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Spices Unearthed: Blue Pea Flower


How do you naturally turn your food blue?

That question will undoubtedly be answered with this question – Why would I want to turn my food blue?

If the fun of eating blue food isn’t convincing enough, there are many health related reasons for the color change when you use the natural blue dye extracted from the Blue Pea Flower.

dried bunga telang blue pea flowers

Blue Pea (clitoria ternatea) – also called Butterfly Pea – is a tropical vine that stealthily creeps its way around fences or other plants until it suddenly reveals itself by blooming majestically blue flowers. 

These solitary blue flowers are edible and high in antioxidants.  Along with the rest of the plant, especially the roots, Blue Pea has long been used in traditional medicine in Asia to prevent or treat depression, anxiety, memory loss, asthma, and epilepsy. 

The roots of Blue Pea can also be used to cure whooping cough – a bacterial disease that has recently returned to epidemic levels in some parts of the US.

natural blue dye using blue pea flower

While this blue spice is a healthy addition to food, it’s the striking color that makes it so popular. 

In Malaysia, where the flower is called Bunga Telang, Blue Pea is used to dye rice blue.  The general process is to sun-dry the flowers, then soak them in hot water to extract the color, and finally strain out the flowers and soak the rice in the blue water to transform its color. 

In Northeast Malaysia, blue rice is commonly found in a dish called Nasi Kerabu – a traditional rice dish served on a banana leaf.  In other parts of the country, Blue Pea flowers are used to dye glutinous rice to create an assortment of decorative sweets called Nyonya Kuih.

malaysian nyonya style kuih kaya

Because of its beautiful flower and hardy nature, the Blue Pea vine is now grown around the world.  If you have one growing at your home, surprise your family or party guests at dinner with blue rice, or afterwards with blue ice cream or blue cocktails.


Mjskit said...

How very interesting! What a gorgeous flower and so many uses! That blue glutinous rice looks like candy! Enjoyed this post!

BiteMyCake said...

what an interesting thing this powder is! if I was to color my food (cakes), I'd definitely go for natural colors like this one

justonecookbook said...

Whoaaa! This is absolutely gorgeous! I didn't know about this flower, and the dessert has most gorgeous blue color.

Jayshreebhattacharyya said...

I was knowing about roots of BLUE PEA but not about flowers.Thank you for sharing.

Season with Spice said...

Thanks MJ.

Season with Spice said...

True:) I will never want to color my foods, unless it is natural.

Season with Spice said...

You'd be interested to see the blue rice, Nami. Not only it's fun to eat, it just have some incredible flavors.

Season with Spice said...

Hope you get to experiment with the flowers for its beautiful natural blue dye.

Pepy, Indonesia Eats said...

I'm able to buy the dried ones from easy and they were sent from Thailand. It's used also in some Indonesian cooking such as in Medan and Solo for ketan (pulut)

Season with Spice said...

Absolutely! Malaysia and Indonesia share the similar use of ingredients, so we are not surprised to see blue pea flowers being used for pulut in Indonesia. How nice that you can buy the dried ones from your grocer! We haven't seen any in our area.

Patty said...

The picture of the nyonya kuih looks just like the one in http://foodpeopleeat-fpe.blogspot.ca/2012/08/pulut-tekan-sticky-rice-coconut-egg-jam.html I hope no one is copying from each other.

Season with Spice said...

Hi Patty, thanks for the heads up. Looks like they not only copied our images, but also some of our text from this post. Will be contacting them shortly about adding the source links.

Thanks again for letting us know!

Patty Pahn said...

You're welcome! It's awful having people take stuff from you without permission.

Michelle said...

hi, do you know where I can buy dried butterfly pea flowers? thank you :)

Season with Spice said...

Hi Michelle, good question. We haven't seen the dried flower available in the US yet, but it could possibly be available at some Asian grocers. If we find a place that sells them, we will be sure to put an update here (and if you do, we hope you could come back and post an update here too)

We actually wrote this article while living in Malaysia, where the flower grows all over the place. So if you happen to visit Malaysia, you will definitely find the dried flowers available at markets there.

Malay dessert explorer said...

I am looking for the dried blue pea flowers too. Anybody knows where to get it in Vancouver?

SeasonWithSpice said...

Amazon, Etsy, and eBay sell these flowers (as plants, and/or dried flowers or dried in a tea.)

SeasonWithSpice said...

You can get the dried butterfly pea flowers online at Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/search?q=bluechai&view_type=gallery&ship_to=ZZ) or our shop on http://bluechai.com/

SeasonWithSpice said...

I just started growing this flower from seed. I just thought they were nice flowers and had no idea of the different uses. I look forward to experimenting with them.
Thanks for posting this article!

SeasonWithSpice said...

Untuk teman teman Indonesia dan lainnya yang di Indonesia....

menyediakan berbagai macam kebutuhan anda mengenai kembang Teleng /Bunga Teleng

Bibit benih (Biji) yang dikemas dan berisi : 100 biji, 200 biji dan 500 biji
atau lebih banyak lagi sesuai dengan permintaan/kebutuhan anda.

Bunga Teleng kondisi segar (baru dipetik dari pohon) dalam kemasan berisi 200
bunga, 400 bunga, dan 500 bunga, atau lebih banyak lagi sesuai dengan
permintaan/kebutuhan anda.

Bunga Teleng yang sudah dikeringkan dalam kemasan, berisi 200 bunga kering, 400
bunga kering, dan 500 bunga kering, atau lebih banyak lagi sesuai
permintaan/kebutuhan anda.

Bibit pohon kembang teleng yang belum berbunga, usia pohon antara 2 - 3 bulan
dengan ketinggian 20 cm- 30 cm

Pohon Kembang Teleng yang sudah berbunga antara 1 – 4 bunga dan bunganya bisa
langsung anda petik sendiri.

bagi yang berminat dan ingin segera memiliki, hubungi kami melalui telepon/SMS
ke nomor :


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