September 04, 2021 4 min read

Huacatay is a strong, aromatic herb from the marigold family. Huacatay is grown in the Peruvian Andes, but it can grow all over South America.

Huacatay has been used as medicine for many years and also for flavoring dishes. Huacatay tastes best when cooked with other spices such as garlic, onion, chile peppers and salt.

Huacatay leaves have a dark green color with pointed tips that are usually dried before they are sold to consumers or restaurants so they last longer without going bad.

Huacatay leaves can be used as a tea and also in recipes. Huacatay is added to many dishes because it gives them an extra kick of flavor that people love!


Peruvian cuisine is a chest filled with real treasures in the form of food. Some of it is animal-based, but most of the best Peruvian ingredients are plants and vegetables.
One of them is the deliciousHuacatay, a delicious, aromatic herb that serves as condiment for many of the main dishes in Peru. Keep reading to find out all you need to know aboutHuacatay

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 First things first… What is Huacatay ?

Huacatay is a strong, aromatic herb from the marigold family. It is grown in the Peruvian Andes, but it can grow all over South America, specifically in countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Chile or Paraguay.

Its name is pronounced “wah-ka-tay” and it’s also known as Peruvian black mint, mint marigold, wild marigold or Mexican marigold; depending on the region you look for it. 

TheHuacatay plant is fairly small with tiny yellow and green flowers and spiky leaves. Its leaves are a glossy green color and both the leaves and the flowers produce a strong odor as it contains an essential oil.

The taste of the Huacatay herb is somewhat mixture of sweet basil, tarragon, mint and lime.

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 Nutritional value or benefits of Huacatay

Back in pre-colonial times,Huacatay was already being used with medicinal purposes by the Inca civilization.

Since Huacatay has beneficial properties such as antispasmodic, bactericidal, antiviral (because it contains thiophenes.), carminative, fungicidal and some more, it is the perfect choice for people who rely heavily on herbal medicine to treat ailments. 

Just by drying out the flowers and the leaves you can make a steaming, healing tea to fight colds, asthma and other respiratory inflammations.

An infusion ofHuacatay is perfect for stomach aches, hookworms and Ascaris. Apart from medicinal use and of course preparing delicious dishes,Huacatay has been used lately more and more to make herbal beauty products. 

By extracting the essential oils of theHuacatay plant, you can obtain great amounts of valeric acid, limonene and tagetone; which can be later used in diffusers and other natural treatments. 

Different presentations of Huacatay

As it happens with many, many delicious culinary ingredients from South american countries,Huacatay is not very easy to find across North America.

And unless you’re planning to grow your own plant, which would require you to find the seeds and wait for it to grow fully, we recommend you turn to our expert hands where you’ll find the most popular versions ofHuacatay along with other Peruvian food like ají amarillo sauce, rocoto and ají panca. 

But how exactly can you find or identifyHuacatay if you’ve only read about it’s natural form, which is a long plant?

Well, as a herbHuacatay is considered a spice; one of the most popular spices in Peruvian Food by the way.

And as most of the Peruvian spices,Huacatay is found in the form of a thick, strong smelling paste. You can find it by different brands here. 

The most popular Peruvian recipes with Huacatay

As we mentioned before,Huacatay is mainly a spice used to season dishes. As a seasoning, this herb can be used in the form of dried leaves,

or you can take the paste and make a rich and creamy sauce combined with other ingredients, depending on the recipe. 

A delicious and classic Peruvian dish that absolutely has to have creamy sauce mixed with ají amarillo dripping on top is the Peruvian rotisserie chicken (you can check out the recipe here.).

Another delicious dish that involves creamyHuacatay sauce or paste is the Ocopa, a potato-based recipe that will make your mouth water.

If you’re looking to use this herb in its plain leaf form, you can use them dry to season dishes such as soups or stews. 

As you can see, this herb is not only very popular in Peruvian cuisine. It’s actually essential for some of the most iconic dishes. Don’t think twice when it comes to try out Huacatay.

If you enjoy aromatic herbs and are a sucker for strong flavors, follow one of the classic Peruvian recipes or why not? Experiment with your own meals.

After all it’s not a secret, that the best meals in the world were created simply by experimenting with bold flavors and ingredients.