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What Are Butterfly Pea Flowers?

Butterfly Pea Flower Tea

So many of us are wary of using food coloring in our cooking or baking nowadays. Between the potential adverse health claims about food coloring, and the less than natural product, we’d personally rather find a healthier alternative to dying our foods beautiful colors. 

This is where butterfly pea flowers come in. 

What are Butterfly Pea Flowers?

Butterfly Pea Flowers

Butterfly pea flowers are beautiful flowers taken from the vines of the Clitoria ternatea plant, which grows in Southeast Asia. This plant is also sometimes referred to as the Asian pigeonwings plant, and many chefs worldwide use it to dye different foods and drinks.

A few fun facts about butterfly pea flowers:

  • The dye that butterfly pea flowers create can make a variety of colors (from deep blues to vivid purple and pink colors based on the PH level of the ingredients you mix it with).
  • Many Asian restaurants use this flower to dye their beautiful rice salads and dumplings. 
  • Butterfly pea flowers give British Columbia Empress 1908 gin its iconic indigo color.
  • These flowers are traditionally used in Malaysian and Thai cuisines, especially in puddings and desserts.

Butterfly Pea Flower Uses

Butterfly Pea Flower has a variety of great uses. Let’s go over a few of our favorite uses: 

Butterfly Pea Flower Tea

Here you can see a beautiful cup of our Butterfly Pea Flower Tisane with our Loose Leaf Tea Filters. This photo was taken after only two minutes of steeping, so you can see that the butterfly pea flowers quickly dyed the water blue. 

Butterfly Pea Flower Tea in a Teapot

The taste of butterfly pea flower tea is subtle, with a slightly woody and earthy flavor. Some may compare butterfly pea flower tea to a cup of green tea. It makes for a lovely, delicate tea on its own but could be mixed with other teas or a bit of honey for a stronger taste. 

If you prefer a punchier taste, we suggest trying out Blue Mango Tea which features tropical flavors, like lemongrass, mango, marigold, and rosehips, along with the butterfly pea flowers. This tea still has a stunning blue color, which is truly a treat for the eyes! 

Our butterfly pea flower tea and blue mango tea are naturally caffeine-free options with no artificial flavors or dyes. The beautiful blue color is entirely natural, which is just one of the many reasons why we love these stunning flowers. 

Butterfly Pea Flowers as a Food Colorant

Butterfly Pea Flowers can also be used to dye many types of foods and beverages. 

For this piece, we experimented with butterfly pea flowers and frosting. We found a Butterfly Pea Flower Cupcake recipe online that recommended infusing milk with butterfly pea flowers to give your icing and cupcake batter a beautiful blue color. 

We infused milk with butterfly pea flowers for a beautiful blue frosting, and it created a delicious, subtle taste that was unlike any other frosting flavor we’d tried before! If you enjoy the taste of the tea, try adding butterfly pea flowers to milk for your frosting for a subtle, sweet taste. If you only want to include butterfly pea flowers as a colorant to your frosting, the flavor is soft enough that it could be easily masked with vanilla extract or any other flavor you add to the frosting. 

Either way - you’re all set! Whether you want to use this as both a subtle flavor and color, or simply to add a rich blue or purple color to a light-colored frosting you enjoy, butterfly pea flowers are a great, natural choice.  

For the full frosting recipe and how-tos on infusing milk with butterfly pea flowers, click here. Cooking To Entertain even has an entire recipe series on their blog about butterfly pea flowers and their many uses for both flavoring and coloring foods and beverages. 

You can see their beautiful butterfly pea flower cupcakes below: 

Butterfly Pea Flower Cupcakes

We can’t say our cupcakes turned out quite this beautifully decorated, but the taste and color were spectacular! We personally recommend adding more butterfly pea flowers than the recipe called for when infusing the milk for a rich color payoff, as we needed a few more flowers to achieve a pretty blue color. 

Butterfly Pea Flower Health Benefits

In addition to being an all-natural food colorant, butterfly pea flowers have a variety of health benefits. 

Research on butterfly pea flower health benefits is in its early stages, but animal studies so far have shown some promising health benefits, including: 

  • An improvement in cognitive function (Rats had a decrease in cognitive decline)
  • Anti-diabetic activity (Demonstrated lower levels of insulin and blood glucose when compared to the control group) 
  • Anti-inflammatory effects
  • Butterfly pea flowers are rich in antioxidants. 

Interestingly enough, butterfly pea flowers were also shown to have pesticide benefits, as they may have developed host-defense purposes over the years. Scientists are currently looking into their use in agriculture as a result of this research. 

Skin and Hair Health

Traditionally, butterfly pea flowers have been used as a staple hair and skincare ingredient in some Asian cultures. 

Some even use butterfly pea flowers as a rinse for their hair because it contains anthocyanin, which has been linked to increased blood circulation. This ingredient is thought to help with strengthening hair follicles and maintaining a strong, healthy scalp. 

Some claim that butterfly pea flowers are also great for your skin and can even stimulate collagen production when drank regularly. 

These claims are still being studied with science today, but so far, we couldn’t find anything that debunked these claims! We are excited to see what research will continue to find about the health benefits that butterfly pea flowers have. 

Final Thoughts

Butterfly pea flowers are an attractive, natural way to color your food and beverages. Personally, we can’t wait to continue experimenting with butterfly pea flowers. 

We invite you to join us and try this marvelous ingredient out. Between its delicious taste and stunning blue color, it’s truly a treat to use! 

Until Next Time, 

Natalie and Leilah