Tiger nuts are gaining popularity as a healthy food option. They are high in fibre and protein and don’t contain fructose or gluten. Tiger nut flour is a great alternative to wheat flour for making gluten free foods. But can you safely eat tiger nuts with nut allergy? This wrinkly “nut” is more allergy-friendly than it’s name suggests.
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What are tiger nuts?
Tiger nuts come from a type of grass in the sedge family. It’s often called yellow nut sedge, or chufa, but the botanical name is Cyperis esculentus. Tiger nut grass grows all over the world and is found in the southern parts of Europe, Africa, the Middle East and India. It’s actually considered an invasive weed in many places.
The name is very misleading, as tiger nuts are actually the edible tubers of the grass and grow underground. Tiger nuts (sometimes spelled as one word, tigernuts) get their name from their distinctive tiger stripe pattern on the tubers and the hard shells. Another name for tiger nuts is “earth almonds”.
Despite the name, tiger nuts are not nuts. They are not tree nuts and they are also not legumes (like peanuts). This means that they are safe for people with tree nut and peanut allergies to eat.
What does tiger nut taste like?
Tiger nuts have a mild flavour but taste very good. They have a sweet, nutty taste that tastes a bit like almonds or pecans, but it also is a little like coconut. Some people think they have a hint of vanilla flavour. These nutty flavours make them a great nut alternative for those with nut allergies.
Foods that contain tiger nuts
Because they are nutritious and allergy-friendly, tiger nuts are often touted as a ‘superfood’ and are becoming more popular in health foods and snacks. They are especially popular with people following gluten free, vegan and paleo diets. Tiger nuts are also very versatile, and can be eaten raw or cooked, juiced, or ground into flour.
Dried raw tiger nuts are sold as a healthy snack option, or they taste good roasted too. Tiger nuts can also be ground into flour and used as a gluten free flour alternative for cooking and baking.
Tigernut flour is also used to make tasty tiger nut butter, which is a great nut-free alternative to peanut or nut butters for people with peanut or nut allergy. It’s easy to make at home with tiger nut flour, oil (like avocado oil) and optional sweetener.
A good substitute for almond flakes or others nuts in cooking are tigernut flakes, which have the same nutty taste and a chewy texture.
Another use for tiger nuts is as a base for a dairy free plant based ‘milk’. Horchata de chufa, or “Chufa” – tiger nut milk – is a popular drink in Spain.
If you have nut allergies, tiger nuts might just be a great alternative ingredient in your allergy friendly cooking.
Allergy to tiger nuts
Tiger nuts are not a nut, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be allergic to them. Any food can be a potential food allergen. Some people are allergic to other types of root vegetable tubers like sweet potatoes or yam, but this isn’t common. Similarly tiger nuts are not a known common cause of food allergies.
Some people with pollen allergies experience oral allergy syndrome (pollen allergy syndrome) symptoms including an itchy mouth after eating fruit and vegetables. It’s possible that tiger nuts could cause similar symptoms in people with pollen allergies. Some cases of pollen food allergy syndrome from tiger nuts have been reported in Spain where tiger nut is more common as a food ingredient.
If you experience any allergy symptoms after eating tiger nuts you should seek medical advice.
More about tree nut allergies
Tiger nuts aren’t the only food that sound like a ‘nut’ but aren’t. Coconut is also not a tree nut, despite the fact that is required to be labelled as one in the US.
If you are allergic to tree nuts, make sure that you check our our easy tree nut substitutes for cooking. You’ll also love our allergy friendly recipes, which are all nut free. Also keep in mind that nuts aren’t just in food. They can also turn up in lots of personal care items and even medicines, so make sure to read those labels carefully.
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*Disclaimer: Allergy Spot does not provide medical advice. You should always consult a suitably qualified medical practitioner in respect of your own medical conditions, symptoms or concerns. See our Website Terms for more details.