17 of the Best Ways to Use Dandelions

Many people consider dandelions to be nuisances on their otherwise pristine lawns, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. These friendly little plants with their sunny blossoms and jagged leaves have many different wonderful properties. Check out some of the best ways to use dandelions below!

We’ve corralled them into three categories: food, medicine, and miscellaneous other uses around the homestead.

I Thought Dandelions Were Just Weeds!?

best ways to use dandelions

This mindset only started to flourish after WWII. Up until then, dandelions were cultivated as invaluable food sources as well as medicine. In fact, dandelions have been treasured for both of these uses for thousands of years.

The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians loved them dearly, and they’ve been used in traditional Chinese medicine since at least the 800s.

They’re powerhouses of nutrition, packed with iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and calcium. Before citrus fruits became readily available, dandelions (and evergreen needles) were people’s go-to for fending off scurvy.

how to use dandelions

Use Dandelion as Food

The name “dandelion” comes from the French “dents de lion“, meaning “lion’s teeth”. This refers to the leave’s jagged, toothed edges.

They were used in European cuisine for thousands of years and likely brought to the UK as a food source by both Roman and Norman conquerors. In turn, pilgrims brought them to North America on the Mayflower, and they’ve been spreading themselves around the continent ever since.

As mentioned earlier, these plants are absolutely packed with nutrients. Furthermore, they’re immensely versatile and can be incorporated into your diet in a variety of different ways.

1. Sauteed or Braised

cooked dandelion greens

Dandelion leaves are quite bitter, but you can eliminate some of the bitterness by boiling or blanching them before sauteing.

Simply toss chopped leaves into boiling water and let them simmer for 2–3 minutes. Strain them through a colander, then transfer them to a heated pan. Drizzle with olive oil, toss in garlic and salt, and toss them around a bit.

Once they’re tender and warmed through, they’re ready to go. Serve them on top of pasta or rice, add them to soup, or just enjoy them as they are.

Another option is to slow-braise them with other greens. I like to braise them in my crock pot with shredded collards, kale, chard, and spinach. Once they’re all slurpy, I stir in a bit of heavy cream and parmesan and have at it with a spoon.

2. Raw in Salads, Juices, etc.

dandelion greens raw

Fresh dandelion leaves are quite bitter, but also have a fresh, green flavor. You can add them raw to salads and juices to add both flavor and nutrients. That said, their bitterness is best balanced by other, complimentary flavors.

For example, consider mixing dandelion greens with other greens such as spinach and lettuce. Counterbalance their bitterness with sweeter fruits like tomatoes, sweet peppers, or watermelon. Sweet dressings like fruit vinaigrettes also work exceptionally well.

3. Pickled Dandelion Bud Capers

When dandelion flowers start to form, they emerge as buds from the plant’s center crown, at the soil level. You’ve probably seen these little round heads emerge from between the leaves before. If you pick those off while they’re still tightly formed, you can make capers!

You just need to pack a jar full of buds, which isn’t difficult to do, as dandelions are prolific. Then make a brine of 3/4 tablespoon sea salt dissolved in 1 cup of water. Add finely minced garlic, maybe a couple of peppercorns, and whatever other herbs or spices you’d like. I’m a dill fiend, so I toss that into anything I pickle.

Pour the brine over the buds so they’re fully covered. Now, they’re going to float, so you’re going to have to weigh them down a bit. I use a fairly shallow tea strainer filled with some pie weights to do this.

Then cover that with a few layers of cheesecloth and secure it in place. Leave this jar on the counter for 5 to 8 days until the buds are fermented and soured to your preferred taste.

This type of lacto-fermentation is most often used for sauerkraut, and creates a lovely salty/sour flavor.

4. Fried Blossom Fritters

dandelion fritters

This would be at the top of my list when it comes to the best ways to use dandelions. Not only are these fritters absolutely delicious, they just make me feel happy when I eat them. They’re sunny and bright, with a sweet-savory flavor and amazingly satisfying crunch.

Use your favorite batter recipe to coat the blossoms and toss the in hot oil.

5. Pesto

dandelion pesto

We often make what I lovingly refer to as “yard pesto” as it’s mostly made from foraged items. It’s one of the easiest condiments to create, as you can toss all manner of things together, zizz them in a blender with some oil and garlic, and voila! You have a spread for toast, a sauce for gnocchi or pasta, or a great dip.

This is a great basic recipe for dandelion pesto, but like all recipes, the best versions are those we adjust for ourselves. My favorite combo also contains, basil, lambsquarters, purslane, good olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and pine nuts.

6. Dried Leaf Chips

Do you like kale chips? Then consider trying dandelion leaf chips as well! I make them in my dehydrator, but you can also use an oven or air fryer.

Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces, then toss with a spoonful of olive oil, and whatever seasonings you like. My favorite combo is simply salt and nutritional yeast, but the combinations are almost endless. (Try them with dill pickle popcorn seasoning!)

Spread them out onto your dehydrator racks and dry them out at 145°F for 60-90 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 115-120°F and keep drying for at least another three hours. Check them at that point to see if they’re dry/crisp. If not, keep drying one hour at a time until they’ve reached optimal crispitude.

8. Powdered Greens

One of my favorite ways to preserve spring and summer greens is to powder them. Dehydrating the leaves on low heat keeps most of their nutrients intact, as well as their vibrant green hues.

Once they’re dry enough to crumble between your fingers, blitz them in a food processor or coffee grinder. Transfer the powder to a jar, keep it in a dry location, and add the powder to soups and smoothies whenever desired.

9. Roasted Roots for Coffee/Tea

dandelion root for coffee

Roasted dandelion roots make an absolutely gorgeous beverage. They taste like caramel, and can either be enjoyed on their own, or mixed with coffee grinds to enhance the flavor.

You’ll want to dig up dandelion roots in springtime before they flower. Once they’ve matured a bit, their roots get woody and tough. Basically, they’ve pushed all their happy flavors and nutrients up into the aerial parts above the soil. Scrub roots thoroughly with a brush, pat dry, and cut into half-inch pieces.

Alternatively, you can buy dried dandelion root online from a good herb supply company. I order from Mountain Rose when I’m in the States, and Herbie’s Herbs when I’m in Canada.

Heat your oven to 350°F, and spread the roots out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you’re using fresh roots, roast them for about 40 to 50 minutes, depending on how hot your oven gets.

For dried roots, you shouldn’t have to roast them longer than 12 to 15 minutes. You’re aiming for them to be dry and toasty, not scorched.

From here, you have two options: steep them in hot water to make tea, or grind them to add to your coffee. I prefer to do the latter. For this method, pulverize them in a coffee grinder, then mix with ground coffee in a 1:4 ratio.

10. Soups and Stews

Every single part of the dandelion plant is edible, but the roots are quite woody. As such, use all the aerial parts (as in, whatever is growing above ground) to make a creamy, sweet/savory, nutrient-dense soup! Try this recipe, or play with the ingredients to make it your own.

I love to add shredded dandelions to stew-like dishes for both extra nutrients and a touch of bitterness. Try adding a handful to ramen noodle soup sometime and you’ll see what I mean!

11. Dandelion Wine

dandelion wine

My godfather used to make this stuff, and it was absolutely sublime. If you’ve never made dandelion wine before, consider making some! We even have a handy article on how to make it.

Use Dandelions as Medicine and Home Goods

Whether you take them internally or use them externally, dandelions have many uses in your medicine cabinet.

12. Tonic Tea

dandelion tea

Dandelion tea has numerous medicinal benefits as well. In fact, of the best ways to use dandelions is as a tonic herb. For example, its aerial parts (leaves, stem, and flowers) have great diuretic properties. This means that it can help to eliminate excess water being held in the body (e.g. bloating and edema).

Many healing constituents in dandelion are excellent for kidney and liver health.

Dandelions help with bile production, and promote urination. As such, they help to flush toxins out of the body. Additionally, dandelions’ inulin content makes them ideal for gut health, and their anti-inflammatory effects help to promote overall wellbeing.

As an added bonus, dandelions appear to inhibit pancreatic lipase. [1] This helps to promote weight loss, and is promising as a potential treatment to combat obesity.

13. Dried Leaves

dried dandelion leaves

Dried herbs can be sprinkled on food as an appetite stimulant. They also can help with a mildly upset stomach and work as a mild laxative. Studies in animals have shown that the herb can also help regulate blood sugar.

14. Soap

Dandelions have lots of minerals and vitamins, so put them to work on your skin by making dandelion soap. Start with out guide to making soap and add in fresh dandelion petals and or oil.

15. Salve

A salve made from dandelions is excellent for soothing the skin. To make a salve, combine one part dandelion oil with five parts beeswax

Additional Homestead Uses

In addition to being invaluable as food and medicine, dandelions can also be used around the homestead!

16. Forage for Herbivore Animal Companions

dandelion rabbits

My rabbit loves spring and summer because of all the fresh wild greens he gets to nom on. The leaves and flowers are safe for him and are also great food sources for guinea pigs, degus, and several other small pets.

Additionally, you can dehydrate dandelion leaves to use as winter silage for herbivorous livestock and other farm animals. Cows, goats, and sheep love to eat dandelions, and some horses enjoy them as well. Just make sure to dry them thoroughly. Then add them to hay for occasional snacks.

Dry your dandelions with the same technique you’d use for the chips mentioned above. Then store them in airtight containers in a dry location until you’re ready to serve them up.

17. Soil Amendment

dandelion cover crop

Did you know that dandelions are an ideal cover crop to replenish your fields? In fact, using them to help amend your soil is one of the best ways to use dandelions outside of the kitchen. These plants need disturbed soil and plenty of sun to thrive, making them perfect for rejuvenating tired, spent areas.

Broadcast the seeds generously in early spring so their long, deep tap roots can break up compacted soil over the summer. Then let the flowers go to seed and self-sow. If you do, you can get three full blooms from this crop between early spring and late autumn.

Try to catch the last batch before the blooms go to seed, and mow them all down. Let the clippings fall where they land and allow them to decompose over the winter. Their roots will break down beneath the surface, adding vital nutrients to the soil they’ve helped to break up. Meanwhile, the leaves will add extra nutrients from above, as well as mulchy moisture.

As you can see, the best ways to use dandelions also happen to be some of the tastiest. If you haven’t felt too fondly about these plants before, please give them another chance. They’re wonderful little friends, and offer far more goodness than nuisance.

References:

  1. Zhang J, Kang MJ, Kim MJ, Kim ME, Song JH, Lee YM, Kim JI. Pancreatic lipase inhibitory activity of taraxacum officinale in vitro and in vivo. Nutr Res Pract. 2008 Winter;2(4):200-3. doi: 10.4162/nrp.2008.2.4.200. Epub 2008 Dec 31. PMID: 20016719; PMCID: PMC2788186.

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