Can I cook with regular matcha?

  • 5 min reading time

Say on a cold fall Sunday morning, the urge struck you to make some matcha pancakes. However, you only had 3 Leaf Tea’s premium grade matcha in your kitchen. The culinary dilemma you are facing is one we are often consulted with about. Do I need to have culinary grade matcha to cook with? Are there merits cooking with premium grade matcha? Would baking with premium grade matcha ruin the flavor? Rest assured, we will put your matcha related worries to rest once and for all, give you the confidence you need to make those pancakes, and introduce a few of our favorite recipes you can’t help but want to try!

Premium grade matcha vs. culinary grade matcha

Looking and comparing premium grade and culinary grade matcha side-by-side is one of the best ways to see just how different they are. Culinary grade matcha is lower quality matcha. Most notably, it’s often yellow-green in color and lacks the rich vegetal aroma that premium grade has. Made into a beverage, it can taste bitter, even when made at the proper temperature. Culinary grade matcha is made from tea plants that were grown exposed to too much sun. When tea leaves are overexposed to sun, they lose their green chlorophyll. The amount of chlorophyll in the leaves is what gives good quality matcha its vibrant color and sweet flavor. Culinary grade matcha might not taste the best on its own but it does still contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. 

Premium grade matcha is made from tea leaves grown in the perfect amount of shade in optimal climate conditions. Only the youngest (and most chlorophyll packed) tea leaves are used in processing. Compared to culinary grade, premium grade matcha is more expensive. Ensuring only the highest quality tea leaves are used is directly reflected in the price of the final product. Premium grade matcha is bright green and tastes like sweet grass. Because of its full bodied flavor, it is most commonly enjoyed as the main flavor in a drink or as topping or supplement to a smoothie.

Cooking with premium grade

Just because premium grade matcha isn’t culinary grade doesn’t mean that you can’t cook with it. There is no matcha-crime being committed by adding premium grade matcha to your pancake batter. The matcha-police won’t haul you away for sprinkling some onto your cupcakes. Drinking premium grade is really just a highly recommended serving suggestion.

Premium grade matcha is more expensive than culinary grade so using premium exclusively for cooking isn’t the most cost-efficient option. However, most recipes only call for a teaspoon or two, which isn’t very much, so when the infrequent urge to make matcha pancakes arises, it might be cheaper to use the premium grade matcha you have on hand rather than buy a whole new bag of culinary grade matcha. 

You might think that heating the matcha should ruin its flavor as it would when using boiling water. However, this is not the case. We often say to use hot but not boiling water to prepare your matcha to prevent it from tasting bitter. This has more to do with the balancing the release of the natural flavors of the tea with the bitter tasting elements it contains. This release doesn’t happen in baking or cooking, and there are other ingredients in a recipe that help mix with the matcha flavor.


Now that your matcha fears have been put to rest, let’s be daring and try cooking with premium matcha. As mentioned, adding a scoop of matcha to a pancake or cupcake recipe is a great way to add a new spin (and a boost of nutrition) to your usual family favorite.

Once you’ve conquered that, why not break new ground with a new recipe. Salad dressings are simple to make and can bring excitement to a dish often eaten out of a sense of adult responsibility. Dressings often call for culinary grade matcha but since it usually is a small amount, substituting that with premium grade would be fine, too. 

Matcha tastes great in sweet sauces as well. These crowd-pleasing matcha pretzel rods are perfect for parties and fun to make, too.  The recipe calls for only 1 tablespoon of matcha and makes about 10 rods (more or less depending on how much chocolate you use per rod). They come together quickly and definitely stand out on the dessert table. Pretzels can be substituted for any hard snack-like food, like dried fruit, Oreos, and ginger snaps. 

Trying new recipes can sometimes make you a tiny bit nervous, especially if you are using an ingredient you aren’t familiar with. Yet its that nervous excitement that makes the dish all the more delicious when it comes out right. Finding new ways to enjoy the matcha you love will not only boost the nutrition of the food but also will bring new energy to the table (literally and figuratively). So cast aside your fears, be bold, be vibrant and add a matcha based side dish to you next meal!


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