The name Hoja Santa translates to “sacred leaf.” The leaves of the hoja santa plant are heart-shaped with a thick velvety texture. These leaves can grow up to a foot and sometimes more. I find them to be truly beautiful. Though hoja santa is found throughout Mexico, it is mostly used in the south.
Mexican cooks use hoja santa judiciously not only because of it’s strong, unique, unexpected taste, but also because too much of it is not good for you, just like epazote.
Hoja Santa is used fresh and dried in many different ways in Mexican cooking, from tamales to pozoles to moles to soups. It is also wrapped around meat, seafood and around tamales as an edible wrapper, keeping what’s inside moist but also infusing the filling with its peculiar flavor.
Getting back to it’s flavor: it’s really hard to describe…aromatic, fragrant with a hint of eucalyptus and a whisper of mint. Some people find it similar in taste to anise. I also find a slight echo of black peppercorn and allspice. The only way for you to find out is to give it a try.
18comments inHoja Santa or Hierba Santa
When I planted my Hoja Sante seedling in a large pot this winter in our solarium in Rhode Island, it looked at me as if to say, “You want me to do what?”. But now it’s out on a large bluestone saying, “catch me if you can.”. So l lopped off two ten inch leaves to make a one cup chiffonade. And in a sixteen serving bluefish chowder, replaced basil with the Hoja. I was told that I’d committed a sin, but now, I’m a Saint. As you say, the flavor is difficult to pin down in words, but wow, it will generate complements.
I see that you wrote “Hoja Santa or Hierba Santa. However the two are not the same in my knowledge.
Could you share more information with me Lora, I always use them indistinctively 😉
I bought some seed on etsy to grow this summer. Just East of Cleveland. Very curiuos to try.
Hope you will like it Bob, let me know how you’re planning to use it 😉
try nurserys they sell live plants in san antonio tx
I have read that fennel fronds can be used as a good substitute
Sounds like a great idea… similar taste!
hi i am going to try and make mole estilo oaxacano and i can not find the fresh kind here so i bought the dried hierba santa is that ok ?
Yes, you can substitute the dried hierba santa!
Pati, thanks for the reply. I did check at he local Latino markets as well as other specialty stores with no luck. Is there a substitute I could use? Regards, Mark
I just searched around Boise Idaho for hoja santa and could not find it. Could you please publish a source to buy this over the internet?
Hola Mark, I’m sorry I don’t have a good internet source for hoja santa. Try your local Latino or international markets – and if they don’t have it, ask them to carry it.
I just read a recipe for a Margarita that uses this plant. I had never heard of it before.
It is a fascinating and unique herb…
I just watched a cook show where thechef used hoja santa in chimichurri sauce. Where can a buy this plant? I live in Miami. Thank you.
Go to your nearest Latino or international grocery store, which sells fresh produce and ask for it, if they don´t carry it, request it, they should be able to get it for you…