Epazote Herb: Flavor Profile
An herb native to Mexico and Central America, the green, leafy epazote is renowned for its bold herbal profile. Epazote has hints of oregano and mint, and it is primarily used for giving minty herbal flavor to Mexican and Latin American dishes. Epazote is used in moles, bean dishes and rustic stews and soups.
Epazote has a strong aroma, and its taste can also be overbearing. Yet, when used in moderation, Epazote provides a dash of rustic, herby spice to many favor Mexican dishes. Medicinally, epazote is known for its gas-relieving properties, and it has been used as a stomach soother for centuries.
Cooking with Epazote
Epazote hasn’t been widely adopted in world cuisines, and is used almost exclusively in Mexican and Guatemalan cooking. The herb is made up of broad green leaves, as well as tender stems, which give a rustic, aromatic flavor to long-simmering dishes. In Mexican cooking, Epazote is commonly used to spice frijoles de la olla, a traditional black bean dish. (And that’s in part due to Epazote’s natural gas-relieving properties.)
Yet, the herb – fresh or dried – is versatile, and can add an earthy, mint taste to a number of dishes. A few common uses include:
- Stews and Soups – Known for its rustic flavor, epazote adds a layer of complex flavor to many Mexican and Latin American soups and stews. It’s used similar to how Italians use oregano, or the Japanese use mint in their soups.
- Cheese Dishes – A sprig of epazote adds a dash of spicy, earthy flavor to cheese sauces and dishes. It’s similar in use to fresh or dried basil, with a more minty and bitter flavor.
Epazote’s flavor doesn’t withstand high heat for long. Therefore, the herb is most common added near the end of cooking, to provide a burst of herbal flavor. Fresh leaves are a great addition to any dish, yet they’re very hard to find in the U.S. Dried leaves offer a similar taste, although moderation is key. When using dried Epazote, use about half of what you’d use fresh.
Epazote is a perennial plant that grows exclusively in Mexico and Central America. The plant grows quickly and has a short life each growing season, and traditionally grows to about 3.5 feet in height. Like many herbs, epazote is one of the first to sprout in spring, and yet, by early summer, the plant begins to bolt and flower. Almost all of the epazote plant can be used as an herb.
The broad, dark green leaves – which resemble mint leaves – and the tender stems provide a similar flavor profile. Epazote is commercially grown throughout Mexico, yet the country’s northern states produce some of the most flavorful varieties. The Yucatan peninsula is one of the most significant exporters of epazote.
Throughout Central America, epazote grows like a weed and has been a popular cultivar for centuries. You’ll find epazote growing in empty lots and in just about every home herb garden, and it has spread throughout South America. For generations, Epazote has been used in Latin cooking, as well as for medicine.
Epazote was first used to treat stomach parasites in 1000 AD, and epazote tea is a popular stomach soother, as well. A paste made of epazote leaves is also a common topical pain reliever.
About Our Epazote
Epazote is a highly adaptable herb, which can be grown just about anywhere (even as far north as Maine). Yet, the largest producers are in Mexico. We work with small farms in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to source the best dried epazote.
The region has cultivated epazote since the Mayans, and throughout the growing season, the plants can be cut and harvested many times. Yucatan’s epazote industry has perfected growing methods, and the region continually produces epazote with rich, bold and spicy flavors. Burma Spice buys dried epazote in bulk, and we process and hand pack the spice right here in South Florida.