Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Cooking with Tea

If you think tea is only for drinking, think again! You’d be surprised at how cooking with tea can enhance the flavor of foods, making a meal truly memorable.

The many varieties of tea, whether green, white or black, and flowery, earthy or spicy, contribute subtle aromas and delicate flavors to many wonderful but not necessarily complicated dishes. You can use brewed tea in place of water in many recipes and you can also use tea leaves directly in your dishes.

Before beginning your culinary adventure with tea, remember these few simple tips:

  • Trust your palate! Make sure the tea smells good and sounds appealing with the type of food you are preparing (fruit, grains, meats, salads, etc.).
  • Never use a variety of tea that you would not want to drink with the meal for a recipe.
  • Remember, there are thousands of varieties of tea from all over the world, each with their own unique characteristics. Green and white teas tend to be on the mellow side while black tea is strong and full-bodied. Many teas have added flowers, spices, herbs or fruits, offering a range of flavors and aromas including flowery, earthy, grassy, sweet, spicy and smoky. Take this into consideration when choosing the right tea for your recipe.

Here's an assortment of our favorite tea-loving ideas and recipes:

  • Grind tea leaves in a spice or coffee grinder, or a pepper mill; add to spices and herbs and use as a rub for meats, tofu or tempeh. Try this Green Tea and Tamarind-Marinated Tofu with Vegetables.
  • Add a favorite tea bag to melted butter, warmed oil or melted clarified butter (ghee). Cover and steep for several minutes before removing the tea. Delicious with grain dishes, soups, stews, fish and vegetables.
  • Add tea leaves to cookies, muffins, scones, quick breads and cakes. One of my favorites is Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies.
  • Use brewed tea in place of water when cooking grains like this Jasmine Tea Rice.
  • Add brewed tea in place of water when making soups and stews, baking breads and quick breads, or poaching fish like this White Tea Poached Salmon.
  • Save that leftover brewed tea! Use it as a marinade for meats or an addition to sauces or gravies. Here’s a recipe for Green Tea Marinated Sirloin Tips.
  • If you’re a fan of spinach or chard, green tea is similar in flavor. Enjoy adding the leaves to vegetables while cooking or, once brewed, chopped and added to salads or stirred into eggs before scrambling or making an omelet.
  • Add a sprinkling of green tea leaves to chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu stir-fries.
  • Steep white tea in chicken stock for up to 10 minutes before using in a recipe.
  • Add minced or finely chopped tea leaves to flour or bread crumbs and use as a coating for meats and vegetables.
  • Poach dried fruits, apples, peaches and pears in tea for breakfast, snack or dessert, like in these Ginger and Jasmine Tea Poached Pears.
  • Substitute tea leaves for wood chips when using a smoker.

Remember, brewed tea leaves make great plant food, too. Use them to feed your compost pile and as mulch for indoor and outdoor plants.

You can even water your plants with leftover brewed tea. They love it! For a general guide to a great cup of tea, check out our Tea Brew How-To.

Do you cook with tea? Got a favorite recipe? Let me know.