Maca powder is made from dried maca root that is ground into a fine powder. Its subtle sweetness and mild, nutty flavor make maca root powder perfect for adding to sweet and savory dishes. It also complements and enhances fruity flavors and strong spices.
In cooking, you can add maca root powder to sauces, soups, savory spreads, puddings, porridge, pancakes, cookies, homemade granola, or dough mix. Since maca powder contains various nutrients, it is also used as a supplement or herbal remedy. As such, you can add maca powder to a protein shake, juice, or smoothie.
However, maca can be expensive and hard to find. Some people also cannot stand its flavor. If you need a substitute for maca powder, you can use ginseng powder, coffee, raw cacao powder, matcha powder, yacon powder, ground chia seeds, flour, spirulina, or ground butterscotch.
Best Maca Powder Substitutes
1) Ginseng Powder
Dried ginseng root has a similar color as yellow maca root, but it has a different shape. It also has a very bitter flavor with a subtle sweetness instead of the mild, nutty flavor of the maca root. Despite this, ginseng powder can be a good substitute for maca powder.
As with maca, you are more likely to find ginseng in its powder form. It is also often used as a supplement or alternative medicine since ginseng powder is packed with various nutrients. You can easily add it to a protein powder, juice, milk, or smoothie.
You can replace maca powder with ginseng in some recipes, but note that it will result in a different taste. Start with a small amount and adjust as you go since ginseng powder has a bitter flavor, unlike maca powder. In drinks, a teaspoon or two will do.
In its powder form, coffee is a good maca powder substitute. It has a similar earthy flavor with a balanced sweetness and acidity. Unlike ginseng powder, coffee does not have an overpowering bitterness. However, coffee is noticeably darker in color than maca powder.
You can use coffee in cooking and baking some recipes, but always use its powder form—either instant coffee or ground coffee beans. As a bonus, coffee will give a similar energy boost as maca powder and provide antioxidants. As a drink, you can add milk or a non-dairy alternative like almond milk or coconut milk, creamer, and a sweetener such as maple syrup to give it a more pleasant taste.
Like with ginseng, start with a small amount since the coffee flavor can quickly overpower the rest of the ingredients in the dish. Adjust as needed.
3) Raw Cacao Powder
Cacao powder is another versatile maca powder substitute. It has an earthy, nutty flavor similar to maca powder, a slightly bitter aftertaste, and a fruity aroma. However, it has a dark brown color similar only to black maca powder and coffee. Note that cacao powder differs from cocoa powder.
Cacao powder has a much richer flavor than cocoa powder. As a result, it will do well in granola, oatmeal, smoothies, puddings, cakes, and other desserts. And, like maca powder, cacao powder also contains many antioxidants and other compounds good for our health.
Use cacao powder to replace maca powder in small amounts to prevent the bitter aftertaste from overpowering the rest of the dish. Alternatively, you can also enjoy its health benefits by drinking hot chocolate made with cacao powder. Add a little milk or honey to give it a more pleasant taste.
Matcha is made of green tea leaves ground into a fine powder. It has an earthy, slightly bitter taste with a mild sweetness and hints of umami. Matcha powder has a different taste than maca powder, but you can use it as an alternative.
Matcha powder will also boost energy levels, improve physical performance, and reduce stress, all of which are benefits of maca. You can make green tea or add it to a soup, stew, sauce, spice mix, smoothie, salad, or baking dough. It will, however, add a bright green tint to your dishes.
Since matcha powder has a subtle taste, it will blend well with most flavors. When replacing maca powder, you can use it in a 1:1 ratio or start with a small amount and add more as you deem necessary.
5) Yacon Powder
Yacon powder is made of the ground dried roots of the yacon plant, another native to South America. The plant can be hard to find, but yacon powder is often available as a supplement. It has a lighter color than maca powder and a sweet, nutty taste with a touch of fruitiness.
Like maca powder, yacon powder is also packed with nutrients and offers several benefits. You can use it in smoothies, desserts, oatmeal, baking recipes, and some savory dishes to add a little sweetness.
To replace maca powder with yacon powder in a recipe, start with a small amount and adjust as necessary. Note how much you consume if you have a sensitive digestive system since yacon powder has potent prebiotic properties.
6) Ground Butterscotch
Ground butterscotch is one of the best maca powder substitutes for flavor. It has a similarly sweet, nutty flavor with hints of caramel, and its color is also quite similar to maca powder. It will, however, add a slight crunch to your recipe.
You can use ground butterscotch to sweeten drinks and no-bake dishes or sprinkle it over oatmeal, pancakes, yogurt, and granola bars. When cooked, ground butterscotch will melt and lose its crunchy texture.
As with the other substitutes, start with a small amount when replacing maca powder and add more ground butterscotch as needed. Make sure not to add too much to avoid an overly sweet dish.
7) Ground Chia Seeds
Chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavor and a crunchy texture when fresh. When ground, this subtle flavor is amplified but still blends well with other flavors and aromas. Like maca powder, chia seeds are also highly nutritious.
You can use ground chia seeds to flavor, thicken, and boost the nutritional values of the recipe. Ground chia seeds will do well in stews and soups as they complement flavors in sweet and savory dishes. You can also sprinkle ground chia seeds over salads and desserts or mix them in homemade granola and dough mixes.
You can replace maca powder with ground chia seeds at a 1:1 ratio. However, some prefer to start with a small amount and then gradually add more as needed. If you plan to grind the seeds yourself, make sure not to overdo it and end up with chia powder instead.
8) Almond or Coconut Flour
If you don’t like how maca powder tastes, consider using almond flour or coconut flour instead. Both have a mild, sweet taste, but almond flour has a nutty, slightly bitter undertone, while coconut flour tastes distinctively tropical. Additionally, almond flour is as fine as maca powder, but coconut flour isn’t as smooth.
You can use almond flour in making various sweet or savory baked dishes, stews, and smoothies. Meanwhile, coconut flour works best in smoothies, batter, muffins, cookies, or as a breading for frying. Avoid replacing maca powder with coconut flour in sauces since it isn’t as fine.
Follow a 1:1 ratio when replacing maca powder in a recipe.
Spirulina has a unique taste; some describe it as tasting like the sea, while others say it is like a mouthful of fresh lake water. This green, earthy flavor is definitely an acquired taste, but it is highly nutritious, like maca powder.
Use spirulina to thicken soups and stews, add it to smoothies and healthy dishes, or you can mix it with fresh fruits and veggies. However, like matcha, this blue-green algae will impart its color to dishes.
A small amount of spirulina should be enough to replace maca powder, but you can add more as needed.
Let's take a look again at the best substitutes for maca powder and their flavor and nutrition profiles that make them the perfect alternatives.
|Ginseng Powder||Similar in color but different in taste. Best used in small amounts.|
|Coffee||A dark powder with a similar earthy taste but balanced sweetness and acidity.|
|Raw Cacao Powder||Has a similar flavor and a slightly bitter aftertaste. Good for use in desserts and drinking.|
|Matcha||A green powder with a subtle taste that will blend well with most dishes. Also good for drinking.|
|Yacon Powder||Has a sweet, nutty taste and fruity undertones. Lighter in color than maca powder.|
|Ground Butterscotch||Has a similar flavor and color as maca powder. It will lose its crunchy texture when cooked.|
|Ground Chia Seeds||Provides a mild, nutty flavor with a little crunch when uncooked.|
|Almond or Coconut Flour||Use almond flour for stews and coconut flour for breading. Both are good for baking.|
|Spirulina||Blue-green algae with a unique taste. Highly nutritious like maca powder.|
The maca plant (Lepidium meyenii) is a root veggie sometimes referred to as Peruvian ginseng since it is native to Peru, South America. There was once a worldwide shortage of maca, but now you can often find maca powder being sold as a supplement or alternative medicine.
Maca roots come in three colors: yellow maca, red maca, and black maca. However, yellow maca powder is more often seen than red maca powder and black maca powder.
Maca powder is healthy. It contains many of the nutrients and antioxidants found in the maca root and provides several health benefits. In traditional medicine, maca powder has also been used as an herbal remedy to boost energy levels, relieve stress, improve sexual function, treat sexual dysfunction, and improve overall well-being.
Maca powder is also often used to regulate hormones, increase libido or sexual desire, regulate the menstrual cycle, and help with acne.
The best maca supplement alternatives on this list are ginseng powder, coffee, matcha, raw cacao powder, and yacon powder. Although not on this list, protein powder is also a good alternative for maca supplementation.
Maca coffee is a coffee alternative without caffeine. It is so similar to coffee that some people drink maca coffee to get over caffeine addiction. However, even without caffeine, drinking maca coffee will give you an energy boost and generally make you feel more energetic without the risk of a caffeine crash.
Maca supplements come in four main types: raw maca powder, gelatinized maca, maca extract powder, and maca capsules. Raw maca powder can be used in cooking, baking, and added to drinks, while the rest are only used as supplements.
Gelatinized maca is the most concentrated, natural maca supplement available, while maca capsules are merely capsules that contain raw maca powder for easier consumption. On the other hand, maca extract powder goes through chemical processes to become even more concentrated than gelatinized maca.
Gelatinized maca is more concentrated and contains more nutrients than raw maca powder. Thus, gelatinized maca is a better supplement than raw maca powder. On the other hand, raw maca powder is better if you wish to add it to various recipes or drinks.
In traditional medicine, one teaspoon of maca powder is generally taken every day as a treatment for 6 to 12 weeks. However, some may experience side effects while others may not. Always consult your doctor before using maca powder as a supplement.
Maca powder is well-known for its effects on hormones and for improving sexual function. However, since it has such great effects on the human body, those with hormone-sensitive conditions should avoid using maca powder. Even if you don’t have such a condition, always consult a doctor before taking any supplements or medications.