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10 Ways to Use Chai in Food and Drink: + Chai Latte Recipe

10 Ways to Use Chai in Food and Drink: + Chai Latte Recipe
Home » comfort food » 10 Ways to Use Chai in Food and Drink: + Chai Latte Recipe

Did you know you can do much more with chai tea than just make a basic chai latte? This comforting Indian blend of black tea and spices works wonderfully in a range of other drinks and even baked goods or desserts. Try using the delicious blend of warming chai spices in one of these 10 creative ideas or recipes below.

Jump to: Chai drinks | Simple Syrup | Iced Tea | Boba Tea | Protein Shak | Frappuccino | Baked Goods (like cupcakes)

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What Is Chai Tea?

So what is this Indian beverage, really? Well, the simplest explanation is that chai is just tea. Really – the word means “tea” in Hindi. This means it’s technically not correct to say “chai tea”, as that would mean “tea tea”. Just “chai” is fine.

Chai is a way of life in many parts of India, and is usually prepared using a mixture of black tea, spices, milk and sugar. You’ll find street vendors selling it on every corner!

Here in the US, when we refer to chai tea, we usually mean an Americanized version of what is known in India as masala chai. We tend to call this a chai latte here.

Chai tea latte in a red cup  garnished with star anise pod.
Chai tea latte

Traditionally made with a mixture of water buffalo milk and water, and then sweetened with sugar, masala chai has a black tea base. It’s enriched with a variety of spices (the masala), with the specific mixture depending on regional and personal preferences.

Some of the regional ingredient additions include:

  • Green cardamom (base)
  • Ginger (base)
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Allspice
  • Peppercorns
  • Star anise
  • Coriander
  • Fennel seed

It’s not surprising chai has become so popular in the US and other Western countries. Warming spices, invigorating black tea, creamy milk and sugary sweetness make this a wonderfully comforting drink to enjoy year-round.

We blend a chai tea blend for the farmers market that is made with black tea, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves and white pepper.

10 Creative Ways To Use Chai Tea

Chai Drinks

Chai Latte

Aside from plain tea, the most popular drink that uses this Indian spice mixture is the chai latte. Here in the West, if you order a chai latte, you’ll usually get a frothy mix of tea, spices and cow’s milk, although non-dairy alternatives like oat and almond milk are also popular.

Chai tea is usually not simmered in the milk and water like in India, but prepared in water and then topped with milk.

Chai tea latte bought in a US restaurant in a white cup.
Chai tea latte purchased i a US restaurant

You can have your chai latte hot or cold; it’s creamy, sweet and delightfully warming.

The chai latte’s rising popularity outside of India has led to instant powders becoming available, like the David Rio brand. Although making your own from scratch is easy, these work well if you need a quick solution!

There are various twists on the chai latte, including:

  • Dirty Chai Latte: if you need a caffeine boost, a dirty chai is perfect, as it comes with an added shot of espresso.
  • Iced Chai Latte: pour your normal chai latte over lots of ice for a refreshing summer drink.
  • Pumpkin Chai Latte: pumpkin puree might seem like an odd addition to a drink, but don’t knock it ’till you try it!
  • Matcha Chai Latte: a Starbucks copycat recipe, this one’s made with chai tea and matcha powder.
Chai iced tea rimmed with brown sugar and garnished with mint leaves.
Chai iced tea latte

Chai Simple Syrup

I’ve talked a lot about making your own flavored syrups here at Farm to Jar already. It’s just so easy, and a great way to elevate your drink recipes and cooking. If you love that spiced and sweet chai flavor, you have to give making your own chai simple syrup a shot.

This syrup is made by infusing pre-mixed chai spices, tea baggies or loose leaf tea with sugar (white or brown) and water. You can add some vanilla as well.

Chai tea simple syrup in a large glass jug.
Chai tea simple syrup

Just simmer everything together for around 10 minutes, strain, and you’re all done. The syrup will last for months if you pour it into a clean jar or bottle and store it in the refrigerator.

You can use simple syrup to flavor a chai latte and in cocktails, but don’t forget to try drizzling it over pancakes or waffles either. Divine!

Chai Iced Tea

We’ve talked about iced chai tea lattes, but of course, you don’t have to make your iced chai tea with milk. You can just as easily prepare it without, resulting in a non-traditional but highly refreshing summer drink!

For a simple iced chai tea, just steep chai tea baggies in water with sugar or honey, and then pour over ice.

I like adding some extra flavor to my iced chai tea myself. It goes particularly well with citrus (orange, lemon, mandarin), mango, apple, coconut syrup or green tea. Make a big pitcher, add plenty of ice, and garnish with some mint leaves, lemon slices or cinnamon sticks.

Infographic on how to prepare iced tea; cold brewed vs hot brewed.
Infographic on how to prepare iced tea

Chai Boba Tea

Boba (or bubble) tea is one of those drinks you either love or hate, no in-between. It has definitely been gaining traction in the West, though, so I suppose many folks do love it!

Originally Taiwanese, boba tea can be prepared with or without milk, and is characterized by the chewy tapioca balls that sit on the bottom of the drink. All sorts of teas can be used to make it, although black and green tend to be the most popular. Chai spices also make a great choice, especially if you’re making milky bubble tea.

3 glasses of Chai boba tea on a table.
Chai boba tea

To prepare a chai boba tea, you just brew a strong chai tea using only water. Then, boil the tapioca pearls until chewy, cool them by rinsing with water, and place them in your tea glasses. Add ice, then tea, then milk or half-and-half, and as much (chai) simple syrup as you like. Serve with special extra-wide boba straws.

Chai Protein Shake

Did you know that chai-flavored protein powder exists? It works great for normal shakes, but also makes a delish addition to things like protein pancakes, yogurt and oatmeal. It’s not always easy to find it, though, but luckily there’s a solution for that.

If you’d like to enjoy a chai-flavored protein shake, a super easy way to make one yourself at home is with vanilla protein powder and real chai tea. Just brew some very strong chai tea using (plant-based) milk and water (you can make extra and freeze it in an ice cube tray) and blend it up with a scoop of vanilla protein powder.

It’s quick, healthy, and a delicious post-gym treat! You can also add some coconut milk, a frozen banana, or powdered chai spices for an extra strong flavor.

Protein shake made with chai protein powder.
Chai protein shake

Chai Frappuccino

Starbucks enthusiasts might recognize this one, as it’s one of the chain’s more popular frappuccino flavors. Luckily, you don’t have to head out and break the bank to be able to enjoy a chai frappuccino: you can also just make one yourself at home.

An almost exact copy of the Starbucks drink is made by mixing chai latte concentrate with whole milk, a frappuccino base syrup containing xanthan gum (for thickening) and ice, after which it’s all blended up and topped with whipped cream.

If you don’t want to get the concentrate, you can also make a nice frappuccino-style drink using strong home-brewed chai or chai latte powder. For an extra decadent drink, swap some of the ice for vanilla ice cream.

Chai Frappuccino topped with whipped cream in a glass.
Chai Frappuccino

Chai Baked Goods & More

Pumpkin Chai Whoopie Pies

For my international readers: whoopie pies are a quintessentially American treat, kind of like a spongy sandwich cookie with a marshmallow-y filling. Normally, they’re made with chocolate, but the great thing about the base recipe is that it allows you to be creative.

My favorite twist on the classic whoopie pie is this pumpkin chai version. Pumpkin and chai spices are a match made in heaven, so this recipe uses puréed pumpkin and chai in the cookie batter. The filling is made of whipped cream cheese with another dash of chai spices. Divine!

Pumpkin chai whoopie pies; stacked atop each other.
Pumpkin Chai Whoopie Pies

Chai Cupcakes

Cupcakes make the perfect vessel for that warming chai spice flavor. If you have a basic cupcake recipe that you like to use, you can easily chai-ify it by adding 3-4 teaspoons of ground chai spices to the dry ingredients for the batter.

For a more intense flavor, you can also steep some chai tea baggies in the milk you’ll be using. You could even consider making chai buttercream frosting to go on top, although it has to be said that vanilla, coffee or caramel frosting also works fantastically.

3 chai cupcakes in wrappers
Chai cupcakes

Chai Pudding

Chai and pudding go together fantastically, whether you prefer chia pudding, rice pudding or regular custard pudding. Add some vanilla and maple syrup and you’ve got a killer dessert!

The easiest way to incorporate chai flavor in pudding recipes is by infusing the milk beforehand using chai tea baggies or your favorite instant chai latte powder. If that’s not enough for you, you can also add some extra ground chai spice.

Jar of chai pudding with mango on top and sprinkled with coconut.
Chai pudding with mango

Chai Banana Bread

Classic banana bread already tends to go heavy on the spices, usually cinnamon and nutmeg. So why not take it up a notch and go full chai? The sweetness of extra-ripe bananas goes fantastically with the wintery warmth of chai spices.

You can make your banana bread using your favorite recipe. Just add powdered chai latte mix, a heaping tablespoon of pre-mixed ground chai spice, or 1/2 tsp of each of the following:

  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Cardamom
  • Cloves
  • Allspice

If you like it, some vanilla extract is perfect to tie the whole thing together. You can also add some coconut flakes.

Infographic for creative ways to use chai
Ideas for Using Chai

Frequently Asked Questions

How much caffeine is in chai tea?

A cup of normal masala (spiced) chai or chai latte brewed using a tea bag does contain caffeine, as it uses black tea. There will be less than in a cup of coffee, though: usually no more than 50mg. A chai latte made with powdered chai will generally have even less.

What ingredients does chai tea have?

Masala chai, which is what we tend to drink here in the West, is a mixture of black tea and spices. The principal spices are green cardamom and ginger, but it also often has cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, star anise, peppercorns and/or vanilla. The specific mixture depends on the region in India.

Can you drink chai tea while pregnant?

Because there isn’t that much caffeine in chai tea, a cup here and there should be fine while pregnant. If you’re unsure about any of the ingredients, be sure to check with your healthcare provider.

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Spiked Chai Latte For Winter

Chai tea latte bought in a US restaurant in a white cup.
Warm up in front of the fireplace this winter with a boozy and comforting chai latte, prepared with fresh spices and black tea.
5 from 1 vote
Servings 2
Author Dorothy Stainbrook

Equipment

  • 1 saucepan + lid
  • mortar and pestle or coffee/spice grinder
  • 1 fine mesh strainer
  • 1 milk frother
  • 2 mugs

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 2-3 tsp loose black tea see notes
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 1 inch ginger fresh, grated
  • 2 cloves
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk or plant-based milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract optional
  • 3 oz dark rum see notes
  • whipped cream to serve

Instructions
 

  • Heat the water in the saucepan. While you wait, crush the spices (except the pre-grated ginger) using your mortar and pestle or spice grinder. They don't have to be powdered, just crushed to release their flavors.
    2 cups water
  • Add all the crushed spices and sugar to the water. Boil on medium for three minutes and add the tea baggies, then let boil for two more minutes.
    2-3 tsp loose black tea, 2 green cardamom pods, 1 inch ginger, 2 cloves, 1/2 cinnamon stick, 5 black peppercorns, 2 tsp sugar
  • Add milk and vanilla extract (optional) to the saucepan. Let the contents come up to a boil again, then turn off the heat. Cover with a lid and let sit for 2-3 minutes.
    1 cup whole milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Strain the masala chai into the mugs. Add the rum and top with whipped cream. Optionally, sprinkle some cinnamon on top.

Notes

  1. Use the spices you like. I included basic masala chai spices here, but there are more options: allspice, star anise, fennel seeds, nutmeg…
  2. If you’re not into rum, you can also prepare this spiked chai drink with bourbon or whiskey.
  3. There are different types of black tea. Try a bunch to see which is your favorite! 
  4. If you prefer, use frothed milk instead of whipped cream.
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