Maca is a plant native to Peru, where it was an herbal remedy used to treat a wide range of medical conditions, as well as improve energy and, of course, boost fertility and libido. Today, it's widely available as a health food supplement, though it has not been approved as a medical treatment of any kind.
If you're interested to read about the history of maca, we covered it here. As far as benefits, while there are few studies that prove one way or another, the ground-up powder of the root is supposed to help with memory, anemia, fatigue, libido, general endurance, fertility, and depression.
The biggest problem with maca powder as a health supplement is the taste. It's a root: harvested, dried, and ground up into a powder to be shipped all around the world. It has a taste that has been described as "earthy and nutty", or "caramel or malt-like in flavor." Alternatively, it has been described as "slightly nutty wood shavings that have rotted." Needless to say, a lot of people want the benefits of maca, but hate the taste. It's a surprisingly powerful flavor for what it is, and you can detect it in pretty much anything else you put it in.
If you, like thousands of others, want to get the benefits of maca powder without having to deal with the taste, we may be able to help. Here are our recommendations for masking the taste of the powder, or at least blending it in inoffensively.
One of the most common recommendations you'll get for any health food is that it's an acquired taste, so you should try to acquire it. If you keep consuming maca daily for weeks or months, you're going to get used to the flavor, and perhaps even start to enjoy it. You may start to notice complexities beyond the initial earthiness, and be able to get notes of nuttiness in the smoothie or beverage you made.
This doesn't work for everyone. Some people enjoy the complex and earthy notes in maca, while others find it to be oppressively strong and bitter. Still, it's worth keeping at it, trying it over and over, until you finally either start to enjoy it or break and give up.
Remember, too, that there are different types of maca, which can have different flavors.
- Yellow maca is the most common and most cultivated of the maca varieties. It's more used as a foodstuff than as a medicine, and so it has more nutrients but less medicinal compounds. It's also sweet.
- Black maca is the most powerful in terms of energy, more comparable to caffeine than the other varieties. It's also strong and tends to have bitter notes.
- Red maca is the sweetest of the varieties and has the mildest flavor, and is somewhere between yellow and black in terms of the balance of flavor and medicinal qualities.
- Blue maca is widely used because, in addition to its other benefits, it also has a significant amount of iodine in it. This helps with regulating bodily hormone levels.
If you don't like one variety of maca, try another! Different brands of maca use different blends, different source vegetables, and even different processing to give the resulting powder a different flavor.
Take a Shot
One common strategy is not to mask the taste but to get past it quickly. Start by mixing up a glass of whatever your favorite smoothie is, whether you're having your maca as part of breakfast or something else. Have this glass handy.
Next, measure out whatever the dose is for your maca. Our maca powder recommends a mere half a teaspoon each day. Mix this powder with water, or with a small shot's worth of your smoothie, and drink it down quickly. You'll get one sudden burst of maca flavor, and can chase it with more of your smoothie to overwhelm it and get past it quickly.
Obviously, this doesn't actually mask or change the taste of maca in any way. All you're doing is getting over it quickly and moving on to flavors you enjoy more. Still, if you can't stand the taste of maca in anything else – and if none of the other options on this list work for you – you can try this method to get it over with quickly.
Mask with Cinnamon
No matter how you decide you want to take your maca, whether it's in a smoothie, a tea, or just mixed with milk, add about a teaspoon of cinnamon.
Cinnamon is a powerful flavor on its own, and it's packed with health benefits. It's also a strong, earthy-toned taste, so it both compliments and overpowers the maca itself. You'll see cinnamon as a recurring ingredient in many of the preparations we mention below for this reason.
Mix a Maca Chai
Maca is an earthy flavor, so mixing it with other earthy flavors will make it harder to discern, and it will blend more easily. Here's a recipe you can try for a hot chai beverage with maca.
Soak about 1/8th of a cup of almonds overnight, and rinse them in the morning. Add them to 1.5 cups of water, half a cinnamon stick, 3-5 whole cloves, 3 peppercorns, 3-5 cardamom pods, a star anise pod, and a small chunk of fresh ginger root. All of these have powerful, spicy, earthy flavors. Blend these together and strain through a nut milk bag.
Straining the liquid you get out of this removes all of the tough, fibrous bits from the various pods and whole spices, while still infusing the water with all of the spices and ingredients.
Put the liquid back in the blender, and add in your dose of maca powder, a small banana, a tablespoon of cacao butter, a teaspoon of coconut oil, a pinch of sea salt, and some honey or sweetener to taste. Then add in two cups of hot water and blend.
The resulting beverage is sweet, earthy, spicy, and creamy. You'll barely even taste the maca, and that's only if you have a sensitivity to it.
To make it even more of a chai, you can brew up some black tea instead of using normal hot water at the end. The tea has a wealth of benefits of its own, and you'll get a lot of energy from the potent combination of tea, maca, and cinnamon, but it can be a little strong for some people.
Making pancakes might not seem like a healthy option when you're trying to take supplements, but you can make these breakfast confections using healthy ingredients and come out with something that's still relatively good for you. Here's a gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo-friendly recipe from Nourish Everyday:
In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of coconut flour, 2 tablespoons of tapioca flour, 1 teaspoon of maca powder, 1 teaspoon of coconut sugar, half a teaspoon of baking powder, and a quarter teaspoon of salt, along with some cinnamon to taste.
Crack two eggs and add 3 tablespoons of almond milk to the dry ingredients. Mix until smooth and thick, similar to a fruit puree. You can add more milk if it's too dry, and more coconut flour if it's too wet and thin.
Cook like you would any other pancake, in a pan with a smidge of oil for 2-3 minutes per side, then flip and cook another 1-2 minutes. Makes four pancakes for a robust breakfast. Top with your favorite syrup, jam, fruit compote, or other toppings.
A green smoothie is great for maca for the opposite kind of reason as the above options: the green tastes are powerful and can overwhelm the maca flavor enough that you barely taste it (if you can taste it at all). Green smoothies are great because they're packed with nutrients from vegetables like spinach, rich with avocado oil, and flavorful to boot. You can also add in other supplements, like your spirulina or other algae, if you want to kill two birds with one stone here.
For a tangy and vibrant green smoothie, blend together two cups of frozen pineapple, a cup of fresh spinach, a frozen banana, half an avocado, two tablespoons of your favorite nut butter, a teaspoon of maca, and three cups of water or crushed ice. Blend these until smooth and you're good to go!
Maca can sometimes stand out in a fruit smoothie, but if you use powerful enough fruit ingredients, you'll be able to overpower and mask the earthy flavor. We're talking things like raspberry, mango, and citrus here, not pear and apple.
Smoothies are generally quite flexible. Just throw in whatever fruits you want, they pretty much all taste good together, and add in your supplements and whatever liquid you need to get it to the right consistency. Yogurt makes a great base, but you can use ice, or even frozen orange juice as a great base as well.
Here are a handful of fruit smoothie recipes for you to explore for ideas.
- Strawberry Banana makes this a classic smoothie flavor, rich and creamy without being too tangy or strong. It might have trouble masking maca if you add too much, though.
- Mixed Berry smoothies tend to be stronger and tangier. This one uses bananas, mixed berries, and some vanilla and milk to make a berries-and-cream smoothie that is simply divine.
- Blueberries on their own are an excellent flavor to mask maca while being strong enough to carry a smoothie on their own. Fresh blueberries are excellent, but you can use frozen if you prefer. Try adding a little cinnamon to accentuate the earthy flavor of the berries and make the maca blend more thoroughly. Cinnamon is a little more powerful than Maca and does a great job of masking it, and it happens to go great with blueberries.
- Mango smoothies are tropical and excellent for summer. This recipe uses turmeric and flaxseed to help mask the maca while leaving the overall high notes of the mango untouched.
Do you have a favorite fruit blend to mix up into a smoothie? If so, feel free to leave us your recipe in the comments, we'd love to have more options to try!
Make Energy Bars
Energy bars are an excellent choice for a lot of reasons. In addition to using something like maca to give you energy, they're packed with protein and fiber to quell your appetite, fill you up, and give your body something to digest for energy. They don't go through you as readily as smoothies, and they're easily portable to carry with you throughout the day. Here's a recipe from My Whole Food Life:
Using a food processor, grind up a cup of almonds into a coarse powder. Add them to a bowl with a half cup of sunflower seeds, two tablespoons of maca (it's a lot, but it makes a lot of bars), half a cup of flax meal, half a cup of pepitas, two tablespoons of chia seeds, and half a teaspoon of salt.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine a quarter cup of maple syrup, a third of a cup of almond butter, and a quarter cup of coconut oil. Heat and mix until well combined, then add it to the bowl with the other ingredients. Mix well.
Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper, then spread in the above mixture and pack down. Set it in the fridge to chill and solidify, about an hour, then remove and cut into bars. You can cut a bar whenever you want one, or cut them all at once and wrap individually for a portable snack.
Finally, if you still can't stand the taste of maca despite everything else, you can always just choose not to deal with it at all. It's a little tedious, but you can measure out your doses and fill up some empty gelatin capsules, available at a wide range of vitamin stores and on Amazon. It costs around $7-8 for 1,000 capsules, which is more than enough to last you quite a while. You can package up a few weeks at a time, save them in a bottle of your own, and just take one each day before you have breakfast.