epazote leaves
photo credit: gourmetsleuth

About Epazote

epazote leafEpazote is an herb well-known to Mexican and Caribbean cooking. The name comes from the Aztec (Nahuatl) epazotl. It is also known as pigweed or Mexican tea and is frequently regarded as a garden pest. It is most commonly used in black bean recipes to ward off some of the "negative" side affects of eating beans. Much like cilantro, it is referred to as an "acquired taste". The herb is quite pungent and some say it smells like gasoline or kerosene.

History And Lore

Epazote (chenopodium ambrosioides) was brought to Europe in the 17th century from Mexico and used in various traditional medicines. The herb was used by the Aztecs as a medicine as well as a culinary herb.

Buy And Store

Epazote can normally be found fresh in Mexican grocery stores or is available air-dried. One teaspoon of dried epazote leaves is equivalent to about one branch, or 7 fresh leaves. Fresh epazote leaves can be placed in a plastic bag and stored for up to 1 week. You can air-dry the fresh leaves and store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

Buy Online

dried epazote leavesPurchase dried epazote online at GourmetSleuth.com. We sell dried epazote which includes the leaves and bits of stem.  You can use this for cooking or for making tea.


Medicinal Uses

Epazote contains compounds which actually act as an anti-gas agent ( referred to as a carminative, which means it reduces gas) when cooked with beans. It's chief use was as an agent to expel intestinal hookworms (wormseed). According to Jessica Houdret (The Ultimate Book of Herbs and Herb Gardening) it has also been "recommended for nervous disorders, asthma, and problems with menstruation). CAUTION: This herb is poisonous in large does.

Culinary Uses And Substitutions

Rick Bayless's (in his book "Authentic Mexican") describes this herb as the well-known essential ingredient in Mexican black bean recipes as well as in quesadillas and some moles (moh-LAYS).


If you don't have access to epazote, or you simply don't like the flavor you can just omit it from the recipe. No herb has a similiar flavor but like epazote, "savory" compliments the flavor Other complimentary additions include cilantro or parsley. Another option is ajwain seed, commonly used in Indian cooking.

Nutrition Information For Epazote

Serving Size
1 tbsp
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 0mg
Total Carbohydrate 0g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin A  0% Vitamin C  0%
Calcium  0% Iron  0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Grow Your Own

epazote growing in garden

young epazote plant, photo by : gourmetsleuth.com 
Epazote is easy to grow.   It is an annual and grows to about 2 - 4 feet high.  Plant in the spring in full sun and seeds should germinate in about 7 -14 days and be ready to harvest in  45 - 65 days. The plant is native to tropical and subtropical regions and prefers sandy, loamy soil over dry arid conditions.

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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.