|Grains of Paradise has a full, delightful taste that is a mix of mild black pepper, cardamom, coriander and ginger and it features a luscious citrus aroma.
Long used in Middle Eastern, North and West African cuisines, this spice is starting to gain in popularity throughout other regions of the world. Grown in the swamps of the “pepper coast” of West African the cube-ish, whole seeds are reddish brown and turn to a dull Grey when ground. The two major exporters of Grains of Paradise are in Ghana and Nigeria.
Grains of Paradise are also known as alligator pepper, melegueta pepper (not to be confused with Brazilian Malagueta pepper which is actually a member of the Capsicum family), Guinea pepper, ginny pepper and Roman pepper. A lesser known member of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae ), Grains of Paradise is used by many as a substitute for those who are looking for a flavor similar to black pepper but one that is just not quite as hot. So because of this, Grains of Paradise is often used in larger quantities than pepper when cooking.
Grains of Paradise has a peppery, pungent flavor with bitter fruity notes and a slight aroma that is similar to cardamom and clove. Grains of Paradise is not as pungent as black pepper.
You can also use Grains of Paradise as a substitute for black pepper. In a way this is almost like a finishing salt so add them right before a meal is served (by grinding on top). Grains of Paradise works really well in this manner especially on steamed fish or steamed vegetables. We've also had customers who have used Grains of Paradise in a variety of rice dishes. And of course if you like to make your own home brew then you've probably seen the TV commercials for Sam Adams beer touting this as one of their "secret" ingredients.
If you are going to use it as a substitute for pepper I recommend getting a separate pepper grinder. We always recommend starting off using less than more when experimenting with a new spice or seasoning so that it doesn't overpower your dish. You can always add more next time.
Helpful hint – you will enjoy its fullest flavor if you grind it just before adding to a dish (or just before serving).
The spice is quite common in Moroccan spice blend Ras el Hanout and in Tunisian Five Spice. In this country it is gaining popularity when ground into dipping sauces or rubbed on chicken, steaks and hamburgers before grilling.
Some hard to find recipe ideas using Grains of Paradise - Spiced Fruit Syrup, Tomatoes and Okra, Lentil Soup with Grains of Paradise, Pan Seared Cod with Grains of Paradise.