Epazote & Papalo

Love Cilantro? Try Papalo, the “butterfly herb”; Experimenting with Epazote below…

This beautiful Mexican herb is mampuitu in Spanish, which means skunk, aptly named all of you who awoke to the floral aroma this morning. It is commonly used fresh in salads or in tacos or salsa. Our mexican friend Giovanni says that it is a very typical herb in Puebla but isn’t very common in the rest of the country. Most commonly he sees it used in quesadillas and as a substitute for lettuce in pork sandwiches.

In Bolivia, Mexico, and other areas of Central America papalo is so popular it is often kept fresh in vases on restaurant and kitchen tables. Diners pluck the leaves and shred bits of the pungent herb onto their food before eating it. It doesn’t dry well, but it can be frozen if it is pureed with water or oil and put into ice cube trays.

You can use papalo as a substitute in any recipe that calls for cilantro. Papalo is more strongly flavored so you may want to use 1/3rd the measured cilantro amount recommended by your recipe.

Salsa Verde with Papalo from the Homesick Texan – who also does a good round up of the herb.

Last year Kate tried Grilled Chile Salsa with Papalo Leaves (By Aliza Green)


* 6 ripe plum tomatoes (use fair labor tomatoes!)
* 1 red bell pepper
* 1 quartered red onion
* 2 poblano chiles
* 1 jalapeño chile
* 1/4 cup lime juice
* 2 tablespoons chopped papalo leaves


1. Preheat a grill. Rub 6 ripe tomatoes, 1 red bell pepper, 1 quartered red onion, 2 poblano chiles, and 1 jalapeño chile with a little oil. Grill well on all sides. Alternatively, broil on high, turning once, until the skin is blackened. Peel off most but not all of the blackened skin from the vegetables. Trim and seed the bell pepper and chiles.
2. For the best chunky texture, prepare the salsa by grinding all the vegetables in a meat grinder. Alternatively, use a food processor or chop well by hand.
3. Add 1/4 cup lime juice, 2 tablespoons chopped papalo leaves, and salt to taste. Serve with tortilla chips, tacos filled with guacamole or pork carnitas, or Mexican-style chile-marinated pork sandwiches (cemitas).

And now for Epazote…

For those new to the Southside CSA this was their first time handling epazote, let alone thinking about cooking with it. This herb, which is almost as important as cilantro in Mexican cooking, is virtually unknown in most markets in the US, even though it is a common seasonal roadside weed in many parts of the country. (Sometimes North of the border we call it wormseed or pigweed). Be warned! It is not a good idea to eat the whole bunch in one sitting like our member Colin did last year. Epazote, as a sauteed green, may be a lil hard on the stomach!

Epazote Quesadilla @ Bridget
Epazote Quesadilla @ Bridget 2009

Last season, Gabby, the chef at Bridgit, showed us some super yummy ways to cook up epazote. Bridgit bought a share for the restaurant in order to order local tasting plates. That was some serious good stuff!

As far as its culinary uses, typically it is used with black beans and other soupy dishes, it is also extensively used to flavor fish and corn. (Probably nice with tofu too!) I have seen it as part of a quesadilla, sopes, moles, tamales, chilaquiles, enchiladas, potatoes, and eggs. Our household made a nice chicken mole and a big old pot of black beans and some breakfast eggs with our epazote. (Sorry, no pics. Too busy eating!)

Hope you have had as much fun experimenting with your epazote too.  Here’s some more fodder for your culinary imagination:

And don’t forget dessert! Talk about experimentation…

White Grapefruit & Epazote Sorbet


3 thoughts on “Epazote & Papalo

  1. My sister and I tried sauteing portabello mushroom with epazote. It made a delicious taco filling, just like the mushroom tacos as La Superior.

  2. Oh my god !!! Epazote is one of my favorite herbs, sometimes I make omeletes with it, I cut fresh jalapeño chiles, white onions, fresh chopped garlic, portobello mushrooms, zucchini, dried Mexican oregano, salt and pepper and sauté then I add fresh epazote leaves right at the end, and use as omelete filling and Oaxaca cheese wowwww is so good.

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