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Spirulina is one of the most nutritious foods available and is a very valuable addition to a raw food diet. But it can be a little tricky to incorporate into recipes due to its strong distinctive flavor.
I first started using spirulina in the early nineties when it started to gain popularity as a nutritional supplement. At that time I was working in a health food store and we sold quite a lot of bottles of spirulina, both tablets and powder, although it seemed the tablets were preferred by most customers.
I also used the tablets for a few years because I found them more convenient at a time when I was working full-time, six days a week, as well as training in gymnastics for four hours each day, and riding my bike to work in the morning and home from training in the evenings.
At this time in my life I didn’t really make any of my own meals, except for the occasional salad, and bought most of my food from the health food store or other local places. After a while, with a change in life circumstances, I stopped using it, and it seemed the spirulina fad was over. But later when I got into raw foods in a big way I rediscovered the benefits of this unique superfood.
So it wasn’t until the last few years that I really started experimenting in the kitchen with spirulina. I had tried it in fruit smoothies right in the beginning but that was about it.
I remember when I first started eating predominantly raw that I didn’t see spirulina as something that I would eat purely for enjoyment. Actually I have a specific recollection of being in the Bali Buddha cafe in Ubud, Bali, making a comment to my husband about an item on their menu; a spirulina superfood smoothie. I said to him that even though it is nutritious I couldn’t understand how anyone could actually enjoy the flavor of this smoothie.
Oh how things have changed! I now appreciate spirulina tremendously but I’ve learned a few tricks along the way to make recipes containing spirulina taste good. (By the way, I did start to love the superfood smoothie at Bali Buddha after a while as well.)
There are three tricks to making spirulina taste great.
1) Choose the right brand.
Quality varies greatly among different brands but so does flavor. It wasn’t until I discovered Health Force Spirulina Manna that I truly started to love spirulina.This brand also has a very dark green color, which relates to its high level of nutrition.
2) Mix with compatible flavors
Combining spirulina with tropical fruits tends to mask the algae flavor. It is perfect in a smoothie with pineapple and banana.
Surprisingly spirulina also combines well with chocolate and it is also wonderful with mint.
3) Don’t use too much
Add just the right amount so the flavor isn’t overwhelming. I’ve actually come to love spirulina in fairly large doses, and so has my husband, but if you’re just getting started, use small amounts and gradually increase it to your preference.
There’s no point in using too much and overwhelming the taste of your food if you can’t enjoy it.
The recipe I’m including here is the most common way I like to enjoy spirulina these days. I discovered that spirulina and mango work well together as mango seems to have just enough acid in combination with sweetness to balance out the spirulina flavor.
Mango Spirulina Pudding with Aloe Vera and Bee Pollen
1 leaf aloe vera
3 medium mangoes
3-6 tablespoons spirulina
3-6 tablespoons bee pollen
Pinch of dried ginger (optional)
Sometimes I simply blend some ripe and juicy mangoes with spirulina for a simple green pudding and this is great in itself. But for something with a bit more substance – as well as healing nutritional components – I like to add fresh aloe vera and bee pollen.
Every week I buy two or three leaves of aloe vera from the farmer’s market, which I usually use only for this recipe but sometimes just add it to all kinds of different smoothies.
To prepare the aloe vera, first slice off the spiny edges, then remove the top part of the leaf to reveal the aloe gel inside. Don’t consume the leaf because it is mildly toxic and has a strong laxative effect. You only want the inner gel portion.
Aloe gel is very healing for the gastrointestinal tract as well as being an immune system stimulant.
Then put your aloe in your blender. For this recipe I use the gel from one leaf that is about 8 inches in length. If your aloe leaves are smaller you may need to use two.
I then add three chopped mangoes.
Blend together until nice and smooth.
Next I add the spirulina powder. For three mangoes I usually add five or six tablespoons of spirulina but if you are still learning to love spirulina you might want to start with two or three.
At this stage, you have the option to add dried ginger, vanilla, or some sweetener such as agave or raw honey. I generally skip this because I appreciate the simplicity of this pudding but if the mangoes are less sweet than usual I might use a little stevia to taste.
You will end up with a dark green pudding that may not look that beautiful but more than makes up for it in nutrition – and I actually like the flavor. It’s certainly not a dish to serve your friends if you are hoping to impress them with your culinary skills or to introduce them to raw foods.
Nevertheless this is a meal I find myself turning to again and again because it is so easy to make as well as being nourishing and satisfying. I have this at least twice a week, sometimes more, usually for breakfast.
Top it with a generous amount of bee pollen for an extra boost of superfood flavor and high-quality nutrition. Bee pollen is really high in protein and B vitamins so this recipe is fantastic for a post-workout meal.
If you like you could add some extra diced mango for a contrast of texture and flavor. Below is my husband’s “man-sized” portion. Just a few years ago he was a devoted carnivore but now he loves his green concoctions just as much as I do!
Do you have a favorite spirulina recipe?
Have you discovered any other tricks to make spirulina taste good or do you just love it anyway? I’d love to know what you think about spirulina and the different ways you enjoy eating it.