Chicory Root Coffee: An Explainer

Words by Lauren David

Photo by Roam in Color.

Looking for a caffeine alternative? Chicory root coffee, also known as New Orleans coffee, could be the substitute you’ve been looking for.

What is chicory root coffee?

Chicory is a plant from the dandelion family; it can be made into a coffee-like beverage by roasting and brewing its roots.

During times of war, including World War II, many people turned to chicory root as a caffeine substitute when coffee beans were in short supply or impossible to attain.

Why consider chicory root coffee?

Chicory has a nutty aroma with earthy notes, giving it a similar flavor profile to coffee. And it’s easy to make—just follow the same process as brewing a cup of regular Joe.

“Chicory on its own is a great alternative for those who want to lower their caffeine intake,” says Rachel Naar, founder of Rachel Naar Nutrition in New York City. Maybe you’ve noticed that you love the taste of coffee but you don’t like the effects on your system. “While there’s nothing wrong with some caffeine,” Naar explains, “excessive caffeine throughout the day may cause anxiety, jitters, and insomnia.” Opting for a caffeine-free alternative can eliminate those stressors while giving you the same comforting ritual of a warm beverage.

Health benefits of chicory coffee

This root can aid the digestive tract thanks to a sugar called inulin that acts like a dietary fiber. “Our bodies can’t break down inulin like it can with other sugars, so it is considered dietary fiber, helping food move through our digestive system,” says Naar. “Inulin is also considered a prebiotic, feeding the good bacteria in our gut that help keep us healthy.”

Early research also suggests that chicory has anti-inflammatory compounds, including flavonoids and polyphenols. “These compounds work by blocking your body from producing proinflammatory chemicals,” Naar explains, “hindering your body’s inflammatory response.”

What to know about chicory

The flavor may not be to everyone’s liking, but most people won’t have any issue enjoying a cup of chicory coffee. Still, Naar warns that though it’s uncommon, there have been some allergic reactions to chicory—so if you feel different or strange after consumption, don’t keep drinking it. “There is also limited research on the potential effects of chicory consumption when pregnant,” Naar says, so she suggests speaking with your doctor before brewing your first cup.

For a warm beverage minus the jitters, chicory coffee could be a great option.