photo credit: gourmetsleuth

About Papalo

Papalo also called Papaloquelite porophyllum ruderale or macrocephalum. An herb, similar to cilantro used in Mexican cooking. The name comes from the word papalotl, Nahuatl for butterfly. In Spanish the plant is referred to as mampuitu which translates to skunk. It is typically used raw to flavor tacos filled with guacamole or carnitas (pork). It is also used in a Puebla specialty using a cemita roll and stuffed with meat avocado tomatoes and sometimes chiles.

Like cilantro the herb is quite pungent and is an acquired taste.  This is a herb one eats fresh; and not cooked. 


The use of papalo in cooking dates back to the Aztecs where it was used as a condiment.  The name is derived from the Nahuatl word papalotl, which translates to butterfly.   The Spaniards later named the plant mampuitu, which is Spanish for skunk.  It was so named because the plant is very pungent if not downright offensive.

Where To Find

Papalo grows wild in Mexico. It is also cultivated. The herb must be used fresh as it does not dry well. The herb grows wild in Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas but is not typically used by the locals. In the U.S. look for papalo in Mexican markets.

While some suggest substituting cilantro for papalo, Diana Kennedy considers there to be no substitute.


Rinse fresh papalo in cool water.  The thin portion of the stem can be chopped and used with the leaves but thicker stems should be removed and discarded.  Chopping the herb enhances the flavor.

Store fresh papalo, unwashed, wrapped in damp paper toweling.  Refrigerate but use as quickly as possible. Alternately, you can stand the herb, stem side, down into a glass.

Growing Papalo

Papaloquelite can be grown from seed and requires good drainage and full sun. As with most herbs plant after danger of frost has passed. Space plants about 1 1/2 to 2 feet apart. The plant grows quite tall, up to six feet and bears purple to bronze starburst flowers. The plant can take some shade but best in full sun

Medicinal Uses

The plant is sometimes used in parts of Bolivia for liver ailments as well as high blood pressure.

Fun Fact about Papalo

Papalo Salsa

  • 2 roasted and deseeded chopped chili peppers 
  • 2 roasted and deseeded green peppers, chopped 
  • 3 small green tomatoes, chopped 
  • 4 roasted garlic cloves 
  • 6 papalo leaves 
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil 
  • salt 
  • 2 spoonfuls of minced onion 
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and let sit in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving. 

Buy Seeds

Richters Seeds - An interesting selection of herbs, vegetables and gardens supplies
Johnny's Select Seeds - Flowers, herbs, vegetables and supplies.

More Papalo Recipes

Green Salsa With Avocado and Papalo - by Victoria Challancin


From My Mexican Kitchen, Diana Kennedy

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