Hoja Santa main

Hoja Santa or Hierba Santa

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 1

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.


20comments inHoja Santa or Hierba Santa

  1. Ron Backer, surreyfarms@gmail.com

    Apr 06

    I grow hoja santa organic style all winter in southeast Florida. I have both fresh leaves and plants, and will have quirquna and huacatay plants available in July.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Apr 10


  2. Anonymous

    Jul 23

    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.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Sep 11

      Wow, congratulations!

  3. Lora

    Apr 28

    I see that you wrote “Hoja Santa or Hierba Santa. However the two are not the same in my knowledge.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Apr 30

      Could you share more information with me Lora, I always use them indistinctively 😉

  4. bobrossofhotsauce

    Apr 17

    I bought some seed on etsy to grow this summer. Just East of Cleveland. Very curiuos to try.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Apr 25

      Hope you will like it Bob, let me know how you’re planning to use it 😉

  5. terry r

    Sep 16

    try nurserys they sell live plants in san antonio tx

  6. Cathy

    Sep 20

    I have read that fennel fronds can be used as a good substitute

    1. Pati

      Sep 20

      Sounds like a great idea… similar taste!

  7. felicia jose

    Dec 16

    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 ?

    1. Pati

      Dec 19

      Yes, you can substitute the dried hierba santa!

  8. Mark

    Dec 07

    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

  9. Mark

    Dec 06

    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?

    1. Pati

      Dec 06

      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.

  10. Jill Sarina

    May 04

    I just read a recipe for a Margarita that uses this plant. I had never heard of it before.

    1. Pati

      May 07

      It is a fascinating and unique herb…

  11. Angelica

    Jan 27

    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.

    1. Pati

      Jan 27

      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…

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