11 Perfect Epazote Substitutes to Try Today

epazote substitutes

Can’t get your hands on any Epazote? Epazote is a fantastic Mexican herb but it’s quite challenging to get in the market which is why knowing perfect substitutes to try can go a long way. This aromatic herb is commonly used in Mexican and Guatemalan cuisine and while it might not be everybody’s ideal ingredient, it is an essential and popular ingredient when it comes to many traditional dishes.

Recipes that call for Epazote can easily adapt to the substitutions so you don’t have to worry about not having Epazote handy. While other substitutes won’t give you a similar flavor, they still make an interesting counterpart and you simply have to understand how to choose one that pairs nicely with your recipe.

Epazote is not only used in dishes but also used in traditional medicine for a variety of ailments including digestive problems and alleviating symptoms such as bloating or gas. This is why most people add it while cooking beans, it would help reduce the amount of intestinal gas you will be getting from beans.

Epazote has a note of oregano, anise, citrus, and mint but a more pungent taste. It is a good choice when you need to add flavor to your dishes, unfortunately, it is hard to come by and also considered expensive. There are several substitutes you can use in its place.

What Does Epazote Taste Like?

Epazote which is also known as ”skunk herb” does not have a tender or tentative taste like many assume it to be. Rather it has a strong and pungent flavor that many people have described as slightly bitter and crusty.

Chefs also describe it as having a strong acidic lemon flavor with hints of mint or anise. It is not easy to narrow down the flavor of Epazote as it has a similar taste to other herbs. Epazote is very similar to bay leaf but it has a strong flavor and is important in flavoring Mexican cooking.

When eaten straight, this herb plant is described to have a combination of oregano, tarragon, mint, citrus, pine, mustard greens, and tar. The strong aroma however can’t be missed, and some people claim it tastes different based on it is used.

9 Perfect Epazote Substitutes to Try Today

This aromatic herb is common in Mexican dishes such as soups, tamales, with cheese and chili peppers, green salsa, and even fried white rice. Fresh Epazote is the perfect choice for cooking but the dried one works as well, in a case where you can’t find epazote or just don’t like the flavor, here are some of the perfect substitutes to try.

1. Oregano

Image: Thomas Then // Wikimedia Commons

Oregano has a flavor that is not that different from epazote and can be found easily in grocery stores which makes it the most common substitute. Oregano has the same citrus flavor profile as epazote and with a hint of spiciness, you can also choose to use it fresh or dried. If you are using fresh oregano, best to add it at the end of the cooking.

Keep in mind that regular oregano has a different flavor compared to Mexican oregano, but both will work as substitutes. Mexican oregano however can be utilized as the perfect replacement for epazote in all kinds of recipes including tea. It can be used to add flavor to dishes like salsa, chili, or guacamole.

2. Tarragon

tarragano herbs
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Tarragon is another herb that has a similar flavor profile to epazote. Tarragon can be used as the perfect substitute in black bean dishes when you can’t find epazote, it has a similar anise flavor and the astringent herbal flavor ensures it pairs perfectly with many Mexican dishes.

When substituting tarragon for epazote, use half as much tarragon as the recipe calls for epazote. Also, it is best to add tarragon to the second stage of your recipe to enable it to infuse flavor into the dish but not too overpowering.

3. Thyme

Balsamic Tempeh Pan Dinner
Source: Making Thyme For Health

Thyme is a very common herb so you should easily get your hands on this as a substitute for epazote. Thyme has a slightly minty earthy flavor so it can be used to add a refreshing flavor to your dish.

Thyme is best substituted for epazote in recipes that are slow cooked such as Barbocoa. Use one tablespoon of them for every two tablespoons of epazote. It helps elevate lighter more delicate flavors in dishes.

4. Anise

star anise seed
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Anise is highly distinguished for its licorice-like flavor and aroma. This is another easy-to-find substitute for epazote and the flavor is quite similar as well. This herb is perfect for adding extra flavor to your soups and stews, it also comes in handy in dessert cakes, especially cookies. Too much anise can be overwhelming so it’s best used sparingly.

5. Italian Parsley

Italian Parsley
Image: Andrea Pavanello, Milano // Wikimedia Commons

Italian parsley has a characteristic flavor that makes it an ideal substitute for epazote in Mexican recipes. There are many types of parsley but Italian parsley and curly parsley are the two most popular options and are used in many cuisines around the world. Italian parsley has great leaves and stems but only the leaves are safe to be used in cooking. You can add them to your dish chopped or whole.

6. Fennel

Fennel bulb
Image: Ralf Roletschek Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to what herb flavor matches epazote more perfectly in soups and stews, fennel is the suitable choice. Fennel is a herb that comes from the carrot family and it has a slightly sweet anise-like flavor. This herb plant consists of a white bulb, green stalks, seeds, and leaves. You can use about 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds to replace every 2 tablespoons of epazote called for in a recipe.

The fennel bulbs can also be enjoyed raw, sauteed, grilled, braised, or stewed. While the leaves are excellent for adding flavor to soups, sauces, and salads or even used as garnishes.

7. Lemon Verbena

Lemon Verbena
Image: Krzysztof Golik // Wikimedia Commons

Lemon Verbena is a lemon-scented herb that has several culinary uses and a similar lemony flavor to epazote, it makes an amazing substitute. This perennial herb can be used to enhance many dishes and with its strong lemony flavor, you can use it in soups, stews, sauces, herbal teas, and potpourris. and candied fruits.

8. Cilantro

Cilantro for Cooking
Image: Sanjay Acharya // Wikimedia Commons

Cilantro can help add a refreshing bright flavor to your Mexican and Central American dishes. Raw cilantro leaves are known to be the most powerful in aroma and also being a multipurpose herb, it is an excellent substitute for epazote.

Cilantro can be used in your sauces, dips, pesto, marinades, and soups or used in garnishing the top of your favorite dish. You can even add it to your salads for an extra boost of flavor.

9. Summer Savory

Summer Savory
Image: Wikipedia

Summer savory is used similarly with thyme, it however has a different flavor profile. Savory has a strong pungent flavor and spicy aroma that is used to liven up many dishes. This herb’s strong smell however is compared to gasoline or diesel fuel by few people, but many still find it to have an acceptable taste so if you can’t find epazote, savory works just fine.

To substitute epazote for summer savory, try adding a small amount of cumin, coriander, or Mexican oregano as well to achieve a more authentic Mexican recipe flavor. In addition, you can add savory to many different dishes like omelets, pasta, chicken, and rice.

10. Papalo

Papalo For Cooking
Image: Advice From The Herb Lady

Papalo is not as popular as other herbs mentioned above but it’s a perfect substitute for epazote and happens to taste similar to cilantro, rue, and arugula. This herb has a stronger taste than cilantro so use it in small quantities. Papalo leaves should be added at the end of your cooking so it does not lose its flavor.

Many restaurants in Mexico put papalo on tables with bunches of flowers so you can add it to any dish you like. In addition, the herb is very resistant to heat so you will have it available all summer.

11. Marjoram

Image: Dobromila // Wikimedia Commons

Marjoram is in the mint family and it can easily be found at your local grocery store so when next you run out of epazote, pick up some fresh or dried marjoram leaves. Marjoram is very popular in many Culinary dishes and it also has a slightly sweeter taste compared to epazote. It can be used to add flavor to your legumes, sauces, soups, fish, and meat dishes.

Use fresh or dried marjoram to spice up your Mexican dish and when substituting, use half as much as you would that of epazote. Marjoram has a pine flavor mixed with hints of citrus so it can be used in tomato-based dishes, meat dishes, sauces, and herbal teas.

Wrapping Up

Epazote is called Mexico’s mystery herb, and you can find it in almost all Mexican dishes. This herb will add a citrus aroma and richness to your dish, but the truth is that it cannot hold up to heat very long so it is usually added close to the end of the cooking time; this also applies to the majority of the herbs that works as its substitute.

Not many people like the taste of epazote and it can also be toxic if it is used in high quantity.

Hence, always ensure to follow your recipe for the right amount and try to use the fresh herb if you can find it. However, if you simply do not like the taste or can’t find it and have no time to go shopping, any of the substitutes in this article can be used in its place.


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