Cooking With Tea: Savory Summer Recipes

Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages around the globe, but did you know that almost any tea can also be used for cooking? Tea-infused desserts (like matcha ice cream and Earl Grey cookies) are becoming more popular, but teas are also a wonderful ingredient for adding flavor and depth to savory dishes.

Tea can be used in a similar fashion to the standard spices in your kitchen pantry. You can steep the leaves into marinades and cooking liquids, or toss them into seasoning mixes.

The key to selecting the right tea for your cooking is to think about the flavor profile of the tea (floral, nutty, citrusy, smoky) and consider how it will complement the other ingredients. Just imagine the bold taste of black tea or the vegetal flavor of green tea infused into your favorite summer recipes!

Tea Rubs for Grilling

Backyard cookouts are a beloved summertime tradition. Is there any better way to spend a Saturday than gathering with your friends and family to enjoy delicious, in-season vegetables and meats hot off the grill?

Delight your loved ones at your next summer gathering with a tea-based spice rub. This type of seasoning blend can be applied to a variety of meats, from chicken and seafood to steaks, ribs and pork. You can also use tea rubs on many vegetables, such as portobello mushrooms.

Tea rubs deliver a beautifully rich herbal, slightly-smoky flavor to grilled foods. Use this simple formula as a starting point for your tea rub, using your preferred tea varietal and other spices:

  • 2 tbsp finely ground tea leaves
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Rosemary, thyme, coriander, red pepper flakes, fennel, chili powder, or garlic would all make flavorful additions to this simple tea rub recipe. For a zesty kick, try this Spicy Matcha Rub Recipe.

Tea Smoked Meats

You may have experimented with using various types of wood in your grill to impart a smoky, complex flavor to your meats. But did you know you can also use tea leaves to achieve a similar effect?

Tea-smoking is a long-standing culinary tradition in China and other parts of Asia. This technique is simple to implement: 

  • Choose your meat: Salmon, white fish, chicken and duck are excellent choices for tea-smoking.
  • Prepare a smoking packet: Place your choice of tea and rice (jasmine rice is recommended) onto a sheet of aluminum foil, then fold it into a loose packet. You may also add any spices, herbs or seasonings of your choosing.
  • Prepare the grill: Heat the grill, then slip the smoking packet underneath the grate (directly on the hot coals if using a charcoal grill). Close the grill lid, and wait approximately 10 minutes until there is sufficient smoke.
  • Cook the meat. Arrange the meat on the grill so that it is not directly above the smoking packet; this will ensure a gentle, pleasant smoked flavor. Close the lid and allow the meat to smoke; flip once and repeat on the other side until cooked through.

Black tea, jasmine tea and oolong tea are popular choices for tea-smoking, but feel free to experiment with your favorite traditional and herbal teas.

Tea-Infused Side Dishes

One of the simplest ways to infuse your food with the flavor of tea is by steeping tea bags per package instructions, then using the steeped tea to whip up marinades, salad dressings, soups and other side dishes.

Fruit teas (like pomegranate, raspberry, blueberry and acai) are the perfect flavorful addition to vinaigrettes and dressings. Similarly, you can use steeped tea to prepare marinades for mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus, and other vegetables.

To add a unique flavor to your cooked grains, swap out the plain water for steeped tea. This nifty trick is useful for preparing fragrant tea-infused rice, quinoa, beans and noodles.

Tea is the perfect ingredient for infusing your personality and creativity into your cooking. There is truly no limit to the exotic, flavorful tea-based recipes you can prepare right in your own home. The Republic of Tea invites every Citizen to experience the joy of cooking with tea!