What Is Hibiscus?

Hibiscus is trending and for good reason. This bright pink flower is good for you and is great to cook with. Here are the reasons you should check it out.

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.

magenta hibiscus flower
Photo: Meredith

Chances are you are familiar with hibiscus already — it's been a popular ingredient in health-forward drinks for a few years now. But if the Whole Foods predictions are correct, you will start to see a whole lot more of the flower in 2022.

This bright pink flower, sometimes referred to as flor de Jamaica, karkade (in the Middle East), red sorrel, or rosella comes from the Hibiscus sabdariffa plant. This tropical form of hibiscus is grown in warmer places, primarily along the equator, like Egypt, Uganda, Mexico, and Thailand.

Known for its tart taste (think: cranberries) and high vitamin C content, hibiscus has been popular in drinks, teas, sauces, and jams for centuries. In more recent years, it's even started showing up in desserts, salads, even tacos.

It is also a very pretty, photogenic color, and that always fares well for food.

Allrecipes spoke to Travis Potter, organic farmer and founder of Tractor Beverage Co, who has been using hibiscus in their drinks for both taste and color for years about this trendy flower and the best ways to use it for all its healthy benefits.

Health Benefits of Hibiscus

Beyond a hefty dose of vitamin C, there are many health benefits to consuming hibiscus regularly.

Studies show hibiscus tea may lower blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure can put significant strain on the muscles of your heart, as well as blood vessels. High blood pressure is also linked to heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. But hibiscus may help lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. (Do not take hibiscus if you take the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide.)

Hibiscus tea may also benefit your blood cholesterol levels, another factor in heart disease. Research shows people who drank hibiscus tea showed increased HDL cholesterol (that's the "good" kind) and decreased LDL cholesterol (the "bad" kind), triglycerides, and total cholesterol.

What's more, hibiscus flowers and products are filled with antioxidants, which can help fight off aging, damage to your cells, and boost immunity. And if you're sensitive to the caffeine in other teas, good news — hibiscus is naturally caffeine and calorie free.

Ways to Enjoy Hibiscus

Hibiscus Tea

Hibiscus tea is what you're most likely to find in your local grocery store, and it's often paired with flavors of rose or other florals. But if you keep your eyes open, you'll start to see it show up in more beverages.

Tractor makes a hibiscus drink with hibiscus, rose, orange, and orange blossom, and a special hibiscus lemonade for Chipotle.

"In the Caribbean you'll often find it paired with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg," he says. "In Mexico, more flavors like orange peel and rose."

Try making your own hibiscus-infused beverage, like this hibiscus sangria, hibiscus mint tea, sparkling hibiscus cooler, or a Ruby rum buck cocktail.

A little sugar can sweeten up hibiscus for that sweet-tart flavor profile, so you can make a simple syrup with it to add to any beverage. Or turn it into a sugar to sprinkle in your iced tea on baked goods.

Hibiscus Granola

granola with hibiscus and cranberries

Get the Recipe: Cranberry-Hibiscus Granola

Hibiscus is great any time of day, but it's really popular with foods you eat first thing in the morning. For example, hibiscus pairs well with yogurt, and you may already see it popping up in a store near you, like this Noosa Strawberry & Hibiscus Yogurt or this Two Good Mango Hibiscus Yogurt.

You can even make your own granola with hibiscus. This recipe pairs cranberries and finally chopped hibiscus leaves with oats, a variety of nuts, seeds, and coconut.

Want to add a twist to your morning toast?

"Hibiscus is naturally high in pectin," says Potter, "so it makes a great jelly, jam, or even chutney." It pairs really well with berries like strawberries and raspberries.

Hibiscus Marinade

Potter loves using hibiscus flowers in a slightly unexpected way — in a marinade. You can purchase dried hibiscus flowers at many international grocery stores for a relatively inexpensive price (you may have to look for them under the other names mentioned above).

Seep the flowers in hot water to get some of the juices out. "Paired with balsamic it makes a great marinade for chicken or pork," he says.

Hibiscus Desserts

Hibiscus also adds the right amount of tang to dessert and goes well in ice cream, gelato, and even granita. Add a little bit to lemon bars to increase pucker power, or mix with powdered sugar for a natural pop to any cookie glaze.

Hibiscus is a great ingredient to experiment with as there are endless applications for it. As we look towards new, exciting, and healthy ingredients to add to our dishes, hibiscus should top the list.

Was this page helpful?
You’ll Also Love