How to Prepare Moringa Oleifera Leaves and Pods for Cooking

  • 01 of 06

    What Is Moringa Oleifera?

    Malunggay (Moringa oleifera)
    Salih Cheeramkulangara / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Malunggay is the Filipino name for Moringa oleifera the English names of which include drumstick tree and horseradish tree. The drought-resistant tree grows in tropical and semiarid areas. It is cultivated for food in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Fiji, Guam, and Palau. 

    The non-English names of Moringa oleifera include Maranga calalu (Honduras), Cedra (Brazil), Mawonga (Cayman Islands), Chùm Ngây (Vietnam), Kelor (Java and Bali in Indonesia), Gawara (Nigeria) and Dangap (Somalia).

    Moringa oleifera caught the world's attention when claims about its disease-fighting properties started circulating around the web. Its popularity rose so much that the Moringa leaves began to be sold in various forms. Moringa tea and capsules (containing powdered leaves) became especially popular after a newspaper published a story about how a Japanese businessman discovered that the antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins and minerals in Moringa oleifera can cure many diseases.

    Moringa oleifera is no miracle plant but it is truly rich in nutrients. The leaves and pods are rich in Vitamins A and C, calcium, niacin and iron. 

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  • 02 of 06

    Stripping Moringa Oleifera Leaves for Cooking

    Stripping moringa leaves for cooking
    The Spruce / Connie Veneracion

    Moringa leaves are sold still attached to the stalks. The stalks are too woody to eat and should be discarded. To separate the leaves from the stalks:

    1. Holding a stalk with one hand, lightly grip between the forefinger and thumb of the other hand the thickest portion of the stalk.
    2. With one smooth stroke, slide your forefinger and thumb through the length of the stalk to strip off the leaves.
    3. Discard the stalks. Rinse the leaves and add to the pot.

    Why rinse the leaves after they are stripped from the stalks? Because it is harder to slide the stalks between the fingers when they are wet.

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  • 03 of 06

    Cooking Moringa Oleifera Pods

    Moringa Oleifera Pods
    Happy happy world / Moment Open / Getty Images

    When the Moringa pods are young and tender (at around six inches in length), the entire pods are edible. At this stage, the seeds are very small and the pods themselves are not fibrous. They are cooked in much the same way as string beans.

    Simply cut off and discard both ends, then cut the pods into the desired length.  

    Moringa pods are an ingredient in the Thai sour soup keang som, the Ilocano (a regional cuisine in the northern Philippines) dinengdeng and various spicy stews in South Asia.

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  • 04 of 06

    The Edible Seeds of Moringa

    Moringa seeds
    dangdumrong / E+ / Getty Images

    As the Moringa pods mature, they become tougher and more fibrous. Some cooks simply cook them longer. An alternative is to split open the pods, scrape off the seeds and cook the seeds sans the pods.

    Twist the pod with your fingers to create an opening. Insert your thumb where the pod had burst open then slide your thumb through the entire length of the pod to split it completely lengthwise.

    Scrape off the seeds with a spoon. Blanch or douse the seeds with hot water to remove the sticky film that coats them. Cook the seeds as you would fresh peas or beans. The length of the cooking time depends on how mature the seeds are.

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  • 05 of 06

    Adding Moringa Leaves to Soup Dishes

    Fish head soup with Moringa leaves
    The Spruce / Connie Veneracion

    In the Philippines, the most common way to cook Moringa leaves is to add them to soup dishes. A generic recipe would start with sautéing aromatics (shallots, ginger, and garlic are a usual combination), adding meat, poultry or seafood to the pot, pouring in enough water to cover, adding seasonings (fish sauce is almost always the top choice) and simmering the meat, poultry or seafood until almost done. Because Moringa leaves don't take very long to cook, they are added to the pot about ten minutes before the meat, poultry or seafood is done.

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  • 06 of 06

    Modern Ways of Cooking With Moringa Leaves

    Malunggay pesto
    The Spruce / Connie Veneracion

    After the popularity of Moringa oleifera skyrocketed during the last decade, it is not surprising that cooks started getting more creative with cooking Moringa leaves.

    At a culinary school cooking contest where I served as a judge, one of the students made a pesto with Moringa leaves. I was so smitten with the creativity that I decided to make my version at home.

    Other modern recipes with Moringa leaves include burgers with chopped Moringa leaves, pureed Moringa soup and crunchy Moringa nuggets.