Maca is a Peruvian root vegetable with a unique set of characteristics including the fact that it boosts your energy. The tuber is difficult to find outside of South America’s Andes region. The dried and powdered version is far more common but if you have run out of it or can’t find it near you, you will need an alternative. Here are some of the best substitutes for maca:
Your best bet: Ginseng
Like maca, ginseng is a root. It comes from an unrelated plant and it has a slightly different shape to maca, but ginseng has the same color as white maca among other similarities. Ginseng has been an important part of traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years. It makes a good maca substitute because it shares some of the same benefits. For example, both plants have strong reputations for improving libido while also fighting fatigue by increasing energy.
Outside their regions of origin, you are most likely to encounter both maca and ginseng in powder form as supplements. In powder form, ginseng still makes a decent substitute for maca since it still provides a similar set of health benefits; however, you should understand that the flavor profiles are dramatically different. Ginseng is notorious for its intense bitterness, while maca is has a pleasant earthy profile with a little nuttiness.
The differences in flavor mean that even though ginseng is a good alternative for some maca health benefits, you can’t use it in place of maca for any culinary applications and expect similar results. Maca is used in puddings and porridges. While you could still make these sweet dishes with ginseng, you probably wouldn’t be able to hide the taste.
A decent second choice: Coffee
Coffee is rich in caffeine, which has effects that make it an excellent maca alternative. They are similar enough that maca is often suggested to people trying to break a caffeine addiction. The caffeine in coffee can’t give you all of the benefits that you would get from maca, but it can supply the energy. Coffee works best as a maca alternative if all you want from it is the energy-boost effect. It has the benefit of being easier to find than maca since multiple forms of it are available in most grocery stores.
Like maca, you can use coffee in some cooking and baking applications; however, you would have to add it in liquid form or use instant coffee. Adding liquid coffee in place of maca will ruin most of the applications that use maca powder. You can try using instant coffee instead, it will provide the caffeine but the flavor is very different from that of maca.
In a pinch: Raw cacao powder
Raw cacao powder is made from ground cocoa beans that have been minimally processed. These are the same beans used to make chocolate. What makes raw cacao a decent substitute for maca is the fact that it too contains many compounds that are valuable for health. While there is some debate about whether its antioxidants are bioavailable, there is none about the caffeine and theobromine it contains. Both caffeine and theobromine can give you energy.
Matcha is green tea that has been ground to a fine powder. Unlike regular tea where you steep the tea and discard the leaves, with matcha you consume both the leaves and the tea. Matcha contains green tea catechins that are important for improving physical performance and reducing stress, both of which are benefits of maca. The caffeine in matcha will also make it a good maca substitute.