A vase of fresh lavender can do more than just brighten up a room or make you smile. The pastel-colored purple flower is known for its soothing floral aroma. In fact, studies show that lavender essential oil can help relieve stress and anxiety, especially when paired with other forms of therapy. Even feng shui experts recommend using it in the bedroom to promote better sleep.
Jaclyn Jacobsen, a staff nutritionist at the Vitamin Shoppe, says, “The relaxation properties of lavender come from its anti-inflammatory properties. Lavender is rich in antioxidants, especially limonene which aids the liver in detoxifying the body.”
So it’s no surprise to see the floral obsession going beyond aromatherapy and straight into recipes for breakfast muffins, chicken dishes, lattes and cocktails. While you’ll see lavender essential oil and the actual flower used in some recipes, dried or powder forms are best for cooking. A staple in French cuisine, the dried variety infuses a gentle touch of herbal flavor to dishes. If you’re concerned about the taste being too overwhelming, use your sprigs sparingly. A little goes a long way.
Here are a few simple yet sophisticated lavender recipes (and cooking techniques!) to reap its many benefits.
5 Ways to Cook with Lavender (Plus Recipes!)
1. Make your desserts tastes sweeter — without adding sugar.
Get sweet on this: “Recent research has shown that [lavender] supports healthy blood sugar levels and brain function,” Jacobsen says. And there’s no better time to go all-in than summer. Lavender’s herby undertones complement the sweetness of fruits like strawberries, blackberries, cherries and rhubarb. It also tames the tartness of lemon, and rounds out the sickly saccharine taste in honey. To emphasize the floral flavor, cook it into simple syrup by mixing dried or fresh lavender, granulated sugar, water and honey together in a saucepan. You can substitute the lavender syrup for sugar, honey or maple syrup in recipes.
Try it: Raw Lavender Cheesecake With Hazelnut Crust
2. Offset the bitterness in cold brew.
If you love the smooth and rich chocolaty flavor of cold brew, but hate the bitter aftertaste that the ground beans sometimes impart, add some lavender simple syrup. You can also try steeping lavender in the milk you’re using to accentuate its delicate flavor before pouring some to your coffee. Or, grab-and-go with this subtly infused Lavender Nutte Cold Brew from Coffee So Good.
Try it: Lavender-Honey Iced Latte
3. Boost the anti-inflammatory benefits of your dish.
According to Jacobsen, lavender helps the body produce glutathione, an antioxidant naturally produced in the liver that aids immune function. “When using lavender oil it needs to be boiled for 2 minutes to increase antioxidant activity,” Jacobsen says. But if you’re using the dried flower, one way to bring out the antioxidants is to pair it with foods rich in potassium, which can help regulate blood pressure levels and help you stay calm and focused. Start your mornings with an antioxidant-rich smoothie that blends your favorite fixings with a hint of herbaceousness.
Try it: Blueberry Lavender Smoothie
4. Use it as a substitute for liqueurs in cocktails.
St. Germaine is a popular liqueur made from elderflower. (You might have tried it in martinis, limoncello spritzers, champagne floats and gin-based drinks.) But if you can’t get a hold of it, lavender simple syrup makes a great substitute and captures the same sweet, aromatic notes. It makes a pretty garnish, too!
Try it: Blackberry Lavender Champagne Cocktail
Or, for a virgin refreshment, opt for a lavender lemonade, Jacobsen suggests. “Just add five cups of water, juice from two large organic lemons a drop of lavender essential oil and a tablespoon of organic Stevia or honey with ice.”
5. Infuse a savory, herbal flavor into classic dishes.
Since you don’t need a lot to capture its essence, try grinding some dried lavender into a powder and mixing it with your favorite herbs and spices. Herbes de Provence, for example, includes lavender, marjoram, rosemary, thyme and oregano. Lavender also combines well with cayenne or paprika to help bring out their smoky, caramelized notes.
Try it: Lemon and Lavender Chicken