What are Tiger nuts? Full guide

It is now centuries since human beings began to cultivate Tiger Nuts. They began in Neolithic Egypt but gradually spread to the rest of Northern Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. It became more popular with the Spanish in the 18th century, and since then, they have been using it to make horchata, a sweet, milk-like beverage.  In other parts of the world, people use it as a snack food.

Some years back, we saw a decline in the popularity of this crop. However, it is gradually bouncing back to its lost glory thanks to its numerous health benefits. It is now one of the most popular healthy nuts in the market and fetches a fair price.

Many people confuse them to be nuts from their name, but actually, they are not. Tiger nuts are root tubers, like cyclamen and sweet potatoes but smaller in size. The name tiger nuts come from the stripes on the exterior of their tubers.

Scientifically they go by the name Cyperus esculentus, and they belong to the sedge family. Tiger nuts are both wild plants like a weed and a cash crop to other people.  You are likely to come across these plants in wet soils like rice paddies and peanuts farms. They also do well in irrigated lawns and golf courses in warm weather.


Tiger nuts are highly inversive in Oceania, Mexico, including the Caribbean, and some US regions through seed dispersion. The seeds are readily dispersible to other parts of the globe and are highly adaptable to varied soil types and climatic conditions. In some countries like Japan, they are an exotic clonal weed established in wet dumpy habitats.

Picture of Tiger nuts


The Nutsedge require mild climates as low temperatures, shades, and light intensity can jeopardize their flowering. The photoperiods for flowering are between 12-14 hours per hour. Extended photoperiods, high levels of nitrogen, and extreme gibberellic levels inhibit their tuber initiation.

When it comes to soil requirements, Tiger nuts can develop their tubers in a soil depth of roughly 30 cm or 1 foot. However, most tubing occurs in the upper part of the soil.

The plant is hugely tolerant of adverse soil conditions and can thrive during drought and flooding conditions. They do well in sandy, moist soils with PH values ranging from 5.0 to 7.5. Their cultivation is popular in low-lying wetlands and never does well in saline conditions.

Growing Tiger nuts

You can plant tiger nuts manually in ridges separated 60 meters apart. You must keep the seeds approximately 16 to 20 cm away from each other and bury them 8 cm into the soil. The best ratio to maintain in your farm is 120kg is tiger nuts seeds per hectare.

Farmers in most regions plant them between April and May and harvest them around November and December. The tubers develop within 6 to 8 weeks after the seed emerges from the soil. They grow quickly in July and August and mature in 90 to 110 days. If they do well, you can harvest around 10 to 19 tons per hectare.

Uses Tiger nuts 

When dried, they are smooth, tender, sweet, and have a nutty taste. You can have them raw, roasted, baked, or drink them as milk or oils. Below is how you can use it in your kitchen.


This practice originated from Spain, where they used the nuts to make horchata. However, it has spread to other parts of the world most notably in West African countries like Nigeria and Mali.

The drinks from soaked and sweetened tiger nuts are highly rich in proteins. Spanish native serve the beverage cold as natural, nutritious refreshment during summer. These people treasure the horchata heritage that they have a regulating council to ensure quality and preserve the product heritage.

Also, some people use tiger nuts milk as an alternative to other fermented products like yogurt. They are ideal for people who do not tolerate the high lactose content in natural milk.

Tiger nuts milk


Like other tubers, tiger nuts are edible and have a slightly sweet nutty flavor. They are hard and you need to soak them first before you feed on them. Soaking makes the tubes softer and gives them better textures.

In some regions, flavor roasted tiger nuts are added to biscuits and other baked products to make oil, soap, and starch extracts. Some people also use these tubers as flavoring agents when making jam, beer, and nougats.

In Kunnu, Nigeria, tiger nuts are perfect substitutes to cereal grains and make up for the locally prepared cereals’ low nutrition contents.

Tiger nuts oil is top quality, and you can always serve it as fruit salad or use it to deep fry your favorite meal.

Nutrition and Health Supplements

The chemical composition of tiger nuts has the same characteristics as that of other tubers and nuts. This plant is rich in all energy contents such as starch, sugar, proteins, and fats. Chufa is one of the top foods rich in dietary fats. They yield 8 to 14 metric tones per hectare. The tiger nut tuber itself is 30% fat and produces 3360 kg of fat per hectare.

They are rich in other dietary minerals such as phosphorus and potassium. Tiger nuts also contain  18 percent saturated palmitic and stearic acids and 82 percent oleic and linoleic fatty acids.

Fish Bait

If you thought tiger nuts are only for human consumption, then you are wrong. In the United Kingdom, fishers use boiled nuts as carp bait. If you intend to use the nuts for this purpose, then you must be careful and prepare them in a prescribed manner not to hurt the fish.

Soak them in water for at least 24 hours, and then boil them for at least 20 minutes until they fully swell. Some fishermen prefer to ferment the soaked tiger nuts for 24 to 48 hours to increase their effectiveness.