What Is Chicory and Why Is It in My Coffee?

This popular New Orleans pick-me-up is a breeze to make at home.

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Bored with your usual cup of coffee or cold brew, or looking for a lower-caffeine option for your everyday cuppa? Consider chicory instead of — or to replace part of — your morning coffee. Here's what you need to know about this tasty coffee-like drink, including what is chicory coffee, exactly, plus how to make it and where to buy chicory coffee.

What Is Chicory Coffee?

Native to Africa, Asia, and Europe and brought to the U.S. in the 18th century, chicory (AKA chicory coffee or New Orleans coffee) is a naturally caffeine-free root that's roasted and cut up into a form that's popularly used as a coffee substitute or addition. With a dark, slightly sweet, and rich flavor similar to roasted coffee sans caffeine, it's a great option for those who are sensitive to the buzz of java.

The chicory-infused coffee sold at New Orleans staple Café du Monde — often served with steamed milk and made to enjoy alongside fried beignets — boosted the reputation of chicory coffee across America. Today, most locally-owned New Orleans coffee shops mix their beverages with about 70 percent coffee and 30 percent chicory root.

In addition to its lower caffeine content and great taste, chicory has a high amount of inulin. This prebiotic soluble carbohydrate might help improve gut health, reduce cholesterol, and control blood sugar.

Chicory drink with blue flowers
Eugene03/Getty Images

How to Make Chicory Coffee

Since chicory is more soluble in water than coffee grounds, you can use less when brewing it compared to traditional coffee.

To start, try about 2/3 regular ground coffee and 1/3 chicory and see how you like the flavor and caffeine content. You can brew this just like you would normally, in a French press, drip coffee maker, pour-over filter coffee-style, or otherwise. For a flavor boost, add a dash of warm spice such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, or pumpkin pie spice.

Try this method if you're interested in trying a completely caffeine-free, all-chicory drink:

  1. Heat 1/2 cup milk (cow or plant-based milk) until steaming and hot. Don't boil.
  2. Brew 1/2 tablespoon chicory with 1 cup of water, just as you would brew coffee.
  3. Pour this mixture into a large mug.
  4. Top with milk, stir and sweeten with 1 teaspoon of honey, maple syrup, sugar, or alternative sweetener if desired.
  5. Season with a dash of preferred spice.

Where to Buy Chicory Coffee

To make the recipe above or your preferred chicory coffee variation, you can buy chicory coffee already blended with coffee beans or roasted and chopped up (it's not technically "ground") on its own. Consider these options that can be ordered online and shipped to your doorstep.

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