For several years, I’ve noticed a beautiful blue wildflower lining the road during the summer. It starts out looking like a weed, but when it blooms, the flower is the color of a Tanzanite gemstone. I had no idea this simple, common weed could be used to make chicory coffee.
Guys! I was amazed and delighted by the results! It makes a delicious cup of coffee. I had no idea.
It feels like I’ve discovered this special secret, except I want you all to know all about it too. So here goes!
Table of contents
- What is chicory?
- Medicinal Uses of Chicory
- Edible Uses of the Chicory Plant
- How To Make Chicory Coffee
- What Does Chicory Coffee Taste Like?
- Benefits of Chicory Coffee
- A Caution About Chicory
- Final Thoughts About Chicory Coffee
What is chicory?
Chicory is a mid-summer to first frost flowering herbaceous perennial in the aster family (Asteraceae.) You may also know it as blue sailors, coffeeweed (how apt!), cornflower (not to be mistaken for Bachelor’s Buttons), Italian dandelion, or succory.
Perhaps you know it as New Orleans coffee, a coffee and chicory blend, as found at Cafe’ du Monde. Why is chicory added to coffee? Great question! The coffee and chicory blend has an interesting history that includes the American Civil War and the Great Depression.
Where does chicory grow?
It’s native to Europe, central Russia, and western Asian but can now be found in other parts of the world, including North America where it survives in zones 3-9.
I’ve noticed that it grows well along roadways and sidewalks, in gravel, or in any other harsh environment you can think of. The plant is dark green and is about 12-24 inches high. The bluish flower petals are flat at the ends, and slightly “fringed.” The leaves closest to the ground look exactly like dandelions. If you are looking for them on a sunny day, they are easy to see. But, on an overcast day or late afternoon, the flowers close up, and it’s harder to spot.
Also, like dandelions, it regrows from the tap root. So if for some reason yet incomprehensible to me (did I mention the great coffee?!) you have an infestation of it that you want to eradicate, you’ll find it also has the staying power of a dandelion. Instead of dealing with that headache, I suggest phoning me; I’ll come to dig them up by the roots for my morning cuppa!
In addition to being used to make a beverage similar to coffee, it also has medicinal properties.
Medicinal Uses of Chicory
According to Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants & Herbs, the root can be mixed with water to make a diuretic or laxative. It’s used homeopathically for liver and gallbladder ailments, it can lower blood sugar, and has a slight sedative effect.
Chicory root extracts have been shown to be antibacterial, and their tinctures have an anti-inflammatory effect. You can learn how to make your own tinctures fairly easily.
Edible Uses of the Chicory Plant
In addition to the amazing coffee alternative its roots produce, its leaves are good for both salad and cooked greens. The white underground leaves are great as a salad green in the spring, and the outer green leaves can be boiled for 5-10 minutes and eaten.
I haven’t tried that yet; I’m laser-focused on its possibilities as a coffee substitute!
How To Make Chicory Coffee
The roots of the chicory plant must be dried, roasted, and ground before making a hot beverage. Ergo, I decided to go dig up some roots and try roasting them for coffee.
1. Locate chicories and dig up the roots
I found plenty of chicories to forage right around my house and along my street. I thought I could just pull them out of the ground but I was wrong.
It had been dry for the week prior and because we had a lot of clay soil, I had to use a shovel. Once I started digging, I found some of the roots are very long. Many broke off as I tried to pry them up with my shovel, but I got a decent-sized batch quickly.
2. Soak, scrub, and chop
I soaked the roots for a short time, then scrubbed the roots clean, and chopped off the rest of the plant. Those parts I added to my compost, which is an ongoing project. I patted the roots dry and sliced them up.
I did have to get a heavier chopping knife because some of the roots have a center that is like wood. The really tough stuff, I just added to my garden, and the rest I put on a cookie sheet.
3. Roast the roots
I thought I’d try roasting it slow and low. I turned my oven on to 250 degrees and watched it for a half hour or so. It seemed to dry out but not really “roast” the pieces.
So, I turned up the heat to 350 degrees, and about 20-30 minutes later, a wonderful smell came from the oven. The root pieces were turning brown and smelled like chocolate, caramel, and coffee, all in one. The darker it got, the better it smelled.
Once I thought the chicory root was dark enough, I turned down the oven to 300 degrees. I wanted it to roast a little more but not burn. The total time was about an hour and a half. I took the roasted root pieces out of the oven and let them cool to room temperature.
4. Grind the roasted chicory roots
Using my blender on the “chop” setting, I ground up the roots. After several seconds, I found it still too coarse. However, once again, the smell was incredible. I think the blades created enough heat to warm the grounds and send the smell wafting up in the air.
Because I needed a finer grind, I set the blender to “liquefy,” and that worked much better. The result was a finer grind that almost had the appearance of cigarette tobacco.
5. Brew the ground chicory root
I was finally ready to brew a cup of chicory coffee! I added 2 teaspoons into my coffee filter and enough water to the pot of my drip coffee maker for one cup of coffee. It looked dark as it brewed, just like regular coffee.
By the way, in a power outage, a French Press is highly recommended for every coffee lover. You can get one for less than $30, and it’s worth every penny. I imagine this would also work well for cold brew also.
What Does Chicory Coffee Taste Like?
Now, the taste test.
First, I tried it black. It tastes just like a strong black coffee but with a definite mocha, possibly a caramel flavor. I may have used too much chicory, so next time I’ll use 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons per cup when I brew. Experiment to find the amount that produces results you enjoy.
Since I don’t normally drink black coffee, I added a tiny bit of stevia (here’s Survival Mom’s preferred Stevia brand) and some Coffee Mate to this aromatic concoction. You could also add spices like cinnamon for a different flavor.
Oh, my, GOSH!!!!! This is like a fabulous cup of coffee from a pricey coffee house. I didn’t really think it would be this good. I can’t wait to go out and gather more chicory root!
Benefits of Chicory Coffee
In addition to the medicinal properties mentioned earlier, here are some other potential benefits:
- Chicory roots may improve digestive health. In its raw state, it contains 68% inulin. Inulin is a prebiotic fiber available in many foods that you may already eat, such as wheat, bananas, garlic, and onions to name a few.
- Some research suggests it may improve bowel function and reduce constipation, and improve blood sugar management and insulin resistance. However, most research focuses on inulin rather than chicory.
- Animal studies have suggested chicory root possesses anti-inflammatory properties.
- Prepper Reason #1! If SHTF, and you run out of green coffee beans to roast, this will be priceless, both for personal consumption and for bartering.
- Prepper Reason #2! Add chicory to regular coffee to stretch your supply. Note: the beverage may no longer be caffeine free.
- It’s caffeine free, so you can have a warm beverage, late at night. If you want to limit your caffeine intake but don’t like decaf coffee, chicory coffee may be the coffee taste alike you’ve been wishing for.
A Caution About Chicory
While I am all on board with using chicory root for coffee, there are some possible side effects to consider:
- Pain, swelling, and tingling of the mouth are symptoms of an allergic reaction.
- Those with birch pollen, ragweed, or Asteraceae allergies, or who have atopic dermatitis should avoid chicory. Read more about these negative side effects here.
- If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your doctor.
Why Preppers Should Consider Chicory
Chicory is a natural addition to a prepper’s holistic survival plan. It’s a plant that is rich in nutrients and has many medicinal properties, making it a valuable addition to any prepper’s food storage. The root of the chicory plant can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute, providing a caffeine-free alternative that can be stored for long periods of time. Chicory leaves are also edible and can be added to salads or cooked as a vegetable.
Additionally, chicory has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments, including digestive issues, liver problems, and inflammation. With its versatility and health benefits, chicory is a smart choice for preppers looking to stock up on essential supplies.
If SHTF, and you run out of green coffee beans to roast, this will be priceless, both for personal consumption and for bartering. Also, adding chicory to regular coffee stretches your supply. However, note that the beverage may no longer be caffeine free.
If you don’t want to rely on foraging it in the wild, you could plant it from seed as part of an edible landscape or a medicinal garden.
Final Thoughts About Chicory Coffee
I highly recommend foraging for this wonderful and amazing plant. I can’t believe we’ve lost so much knowledge over the years about living off the land. We all should learn foraging skills.
This coffee alternative is free, abundant, delicious, and a great barter item. Better yet, just try it now to enjoy, but save some for yourself for later!
Have you tried coffee from chicory root? What do you think of it?
Originally published July 30, 2016; updated and revised by Team Survival Mom.