Health and wellness is a trillion-dollar industry, and it's growing every year. More and more people are turning to affordable, alternative forms of healthcare, through alternative medicine, holistic health practices, supplements, and natural healing. Treatments and supplements that once were relegated to vendor carts and word of mouth are now mainstream.
Aloe vera is one such supplement. The health benefits of aloe have been known for centuries, though the word of mouth stories blow them out of proportion and claim it can do many things it cannot. It's a healthy ingredient to eat or drink. It's no longer left to the rare stand at a farmer's market or the option of growing your own; today, you can find whole aloe leaves in the produce section of your local grocer, and often a variety of aloe-infused beverages and snacks along the way.
There's just one trick; aloe doesn't actually taste all that great on its own. Oh, sure, some people love it. Raw aloe has a bitter, acrid sort of taste, like a mixture of spinach and battery acid. Some people describe it as like drinking drain cleaner, or worse. Obviously, that's not appealing!
Then again, a lot of things we consume don't taste very good in their raw form. Coffee, straight and black, is an acquired taste, and even that requires the raw beans to be roasted. Eggplant is a great vegetable, but it needs to be prepared to remove its bitterness first.
Aloe vera is no different; you can make it taste a lot better by preparing it and mixing it with other flavors. Trust us; we wouldn't sell it if we didn't think we were selling something tasty!
1. Buy a Flavored Aloe Juice
First up on our list is a two-fold process of extracting the juice from aloe vera and mixing it with other flavorful juices.
Aloe vera, in its raw form, is a gel. The gel comes from the inside of the fronds of the aloe plant, which is a succulent. How bitter those fronds are can depend somewhat on the water content; in a drought, aloe uses stored water to keep itself alive. Aloe harvested in dry periods tends to have a more concentrated bitter tasting flavor. Aloe kept in a moist environment (but not too much for a succulent) tends to be thinner and more watery, and thus less bitter.
Preparing aloe vera at home, and making juice from a whole leaf is actually quite easy.
From a whole leaf, make sure to wash the leaf to remove any dirt and contaminants that could have gotten on the surface. You don't use or eat the outer layer of the leaf, but you don't want to press those into the gel when you cut it open.
Once the leaf is washed and dried, cut the thorny edges off. Cut the leaf down the middle, and use a spoon to scoop out the gel. Unlike with melon, you want to avoid getting any part of the rind; leave the green and yellow stuff alone. The gel you harvest should be a milky white or clear.
Why do you have to be careful? The rind is where the aloe plant contains most of its aloin. Aloin is a chemical in the aloe plant that is extremely harmful. It's toxic and can cause a wide variety of problems for anyone who consumes it. It can cause intestinal cramps, diarrhea, electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, and other dangerous symptoms. The gel of the aloe plant contains little or no aloin; it's all stored in the rind of the leaf.
Aloe you get from a store is usually processed to remove any traces of aloin. Making aloe juice from home doesn't give you that luxury, so you need to be careful to minimize what you get on your own.
Once you have harvested the gel, making a juice is simple; just blend it. Aloe juice is just a thinned down version of aloe gel. When making a full beverage, take about two tablespoons of aloe gel and blend it down to mix with whatever else you want.
So what can you mix aloe with? It's a strong bitter flavor, so sweet and tangy flavors do well to cancel it out. Lemon is a time-honored mixture to overpower bitterness with sourness. Any berry does well. Goji berries, Acai berries, and pomegranate seeds all go well, though you may want to prepare your pomegranate (if using fresh seeds) to strain the juice. Orange juice works well, as does mint, though they don't work as well together as you might hope.
You can also mix with vegetable juices. Vegetables don't overpower the taste of aloe as much, but they are healthier and don't provide as much sugar. Carrots are good, as are various greens. You can also add a scoop of something like peanut butter to make the whole thing creamier and smoother to drink.
2. Make an Aloe Salad
Most traditional uses for aloe vera are some kind of juice or smoothie, and that makes sense. Aloe is a healthy food, and the go-to way to prepare healthy foods, especially juice-like foods, is to add them to a beverage. #1 up there covers basically all the juices and smoothies you could want; adding aloe to a juice blend or to your breakfast smoothie is a great easy way to consume it.
What about other options? We've put together a few less common or unorthodox recipes for the final four options.
First up, why not add aloe to a salad? Salads already have a base of a green, which you expect to be somewhat bitter depending on the kind of green you're using. Other ingredients can help counteract the aloe's bitterness. Here's a recipe we found on Natural Healers:
Fresh Aloe Mint Summer Salad
Ingredients: One large aloe leaf, a small handful of fresh mint, a medium tomato, a lime, garlic powder, kelp powder, and sesame seeds. If you want a more filling salad, add a green of your choice; spinach, kale, and collard greens are all good options.
Filet and prepare your aloe, making sure to remove as much of the latex and rind as possible. Keep the gel in larger chunks rather than blending it into a juice. Rinse and soak the aloe gel in water, for 10 minutes, then strain. From there, simply toss all of the ingredients together to make a salad. Tomato gives you acidity to balance the bitterness. The mint gives you a potent flavor that pairs well with both. Lime's citrus helps fight the bitterness as well. The other spices and powders exist for their health benefits.
If you choose to use greens, you can turn aloe into the base of a salad dressing. A bit of aloe juice, a bit of oil, and a salad dressing mix of your choice makes for a tasty dressing with healthy benefits.
3. Mix with Alcohol
Alcohol is an odd duck. On the one hand, alcohol is a poison, and too much of it can damage all manner of systems in your body, from the liver on out. On the other hand, a little alcohol in the right circumstances is super tasty, and a cocktail is just what you need on a hot summer night. A little alcohol can even have some healthy properties, though that's more often attributed to wine than to spirits.
Mixing aloe with alcohol is something not a lot of people might consider, and it's certainly not a way to get your aloe as part of a breakfast or lunch. We strongly recommend being careful with any alcoholic beverage you choose to enjoy. Drink responsibly!
That said, there are a couple of different ways you can drink aloe with a bit of alcohol.
This martini recipe comes from Hello Glow. It's also very easy to make. Simply combine 2 slices of cucumber, 4-5 mint leaves, a tablespoon of lime juice, and a teaspoon of sugar in a shaker. Muddle it and add in two ounces of vodka and an ounce of aloe juice. Fill with ice, cover, and shake. Strain the resulting beverage, and you're left with a delicious aloe martini.
Aloe Jello Freezes
This aloe recipe comes from Front + Main and involves a little of everyone's love/hate booze, tequila. You need two cups of aloe juice, ¼ cup of tequila, mint, basil, lime juice and zest, agave syrup, gelatin, and a pinch of salt. Blend everything except the gelatin and let sit for ~10 minutes. Strain it, then put it in a pot and heat for about three minutes, careful not to get it so hot that it simmers or boils. Dissolve the gelatin in a bit more aloe, then slowly add it to the warm mixture, stirring to dissolve. Freeze it to solidify it. It's easy to serve!
4. Make an Ice Cream
Maybe you like the idea of a frozen treat, but you're not a fan of alcohol. That's fine! Aloe can be an ingredient in a wide variety of different preparations. Here are two frozen options you can try out.
Kiwi Aloe Popsicles
This is a recipe straight from Creative Green Living. They use a prepared aloe product that is aloe juice mixed with honey, but you can make that yourself. All they do is take a single whole kiwi and peel off the skin. Take about half a cup of aloe juice, a tablespoon or so of honey (to taste), and the whole kiwi, and blend them together. Pour the mixture into your favorite popsicle molds, and freeze them. That's it! That's all there is to it. It's a simple and effective snack you can make and enjoy all year.
If you want a little more flavor to it, you can add other kinds of fruit juices or fresh fruits to the mixture; they all freeze pretty well. If you like, you can also strain the mixture before putting it into the molds, to remove kiwi and other fruit seeds.
Five-Ingredient Aloe Ice Cream
This recipe comes from Flexitarian Nutrition. It's a simple ice cream recipe that is vegan, sugar, gluten, soy, and dairy-free.
The five ingredients are cashew nuts (raw or unsalted), filtered water, cocoa powder, cacao bits, maple syrup, and aloe juice. Yes, there are six ingredients there, but you can either not count the water or count both cocoas as one, up to you.
To make it is a really simple process. Just blend all the ingredients together for about two minutes. You're looking for a light and airy mixture, otherwise, it will freeze into something more resembling a brick than a cream. Stick it in the freezer for at least four hours, covered with plastic that touches the surface to avoid freezer burn. When you want to serve it, pull it out and let it thaw for about ten minutes, or until it's soft enough to scoop and eat.
5. Try Capsules or Extracts Instead
At the end of the day, sometimes aloe just isn't for you. Some people are exceptionally sensitive to bitter flavors, and just won't enjoy anything with aloe in it, even if it's masked. That's fine; that's what supplements are here for. You have two primary options: extracts and capsules.
Extracts of aloe are a concentrated aloe juice that is usually processed to remove unhealthy ingredients, and potentially mixed with something to counteract the bitterness. It's still potent, so you only use a little bit of it in any given recipe.
Capsules are the other option, and usually the best for people who don't want to taste their supplements. Aloe capsules are like gel-caps similar to fish oil capsules. Just swallow one and you're good to go. The only way you might taste it is through a stray burp throughout the day, and that's easy to deal with if it even happens at all.
Regardless of how you choose to enjoy (or avoid) the taste of aloe, there are a lot of options out there. We chose a few recipes as examples, but there are dozens more, and you can customize them to your taste. Enjoy!