photography by Mackenzie Frank
Cincinnati, Ohio–What’s in a name? For Nija Foods founder/owner Kirana Rao, MS, RD, everything.
The word ‘Nija’ means ‘real’ or ‘truth,’ which is the essence of Rao’s food production company specializing in nut milks and nut creams flavored with spices, herbs, and homemade extracts.
Rao, a practicing dietitian for about 20 years, was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease nine years ago and healed herself by cleaning up her diet. “I wanted to put out the kind of food in the market that supported healing and didn't have additives,” she says of the experience. “Nut milks and creamers was a good place to start because there were none available in the market without additives.”
Today, Nija operates out of the Findlay Kitchen, and Rao sells her products at local farmers’ markets. She uses as many local, organic ingredients as possible, and her products do not contain additives, preservatives, artificial flavors, stabilizers, gums, or “non-food” items. “All my creamers and milks are living foods—almost every other milk and creamer in the market is high-pressure processed or pasteurized to extend the shelf life,” Rao says. “All flavors come from whole real spices, herbs, foods, extracts, and oils.” Because of the perishability of the product, it’s not sold at grocery stores.
Nija offers seasonal flavors determined by market availability (like pumpkin in fall and cilantro in spring). “We also use Ayurvedic principles in adding spices,” Rao says. For example, she makes golden cream and milk with immune-boosting spices such as turmeric, peppercorn, cinnamon, and ginger in winter. In summer she switches to ingredients like rose water and mint, which are cooling and soothing to a hot body.
Rao says Nija is planning to expand its food line and is currently working on local ghee and other prepared foods.
1719 Elm Street, Over-the-Rhine
Find it at: Madeira, Northside, and Lettuce Eat Well Farmers’ Markets
Sarah is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer and editor. She frequently writes about design, creative projects, and career advice. Prior to launching her own business in 2013, Sarah served as an editor for HOW magazine for 16 years. You can find her portfolio online and connect with her via LinkedIn @SarahMWhitman.