What are the Different Ways Magnolia Flowers are Used in Cooking and For Health?

The magnolia tree has large flowers with a creamish white color and a fragrance that’s both citrusy and floral. They sometimes have a pinkish or purplish tinge on the outer petals. There are several kinds of magnolia flowers, and not all of them are edible. In the South of America, these flowers are regarded as a symbol of their culture as well as beauty and strength. 

There might be a lot of myths and symbolism surrounding magnolia flowers, but they also have a long history of being utilized for medicinal and cooking purposes. They date back for centuries, even being preserved in fossils that are older than the human race.

With its hardy and simple layout, the magnolia flower doesn’t show us any complex designs. However, it is worth knowing more about this flower in order to experience its taste properly along with reaping its health benefits. 

An Essential Ingredient in Traditional Medicine

An Essential Ingredient in Traditional Medicine

With several magnolia species originating from Asia, it’s not surprising that the flowers are used widely in traditional Chinese medicinal practices. The Magnolia genus has over 200 species, with the white bark magnolia being the most popular one in China. This long-term use has also led to extensive research on the health benefits of magnolia flowers. 

Not all of this research is translated, though, so non-Chinese speakers may have trouble finding enough evidence for the health benefits of magnolia flowers and other parts of the plant. This guide to magnolia bark extract is helpful as an introduction to what the magnolia plant can provide. 

Recipes That Use Magnolia Flowers

Recipes That Use Magnolia Flowers

If you currently have some magnolia flowers or products made from magnolia flowers, you might be wondering how to utilize them properly. Below are a few recipes that can help us get the most flavor and benefits out of magnolia flowers; 

1. A Smoothie with Magnolia Petal Tea

A Smoothie with Magnolia Petal Tea

Magnolia petal tea might be prepared like regular tea, but you can also take it up a notch by including the concoction in a smoothie. Not only will this be a more robust drink than iced or hot tea, but it might make it easier for those who don’t like the taste of magnolia petals. You can also use this smoothie as one of the reasons to drink magnolia berry tea instead of the petals one. 

What you need for this smoothie is: 

  • A cup of brewed magnolia petal tea
  • Three cups of frozen raspberries
  • Half a cup of lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons of baobab powder
  • 2 tablespoons of white chia seeds
  • Yogurt (as needed)
  • Coconut meat (according to taste)
  • Half a cup of coconut water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

You can also add other ingredients such as a teaspoon of probiotic powder, maple syrup for sweetness, coconut flakes, or coconut water. Some people like to make faux yogurt by blending coconut meat with water, coconut nectar, lemon juice, and probiotic capsules contents. This process will take around two days to achieve the right consistency, so you can just use regular, low-fat, or vegan yogurt as required. 

If you don’t have magnolia petal tea prepared in dried form from a store, use fresh one. Pick 2 cups of magnolia petal, taking care that they don’t have any insecticides or other synthetic chemicals on them. Wash the petals and then add them in three cups of hot boiling water. Turn off the heat and cool down the mixture. Put it in the fridge overnight for better steeping. This will create a concentrated tea mixture that you can use in smoothies or add hot water to for a perfect cup of tea.

Once you’ve collected all the ingredients, blend them together. Even a few sips should make you feel a little calmer and refreshed. 

2. Magnolia Flower Syrup

Magnolia Flower Syrup

It’s possible to make a simple syrup from magnolia flowers just by adding sugar and water to the petals. The syrup can be a unique topping for pancakes, cakes, and several desserts. It can also be used as a salad dressing or sweetener for teas, juices, etc. The flavor would usually be a bit like ginger with some spicy tones, so you might even want to use it in a hot tea. 

The process for making magnolia syrup only required one heaped cup or 35 grams of magnolia petals, a cup of sugar, and a cup of water. The sugar and water should be brought to boil using medium-high heat, with some stirring to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved. 

To this mixture, add the cup of magnolia petals. Simmer the whole thing for around 20 minutes and then remove the pot from the stove. Let the syrup cool a bit, and then sieve it into a glass jar. 

3. Magnolia Petal Salad

Magnolia Petal Salad

The petals of the magnolia flower are thick and curved, so they can be used raw as mini canapé bases or even a small edible plate. They can also be used (after cleaning) as part of a delicious and healthy salad. Toss them with strips of cucumber, peppers, and carrots. A ginger and soy sauce dressing will enhance the flavor, though you can also use the syrup mentioned above. To make it even heartier, add crab or lobster meat. 

4. Pickled Magnolia Petals

Pickled Magnolia Petals

If you’d like to preserve the petals and also enjoy the health benefits of magnolia flowers at any time, your best bet is to pickle them. The process will make the petals lose their color, but you can’t have it all. However, the flavor is worth the effort, being a bit like pickled ginger. These petals will go great with any kind of salad, as a side to a rice dish, or an addition to sushi. 

The ingredients required are:

  • 75 grams of magnolia petals
  • 100 grams of rice vinegar or any other kind of mild vinegar
  • 35 grams of granulated sugar (can be reduced a little for health purposes)
  • A pinch of salt

For this recipe, it’s best to pick those petals that are just ready to drop from the flower on their own. Pack all of these in a glass jar. Heat up the sugar, salt, and vinegar in a saucepan and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the concoction is steaming with a few tiny bubbles. 

Pour the hot mixture on the petals and let the whole thing cool before putting on the lid. Leave the jar for around a week before opening it up and tasting the result. 

5. Dried Magnolia Spice

Dried Magnolia Spice

Another way to preserve magnolia petals for their flavor is to dry them and crush into a spice. The taste of dried and crushed magnolia is a bit like cinnamon, though this might vary according to which species you use. This source can be used for flavoring rice dishes, about one teaspoon in a portion for two people. If you like the flavor, try making a magnolia chai instead of plain tea with the spice. 

This recipe simply involved drying the magnolia petals in the sun and then crushing them up to form as fine a powder as possible. Store them in a jar and use as needed. They can go well on noodles, tacos, burgers, and even as a garnish for spicy cakes like gingerbread. 

What Magnolia Flower Species are Suitable for Cooking?

What Magnolia Flower Species are Suitable for Cooking

Before you try out any recipe with magnolia flowers, make sure that the petals you’re using are of the safe species. If you’re not familiar with what is edible and what’s not, ask the locals in the area. A quick internet search will also help you identify what magnolia petals you have access to. 

The most commonly used magnolia species is the wild Magnolia grandiflora. Along with its petals, its berries, seeds, and peels are also useful for a number of things. 

The buds and leaves of the  Magnolia hypoleuca species are utilized in Japanese cuisine. These might be eaten as veggies, with the older leaves made into a powdered seasoning. The leaves and buds may also be broiled for a meal. 

The Georgia Magnolia can grow to be a very tall tree and is easily found in the southwest of the United States. It has a smooth, reddish bark with green and leathery leaves. Its flowers are commonly used to make magnolia dishes. 

The flowers of the Yulan Magnolia species are preserved and ground into a spice for rice flavoring and other uses. 

The Magnolia denudata, another name for the white bark magnolia, also provides edible buds and young leaves. The traditional way to eat these is by simply boiling these parts. 


The taste of magnolia flowers can be a bit strong, but it’s enjoyable enough for regular consumption. Eating foods that were either made or seasoned with magnolia flowers is the easiest way to gain their health benefits. If you’re interested in how else we can utilize this plant, here’s a breakdown of the benefits of magnolia berries.