Sure, many of us love a morning cup of Joe, but coffee is much more than the best part of waking up. The strong brewed drink is pretty good for us too (don’t believe the rumors that it stunts growth or can cause heart disease). Studies show caffeine in moderation can improve the memory, boost metabolism, and even rev up athletic performance. A mug of java can also lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and gout Caffeine and coffee as therapeutics against Alzheimer’s disease. Arendash GW, Cao C. The Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Rsearch Center, Tampa, FL, USA. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2010; 20 Suppl 1:S117-26.. It is possible to overload on the good stuff, though—drinking more than 500 mg of caffeine per day (that’s between six and seven cups of coffee) can result in restlessness, insomnia, upset stomach, muscle tremors, and a fast heartbeat.
Even without caffeine, coffee beans are loaded with antioxidants. New studies show even used coffee grounds are a good source of these healthy nutrients. Leftovers from French press or espresso-style machines tend to have more antioxidants than grounds from drip coffeemakers.
Whether you’re ready for a caffeine IV-drip or just into the occasional after-dinner cappuccino, it’s hard to deny coffee is delicious (especially when mixed with sugar, spice, or all types of chocolate). In honor of National Coffee Day, we’ve rounded up 25 healthy recipes featuring the magical beans. The dark, complex brew lends deep flavor to just about any dish, from sweet to savory. Check out the entries below and get your buzz on today!
Photo: Natalie / Once Upon a Cutting Board
1. Coffee Toffee Banana Bread
A tablespoon of instant espresso and half a cup of brewed coffee give this basic banana bread recipe an extra boost of flavor. With just a bit of olive oil and brown sugar, it’s a fairly healthy breakfast option, too. Add toffee bits and banana chips to keep the taste buds guessing.
2. Maple Espresso Baked Oatmeal
This recipe is a lifesaver for busy mornings on the run. The night before (or over the weekend), just mix up the oat batter, add nuts and dried fruit, pour into a muffin tin, and bake. In the morning, grab a muffin and serve it with milk, yogurt, or take it to go. Pro tip: Make a big batch over the weekend and store in the fridge!
3. Espresso Breakfast Scones
Scones always sound a little indulgent—they’re traditionally flaky, butter-filled pastries eaten for afternoon tea. Not so with these espresso scones. Whip up a batch of gluten-free, vegan breakfast treats made with coconut oil and honey instead of butter and sugar.
4. Greek Yogurt With Coffee-Fig Compote
Take ho-hum Greek yogurt to the next level with this fancy, flavorful fruit compote. Just simmer dried figs, coffee, honey, and spices in a saucepan until syrupy. Chill, and serve on top of yogurt (or ice cream).
5. Chocolate and Coffee Granola
This granola toes the line between breakfast and dessert, making for an indulgent morning or a relatively healthy way to satisfy a sweet tooth. The recipe incorporates ground coffee and a cup of brewed espresso, so save it for breakfast if you’re prone to insomnia. Add a splash of milk or a scoop of plain yogurt for a simple, tasty meal.
Lunch and Dinner
Photo: Joy / Joy the Baker
6. Coffee-Bacon Sandwiches
It’s time to update the classic (and dare we say, boring?) BLT. This sandwich remix features bacon that’s been marinated in ground coffee, brown sugar, molasses, and chili powder. Balance out the sweet-n’-smoky bacon with a goat cheese spread that includes chopped dates, lemon zest and juice, and red pepper flakes.
7. Coffee-Chipotle Pulled Pork Sliders
Pork and coffee go together like peanut butter and jelly—the complex beans add some depth and complexity to the meat’s subtle flavor. You’ll need a serious chunk of time to make this Texas-style chipotle-and-coffee-rubbed pulled pork, but it’s well worth the effort for a barbecue or special dinner.
8. Coffee Cured Ahi Tuna Salad With Turrialba Cheese and Lime Dressing
Have you ever made a Costa Rican sashimi salad at home? Probably not — but you definitely should. For this recipe, marinate fresh tuna steak with coffee, brown sugar, and salt. Then, slice it up and serve on a bed of greens with tangy cheese and salad dressing.
9. Smoky Black Bean Soup
Banish fall chills with this hearty, flavorful bean soup. Meat lovers can add ham or shredded pork or chicken to boost the flavor, but the recipe is super-easy to adapt for vegetarians or even vegans. Serve with plenty of rice, salsa, and guacamole.
10. Whole-Wheat Bread With Orange Zest and Coffee
Add a little zest to any sandwich (or French toast, regular toast, croutons, etc.) with this easy homemade bread recipe. Coffee and orange zest give this basic whole-wheat loaf extra zing.
11. Chipotle and Coffee Tofu Wrap
Tofu and coffee are hardly a match made in heaven—delicate tofu is usually considered a bit too fragile for coffee’s heavy flavor. But this recipe—which uses extra-firm tofu, plenty of garlic, and chipotle peppers—sounds awesome. Serve sliced tofu in a whole-wheat wrap with plenty of veggies (spinach, shredded carrots, and cucumber or bell pepper matchsticks are all good options).
12. Coffee and Beef Stew
Five tablespoons of strong coffee add some oomph to this classic beef stew recipe. It’s the perfect thing for a blustery, cool night.
13. Hearty Vegetarian Mole Chili
Why let meat-eaters have all the fun? This inexpensive vegan chili recipe is perfect for a crowd. Espresso powder, tons of spices, a chipotle chili, antioxidant-rich bittersweet chocolate, soy sauce, and a splash of white wine make this recipe far from bland.
14. Coffee-Braised Short Ribs
Save this fancy dish for a special occasion. Featuring a marinade made from cold-brewed coffee, red wine, and veal stock, this recipe is definitely designed to impress. Serve with warm polenta and Brussels sprouts for a perfect fall or winter meal.
15. Caramelized Coffee-Spiced Chicken
This flavorful chicken recipe is perfect for weeknight dinners—it takes just 20 minutes to cook! Place chicken in the coffee, scallion, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and orange juice marinade before heading to work to ensure tender, tasty meat.
Photo: Heidi Bjarnason / Food Doodles
16. Raw Vegan Espresso Brownies
These bite-sized bars are perfect for a midday snack with a cup of coffee or tea. With only seven ingredients and no bake time, they’re practically foolproof to make. Instant coffee, cocoa powder, and a dash of vanilla make these Paleo-friendly treats a fairly guiltless dessert option.
17. Whole-Wheat Espresso-Glazed Mini Doughnuts
With just a bit of butter, less than a cup of sugar, and whole-wheat flour to boot, these espresso-glazed doughnuts are hardly sinful. Plus, the mini shape makes it possible to eat more than one without going into a sugar coma.
18. Vegan Espresso Fudgesicles
Creating truly tasty desserts without dairy or eggs may seem impossible... until you remember to invite coconut milk to the party, that is. Full of healthy fat, this secret ingredient is the key to making these vegan chocolate-mocha popsicles creamy and indulgent.
19. Coffee and Roasted Almond Chocolate Bark
This three-ingredient recipe makes a quick dessert, an easy gift, or a great treat to share with office mates. Melt dark chocolate in a double boiler, stir in instant coffee powder and chopped roasted nuts, and let it harden in the fridge until solid.
20. Salty Cocoa and Espresso Roasted Almonds
To make this sweet snack toss together almonds, maple syrup, cocoa powder, salt, and espresso. Bake the concoction in the oven for 10 minutes and then enjoy (the hardest part is definitely waiting for the nuts to cool!).
Photo: Elaine / Hungry Brownie
21. Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Enjoy your coffee sweet, cold, and strong? Vietnamese coffee may be the perfect fit. Just brew a cup of coffee or espresso (for a stronger drink), then pour it over some condensed milk and add ice.
22. Maple-Walnut Coffee Smoothie
Busy morning? This healthy smoothie combines that cup of Joe and a filling breakfast into one glass. Walnuts, rolled oats, instant coffee, almond milk, and dates make this icy drink perfect for a rushed meal on the go.
23. Orange and Cardamom Cold-Brewed Coffee
Yes, it’s possible to be super lazy and still enjoy delicious, fancy-tasting coffee. Combine grounds with the zest of one orange, several crushed cardamom pods, and quart of water. Cover and let the concoction sit for 24 hours. Once time’s up, strain with a coffee filter (or through a French press). That’s all, folks!
24. Homemade (Healthy) Pumpkin Spice Latte
Starbucks may be known for this coffee-based drink, but it’s easier, cheaper, and healthier to make the trusty fall-flavored drink in your own kitchen. Choose your favorite kind of milk and sweetener, and get brewing.
25. Almond-Coffee Green Smoothie
We’re not trying to get all Dr. Oz on you—this is a green smoothie with coffee, not a “green coffee” smoothie. Mix up almond milk, raw almonds, spinach, espresso, banana, and sweetener (optional) to make this healthy morning drink.