A to Z of native ingredients

Casey Warrener
21 January, 2016

Discover an abundance of Australian native ingredients, including tips on how to use them at home.

A to Z of native Australian ingredients

Australian cuisine is hard to define. ‘Modern Australian’ implies a chef’s interpretation of our country’s multiple cultural influences. Items like pavlova and lamingtons spring to mind as traditionally ‘ours’, but even those are contentious claims. What we can say with certainty is that indigenous ingredients are an important part of our national heritage, and there are a number of Australian chefs that employ native wares with flair. Here are some of our favourite examples from Cooked.

Barramundi: one of Australia’s most popular food fishes, this species is versatile in the kitchen. Traditionally, it was wrapped in the leaves of wild ginger plants and baked in the ashes of a fire. Try Luke Nguyen’s chargrilled barramundi in betel leaves.

Crocodile: offering a firm white flesh that’s low in fat and high in protein, this aquatic reptile is often found on outback menus. Try Lyndey Milan’s crocodile nori tempura cigars.  


Eucalyptus: a flowering tree linked to the myrtle family, you’ll find species of Eucalyptus all across Australia (as anyone having observed the landscape will note). Traditionally used for its medicinal properties, its distinct flavour also adds interest to food. Try Mark Best’s chocolate mousse écrasé, eucalyptus and coconut.

Finger limes

Finger limes: this elongated lime (in the shape of its namesake) is filled with seeds that pack a flavourful punch. A sought after item both in Australia and abroad, it can be used in myriad ways, but it’s a classic accompaniment with seafood. Try Paul Wilson’s heirloom tomato escabeche with finger lime goat’s crema.

Kangaroo: packed with iron and low in fat, kangaroo makes a lean, local alternative to beef or lamb. Try Rohan Anderson’s kangaroo shanks.

Lemon myrtle: the leaves from this flowering plant are dried and ground, and used to flavour everything from seafood to sweet dishes. Try Bitesize Savoury’s barramundi burgers with lemon myrtle mayonnaise.


Macadamia nuts: indigenous to Australia and one of our largest exports worldwide, macadamias have a creamy flavour and crunchy texture (we like to freeze them and eat them as a cool treat in summer). Try Kate Bradley’s macadamia ‘ricotta’ cheese.

Moreton Bay bugs (or Balmain bugs): closely linked to lobsters, this seafood species is a native Australian delicacy. Best bought fresh from seafood markets, if buying chilled bugs check when they were last alive (they deteriorate quickly unless frozen). Try Ben O’Donoghue’s Moreton Bay bugs with figs and pancetta kebabs.

Pepperberry (aka dorrigo pepper): both the leaves and the berries from this native plant are used as a spice. Much hotter than your run-of-the-mill pepper, when experimenting with this in your recipes keep in mind your tolerance of heat and adjust accordingly. Try Bitesize Savoury’s fig galettes with jamon and pepperberry mayonnaise.

Quandong: a native berry often likened to a peach, it has a tart flesh and was also used by Indigenous Australians for the medicinal properties of its leaves.


Samphire: fresh samphire has a woody appearance, and in season (October to March) it’s bright green. This native succulent is found primarily in South Australia’s waterways, with a crunchy texture and salty flavour (though saltiness is reduced with cooking) that works well with seafood. Try Matt Wilkinson’s crab, samphire and mustard on toast.

Warrigal greens: a native spinach that’s high in antioxidants and much more robust than its English counterpart, this was a popular ingredient with early settlers. Warrigal greens must be blanched in boiling water before use, even when using in salads, to remove any harmful oxalates. Try Paul Wilson’s hapuka with clams and sea vegetables.

Wattleseed: this prevalent flowering plant has been a part of the Indigenous Australian diet for thousands of years. Traditionally ground into flour and used in bush breads, roasting wattleseeds creates a nutty aroma and flavour that works well in drinks and desserts. Only some wattles are edible – the most sought out species is the AC retinodes – Wirilda, which is now being planted commercially for its popularity in cooking. Try Lyndey Milan’s wattleseed Anzacs


Yabbies: this freshwater crayfish is endemic to South Australia, though there are various similar species found across the country, including Western Australia’s marron. Try Jim McDougall’s salad of yabby, nashi and caramelised macadamias.

For more Australian inspiration, download our FREE Australia Day Cookbook.

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