Hoja Santa

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

This herb’s name is Spanish for “holy leaf,” and refers to the large leaf of New World relatives of black pepper, Piper auritum and P. sanctum. It’s used from southern Mexico to northern South America to wrap foods and flavor them while they’re cooked, and is also added directly to dishes as a flavoring. The main aromatic in hoja santa is safrole, the characteristic note of sassafras familiar from root beers, and a suspected carcinogen.