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Mexican pepperleaf (Piper auritum)

Plant family

Asteraceae (aster family)

Botanical synonyms

Piper sanctum


Tropic Mesoamerica (Southern México, Guatemala, Panamá, Northern Colombia).

Used plant part

Fresh leaves. They can grow to sizes of 30 cm and more

Sensoric quality

Aromatic and pleasant, loosely reminiscent to anise, nutmeg and black pepper. The flavour is strongest in the young stems and veines, which have additionally a pleasant warming pungency.

Main constituents

The essential oil from the leaves (0.2%) is rich in safrole (up to 80%), a substance with pleasant odour. Furthermore, a large number of mono- and sesquiterpenoids have been found.

Mexican pepperleaf, plant with flower


Mexican pepper leaves are, unfortunately, one of those spices that are hardly ever available outside their region of origin.

The spice is much used in the cuisines of tropical México. The leaves are a fragrant decoration or can be wrapped around some stuffing and steamed, baked or broiled. A famous recipe from the Veracruz province (where the spice is particularly popular) is Pescado en Hoja Santa, fish wrapped in pepper leaves, baked and served with a spicy tomato sauce. In Central México, pepper leaves are used to flavour chocolate drinks (Azteks' chocolate, see Vanilla).

Last, Mexican pepperleaves are an essential ingredient for mole verde , one of the famous seven sauces of Oaxaca.

Source :

European Masters Degree in Food Studies - an Educational Journey

Master in Food Safety Law is an initiative of Wageningen University, The Netherlands