What is in Huacatay Paste or Peruvian Black Mint

If you love Peruvian cuisine, then Huacatay is not something new to you. Huacatay paste or the Peruvian black mint is a herb with a minty aroma and belongs to the marigold family. The Huacatay plant contains long leaves with spiked edges and small yellow flowers. The Huacatay paste is made from the herb and the addition of other ingredients such as salt and citric acid.

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In this article, we will look at what is in Huacatay paste, its taste, its uses, and Huacatay paste substitutes. Let us dive in and understand these things in detail.

What is in Huacatay Paste?

The dried leaves of Peruvian black mint can be used directly to spice up meals or drinks. However, the Huacatay paste is also another form of using it. It is made by adding citric acid, water, and salt to the herb. Some preservatives such as potassium sorbate are usually added to the mixture.

Essentially, you can make your Huacatay paste by adding the Peruvian black mint, salt, citric acid, and water and then mixing them using any efficient method such as blending. Preservatives are not essential if you can freeze the resultant paste.

Huacatay Taste

Huacatay is used in many dishes because of its exceptional taste. It has a unique aromatic and minty flavor with a sweet basil taste. Huacatay leaves also have a citrus aroma that is noticeable when you cut the leaves. It is also said that Huacatay has a hint of tarragon. Try it to confirm whether it is true. When it comes to Huacatay taste, there is variety in a single herb. How awesome is that?

Huacatay Paste Uses?

Huacatay is a multi-purpose herb that can be used in several ways in meals as listed below.


Have you tasted the Peruvian rotisserie chicken? If yes, you’ve seen the green sauce that accompanies it. Aji de Huacatay, the green sauce is made from Huacatay paste. It is also the key ingredient in the Peruvian dish called ocopa. Ocopa can be taken with crispy baked potatoes.


If you would love some minty and aromatic flavor in your soup, then Huacatay paste is exactly what you need. In addition, it gives your soup a pleasant minty aroma that makes the soup tastier just by smelling it.


Huacatay leaves can be used to garnish pasta, soup, or even meat. In addition to the decorative purpose, some minimal flavor is transferred to your meal.

There are unlimited uses of Huacatay depending on the flavor that you desire in a meal. There are no specific rules, you can add Huacatay paste to the meal where you desire the herb’s taste.

Huacatay Paste Substitutes

Now that we have seen how Huacatay paste taste likes and its uses, we can get to know what can be used in place of Huacatay. Why would you need to replace Huacatay paste? Well, the Peruvian black mint may not be readily available after its growth season. It is also mostly found in South America. Therefore, people outside South America may not easily access it.


With that said, here are several substitutes:

  • Cilantro


Cilantro flavor is quite similar to that of Huacatay in that it has a citrus taste and it is also a herb. Moreover, cilantro is readily available in grocery stores compared to Huacatay. It is also used in various cuisines.

  • Muna

Muna mint herb

It is an aromatic herb with a minty flavor. It is used also in Peruvian dishes just like Huacatay. It is used in soups and sauces among other dishes.

  • Lemon Verbena

Lemon Verbena

This is suitable if you want the citrus flavor of Huacatay paste. However, this herb does not have the minty Huacatay flavor. You can achieve the minty flavor by adding herbs with mint such as spearmint leaves.


As we have seen, Huacatay is a herb with a unique blend of flavors. This makes it suitable for many Peruvian dishes. We have seen Huacatay paste used in making soups and sauces among other meals.

Huacatay paste has a unique flavor which makes it difficult to substitute it. However, we’ve looked at some Huacatay paste substitutes that could get you as close as possible to Huacatay flavor. Try them if Huacatay is unavailable.

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