Culantro: What It Is and How to Cook with It
This herb, popular in Puerto Rican, Vietnamese, and other Southeast Asian cuisines, is often likened to its relative cilantro—but there are some key differences you should know.
Culantro, also known as recao or ngògai, is an essential ingredient in the sofritos that form the base for many Puerto Rican dishes. Culantro is native to Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean, but it also grows in tropical areas around the globe and is popular in Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian cuisines.
The herb is often likened to its close relative cilantro, though its appearance is quite different—culantro has long, flat, sturdy leaves instead of cilantro's petite frilly ones, with no separation between leaf and stem (making it easier to prep than cilantro, since its ribs are also tender). And while culantro shares a similar aroma and flavor, its earthy, herby, citrusy taste is much more potent than cilantro's. If you are trying culantro in place of cilantro in a raw application, start with about half the amount called for and adjust to your taste. Since their differences are more muted in cooked applications, a one-to-one swap in such instances is fine.