Culantro, not to be confused with cilantro, is an herb used extensively in cooking across the Caribbean, Central America and Asia.
Culantro (Eryngium foetidum) is an herb known by many names depending on the country you are in: shado beni, bhandhanya (sometimes spelled bhandania), chandron benee, coulante, recao, fit weed, stink weed, false cilantro, chandon beni, Mexican coriander, ngo gai and serrated or sawtooth coriander.
Growing up in a Trinidadian family culantro was a familiar flavour, but for many years the only name I knew it by was bhandhanya, the Hindi name often used in Trinidad. It's a key ingredient used to make green seasoning - a marinade blend of bhandhanya, garlic, onion, thyme, Scotch Bonnet peppers, green onions and more - and is most often used to marinate meat & poultry. As a kid the flavour of bhandhanya was not really a favourite of mine because it can be a bit strong, but I've found myself using and enjoying it quite a bit lately. Tastes change!
What is culantro?
The plant Eryngium foetidum is native to the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico. This green herb has long leaves with serrated edges, a strong flavour and aroma that I find it to be earthier and more pungent than cilantro.
How do you use culantro?
A little culantro goes a long way! It is used to make marinades for meat, added to cooked chutney or to add extra flavour to soups and stews. Culantro is most often cooked into recipes, which differs from cilantro which is often consumed raw.
Are Culantro and Cilantro the same?
While culantro and cilantro are close relatives, they are different herbs and are not used in the same way. Cilantro is often used fresh and raw, while culantro is most often cooked into dishes.
Cilantro has small leaves and can be found in big bunches in almost any grocery store, while culantro is not as readily available, most often found in Caribbean, Latin or Asian markets here in Toronto (Canada).
Nutritional benefits of Culantro
There are a wide range of local remedies using this herb in different countries around the Caribbean, from treating fever, flu, and stomach pains to vomiting, constipation and more.
From a nutritional perspective, culantro is rich is calcium, iron, riboflavin, carotene and vitamin A, B1 and C*. Keep in mind that culantro is consumed in fairly small quantities, so while it contains good nutrients it is not going to be your go-to source as a nutrient-dense food.