What is Chicory Coffee? And How to Make it at Home

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Coffee likely brings to mind coffee beans and caffeine right away. However, are you aware that other plants can also be converted into coffee? Take, for instance, the chicory plant.

Technically, chicory roots are used to make coffee and it is a common ingredient added to coffee in some parts of the world, but other people brew just the chicory root itself and make it into coffee.

Chicory coffee is a well-known drink in New Orleans and other parts of the world. It is a caffeine-free drink that looks like coffee and tastes similar to coffee.

If it is your first time hearing of it, you might be a little bit confused. Is it really coffee? Does it have caffeine in it? Does it even taste like coffee? These questions might be running through your mind and it is understandable.

In this article, I will be covering what chicory coffee is and how it became a coffee substitute for those who are looking for a caffeine-free drink. I will also cover how you can make chicory coffee at home.

In this article:

  • What is Chicory Coffee?
  • History of Chicory Coffee
  • How to Make Chicory Coffee (5 Steps)
  • Health Benefits of Chicory Coffee

What is Chicory Coffee?

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Chicory coffee is a popular coffee substitute that uses minced, grounded, and roasted chicory root. If you are looking for a caffeine-free drink but still crave that coffee taste, chicory coffee is a great substitute.

Despite its name, chicory coffee does not contain caffeine. However, the flavor profile of chicory coffee tastes similar to coffee. It has a bitter taste but there is also a layer of nutty and toasty flavor that some coffee has.

Some people drink chicory coffee on its own but some do like to add it to their coffee to enhance the taste of coffee.  Chicory coffee also looks like black coffee so it can definitely feel like you are still drinking coffee without the caffeine.

You’ll find that Chicory coffee is very popular in New Orleans but, it is also popular in some other parts of the world.

History of Chicory Coffee

Chicory is a beautiful, bright blue perennial plant that is native to Europe and has been used largely for medical purposes. However, the leaves of a chicory plant were also said to have been used in salads by people in Ancient Egypt over 5,000 years ago.

If you’ve been to New Orleans, you probably have had a cup of Chicory coffee. It is a staple beverage in New Orleans that you’d think Chicory coffee originated there.

Mincing and roasting chicory roots started in France when Napoleon declared a Continental Blockade in the 19th century. This blockade limited the supply of coffee to France so the French people had to find other ways to get their coffee fix.

French people started looking to use grounded chicory roots as a substitute for coffee grounds. The practice of adding chicory to coffee was continued by the French people even after the blockade was lifted.

Adding chicory to coffee was also picked up by Louisiana as it had French influences when it was a part of France from 1682 until 1800. It has been a practice done by New Orleanians up to the present time. 

So, if you find chicory in your New Orleans coffee, you know where they got it from!

How to Make Chicory Coffee?

If you have access to a chicory plant, you can make your own chicory coffee at home. Chicory plants are not native to the U.S. but were said to have been brought by the first European settlers.

You can typically find chicory plants on roadsides but you can also grow your own chicory if you have a green thumb.

Here is how you can make your own chicory coffee in 5 steps:

1. Find a chicory plant

If you grow your own chicory, then you can make chicory coffee from scratch. If not, you can look for chicory plants on roadsides. Chicory roots can be tricky to dig up and can break if not done properly.

To dig a chicory root, you have to dig around the chicory plant to loosen up the soil. Once the soil has loosened up, gently take the root out with a shovel to avoid breaking it.

Alternatively, you can also buy roasted chicory roots if you can’t find any wild chicory near you.

2. Prep the chicory roots

If you bought roasted chicory roots, you can skip steps 2, 3, and 4.

You can preheat your oven to 350 F while you prep the chicory roots.

For wild chicory roots, you need to scrub the roots with a brush to get rid of the soil and other dirt. Once the roots are cleaned and dry, take a sharp knife and cut the roots into small even pieces.

3. Roast the chicory roots

Place the chicory roots on a baking sheet and place them in your preheated oven. Roast the chicory roots for about 30 minutes or until their color turns golden brown. Your kitchen should start smelling like coffee.

4. Grind the roasted chicory roots

Once the chicory roots are roasted, let them cool for a while.

Once cooled, place them in your coffee grinder and grind them accordingly. You can grind the roasted roots finely if you will be using an espresso machine to brew your chicory coffee.

5. Brew the roasted chicory grounds

Prepare your brewing device. You can use a drip coffee maker, a French press, or even a pour over. The method for brewing is up to you.

Brew the chicory grounds depending on your brewing method. You will need to heat water depending on your brewing device.

You can also add chicory coffee to your coffee. Just mix the roasted chicory grounds with the coffee grounds before brewing them together.

After brewing your chicory coffee, you can add milk and other flavorings or just drink the chicory coffee as it is. Enjoy!

Health Benefits of Chicory Coffee

Chicory has many health benefits and can provide you with a healthy alternative to coffee.

Chicory has several nutrients and is a good source of vitamin B6, manganese, and potassium. It also has prebiotic fiber that can aid in a healthier gut.

Aside from helping improve your gut, chicory is said also to help reduce inflammation and lower blood sugar as it also has inulin.

With that being said, if you are allergic to ragweed, marigolds, or dandelions, you might want to steer clear of chicory coffee. A chicory plant belongs to the same family as the dandelions and drinking chicory coffee can trigger your allergy.

Final Thoughts

Chicory coffee can be a great substitute for coffee if you are looking for a caffeine-free drink but still want that bitter, nutty, and earthy coffee taste.

You can definitely make it from scratch or just buy the already roasted and grounded chicory coffee roots. Now that you know what chicory coffee is, will you try brewing a cup? Or will you stick to your old cup of Joe?

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