Culantro : A Cilantro Mimic

Eryngium foetidum

Also called : Eryngo, sawtooth Coriander, Mexican coriander, wild coriander, cilantro de hoja, cilantro de monte, ancha (broadleaf cilantro), long coriander,  recao, chandon beni, perennial coriander, fitweed, Mexico: cilantron, cilantrillo, cilantro extranjero, Perejil de Tabasco (Mexico), Caribbean: Culantro de Monte, China: Jia Yuan Qian, Germany: Langer Koriander, Mexicanischer Koriander, Jamaica: Spiritweed, Laos: Hom Tay Malaysia: Daun Ketumbar Jawa, Ketumbar Java, Thailand: Pak Chi Farang, Phak Chee Farang, Trinidad: Shadon Beni, Shadow Benny, Vietnam: Cay Muoy Than, Cay Nuitau, Cay Ngo Tan, Ngo Gai, Ngo Ta

Cilantro is known for its unique flavour profile. The flavour is difficult to imitate (or even describe) and there are few plants known to approximate it. Papaloquelite is one and Culantro is another. Culantro originates from Central America, the Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico and Mexico and is cultivated throughout Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Its pungent odour is very similar to cilantro. The genus name foetidus is Latin and means stinking or bad smelling. Its leaves are long with a serrated edge and are considerably more durable than the delicate foliage of cilantro. The leaves need to be chopped before use and they can stand up to more vigorous cooking than cilantro can endure. Cilantro is usually added at the end of the cooking process (and sometimes just before serving).

Use the leaves in stir-fries, soups, salads, curries and salsa. Use the root to flavour vegetables. It can also be used for Thai curry pastes when coriander roots are not available.

The (almost woody) prickly seed head can be made into a paste akin to Italian pesto. Grind together the seed heads with chilli, ginger, garlic and sesame oil (or vegetable oil) until smooth. Store in fridge. Use to flavour curries and stir fries or spread on sandwiches or biscuits with cheese. The paste can also be stirred through chopped chicken for a delicious sandwich filling.

This herb dries well, retaining good colour and flavour. The flavour is much stronger than that of cilantro (some say by a factor of 10 or more) so, much like papalo, less of this herb will be needed for your recipe. The scent and flavour do mellow during the cooking process. You should add it to the recipe at the beginning of cooking so it has a chance to mellow and so that the flavour becomes more completely incorporated into the dish.

This herb is commonly used to make a sofrito. A sofrito is an aromatic paste which is fried off and is used as a flavour base for beans, stews, rices and other dishes

Basic Sofrito


  • 2 big Spanish onions
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 2 small tomatoes
  • 1 red pepper (capsicum)
  • 15 leaves of Culantro
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


Chop onions, garlic, tomatoes, capsicum and culantro. This can be done in a blender. Don’t smoosh it into a smooth paste, try and keep some texture
Add spices and oil
Put in glass jar and refrigerate

When making any dish, heat some olive oil, put 1 tablespoon of sofrito in the oil, add tomato sauce or paste, stir and slowly sauté. After 5 minutes, just add to your dish.

Culantro flower head

Medicinal Properties


Analgesic, anthelmintic, anticonvulsant, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, carminative


saponins, flavonoids, alkaloids, tannins, anthraquinones, cardiac glycosides, terpenes, lutein, β-carotene, chlorogenic acid, kaempferol, caffeic acid

The plant is used in traditional medicines for fevers and chills, vomiting, diarrhoea, and in Jamaica for colds and convulsions in children (Honeychurch 1980). It also possesses a wide range of ethnomedicinal uses including treatment for burns, earache, fevers, hypertension, constipation, fits, asthma, stomach ache, worms, infertility complications, snake bites, diarrhoea and malaria. The leaves are febrifuge and mildly laxative (Ved 2016).The leaves and roots are boiled and the water drunk for pneumonia, flu, diabetes, constipation, and malarial fever. In India the root is used to soothe stomach pains. The leaves themselves can be eaten in the form of a chutney as an appetite stimulant (Mahabir 1991). The root is abortifacient, febrifuge, stomachic and sudorific (Ved 2016). A root poultice can be used as a tissue regenerator. The decoction from the leaves exerts an anti-inflammatory effect, when administered orally. A decoction of the whole plant is used as an anti-malarial and for the treatment of haemorrhages. Pharmacological studies of the aerial plant parts have demonstrated an anthelmintic activity due to eryngial (a significant constituent of the essential oil of the plant – E-2-dodecenal), an anti-inflammatory action due to the phytosterol fractions, an anti-convulsant activity and selective antibacterial activity against Salmonella species and the Erwinia genus of bacteria

This plant can grow in poor soil and with little fertilizer. It also does well when grown in pots. The plants are hardy and prefer partial shade, even though they tolerate full sun. Some growers feel that cutting the shoot that contains the seeds will encourage leaf production, others do not. To harvest, cut the leaves at the soil line with a knife or scissors, leaving the new leaves to continue to grow.

As a companion plant it attracts ladybugs, lacewings and other beneficial insects. It also seems that aphids do not like this herb. (Ramacharan 1999)

Aphids on cilantro (coriandrum sativum)

Aphids can be an issue with cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) although this is considered somewhat unusual as, generally speaking, this plant has no real pests. Culantro can be an excellent cilantro substitute in the garden because of its resistance to aphids. This resistance may also involve the leaves of culantro being sturdier than those of cilantro. Culantro will also resist bolting (1) in hot weather as cilantro is prone to do.

  1. Bolting is a horticultural term for when a plant prematurely develops a flowering stalk (in a natural attempt to produce seed) before the crop has been harvested. The plant shifts its energy from growing the desired crop to reproduction instead. Bolting may also be referred to as “going to seed”. Usually, a small flowering bud will form in the centre of the plant or stem, and then grow increasingly tall very quickly. Bolting is especially common in heat-sensitive vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, bok choy, and other leafy greens.


  • Bown, Deni. (2015) Herbal: The Essential Guide to Herbs for Living : Published by Pavilion : ISBN 10: 186205892XISBN 13: 9781862058927
  • Honeychurch, P.N. 1980. Caribbean wild plants and their uses. Letchworth Press, Barbados, W.I.
  • Lingaraju, Doddegowdanamane & Sudarshana, M & Mahendra, Chandra & Rao, Poornachandra. (2016). PHYTOCHEMICAL SCREENING AND ANTIMICROBIAL ACTIVITY OF LEAF EXTRACTS OF ERYNGIUM FOETIDUM L. (APIACEAE). Indoamerican Journal of Pharmaceutical Research. 2016.
  • Mahabir, K. 1991. Medicinal and edible plants used by East Indians of Trinidad and Tobago. Chackra Publ. House, El Dorado, Trinidad, W.I.
  • Mekhora, C., Muangnoi, C., Chingsuwanrote, P., Dawilai, S., Svasti, S., Chasri, K., & Tuntipopipat, S. (2012). Eryngium foetidum Suppresses Inflammatory Mediators Produced by Macrophages. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, 13(2), 653–664.
  • Okon,J., Edet, E., Esenowo, G., Umoh,N : Phytochemical Screening, Analgesic and Anti-inflammatory Properties and Median Lethal Dose of Ethanol Leaf Extract of Wild Species of Eryngium foetidum L. on Albino Rats : Department of Botany and Ecological Studies, University of Uyo, P. M. B. 1017, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria International Journal of Modern Biology and Medicine, 2013, 3(2): 69-77
  • Rajagopal, D., Premaletha, K., Preetha, M., Sreejith, K., & Madhoosodanan, V. Antidiabetic and Anthelmintic Properties of the Leaves of Eryngium Foetidum.(L.).JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL ACADEMIC RESEARCH FOR MULTIDISCIPLINARY Impact Factor 1.625, ISSN: 2320-5083, Volume 3, Issue 1, February 2015
  • Saenz, M.T. Fernandez, M.A. Garcia, M.D. : Antiinflammatory and analgesic properties from leaves of Eryngium foetidum L. (Apiaceae) [1997] (Department of Pharmacy and Technological Pharmacy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Seville University, 41012 Seville (Spain))
  • D K Ved, Suma Tagadur Sureshchandra, Vijay Barve, Vijay Srinivas, Sathya Sangeetha, K. Ravikumar, Kartikeyan R., Vaibhav Kulkarni, Ajith S. Kumar, S.N. Venugopal, B. S. Somashekhar, M.V. Sumanth, Noorunissa Begum, Sugandhi Rani, Surekha K.V., and Nikhil Desale. 2016. ( / FRLHT’s ENVIS Centre on Medicinal Plants, Bengaluru.



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