Papalo is a green leafy plant with thin, branched stalks. Its leaves are a light green color and are egg-shaped with scalloped edges. It has spiciness reminiscent of nasturtium flowers or arugula with a flavor similar to cilantro with just a hint of lime. It has been called “skunk weed” and “buzzard’s breath”. The leaves are best eaten young, because the older the plant, the more bitter the taste.
Mainly used raw as a garnish or addition to dishes closer to the end of preparation. The flavor, like that of cilantro, can be greatly diminished with cooking. In Central America, the spicy green along with peppers is an essential ingredient in traditional Aztec dishes. It is eaten with carne asada or carnitas to settle the stomach, or used as an ingredient in salsa. It has a stronger flavor than cilantro, one-third the amount of Papalo should be used in a recipe calling for cilantro.