Not all flowers are edible, but some lend themselves to being more than just something pretty to admire. Many varieties of edible flowers can be mixed into savoury or sweet dishes for a burst of unique flavour or used as a garnish to add a pop of colour. Use our complete guide to discover a range of edible flowers to use in your next culinary creation.
A complete guide to 20 edible flowers
Cornflower is a lightly fragrant wildflower native to Europe and Asia. The most common variety boasts bright blue flowers and tall, sturdy stems, but there are several other varieties with colours ranging from pink and white to purple and black. Cornflowers are not only excellent cut flowers and stunning additions to garden beds, but its edible flowers make them a favourite among home cooks and professional chefs. This versatile, neutral flavoured flower goes well in all kinds of savoury and sweet dishes, and makes a stunning garnish when the petals are separated and sprinkles over desserts.
Flavour: slightly spicy, clove-like flavour with a subtle sweetness.
Best for: baked goods, cocktails or garnish.
Nasturtium is one of the most multi-functional plants you can grow. All parts of the nasturtium plant are edible and have a distinct peppery flavour varying in intensity. With an aroma similar to mustard, nasturtium flowers carry a slightly peppery flavour with hints of sweet nectar; the leaves have a heavier peppery flavour reminiscent of rocket, watercress or radishes, and the seeds have the strongest flavour, often used as a substitute for pepper.
Flavour: distinct peppery flavour varying in intensity with an aroma similar to mustard and hints of sweet nectar.
Best for: add flowers and leaves to salads or use them to decorate cakes or pickle nasturtium seeds.
Lilac is one of the most versatile edible flowers you can use in your kitchen. It’s an easy-to-grow small hardy shrub that produces heavily scented purple flowers that are perfect for bringing indoors or using in culinary applications. The tiny purple edible flowers with sweet floral qualities make them ideal for decorating cakes or baking them right into your recipes.
Flavour: distinct lemon flavour with floral, pungent overtones.
Best for: make syrup or lilac sugar, add flavour to cakes, or decorating cakes and cocktails.
Roses are not only one of the most romantic edible flowers to cook with, but its delicate flavour also makes it one of the most versatile. With a slight flavour reminiscent of green apples and strawberries and a soft floral scent, rose petals can be used in many savoury and sweet dishes. In the Middle East and North Africa, rose petals are commonly incorporated into spice mixes which can be used as a rub for various meats, but in western cultures, they’re mostly used in sweet dishes.
Flavour: slight flavour reminiscent of green apples and strawberries with a soft floral scent.
Best for: sweets, baked goods, spice mixes, syrups and garnishes.
Echinacea is herbaceous perennial with a relatively long blooming season extending from late spring to late summer. This beautiful plant produces unique cone-shaped flowers that not only look stunning in the garden or a vase, but you can use the blooms to make a healing herbal tea or decorate baked goods.
Flavour: strong earthy floral favour
Best for: dry flower heads and steep in hot water to make tea or decorate baked goods or cocktails.
Chamomile is a herb with a white daisy-like flower and yellow centre that has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for a range of health conditions. These include improved sleep and digestive health and being high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties. It is also well known for its soothing effects and for being a gentle relaxant. The dainty flowers are commonly dried and used to make tea, but this edible flower also makes a beautiful garnish for cakes and cocktails.
Flavour: pleasant light apple flavour
Best for: dry flower heads and steep in hot water to make tea or decorate baked goods or cocktails.
Snapdragons are beautiful edible flowers that are best used only for decorative purposes. Most people know of this old-fashioned cottage garden favourite, but many people aren’t aware that snapdragon flowers are edible. This edible flower has flown under the radar because it tastes quite bitter. But what it lacks flavour, it makes up for in ornamental value and looks particularly special on iced cakes and cupcakes.
Best for: add to iced baked goods or cocktails.
Vibrant, cheerful violas are a lovely edible flower that instantly transforms cakes and makes them look like delicious treats you will usually find at fancy cafes. They’re not only pretty to look at, but they’re also delicious to eat, making them one of the most popular edible flowers used in the kitchen.
Flavour: subtle spearmint and perfumed buttery flavour.
Best for: used to garnish savoury and sweet dishes as well as fancy drinks.
Pansies are one of the most beautiful edible flowers and have long been sprinkled over salads or added to desserts. Often pansies are mistaken for violas as they look very similar, but pansies are slightly larger, and the centre of the flower is usually darker than violas. These delicate and perfumed buttery flowers have a fresh, slightly spicy flavour with a faint, aromatic scent.
Flavour: fresh, slightly spicy flavour with a faint, aromatic scent.
Best for: salads and to decorate baked goods and cocktails.
Hibiscus plants produce beautiful ornamental edible flowers that grow in tropical and subtropical climates. Although you can eat the flowers straight from the plant, you will often find hibiscus flowers in jams, tea, syrup, relishes, and salads or used as decorations on cakes. There are hundreds of hibiscus varieties, but the most popular edible variety is roselle or Hibiscus sabdariffa.
Flavour: tart, sour cranberry-like flavour with citrus overtones
Best for: jams, tea, syrup, relishes, and salads or used as decorations on cakes.
The dandelion is one of the most common and recognisable weeds that grows profusely around the country, but did you know you can eat its flowers and leaves? In fact, dandelions are one of the most nutritious plants that have ever been tested. The yellow petals from the dandelion flower and the leaves are great mixed in salads. The leaves can also be cooked and eaten like spinach. Dandelion leaves and mature petals have a unique earthy and bitter flavour whereas young dandelion petals have a slightly sweet, honey-like flavour.
Flavour: mature petals and leaves are bitter and earthy. Young petals are slightly sweet.
Best for: Dandelion flowers and leaves can be eaten in salads, and the leaves can be cooked like spinach. Flowers can be used to decorate baked goods.
Lavender flowers are one of the most widely recognised flowers due to its distinct fragrance. You only need to brush past a lavender bush to release its floral aroma. Technically, most lavender is safe to eat, but culinary lavender that is cultivated from Lavandula angustifolia plants is much better for cooking as it has a lot less oil than the varieties used in perfumes or soaps. Cooking with culinary lavender will prevent your food from tasting and smelling like soap. This fragrant flower is mainly used to add flavour to desserts, oils and syrups.
Flavour: strong floral flavour subtle hints of mint and rosemary.
Best for: desserts, fragrant oils and syrups.
You may have heard of elderberries which grow on the elder shrub and are often used in jams, sauces and cakes, but did you know elderflowers are also edible? These beautiful clusters of tiny cream-coloured flowers, which bloom in summer for only a few short weeks, have been used for centuries in cooking and as a medicinal herb. The blossoms slight vanilla flavour with creamy floral notes lends itself to being used in a range of culinary creations from liquors to cakes, but traditionally it’s used to make refreshing elderflower cordial.
Flavour: slight vanilla flavour with creamy floral notes.
Best for: mainly used to make elderflower cordial or tea, or can be mixed into desserts and baked goods such as cakes, tarts, and trifles. It pairs particularly well with tart fruits such as rhubarb and berries.
One of the most loved flowers in the world, sunflowers are not only wonderful to look at, but the entire plant is edible from root to petals, even the stalk. Sunflower buds can be cooked and eaten like artichokes; stalks can be eaten like celery; the leaves can be added to salads or boiled like spinach; the petals can be used for a garnish, and the seeds can be roasted and added to a range of dishes.
Flavour: bittersweet and slightly nutty.
Best for: a range of sweet and savoury dishes depending on the part of the flower you use.
Chives is a common easy-to-grow herb with a soft onion flavour that pairs well with most savoury dishes. When the plant matures, it produces pretty purple edible flowers that are perfect for adding a splash of colour and flavour to your meals. You can use the whole flower as a garnish, or you can pluck out the tiny purple petals and sprinkle them over your dish.
Flavour: delicate onion-garlic taste.
Best for: great for garnishing savoury dishes including eggs, soups, sauces, and potatoes.
Calendula flowers have long been used for culinary, medicinal, and celebratory purposes. Its tangy, peppery taste pairs well with savoury dishes and its bright orange petals offer a vibrant garnish.
Flavour: tangy, peppery taste.
Best for: savoury dishes such as salads and soups.
Zucchini blossoms, the edible flowers of the zucchini plant, are among the more commonly used flowers in the kitchen. Their delicate flowers offer a subtle flavour reminiscent of summer squash, making them perfect for light savoury dishes. Stuffed zucchini flowers – a traditional Italian street food, is the most popular method for cooking these flowers, but you can also use them in savoury bread, tarts, soups, salads and pasta dishes.
Flavour: soft, delicate texture and a flavour that’s reminiscent of summer squash.
Best for: stuffed zucchini flowers, savoury bread, tarts, soups, salads, and pasta dishes.
Most marigold varieties look the same, but not all are edible. For the best flavour, use French, Gem or Mexican Mint varieties. To cook with marigolds, pull off the petals, remove any green or white parts, and add the petals to your dish.
Flavour: slightly spicy and bitter flavour similar to rocket but with hints of mint and tarragon.
Best for: marigold petals are a delicious addition to salads, stir-fries, quiches, dressings, bread, basic biscuits or used as a garnish.
Borage, also known as starflower or bee bush, is a beautiful plant with delicate blue flowers that bees love. It is one of the lesser-known herbs to cook with, but it has long been used in the Mediterranean for culinary and medicinal purposes. Its leaves, flowers, and stalks are edible and have a mild cucumber flavour that is perfect for using in savoury dishes. Its bright blue star-shaped flowers also add an elegant touch to desserts and cakes.
Flavour: crisp, mild cucumber flavour.
Best for: used in savoury dishes or garnishes.
The use of carnation petals in culinary applications dates back to the 17th century when the monks used them as part of the 130 ingredients to make the cinnamon-tasting French liqueur known as Chartreuse. The petals are the only part that should be used when cooking with this flower. The soft and delicate look of carnation petals not only offers a beautiful garnish for baked goods and desserts but provide subtle hints of spice and nutmeg.
Flavour: peppery and spicy with a light clove-like or nutmeg scent.
Best for: use as a garnish for desserts or add to salads.
Disclaimer: The contents of this blog post is for educational purposes only. Before eating any plant or flower, you should make sure it is organic, suitable for human consumption, and never sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals. Please consult a physician before consuming any herb or flower.