Nature is full of color and when it comes to food there are a variety of vibrant ingredients to choose from. Bright red strawberries spell romance when dipped in chocolate, the sight of yellow lemons has the power to make our mouths pucker, and oranges pack Vitamin C in their citrusy slices. The world of food captures all of the colors of the rainbow, but what about blue? Compared to other foods, blue occurs a lot less frequently in nature.
That’s because the chemical responsible for blue pigmentation is a bit more rare than other foods. Most of the produce aisle is full of green foods thanks to chlorophyll, and carotenoids are the phytonutrients responsible for giving carrots, yellow squash, apricots and other foods their lively yellows and oranges. But reds, purples, and blues come from anthocyanin, a pigment that’s less stable than the ones previously mentioned. Even when anthocyanins are present, they mostly express themselves as purple or red, and not so much blue.
Colorful foods are certainly exciting and can bring a pop of color to your home cooking. Here are ingredients and techniques you can do to harness this rare pigmentation in your kitchen.
Corn comes in an abundant array of colors. Aside from yellow which is what we are most familiar with, corn comes in a gradient of pinks, deep reds, rich purples, and deep blues. And because corn is such a versatile ingredient there are a lot of ways to incorporate it into your cooking. Blue corn flour and blue corn meal can bring vibrant blue hues to your food, especially when it comes to baking. Not only do these two ingredients make your food more colorful, it also adds a rustic blue corn flavor.
Blue corn flour can be added in addition to the flour you’re already baking with in recipes for cakes, cookies, pie crusts and breads. It’s exceptionally tasty and beautiful when added to sourdough breads, adding a slightly earthy and nutty flavor to sourdough’s pungency. But a little bit of blue corn flour can go a long way. Adding too much blue corn flour will not only alter the color, but it will change the hydration of your dough, so you’ll need to slightly tweak the proportions of your recipes.
Blue cornmeal is another product that you can use to naturally make your baked goods blue. Use it in place of your yellow cornmeal for a flamboyant take on cornbread or use it to make a brilliant and savory polenta.
Butterfly Pea Flower Tea
The delicate petals of the butterfly pea flower are responsible for giving butterfly pea flower tea its indigo color. The Southeast Asian tea has become popular in the United States in recent years for tinging cocktails and lattes with a lively cobalt blue color, bringing with it floral flavors.
Butterfly pea flower’s intense color is released when its made into a tea, so it’s the perfect ingredient for drinks. Once brewed, you can use the tea to create galaxy cocktails, add frothy milk as if you were creating a midnight blue London Fog, or freeze them to create naturally sapphire colored ice cubes. You can also incorporate butterfly pea flower tea into your cooking, using it as an ingredient anywhere you’d use tea to enhance flavor. You can even cook rice in butterfly pea flower tea to create all-natural blue rice.
Black Goji Berries
Black goji berries are so abundant in anthocyanins that they appear black, but when these tart berries are juiced, made into a tea, or mixed into a smoothie they can turn whatever they’re mixed in a dazzling purple-blue.
Most goji berries you’ll find in the United States are sold dried or in powder form. Though dried goji berries look like raisins you’ll want to soak them in hot water to soften as their texture can be a bit crunchy. Once they’ve absorbed some moisture, they can be added to just about any dish you’d normally add raisins to – cookies, quick breads, scones, and bowls of grains and fruits.
But to use goji berries to enhance the pigmentation of your food, you’ll want to thoroughly blend the berries into the dish. Black goji berry powder would be best for this, but if you’re using dried berries, you can either use a food processor to grind the berries down and incorporate the powder into other dry ingredients for baked goods, blend the berries into a smoothie, or steep the dried berries to create a tea.
Blue Majik Spirulina
If you want to turn your foods the same color as the blue sky on a clear day then use Blue Majik spirulina. Spirulina is a microalgae that’s often green, but the Blue Majik variety has a naturally electrifying blue hue. Unlike produce which gets its pigmentation from anthocyanins, Blue Majik spirulina’s color comes from another form of phytonutrient called phycocyanin.
Blue Majik spirulina is sold as a dark blue powder but when added to pancake batter or a smoothie, it will turn a bright sky blue. Because it’s has a high concentration of color, it can be added to virtually anything without needing to change the proportions of your recipe. A tiny scoop of Blue Majik spirulina is enough to turn your drab dish into a vivacious meal.