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May 17, 2007 12:00 PM

Substitute for epazote


I'm trying out a black beans recipe which calls (unsurprisingly) for epazote. The thing is, I live in Athens, Greece and Mexican cooking ingredients are not that readily available. I recently learned about epazote myself - I've never had it so I don't know how it tastes. Is there an ingredient that I could find in any supermarket (e.g. bay leaves) that could replace epazote? Perhaps not in its gas reducing function, but something that comes close taste wise?

Thanks so much.


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  1. quoting from here:

    "The dried herb is considered inferior to the fresh one, but outside Central America and the southern parts of the US, fresh epazote may be hard to find. A common substitute are coriander or long coriander leaves, even in México; but, to my taste, epazote's taste is simulated more successfully by a mixture of savory, oregano and boldo leaves. Furthermore, dried epazote is not as bad as most sources state."

    now i have to go look up what the heck boldo leaves are.......

    living in greece, i bet you could easily grow some for future use (if you'll need it regularly). after reading about this herb a bit, i think i might give growing it a shot, if nothing else than to curb mrhitachino's flatulence..... ;0


    now that i look at the photos of it, i think there might be some already growing like weeds all over my property come late summer - i had initially thought it was some kind of nettle but touched some once to check -- not nettle, and it had an awful smell.....i guess i'd better not try it without knowing for sure.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hitachino

      I was assisting Diana Kennedy in a cooking demo and she said it is a weed that grows everywhere. She said she found it growing in Central Park in NYC

      1. re: kruxter

        I've taken extensive cooking classes in Santa Fe, New Mexico and understand that epazote is used by the local to cut down on the (ahem) natural by products that beans produced after consuming them. Fresh or dry, it seems somewhat of burning rubber (see hitachino's comment of a awful smell.) It contribute no discernable flavor to the dish itself. I typically add in a bay leaf or two while making my black beans. So, it's not a make or break for the dish itself.

        1. re: lrostron

          Hmmm.. I make black beans all the time, I do add Cilantro at time to finish the dish, but Bay Leaves to me would be 'off'.

          Honestly though, if the bean recipe uses enough salt and onion, epazote is a nice addition, but not a make or break for a dish...


          1. re: lrostron

            I also picked some up at the SF Cooking School to counter the Bean Effect. I've never used it because it really is kind of a mystery to me but have been reluctant to make bean dishes for company.
            . Do you grind it before putting it in the pot or can you add from the can, the pieces seem kind of large? Also, how much should be added to say a large pot of bean soup? .

            1. re: lrostron

              I would disagree with the comment that epazote doesn't impart a particular flavor. I think it adds a very distinctive and irreplaceable earthy tone to the beans. I added some once a couple of years ago because I had picked it up at a Mexican grocery. My husband and I couldn't believe how good it made the beans. Now we go out of our way to buy it because I can't imagine my black beans without it. I have heard it's easy to grow and that it's a common weed in North America. I just haven't bothered trying yet (I ought to).

              1. re: mutterer

                It may grow wild in the SW and West (I don't know), but the stuff in the eastern half of the country is mostly a close relative, and I think non-toxic, but not something I see anyone cooking with. Diana Kennedy is at least partly responsible for this urban myth, I think - she mistakenly thought the "goose grass" she saw growing in NYC was epazote but later (after the book had appeared in print), discovered her error. The local stuff shares a similar pungency, but in a harsh, unpleasant way.

                1. re: MikeG

                  The stuff growing wild in my NE yard was ID'd by a Pueblan, and we cook with it. I'd sub a little dried oregano for the pungency, or just leave it out. Eating beans frequently is more useful for gas.

                  1. re: Aromatherapy

                    Interesting, this person is also familiar with the goosegrass cousin? Ever since I read Kennedy's comment, I've been breaking off twigs and sniffing whenever I come across it in the wild (such "wild" as it is) and it never smells right compared to bought or homegrown epazote... I keep threatening myself to distribute seed in one of the parks where I might get away with picking it later (they've gotten really nasty about that in Central Park) but have never gotten around to it. ;)

          2. I've heard it compared to tarragon, but have no personal experience with epazote.

            1. Epazote has no true substitute--and it certainly bears no resemblance to tarragon (!) or cilantro. Dried epazote is not bad, but somewhat pointless.You can leave it out. If you live near a real Mexican grocery, you may well find it fresh, as I have here in Providence.


              1 Reply
              1. re: janeer


                I just came across this ingredient in this recipe. As a Charlestown resident who was disappointed by WF not having (or heard of) this. WHERE in Prov did you find it?

                Karen B

              2. I have a bottle of Penzey's dried epazote in the freezer door shelf and I've used it several times in my beans. Never noticed an "off" taste or smell in the finished beans and I don't use a bay leaf in them. Lots of onion, garlic, sometimes celery, sometimes green pepper.

                Re: its ability to reduce bean flatulence, I really can't say. I didn't notice much if any difference.

                I love dried legumes of almost every kind and cook them all the time--split pea soup/lentil soup/Senate Bean Soup/blackeyes/black beans/pintos/red beans & rice/refritos/etc.--and very rarely am I aware of that side effect in myself or a family member.

                I've begun to wonder if it mostly affects people who seldom eat beans. Any superior knowledge about this?

                5 Replies
                1. re: PhoebeB

                  I use Penzey's Dried as well. Works great in a pinch. I think some folks have had bad expeirences from "Dried Epazote" they sell at Mexican markets which is supposed to be used as a tea (Completely different from the Penzey's stuff) which is VILE...


                  1. re: Dommy

                    Dommy, have you noticed a significal flatulence-reducing effect?

                    1. re: PhoebeB

                      LOL!! Growing up eatting beans, I tolerate them very well with and without. But it truly does have those properties within the herb.


                      1. re: Dommy

                        I guess that did sound a little strange. But I know that's what it's purported to be useful for and I wonder if it really does. As I said, I personally haven't noticed any difference to speak of, but maybe it's a real help to some people.

                        1. re: PhoebeB

                          Athens? Hmmm...try a mix of coriander seeds and cilantro. or - wait! - toast some coriander seeds, mix with powdered dried cumin.