Lotus Seeds: What Are They and How Can They be Used?
Lotus seeds - also known as fox nuts, makhana or water lily seeds - are a versatile and delicious ingredient used across India and other parts of the world. They are commonly used to create popped lotus seeds or phool makhana, which are becoming a popular snack outside of their native home in India. Popped lotus seeds have been eaten in India for centuries, where they’re a Ayurvedic superfood, and are now becoming popular around the world too.
You can learn more about lotus seeds, where they come from, their health benefits, and much more here.
Studies have shown that water lily seeds were frequently foraged and eaten for hundreds of thousands of years! Evidence suggests that they were eaten throughout the Neolithic period in the Yangtze region of China. The earliest recorded use of prickly water lily seeds is a whopping 750,000 years ago and was found in Israel when discovering artifacts from the ancient Acheulean culture!
Where Do Lotus Seeds Come From?
Lotus seeds are a product of the Indian lotus flower or prickly water lily. They’re a major crop in northeast India, specifically the Bihar region which produces 90% of the world’s lotus seeds (we source our Plant Pops Popped Lotus Seeds directly from farmers in Bihar).
The lotus seeds we use shouldn’t be confused with the lotus flower nelumbo nucifera which is harvested in China and commonly used in Chinese and Japanese cuisine and is a completely different plant altogether.
The water lily plant grows on small ponds, lakes, and rivers, and the seeds are hand-harvested from the plants. As the water lily plants don’t require any extra water to grow, they’re sustainable to grow and harvest than other ingredients, such as corn or soy.
Health Benefits of Lotus Seeds
Lotus seeds are great for health due to their high levels of nutrients. The health benefits of lotus seeds include:
- High levels of B Vitamins - specifically B1, B2, B3, and B9
- They can be a great source of iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium
- They’re totally vegan and are packed with plant protein. Our popped lotus seeds have around 2g of protein in every 20g snack bag
- Suitable for a gluten free diet
- They’re low calorie
- They have a low glycemic index, meaning the glucose in them is absorbed slowly. This makes them suitable for a diabetic diet
- The majority of a lotus seed’s energy comes from carbohydrates and proteins. By contrast, most other tree nuts’ energy is found in their high-fat level, which contributes to their high-calorie density
How Can Lotus Seeds Be Eaten?
Lotus seeds can be eaten in lots of different ways, including:
- Popped lotus seeds (phool makhana)
- Lotus seeds are dried under the sun and popped over a hot flame. They’re then roasted and seasoned in a variety of flavours - ours come in Himalayan Salt, Smoked Chilli & Peanut Butter.
- They can be added as a garnish for many different dishes, including avocado toast, soup and acai bowls.
- Our Peanut Butter flavour is also yummy mixed with melted chocolate and marshmallows & they make a great sweet treat!
- Phool makhana curry
- A savoury curry made with popped lotus seeds, peas, lots of spices and nuts.
- A dessert made with lotus seeds and milk
How Are Popped Lotus Seeds Made?
Once harvested, the seeds are dried - either using sunshine or on a low heat. After the seeds are dry - it's time for them to be sorted and popped! The seeds are all totally natural and so come in a variety of sizes. They are sieved through to group different size seeds. Plant Pops use a premium grade of seed (exactly like the one that’s a pantry staple for so many in India).
The popping process is complex and completely different from how popcorn is created. The lotus seeds are roasted at extremely high temperatures (around 300 degrees C) and then hand popped by hitting the seed with a mallet after it has been heated, allowing the white puff to come through, and the black shell to fall away.
Once popped, as a totally natural product, they puff into a variety of sizes and shapes. They're first sorted through to ensure all the seed shell pieces have been removed.
To ensure the snack is super crunchy, they’re re-roasted and seasoned to create the most delicious snack! Our Plant Pops are hand cooked in small batches.