Cooking With Mesquite

December 17, 2014
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mesquite tree


A lesson on mesquite flour from a demonstration at  Prickly Pear and Mesquite Festival Superstition Mountain Museum

Until I attended the Prickly Pear/Mesquite Festival at Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction, Arizona and attended a cooking class by Jean Groen, I’d been unaware of any culinary use for mesquite other than the smoky flavour added to foods when cooked over mesquite wood. At Jean’s class I learned about mesquite flour and ways in which it can be used.

Mesquite are deciduous, drought-tolerant trees. Three varieties grow in the American southwest: honey, velvet and soybean. They have wide-spreading and deep-reaching root systems. 

Last spring on a tour of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in north Scottsdale, I learned mesquite trees often grow along desert washes or arroyos. An arroyo is a gulch which fills up with water when it rains. Mesquite seeds tumble into gulches and take root where the water takes them. Mesquite trees are also found in flat areas, their seeds having been carried there by cattle.

Mesquite burns hot and fast. It imparts a strong flavour to food. The flour is made from bean pods and, while it too has a unique flavour, it is quite different than that of the smoke. I am not particularly fond of the mesquite smoke flavour, but find the flour quite pleasant.

Mesquite trees bloom from spring into summer, bearing catkins of pale green or yellowish flowers which produce pods of hard and long-lasting seeds. The pods are used to make flour. Most sites I visited when researching this post recommend harvesting before the pods fall to the ground to avoid pollutants or contaminates in the ground. They suggest spreading a sheet on the ground and shaking the branches to make the pods fall.

Jean looks for pods with holes in them. Bruchid beetles lay eggs in developing pods. When the eggs hatch the larvae burrow into the pods. After they mature, they make small holes and exit the pod. The presence of the holes tell you the pod is beetle-free.

Mesquite pod

Mesquite pod – note the holes

Jean dries the pods for three to four hours in a 250 degree oven. They become crisp. Then she blends the pods, sifts out the seeds and thicker pieces, and blends again. She throws the seeds away. She said the flour has more protein if the seeds are kept, but it must be treated with heat in order for the body to be able to process it. She also noted that it is best to do the blending outdoors. When she lifted the lid of the blender in her demonstration, a fine dust blew into the air.

Mesquite seeds

Mesquite seeds strained out after pods were blended

Mesquite flour is a good source of calcium, manganese, iron and zinc. Mesquite flour made from grinding the whole pods produces soluble fiber, which is absorbed slowly without a rapid rise in blood sugar. 

There is no gluten in mesquite flour. It should be used in proportions of one-quarter to one-third cup for every cup of regular flour.

I purchased a small bag of mesquite flour. I tasted the raw flour and thought it had a sweet, nutty flavour. When I asked my husband and brother-in-law to try it, they both said it reminded them of cinnamon without knowing the other had said the same thing.

mesquite flour

My bag of mesquite flour

The information with the bag of flour said that in addition to using it in your favourite muffin, cookie or cake recipe by substituting 30% of the flour with mesquite flour, you could use it as a spice by sprinkling it on meat or vegetables before grilling. I tried that with pork chops. They were delicious. They had a subtle, earthy grilled flavour. I think the flour helped seal in moisture. 

I also tried the mesquite gingersnap recipe that came with the flour. They too were delicious.

mesquite gingersnap dough

Mesquite gingersnap cookie dough and cookies ready to pop into oven


mesquite gingersnaps

The finished product

Have you cooked with mesquite flour?

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  • Reply
    December 17, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    I didn’t even know that there was such a thing! I used to sell a commercial slow cooker where our chefs experimented with mesuqite wood all the time…but the flour is a really cool idea!

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      December 18, 2014 at 10:47 am

      Apparently, indigenous American Indians relied on mesquite pods as a food source and made flour from it. But I didn’t know anything about mesquite flour until I attended Jean’s class.

  • Reply
    December 17, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Oh my goodness – I had no idea you could cook with it!

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      December 18, 2014 at 10:48 am

      I find it interesting to learn about the various plants the indigenous peoples cooked with – many I never realized you could use as a food source.

  • Reply
    Susan Cooper
    December 17, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Well, I learned something new today too. I hadn’t heard of mesquite flour before. That is interesting. I’m sure it would make gingersnaps extra good.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      December 18, 2014 at 10:49 am

      The gingersnaps were good. I used the recipe that came with the flour. One day I will make my family recipe for ginger cookies and substitute some of the flour with mesquite flour and see how those turn out.

  • Reply
    Karen Warren
    December 18, 2014 at 5:36 am

    I’ve never come across mesquite before – I’ll have to look out for it if I’m ever in that part of the US.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      December 18, 2014 at 10:56 am

      You won’t find mesquite flour in regular grocery stores. You need to find a specialty store that stocks it or look for it at farmers’ markets or vendor tents at festivals.

  • Reply
    A Taste for Travel
    December 18, 2014 at 9:11 am

    Really interesting! I had no idea a person could cook with mesquite flour but it definitely sounds worth watching for.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      December 18, 2014 at 10:58 am

      I wasn’t sure what it would be like to cook with. I was prepared for the possibility we might not like and I’d be throwing out the rest of the bag after one or two tries. But I had to try it and I was pleasantly surprised.

  • Reply
    Anita Oliver
    December 18, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Like you, all I knew about mesquite, which grows all over South Texas, was that it added a fabulous flavor to barbecue. The mesquite gingersnaps sound delicious and just in time for the holiday season! Thanks for sharing this interesting information.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      December 18, 2014 at 11:03 am

      It’s likely you can find specialty stores or artisans in your area selling mesquite flour.

  • Reply
    December 18, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Hi Donna. What a fun class to take. I had never heard of mesquite flour. I love cinnamon, so I know that this would be a flour I could get used to .

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      December 20, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      I didn’t detect the taste in cinnamon in the flour myself, although I did find it subtly spicy. It adds a nice flavour to anything I tried it on so far.

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    December 19, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    I remember back aways, when it became trendy to barbecue with the wood, but your information about mesquite flour is news to me.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      December 20, 2014 at 12:45 pm

      It was news to me too. I thought it might have too strong or strange a taste, but am finding it to be quite pleasant.

  • Reply
    Irene S. Levine
    December 21, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Not only have I never cooked with it but never heard of it until your informative post!

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      December 22, 2014 at 10:54 am

      Many people who live where mesquite trees grow have never heard of mesquite flour.

  • Reply
    Alison Abbott
    December 21, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Like you Donna, I only knew of smoking with mesquite. You’ve certainly piqued my interest. I would think the flavor would be stronger in the flour, but it sounds like it imparts a lovely taste. Thanks for all the great information.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      December 22, 2014 at 10:55 am

      I too thought the flavour might be quite strong, but it turned out to be more subtle than I expected.

  • Reply
    December 26, 2014 at 12:39 am

    Thanks Donna. I really like the sound of Mesquite. What a great way of reducing gluten intake by substituting 30 percent of the recipe’s regular flour with Mesquite flour. The cookies look yummy.

  • Reply
    The Spice People
    August 10, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    Mesquite is really good for grilling. I use it on my grilled steak.I never thought you can try it with cookies. Nice flour you got there!

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      August 11, 2017 at 10:46 am

      Until I saw this demonstration, the only connection I knew of between mesquite and cooking was the use of the wood for grilling. I didn’t know the pods could be used for flour.

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