactive; at 60 minutes, the kava had become inactive (and also unpalatably bitter).

The results suggest that there is a much more flexible range of temperatures at which kava remains active than was previously believed. This makes sense due to the diversity of kavalactones that have been identified in kava root (as many as 14 in total, with 6 found in high concentration in the root): researchers have speculated that some kavalactones are more heat resistant than others and maintain their integrity, and thus effects, at higher temperatures [6]. The duration of high heat exposure also seems to matter. The experimenter in “Boiling and Baking with Kava” noted that kava stayed active after 5 minutes of heating but was reduced in its effects after 15 minutes of heating.

Of course, the Kava Guru can’t create an article about cooking with kava without including some of our favorite  recipes! The three selections below all use kava in interesting, unexpected, and delicious ways that make the most of its earthy complex flavor and wonderfully mellowing effects.

Spiced Kava Chai:

Some kava manufacturers are already offering chai-flavored instant kava that is tasty and effective. But for authentic South Asian flavor, it’s hard to beat chai that’s freshly prepared [4]. Based on the classic spiced black tea of India, this recipe combines powdered kava root with ancient spices such as cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon, all of which have their own analgesic, relaxing and hypnotic effects.

Combine 1 tablespoon powdered kava with 1 cup water in a small pot. (Although we can’t endorse using more kava than this, some people double up the amount of kava in this recipe to counteract any decrease in effectiveness due to heating it.) Bring the kava and water mixture to a simmer and add cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, ground ginger and cinnamon to taste. Simmer 5 minutes, take the kava chai off the heat and filter the liquid through a strainer bag to remove the kava pulp and spice solids. Serve as is or add hot milk, nut milk or honey to taste.

Can I Cook With Kava?

Spicy kava chai is the perfect thing for warming up on chilly evenings – minus the jittery effects of caffeine!

Kava Chocolate:

The synergistic potential of kava and dark chocolate is just beginning to be recognized in alternative health circles [5], and the Kava Guru says it’s about time—because not only do the earthy and sweet tastes of kava and bittersweet chocolate complement each other, their relaxing and euphoric qualities do too! Though it may take a bit of experimentation to get right, it’s easy and economical to make kava chocolates at home with only a few ingredients for an all-natural, delicious treat. Best of all, the relaxing kava counterbalances the stimulating effects of chocolate, so these goodies won’t keep you awake at night.

Mix 1 tablespoon of kava in coconut oil, vegetable oil or another vegetable fat. This will start the extraction of kavalactones and is essential for any recipe that uses plain powdered kava root. The mixture should become an oily paste. Next, heat about ½-1lb of good-quality dark chocolate in a double boiler (or a small pot over a larger pot full of simmering water) until it just melts. Mix your extracted kava root in with the melted chocolate and stir over low heat until the mixture is completely blended. Pour your kava chocolate into chocolate molds or an ice cube tray and refrigerate until it has firmed up and is ready to eat.

Kava Ice Cream: A frozen variation of “cooking” with kava—chilling with kava might be more accurate—kava ice cream [2] combines the earthiness of kava with the sumptuous creaminess of ice cream for an amazing chilled treat. The milk, eggs and cream in the recipe also provide automatic emulsification of the kavalactones, making the finished product quite strong as well. The one caveat is that you will need an ice cream maker for this recipe, but luckily there are plenty of relatively inexpensive models available.

Ingredients: 2-4 tablespoons powdered kava root (depending on the desired strength of the finished dessert)

1 cup whole milk
2 cups half and half
¾ cup sugar
5 egg yolks, separated from the white

Preparation: Stir together the milk, cream, and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl, then pour in the milk mixture, stirring constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan over medium heat, stirring until it thickens to a pudding-like consistency. Let it cool to about room temperature before blending in the kava powder. Place the mixture in your ice cream maker and freeze according to the instructions for that model.

Mahalo,
Kava Guru

Sources
1. “Awa Root.” Kona Kava Farm. Accessed March 12th, 2014. http://www.konakavafarm.com/articles/awa-root.html

2. “A Refreshing Perspective (and Refreshing Kava Ice Cream)”. Kona Kava Farm Blog. Accessed March 7th, 2014. http://www.konakavafarm.com/blog/?p=312.

3. “Boiling and Baking with Kava.” Kava.com. Accessed March 7th, 2014. http://www.kava.com/?p=480

4. “Kava Recipes – Spiced Kava Chai.” Kick Back with Kava.com. Accessed March 7th, 2014. http://www.kickbackwithkava.com/index.php?route=articles/articles&articles_id=9.

5. “Organic Goodness: Chocolate and Kava”. Kona Kava Farm Blog. Accessed March 7th 2014. http://www.konakavafarm.com/blog/?p=58.

6. Singh, Yadhu N. (ed.) Kava: From Ethnology to Pharmacology. CRC Press, 2004.

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One Comment.
  1. kava enthusiast

    wow I never thought to try to make ice cream with kava, that sounds wild..how does it taste??

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