What are Poppy Seeds? How To Use White Poppy Seeds?
Poppy seeds are used in many cultural cuisine of the world. White poppy seeds is a common ingredient in Indian cooking. You will find poppy seeds in grey, blue, black and even dark brown in colour. More on the uses of poppy seeds for cooking in this post.
Popularly known for the morphine content, poppy seeds is a cooking ingredient used for centuries in many kitchens. 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.
This post explains in detail the cooking uses and health benefits of poppy seeds and where to buy white poppy seeds from.
What Are Poppy Seeds?
You may have seen small white or black crunchy seeds that look similar to mustard seeds in cakes, or biscuits that lend it a nutty taste.
These minuscule seeds that gives a dish dense and nutty texture and taste are known as poppy seeds used in different cuisines for cooking and baking purposes.
But where do 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 .
There are seemingly 100’s of variety of poppy seeds but the once used for culinary practises are :
- White poppy seeds
- Black poppy seeds
- Blue poppy seeds
What Is The Difference Between White and Black Poppy Seeds
Black and blue poppy seeds are considered same when it comes to cooking.
Both white and black poppy seeds come from the same plant source that is papaver Somniferum which in lay man terms is known as the poppy plant.
White poppy seeds are the milder version of the two and is sometimes referred to as Indian poppy seeds because of the use of poppy seeds in Indian cooking 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.
Can white poppy seeds used instead of black?
In terms of poppy seed taste and usage both have similar tastes. 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?
You can easily eat poppy seeds without it feeling chewy. These edible seeds are not spicy or pungent and can easily be chewed . The taste of poppy seeds is similar to chia seeds, they are mild with a sweetish undertone.
They taste slightly nutty when roasted.
How To Use White Poppy Seeds?
Regardless of the type or colour, the cooking uses of poppy seeds in a dish is same. Most of the commercially sold poppy seeds are lightly roasted beforehand for optimum flavour.
You can also dry roast the seeds at home if you wish.
They can be used as whole seeds to add texture to the dish or you can make poppy paste for both thickness and adding flavour to a dish.
It is a fantastic alternative to dishes that use nuts or dairy products for creaminess.
The use of poppy seeds in Indian cooking is mostly in paste form.
Here are few ideas on how to use poppy seeds for cooking:
- Use as a topping for breads, cakes, pastry crusts, pancakes, waffle or other confectionery and baked dishes.
- You can also add a nutty crunch to your fruits or salads, by sprinkling a teaspoon or two of poppy seeds in the dressing.
- Adding a few tablespoon of poppy seeds to batter makes crunchy fritters.
- Poppy seed paste is used to add creaminess and thickness to curries in Indian food.
- You can make many Indian dishes such as this potatoes in poppy paste.
How To Make Poppy Seed 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.
It is recommended 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.
Is White Poppy Seeds Good For Health?
There are many questions and confusion regarding poppy seeds because of them 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 for culinary consumption.
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.
Spice Substitute and Food Pairings
The primary use of poppy seeds in cooking is as a thickening agent, adding texture and crunch to a dish.
It has a mild taste and therefore pairs well with most food items.
Click the link below for a list of best spice alternative to poppy seeds and ideas on which foods go best with poppy seeds.
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 Using Poppy Seeds
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.