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What is Avocado Leaf?

Discover one of the secret ingredients to South American cuisine.

Avocado Leaf Herb
Avocado Leaf Herb

Description

Avocado leaf is a culinary herb native to Mexican avocado trees usually found dried and intensely aromatic with anise flavoring. Glossy dark gray oval leaves approximately five inches in length are similar in appearance to bay leaves, although more delicate to touch. 

What does avocado leaf taste like?

The avocado leaf has a mellow anise flavor of black licorice and also develops a nuttiness when toasted, the aroma when crushed is also pungent of anise. The flavor is released slowly when heating and maximized through toasting, which releases the herb’s natural oils. 

Avocado Leaf Uses

Dried leaves retain the flavor of the herb and have the benefit of being more portable with a longer shelf-life. To fully release the flavor of the avocado leaf, lightly toast in a dry pan then grind or crumble depending on the recipe. Toasting releases the natural oils and should, therefore, be done fresh to retain the maximum flavor. 

Alternatively, place a whole leaf into a simmering pot of soup, stew or sauce as you would a bay leaf, allowing for a slow release of anise flavor and then remove before serving. Avocado leaves are suited used within dishes that involve toasting, boiling, and steaming such as black beans, tamales, soups, moles, stews, casseroles, and pipianes. 

The leaves can be used for wrapping meats, fish, and poultry before roasting or grilling. A traditional Mexican seasoning, avocado leaves are also used in wrapping for the traditional method of cooking known as barbacoas, the wrapped meat is slow-cooked underground creating an aromatic broth and tender meat. 

Avocado Leaf Substitutes 

  • Bay Leaf and Anise Seed: although not identical, the combination of these two ingredients provide a warming anise flavor alike that of the avocado leaf, used in slow-cooked dishes where the flavors will slowly simmer into a recipe. 
  • Hoja Santa: native to South American cooking, the Mexican pepperleaf can be used as an alternative to avocado leaves for wrapping tamales, meats, or fish for steaming or baking.  
  • Banana Leaves: replace as a wrapper for grilling, steaming, or roasting.
  • Epazote: another Mexican herb that can be cooked alongside beans, soups, and moles to add a savory earthy flavor. 

Compliments and Pairings 

Avocado leaves are generally only found within South American cooking and so naturally pair well with avocado, coriander, black bean, pulses, egg, chili, basil, cheese, lime, tomato, onion, garlic, pepper, corn, fish, rice, potato, red meat, and poultry. 

Expiration and Storage

  • Fresh: store in the refrigerator in a covered container with some water, use within 3 days. 
  • Dried: store dried avocado leaves in an airtight container away from moisture and direct sunlight and use within a year.
  • Powder: store avocado leaf powder in an airtight container away from moisture and direct sunlight and use within a year.

Where does avocado leaf come from?

Avocado leaf is popular in regional dishes in South and Central Mexico. The leaves of the native Mexican avocado or Persea drymifolia are picked then use fresh or dried. Avocado leaves also called ‘hoja de aguacate’, are a unique ingredient among Mexican spices that can be found in Latin American grocery stores or bought online. For more avocado trivia check out wikipedia.

Fun Facts

  • The leaves of the Guatemalan avocado, Persea Americano, are toxic. 
  • Rene Redzepi, the famous owner of Noma restaurant, is quoted as saying about avocado leaves, “This to me is the best mouthful I’ve had in Mexico. I can’t believe the flavor of this leaf. Wow. I’m getting chills.”
  • Aztecs and Mayans used avocado leaves as a natural remedy, steeped in hot water to create teas and bathing liquids. The leaves were believed to treat diarrhea, pain, coughs, arthritis, eczema, acne, and stomach pain. 

Popular Recipes

  • Enfrijoladas
  • Mexican black beans
  • Masita
  • Avocado leaf crusted tuna taquitos
  • Pork barbacoa with avocado leaves
  • Chicken in avocado leaf sauce
  • Bean itacate with avocado leaves
  • Guacamole
  • Moles
  • Avocado leaf tea