Avocado Leaves

avocado leaves
photo credit: gourmetsleuth

Uses

Avocado leaves, both fresh and dried are used in the cuisine's of the South Central part of Mexico.

Fresh Leaves 

Fresh leaves are used in Oaxaca as a bed for barbecuing meats as well as a flavoring for tamales.

Dried Leaves 

Dried avocado leaves are most frequently available in the U.S. and can be used in soups and stews as well as bean recipes. Diana Kennedy suggests using the leaves as a substitute for hoja santa.

Substitutes 

You can use bay leaves but they bear no resemblance to the anise-flavored avocado leaves. Rick Bayless has suggested a combination of bay leaves and cracked anise seed as a substitute for avocado leaves.

Reports Of Toxicity

You may have seen various articles on the web that report that avocado leaves may be toxic. I believe this topic is best explained by Diana Kennedy if her new book “From My Mexican Kitchen” just published, 2003:

"Because there has been some concern about toxicity of avocado leaves among some Californian aficionados, I think it is time to set the record straight. The toxicity reports relate back to a study done in 1984 at the University of California at Davis, which showed that dairy goats suffered some toxic effects from ingesting very large amounts of avocado leaves (the toxic agent remains unknown). The crucial point, according to Dr. Arthur L. Craigmill, toxicology specialist at Davis and one of the authors of the study, is that the toxic effects were traced to the Guatemalan avocado (Persea American). When the goats were fed Mexican avocado leaves (Persea dryminfolia), a different variety, there was no problem.

 The Hass avocado, the best tasting one grown in America, is a hybrid of indeterminate origin though its DNA tests positive for a Guatemalan ancestor—hence the suspicions. No one has ever tested Hass leaves for toxicity, but it seems unlikely that the small amounts used in cooking would cause any problems in any case. When in doubt, choose based on tasted and that leads you to the aromatic Mexican leaves which are now available in the U.S."

Prepare And Store

It is best to toast the avocado leaves on a dry, hot comal or cast iron skillet prior to use. The leaves are normally ground or can be used crumbled as well.

Store Leaves

Only toast the amount of leaves you will use for your recipe. Store unused leaves for several months in an airtight container.
author

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.