home > flavorings > herbs > Hispanic herbs


Hispanic Herbs


avocado leaves = hoja de aguacate   Notes:   Mexican cooks use these to impart an anise-like aroma to foods.  They're often used as wrappers, or crumbled into stews.  Toast the leaves before using.    Substitutes:   banana leaves (as a wrapper) OR hoja santa OR fennel (if chopped leaves are called for) OR maguey leaves (as a wrapper)

boldo leaves  Notes:  These small leaves have a strong woodsy aroma.  They're hard to find, but Hispanic markets sometimes carry dried leaves in cellophane bags.   Substitutes:  Indian bay leaves (also hard to find) OR ordinary bay leaves

culantro = culentro = recao = spirit weed = long coriander = false coriander = Mexican coriander    Latin:   Eryngium foetidum  Notes:   This herb is popular throughout the Caribbean.  It's similar to cilantro, but more bitter.    Substitutes:  cilantro (not as bitter)


epazote = goosefoot = Jerusalem oak = lamb's quarters = Mexican tea = wormseed = stinkweed  Pronunciation: eh-pa-ZOH-teh   Notes:  This strongly-flavored herb is commonly used in Mexican bean dishes, partly because it's supposed to reduce flatulence. Fresh epazote has dark green leaves with serrated edges.  If you can't find it, the dried version is an acceptable substitute. Substitutes: savory (Like epazote, savory pairs well with beans.) OR omit it from the recipe OR ajwain seeds OR parsley (not as bitter) OR cilantro (not as bitter) 



guajes = cuajes  Notes:   These green or purple flat pods contain seeds that impart an unusual, garlicky flavor to Mexican dishes.  The seeds are terrific with scrambled eggs or beans, but they have a reputation for causing flatulence.   Substitutes:   garlic


hoja santa leaves = hierba santa = rootbeer plant leaves   Notes:   These heart-shaped leaves impart a root beer flavor to dishes, and they're great for wrapping tamales and other foods.  They're hard to find; your best bet is a Hispanic market. Substitutes:  unsprayed avocado leaves OR chopped fennel (if recipe calls for leaves to be chopped) OR Swiss chard (if recipe calls for leaves to be chopped) OR banana leaves (as a food wrapper) OR corn husks (for wrapping tamales) OR epazote (Large leaves are great for wrapping tamales.) OR Swiss chard (If recipe calls for hoja santa leaves to be chopped.)


huauzontle   Notes:   This Mexican vegetable looks like a long, skinny broccoli stick.  Mexican cooks dip them in batter and deep-fat fry them.  Substitutes:  broccoli


Jerusalem oak

lamb's quarters


safflower = Mexican saffron = saffron flower = American saffron   Notes:   Marketers often call safflower "saffron," but it bears little resemblance to the real thing, except that it imparts a weak, saffron-like color to food. It has very little flavor.  Substitutes:   saffron (use just a pinch; better flavor but more expensive) OR annatto seeds

Mexican tea


papalo = pápalo = papaloquelite  Notes:   This Mexican herb is similar to cilantro.   It's often added raw to tacos, sandwiches, salads, and guacamole.  It doesn't handle heat well, so add it to cooked dishes at the last minute.  Substitutes:  cilantro

pipicha = pepicha  Notes:  This Mexican herb tastes a bit like cilantro and mint.    Substitutes:  cilantro



romeritos   Notes:   This Mexican herb has succulent leaves and is used as a seasoning or cooking green, especially during Lent.  Substitutes:  nopalitos OR purslane

wild spearmint



yerba buena = wild spearmint = hierba buena   Pronunciation:  YER-buh BWAY-nuh  Notes:  The Spanish name "yerba buena" ("good herb") is used to describe several varieties of mint, including Satureja douglasii, Satureja chamissonis, and Mentha spicata (spearmint).  Substitutes:   spearmint



1 tablespoon fresh = 1 teaspoon dried

Copyright © 1996-2005  Lori Alden