Updated: Nov 27, 2020
The Tiger Nut (aka Nigerian Tiger Nut, botanical name: Cyperus esculentus) is not a nut at all, but is actually a small root vegetable. It is a bona fide paleo food (paleolithic people actually ate it as a primary food source), and has been consumed by indigenous peoples all over the world for much of human history. Some evidence exists for its cultivation in ancient Egypt (maybe as far back as 6000 BC), and tiger nut starch has been found on tools at several paleolithic tomb sites.
It is essentially a tuber that develops on the roots of a type of grass that grows nearly everywhere in the world. It grows wild, but is also easily cultivated. It grows so easily that it can be considered invasive. Though I tried to grow it a few years ago, and the squirrels loved the nuts so much, they ate them before they could sprout!
Horchata was originally made from tiger nuts and is still a traditional drink in Nigeria & Spain. The flavor is a similar to a blend of almond, chestnut and coconut milk (it is seriously delicious).
The nuts themselves are extremely hard when dried, so must be soaked to be eaten whole (and even then they are impressively difficult to chew – proceed with caution). In cultures that consume them whole, they are usually eaten fresh.
Check out the amazing nutrient profile:
Tiger Nuts are pretty high in protein, VERY high in fiber, and are densely pre-biotic (feed the good gut bugs). They have an impressive offering of essential fatty acids and are low in sugar. Additionally they are really high in potassium and have a respectable amount of calcium and magnesium (in a nearly 1:1 ratio), as well as having nearly as much iron, zinc and copper as you would find in a multivitamin.
Tiger Nut milk is naturally sweet due to the pre-biotic fiber so it does not need to be sweetened.
Because of the fiber and fat content, tiger nut milk has a rich, creamy mouth feel, and is very satisfying as a stand alone beverage due to its high nutrient content.
How to make Tiger Nut Milk (aka. Real Horchata)
You will need:
1cup Tiger Nuts
4 cups hot water
A strong blender or food processor
Wash 1 cup of tiger nuts to remove any dirt or debris
Add 4 cups hot water
Soak for 4-8 hours
Pour into a blender / food processor
Grind until as smooth as possible, and water turns white
Place nut milk bag into the large bowl, with top open
Pour ground nuts and milk into the bag
Put the bowl, with bag and milk in the fridge and let it sit for several hours (to let it extract more from the ground nuts)
Lift bag and squeeze as much milk out as you can
You can save the ground nut solids to use in cookies or baked goods (fantastic source of fiber and pre-biotics)
Pour the milk into a storage container.
Tiger nut milk will stay fresh up to 3 (maybe 4) days - then it starts to ferment - which is also pretty tasty.
2-3 cardamom pods
1 stick cinnamon
Add these at the beginning when soaking in hot water. Remove them before grinding the milk in the blender (flavors will be VERY strong if ground in). Yes, in case you are wondering, I made that mistake... wowie.
Another note, once dried tiger nuts can be stored very long term. I have made delicious milk out of nuts that were stored in my freezer for more than 3 years. In a dry climate you could likely keep them in a cool pantry just like dried beans.