Hibiscus Flower and Potato Tacos and Agua de Jamaica

hibiscus taco.jpg

¿Que? you might be wondering.  Yes, you read it right.  Hibiscus!

For last week’s Thrive Kitchen class, we had a taco bar, but not your run of the mill taco bar.  This was a plant-based taco bar, with three different fillings.  The last minute addition came from one of the most interesting cookbooks I have seen in a long time, Decolonize Your Diet, from authors Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel.  This book celebrates the plant based foods of the pre-Columbian diet of Mexican– things like squash, corn, beans and more.  Connie, our Health Education Assistant extraordinaire who helps out at every Thrive Kitchen class, lent me this book, which her daughter had been raving about, when I was planning the class.   I read it cover to cover and want to make every recipe! This recipe was the most unique and intriguing to me, given its use of jamaica, or hibiscus flowers.

sorrel flower.jpg

You’ve seen hibiscus on this blog before, in the form of sorrel, the beverage enjoyed in my husband’s homeland in the Caribbean, Trinidad.  Whenever I make it, I always felt bad about discarding/composting the flowers after steeping– so much waste.  I never thought to eat them, as that is not traditional.  So when I saw this recipe that encourages not only eating the flowers, but reusing the steeping liquid to make the Mexican version of sorrel, agua de Jamaica, I knew I had to include this in the class.

I love this recipe not only because it’s interesting and delicious, but because it is a great illustration of how to reduce food waste in small ways.  In the US and other developed countries, 40% of food is thrown out by consumers.  According to The New York Times, the US wastes more than $160 billion in food annually, with dairy products accounting for the largest share of food wasted, about $91 billion.  This has implications for our ability to feed everyone, as well as on the climate and economy.  We all need to try harder to buy only what we need and to be mindful of how we use it.  My roasted carrots with carrot top pesto recipe is another which illustrates simple ways to do this in our home kitchens.

Getting back to the recipe– the hibiscus flowers add both a texture (not quite meaty, but chewy) and tart flavor to this potato-based taco filling, which is enhanced by the chipotles.  I have to confess that in our recent class I personally mistakenly added some of the adobo sauce from the chipotles en adobo, which ended up improving on the original (smokier and spicier), but the recipe is great either way.

If you are lucky to live in a place with lots of Mexcian groceries, as we have here in San Francisco, dried hibiscus flowers will be easy to find and inexpensive.  They are kept in the bulk bins, near the dried beans.

Try it out, and let me know what you think! What other creative ways do you reduce food waste in your kitchen? Please share any recipes in the comments!

Hibiscus Flower and Potato Tacos

Adapted from: Decolonize Your Diet, Calvo, Luz and Rueda Esquibel, Catriona.  Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2015.

hibiscus potato filling.jpg

This recipe makes use of a traditional ingredient—dried hibiscus flowers—in a nontraditional way.  Cooking and rehydrating the flowers makes a texturally and visually convincing substitute for meat in these tangy, vegan tacos.  Hibiscus flowers are used traditionally as a diuretic and are thought to be good for hypertension and heart health, and are also a good source of Vitamin C.  In the spirit of reducing food waste, we are repurposing the soaking liquid to make an agua fresca.

Makes: 8


½ cup dried hibiscus flowers (Jamaica)

2 tsp honey or sugar

1 T coconut oil

½ white onion, diced

2 large red potatoes, diced into ¼ inch pieces

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp chipotle en adobo, minced (These are found on cans wherever you buy Mexican ingredients.  Optional: add a few Tbsp of adobo sauce to taste)

¾ tsp salt (omit if using adobo sauce)

½ tsp lime juice, more if desired

8 corn tortillas

Serve with: chipotle salsa, cubed avocado, cilantro, quesco fresco or cashew cream


1. Combine hibiscus flowers with 2 cups water and honey and simmer for 25 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, prep all remaining ingredients.

3.  In a frying pan on medium heat, melt coconut oil and then sauté onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.

4.  Strain flowers, reserving the liquid to make agua de jamaica (recipe follows)

5. Chop soaked flowers coarsely and add to onions along with potatoes and garlic, and sauté for 5 minutes.

6.  Add minced chipotle (along with adobo sauce, if desired, salt and ½ cup water, stir well and then cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

7.  Remove filling from heat, stir in lime juice and adjust seasonings to taste.

8.  Heat tortillas just before serving, and garnish.


Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Flower Drink)


In Mexico, sweetened fruit beverages made of fresh fruit and water are often enjoyed with meals.  We’re using the soaking liquid from preparing the Hibiscus taco filling to make a version of this traditional drink.


2 cups soaking liquid from hibiscus taco filling (or ½ cup of dried hibiscus flowers simmered in 2 cups of water)

additional honey, sugar or agave, to taste



Adjust sweetness of hibiscus flower soaking liquid to taste, then serve over ice.

Note: in Trinidad, this beverage is often spiced.


Want to join in the fun? The next Thrive Kitchen class is open for registration now: 10/17 Everything Pumpkin.  As a bonus, this is the only class which includes dessert! Call 415-833-3450 or email SFHealthEd@kp.or to register.  And even if you can’t make it, please join our healthy eating community on Facebook for more recipes and nutrition information: www.Facebook.com/TheDoctorsSpicebox.  To your health!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s