Sugar-Free Chai Tea

Say hello to chai made at home, a DIY concoction of milky tea steeped with fresh ginger and Indian-style spices, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and black pepper. So brew a pot, then rewarm this cold-weather comfort drink throughout the week. Especially compared to sugary-sweet coffeehouse chai, my chai is either unsweetened or barely sweetened, it's all about the warm, wondrous spices.

Real Food, Fresh & Flexible. Weight Watchers Friendly. Low Carb. Naturally Gluten Free. Great for Meal Prep.
Sugar-Free Chai Tea, winter comfort food ♥ Just milky tea steeped with fresh ginger and Indian-style spices, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, star anise and black pepper. Serve it hot without sugar or just a touch of honey. Weight Watchers Friendly. Low Carb. Gluten Free. Great for Meal Prep.

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea

– excerpt from
"The Patience of Ordinary Things"
by poet Pat Schneider
via Writer's Almanac

“Oooh. Something Smells good!”

On My Mind, a cup of tea ♥

I just love to hear those words, so much that some times I put a cinnamon stick on the stove to simmer, just for the aroma – and the reaction.

WORD DANCERS Think of all the English words we have that describe our olfactory sensations, aroma, yes, but also scent, smell, stench, fragrance and odor. My books on word usage make little distinction except that aroma is the word most closely tied to food. Perhaps, methinks, aroma is in the nose of the be-smeller.

Right, back to the chai tea, first made for my cookie swap back in December. I made it a day ahead and honestly, was unimpressed. But the next day, I reheated it anyway – and lo, when my fellow cookie-bakers were arriving if I didn’t hear those much-sought words, “Oooh. Something smells good!”

We all loved the stuff. Ever since, I’ve kept a jug in the fridge, ready for rewarming a cup at a time. It feels New Year resolution-ish, what with milk and all. Try it first without a sweetener, letting the spices themselves subtly sweeten the milk.

What Is Chai? And Chai Tea?

My answer? Chai is just good ginger, good spices, good tea and good milk. It's just good!

But it's a little more complicated than that.

The word "chai" means "tea". So that means that to call my recipe "Chai Tea" is a sort of stutter, like saying it twice, "tea tea".

But in common parlance, the word "chai" has come to mean, for short, the spices in "marsala chai". The spices are often ginger, cardamon, cloves, cinnamon and peppercorn but really, it's whatever Indian-style spices which taste good to you. I love the addition of star anise!

Just updated! First published way back in 2009.


Hands-on time: 10 minutes over 1-1/4 hours
Time to table: Best if flavors meld for 24 hours
Makes about 8 cups
  • 8 cups water
  • One piece of fresh ginger, about 3 inches long, washed and sliced thin cross-wise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 2 pieces star anise
  • 16 whole cloves
  • 20 cardamom whole seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 3 small tea bags (see TIPS)
  • 3 cups milk (we use skim)
  • Honey, agave or maple syrup to taste (optional)

In a large pot, combine the water, ginger and spices. Cover, bring to a boil and let simmer for 30 minutes. (Even with the pot covered, a good third of the water will evaporate.)

Turn off the heat. Pour the liquid through a strainer and discard the ginger and spices. Rinse out the pot with hot water, pour the still-hot liquid back in. Add the tea bags, cover and let steep for 15 minutes.

Remove the tea bags. Add the milk.

If serving right away, reheat the liquid but do not boil. Pour into hot mugs (see TIPS). If needed, sweeten to taste.

If serving later, let cool, then transfer to a carafe and refrigerate. Rewarm by the cupful to serve, sweetening to taste if needed.

ALANNA's TIPS For tea, I recommend a strong tea rather than a delicate herbal tea. For example, it's traditional to use a black tea that won't be overpowered by the spices. Canadian readers, you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve been making Sugar-Free Chai Tea with Red Rose orange pekoe tea! (And American readers, don't you be thinking that the Red Rose tea you buy in the States is the same thing. Since Red Rose was acquired by Lipton, there are two products, one American and another Canadian. When I'm home to visit my father, we cross the international bridge just to stock up on Canadian Red Rose! Here’s a quick trick for keeping a cup of hot tea or coffee hotter longer. While the tea is steeping or the coffee percing, fill the mugs with hot tap water. That way, the hot liquid gets poured into warm mugs, all the better. For those who watch calories, dontcha be thinkin’ that commercial and coffeehouse chai teas are low-calorie or even contain real milk. This is a recipe for homemade chai tea made with real spices, real tea and real milk. No label reading required.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup with skim milk and without sweetener: 54 Calories; 0g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 1mg Cholesterol; 52mg Sodium; 11g Carb; 0g Fiber; 10g Sugar; 3g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 1 & PointsPlus 1 & SmartPoints 1 & Freestyle 1 & myWW green 1 & blue 1 & purple 1

Staying Warm from the Inside Out

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~ more hot drinks ~

Recipe Favorites over the Holidays

As much as I love trying new recipes, I also love returning to old favorites. These are recipes remade over the holidays, ones I heartily recommend.

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Winter Fruit Salad Cranberry Apple Crisp Cranberry Pudding with Butter Sauce

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade
2009 & 2020

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Me and my wife are big tea drinkers so I would love to try this. Hell, I think I just might!

  2. Anonymous1/11/2009

    Chai I can have!!
    Can I tell you how much I am loving you and thank you for the chai recipe?!
    I have always loved the 'aroma' but have shied away from it because of the enormous amount of sugar and calories. I am a diabetic and that kind of ties in with a life style now.
    I LOVE Red Rose Tea! I have to get the decaf variety, but it is as good as the regular variety, IMHO. I was introduced to Red Rose on a trip to Canada, just over the border into Fort Frances from International Falls over 30 years ago. There just isn't any better black tea around.

  3. Oh, this is good! My husband said the aroma was intoxicating, and I'd have to agree. No more Tazo Chai and all it's sugar for me. I just started Weight Watchers again and found you through a weight watchers recipes search. I linked to this fabulous chai recipe on my blog. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I can't wait to try this! I've recently had diabetic complications and so I've been watching my sugars cloasely. Thanks!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna