Epazote Substitute – 6 Suitable Ingredients For Your Recipe

epazote substitute

There is nothing better than epazote for seasoning frijoles de la olla (pot beans). Stews and rustic dishes made with mushrooms or corn taste great when a few springs epazote are added to them. Similarly, don’t miss out on this herb inside a quesadilla made with corn tortillas.

What to do if I don’t have epazote to use in a quesadilla? What can I use in place of epazote? We are just coming up with answers to your queries.

This article reveals the best epazote substitute to use in your dishes, also a little about its flavor profile and uses.

What is epazote?

Epazote (pronounced eh-pah-ZOH-teh) is an aromatic herb native to Central America. This leafy annual plant has been grown for centuries for culinary and medicinal purposes.

The word epazote derives from Nahuatl, the language spoken by Mexican Aztecs who lived in Central Mexico. A literal translation of the word epazote in English means “stinky sweat” (taste isn’t bad like the meaning!). In English, epazote is known in different names like goosefoot, skunk weed, wormseed, or Mexican tea.

The leaves and tender stems of this herb are commonly used in the cuisines and traditional medicines of Mexico and Guatemala. This herb is a flavorful addition to soups and stews, also commonly used in bean dishes as it can prevent the gaseous effects of black beans and others. As an herb, it is suitable for gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and paleo diets.

Where to buy epazote? Fresh or dried leaves of epazote can be bought from Mexican grocery stores. If you can’t get it in your locality, then use an epazote substitute we have listed in this article.

What does epazote taste like?

Epazote has a strong aroma and taste, so not everyone loves it. The herb adds a pungent, earthy flavor to food with a subtle taste of anise.

Some feel the pungent taste of epazote as medicinal, and some others say it smells like gasoline or kerosene. After all, the taste of any food won’t be equally appealing for all.

On the whole, epazote has a complex flavor mixture of other herbs and spices like anise, oregano, mint, and even creosote.

Fresh older leaves have the maximum flavor and aroma but the dried leaves have a much-reduced flavor.

How is epazote used in cooking?

The epazote leaves are not suitable for long high flame cooking for their flavor compounds can’t withstand high heat. Therefore, add this herb to your dish near the end of cooking.

Fresh tender leaves and stems are best for use, but dried leaves can be a substitute. One fresh stem of epazote is equivalent to one teaspoon of dried leaves.

In Mexican cooking, epazote is often used in beans and cruciferous vegetables for it helps to prevent bloating and gas caused by them. This herb is excellent for flavoring soups, stews, mushrooms, corns, and other vegetable dishes.

What is a good epazote substitute?

Epazote is rarely used outside Mexico and Guatemala, thus you may not find this herb in other parts of the world. Some don’t enjoy the strong aroma and pungent flavor of this leafy vegetable. So if you need an epazote substitute consider one of the following options listed below:

1. Cilantro

Moderately pungent cilantro with slight citrusy notes has some similarity to epazote. Moreover, it’s a leafy vegetable like epazote that can easily be integrated into any recipes that call for epazote.

The easy availability of fresh or dried cilantro everywhere makes it a convenient substitute for epazote.

Note, cilantro does not have the carminative effect of epazote, thus it can’t be used for dealing with stomach bloating issues related to beans and cruciferous veggies.

Use cilantro in your recipes as a 1:1 replacement for epazote.

2. Fennel

Fennel and epazote exhibit a strong licorice flavor that gives them some similarity in flavor. Those who do not like the strong aroma and pungent flavor of epazote can take solace in the less aggressive and pleasant flavor of fennel. Finally, what makes fennel a good substitute for epazote is its carminative effects. Use fennel as a 1:1 epazote substitute or according to your taste preferences.

3. Papalo

Papalo and epazote have a significant difference in flavor but papalo goes well with most dishes that call for epazote. Papalo is somewhat bitter with subtle citrus notes, a cross between arugula and cilantro.

Just like epazote, use papalo in your dish towards the end of cooking to protect its flavor. It’s best to use young papalo leaves as the mature leaves can be overwhelmingly bitter. This herb is commonly available in Mexican grocery shops.

As a substitution, use papalo as much as just half of the epazote required in your recipe.

4. Mexican oregano

The main flavor of Mexican oregano is different from epazote but they both have commonness in citrus notes with licorice undertones. This herb is an excellent savory seasoning that works well in most recipes that call for epazote, particularly in salsa, soups, or chili con carne.

Some chefs recommend adding a little boldo to enhance the bitterness of oregano to the level of epazote. As a substitute, use Mexican oregano in the same quantity as epazote required in your recipe.

5. Summer savory

Summer savory with its hot, peppery flavor is a wonderful addition to any spicy dish. Despite being different in taste, the versatile summer savory is a manageable alternative to epazote in soups and bean dishes.

Use fresh summer savory in your dishes in equal amounts as epazote required in your dish.

6. Lemon verbena

The mild citrus flavor of epazote gives it some similarity to lemon verbena that is entirely a lemony herb. Lemon verbena tastes pleasant and gives a lemony flavor to any dish. In fact, it has a more appealing flavor than epazote. In a pinch, use lemon verbena as a substitute for epazote, especially in salsa, soups, and sauces.  

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