White poppy seeds is a common ingredient used in Indian food. You will find poppy seeds in grey, blue, black and even dark brown. More on the uses of poppy seeds for cooking in this post.
White poppy seeds are mostly used in Indian or Asian cuisine to enhance the taste of dishes and also as a thickening agent.
Black or blue poppy seeds are popular in the Western cuisine.
But where to poppy seeds come from?
They are the tiny seeds that come from the beautiful opium poppy flowers.
To some people’s utmost delight, it may occur to be a legitimate way to get the opium high, but sorry to burst the bubble!!
The seeds extracted from the flower pods as a condiment or spice are harmless with little to no traces of drug in it.
However, the taste of poppy paste in food can be quite addictive if you fall in love with it that is 🙂
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHITE AND BLACK POPPY SEEDS
Both white and black or blue poppy seeds come from the same plant source that is papaver Somniferum which in the lay man terms is known as the poppy plant.
White poppy seeds are the milder version and is sometimes referred to as Indian poppy seeds because of its use as a thickening agent in making curries and other Indian dishes.
Black or blue poppy seeds are the European counterpart. They are nuttier and stronger and used in confectionery and baking such as breads and desserts.
In terms of taste and usage both have similar taste and you can easily substitute one with the other.
WHAT IS POPPY SEEDS CALLED IN OTHER LANGUAGES
Poppy seeds in English – White poppy seeds, blue poppy seeds, black poppy seeds
Poppy seeds in Hindi – Khus khus
Poppy seeds in German – Mohn Sammeln
Poppy seeds in French – Graines de pavot
Poppy seeds in Spanish – la semilla de amapola
WHAT DO POPPY SEEDS TASTE LIKE
Poppy seeds have no heat at all. They are mild with a sweetish undertone.
They taste slightly nutty when roasted.
HOW TO USE THEM FOR COOKING
The culinary usage of poppy seeds are the same or similar for any colour of seeds you use.
The best uses for poppy seeds in cooking are:
- To be used as a topping for breads, cakes, pastry crusts, pancakes, waffle or other confectionery and baked dishes.
2. You can also add a nutty crunch to your fruits or salads, by sprinkling a teaspoon or two of poppy seeds or in the dressing.
3. Adding a few tablespoon of poppy seeds to batter makes crunchy fritters
4. Poppy seed paste is used to add creaminess and thickness to curries in Indian food.
5. You can make many Indian dishes such as this potatoes in poppy paste.
HOW TO MAKE POPPY SEEDS PASTE
Making a paste of poppy seeds can be a bit tricky because of the size and the sand like texture.
Traditionally Indian homes used a stone grinder like the one below to manually make pastes of anything.
The modern day kitchens with modern gadgets such as grinders have made this task easier.
Here you will find a link to my recommended spice grinder that do a ‘fine’ job of grinding.
But it still isn’t that easy to make poppy seed paste.
You need to soak the seeds in warm water for about 30 minutes before you grind it.
Alternatively, you are grind the seeds dry and then add water to make the paste.
ARE POPPY SEEDS GOOD FOR YOU
There are many questions and confusion regarding poppy seeds because of then being sourced from opium poppy.
Poppy seeds don’t naturally contain opium compounds.
The alkolaids are present in the poppy pods milky white liquid. There are chances for the seeds to become contaminated during harvesting or as a result of pest damage.
Poppy seeds used for cooking are treated and washed multiple times and do not contain any harmful alkaloids.
It is perfectly safe to use poppy seeds in cooking and eating.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF POPPY SEEDS
Poppy seeds are rich in natural nutrients and anti-oxidants such as zinc, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, copper etc. Besides they are also rich in fibre and healthy plant fats .
Given the high amounts of nutrients, poppy seeds are known to have the following health benefits:
Maintain good cholesterol levels – The poly and mono-unsaturated fatty acid, helps reduce “bad cholesterol” and increase “good cholesterol” levels in the blood. It helps to reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Help ease constipation – Poppy seeds is rich in fibre. This helps in maintaining a good gut system and reduce constipation.
Could aid in weight loss – The high fibre content means that eating small amounts of poppy seeds everyday can help you feel fuller for longer. This helps in reducing your need to eat often and aids in weight loss.
May help reduce pain – Poppy plant contains opium alkaloids such as morphine used to treat pain.
Poppy seeds used for culinary consumption are washed and free from morphine. It is the unwashed poppy seeds that contain higher levels of opium and should only be used under prescription.
Can induce sleep – The opioid compounds present in poppy seeds may have sleep inducing effect on some people.
This is most applicable to unwashed poppy seeds as opposed to the one used for cooking.
SIDE EFFECTS OF EATING POPPY SEEDS
As mentioned eating poppy seeds used in food is safe when eaten in small amounts such as in breads, curries or in confectionery items as they are washed and treated to get rid of any drug compounds.
However you should still be vary of possible side effects in case you consume more than you should.
- It can make you feel sleepy.
- People with nut or fruit allergies may react negatively to poppy seeds.
- Unwashed poppy seeds should only be consumed under medical guidance as they can be highly unsafe to take.
BEST FOOD PAIRINGS WITH POPPY SEEDS
Being a mild neutral tasting spice, poppy seeds are versatile and goes well with most food items.
Best food pairing: green beans, gourds, cauliflower, peas, potatoes, ginger,chicken, lamb, meat, eggs, seafood, dairy products, rice, curries
Best spice pairing: asafoetida, cardamom, nigella seeds,sesame seeds, ground ginger, cloves, cumin seeds, dry chilies, mustard seeds
SPICE SUBSTITUTES FOR POPPY SEEDS
Poppy seeds is a type of spice that is used to add thickness to Indian sauces or as a topping for breads.
It is not considered the main spice or ingredient as long as the dish does not center around using poppy seeds like the potatoes in poppy seeds paste recipe like the one above.
In case it is used as a topping you can substitute poppy seeds with nigella seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds or any nut of your choice.
When used as a thickening agent substitute poppy seeds with cream, sunflower seed paste, cashew nut or almond paste.
WHERE TO BUY POPPY SEEDS
Depending on the type of poppy seeds you wish to buy, you may have to choose the appropriate store.
Blue or black poppy seeds are available from most supermarkets.
You will have to visit an Indian or ethnic grocery store to get white poppy seeds.
Wherever you choose to buy them make sure it is from a trusted source.
Below is my recommended spice store to buy spices online.
HOW TO STORE POPPY SEEDS
Due to the high oil content in poppy seeds they can become rancid over time. It is best to store them in an airtight container away from direct sunlight and humidity.
You can even keep it in the fridge if you think you wont be using them any sooner.
Well stored seeds will keep its character and flavour for a least 12 months.
EASY RECIPES WITH POPPY SEEDS TO TRY
Poppy seeds are a common ingredient used in Indian and Asian cuisine. It is the white poppy seed that is primarily used in this region.
Black or blue poppy seeds are used in the western parts of the world as toppings, bread and confectionery items.
Eating washed poppy seeds for culinary usage is healthy and absolutely safe to do so.
It is a mild and verasalite spice that can be used in many different ways.
You can easily substitute poppy seeds with other ingredients as listed above as well as substitute white and blue for one or the other.
Although not a must have ingredient to keep, I would recommend trying few recipes with poppy seeds to experience the taste.