If you’re versed in the colorful world of Peruvian cuisine, then you’ve probably heard of huacatay or black mint. But if you haven’t had the pleasure, let us introduce you to this dynamic Peruvian staple herb.
What Does Huacatay Taste Like?
Though it’s also known as black mint, huacatay doesn’t have the same icy quality as the mint you may be used to. Huacatay has a bright, herbaceous flavor and heady anise-like aroma. Its taste is usually described as a combination of spearmint (which is less minty and more sweet), citrus, and basil.
Huacatay’s vibrant flavor profile is very similar to cilantro so the two are often used interchangeably – great news for anyone cilantro-averse.
Where to Buy Huacatay
Huacatay grows wild and abundantly in its native Peru, but is generally harder to find outside of the country. Instead, you’re more likely to find huacatay paste or black mint paste which is just as good. In fact, it’s sometimes used in Peru in place of the fresh herb. You can purchase huacatay paste online or scope out the international section of your local grocery store.
But if you’re adamant about using fresh huacatay, you might have some luck finding it in areas with high Peruvian American populations such as Florida, California, and the metropolitan area of New York, which usually have specialty groceries that carry Peruvian ingredients.
Cooking with Huacatay
Huacatay is the flavor base for a number of Peruvian soups and stews as well as traditional sauces, such as ocopa (a creamy black mint sauce) and ají de huacatay (a spicy salsa). Use these vibrant sauces as a dip or marinade for meat or vegetable dishes. A drizzle of ocopa can breathe life into simple Hasselback potatoes while zingy aji de huacatay can transform classic steak and eggs into a Peruvian-inspired brunch or make a wonderful marinade for succulent sous vide pork belly.
You can also use huacatay to beef up our Peruvian chicken with green sauce. Add a teaspoon of huacatay paste or a couple of huacatay leaves to the green sauce or the chicken marinade itself.