What is bee pollen?

Whatever the buzz around its purported magical powers, this intriguing ingredient has texture and flavour all its own.

Labne and pistachio cheesecake

Ben Dearnley

What is bee pollen?

Bee pollen is food for young honeybees made by worker bees who collect pollen and compress in into tiny pellets to store in the hive.

Why do we care?

Bee pollen is touted by some as a superfood with amazing benefits – from promoting healthy hair and skin to curing an array of ailments, and plenty in between. These claims aren’t backed by science, but bee pollen certainly seems to be nutritious.

We like it for its sticky crunch, and slightly floral, nutty and bittersweet flavour. It’s best used raw, scattered over dishes for a textural flourish – as a topping for porridge or muesli, say, or a finishing touch to savoury dishes such as carrots roasted with honey or a spiced quinoa pilaf.

Where can I buy bee pollen?

Bee pollen is available from select health-food shops. It comes in powder form, but granules have a better textural quality.


Roast carrots with honey, bee pollen and saffron

Serves 4 as a side

Preheat oven to 200C. Combine 3 bunches trimmed and scrubbed Dutch carrots or 4 coarsely chopped large carrots in a roasting pan with 1½ tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp honey and the finely grated rind of 1 lemon. Season to taste and roast until soft and caramelised (25-30 minutes for Dutch carrots; 35-40 minutes for regular carrots). Meanwhile, whisk the juice of ½ lemon in a bowl with 50ml olive oil, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, and ¼ tsp saffron threads soaked in 2 tsp hot water, and season to taste. Drizzle mxiure over roasted carrots, scatter with coarsely chopped mint, coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley and 1 tbsp bee pollen and serve warm.

Quinoa and pumpkin pilaf with bee pollen

Serves 4

Preheat oven to 220C. Combine 500gm diced pumpkin in a roasting pan with 2 tbsp olive oil, season to taste and roast until soft and lightly caramelised (25-30 minutes). Meanwhile, heat 1½ tbsp olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, add 1 finely chopped Spanish onion and 2 finely chopped garlic cloves and sauté until translucent (4-5 minutes). Stir in 1 tsp ground coriander and 1 tsp ground cumin until fragrant, then stir in 200gm quinoa and season to taste. Add 500ml vegetable stock, bring to the boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until stock is evaporated (12-15 minutes). Stand for 10 minutes, then stir in finely grated rind and juice of ½ lemon and a generous handful each of baby spinach and torn mint, then stir in roasted pumpkin and 1 tbsp bee pollen. Serve hot scattered with extra bee pollen.

Honey caramels with bee pollen

Makes about 20

Stir 330gm caster sugar and 120gm honey in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil. Brush down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush and boil without stirring, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture reaches 151C on a sugar thermometer and a caramel forms (4-5 minutes). Add 50gm diced butter and ½ tsp sea salt flakes, and swirl to combine. Meanwhile, bring 400ml pouring cream to a simmer in a separate saucepan, gradually add to caramel (be careful, caramel can spit) and stir gently to combine. Cook until caramel reaches 121C, then pour into a 20cmsquare cake tin lined with greased baking paper. Scatter with 1½ tbsp bee pollen and a little extra sea salt  to taste, stand until set, then cut into squares with a hot wet knife to serve.

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