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No. 56 - Grains of Paradise (Alligator Pepper)

Quick Overview

Grains of Paradise are an aromatic seed with a peppery hot taste that makes a superb substitute for black peppercorns.

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Grains of Paradise or Alligator Pepper
West Africa

Grains of Paradise, Guinea Pepper, also known as Atar, Aligator Pepper, Melegueta Pepper or alligator pepper

A member of the Ginger family; the grains of paradise plant resembles cardamom, turmeric and ginger. It can be cultivated only in hot humid tropical climates.


When cracked like coriander between the teeth, the flavor of grains of paradise releases a billowing aroma, with a slowly intensifying heat, like pepper, at the back of the mouth. The taste changes by the second with lingering heat. The spice is pleasantly tempered, with flavors reminiscent of jasmine, hazelnut, butter and citrus, with an oiliness similar to nuts... Grains of paradise are dense fragrance underlined with heat."


Grains of paradise are native to the coastal areas of Africa's Gulf of Guinea which includes today's countries of Liberia, Ivory Coast, Togo, Nigeria and Cameroon where grains of paradise have a long-standing record of ethnobotancial use. Before the spice trade routes from Western Europe to the East Indies were established, a lively trade of grains of paradise, cubeb and long peppers existed. Oceanic travels to the spice islands by the Portuguese, Dutch and English in the 17th century diminished the value and importance of grains of paradise in face of competition of black pepper, clove, mace and nutmeg.

Outside west Africa, grains of paradise are only a minor spice commodity, finding use as a flavoring in alcoholic beverages such as beer, ale and gin. It is an ingredient in 'raz al hanout' a Moroccan spice mixture.

Samuel Adams uses Grains of Paradise as a peppery bite in some of the seasonal beers

Ripe Sead Pods


Additional Information

Common Uses Grind, crush or use whole as a full-flavored substitute for black peppercorns. Add to mulled wine or other spiced beverages for a nuanced flavor. Add to braised lamb dishes, potato and eggplant dishes and spice mixes.
History No
Region(s) No
Ingredients Grains of Paradise
Product of:
Organic No