Huacatay Plant: Awesome Flavor of Peruvian Black Mint

The Huacatay plant is one member of 50 species iof plants belonging to the marigold family. All marigold species are edible. And very often only the flowers that are eaten.

Peruvian Huacatay is a little different. Both Huacatay leaves, flowers, and seeds are all edible. And because of its unique flavor the Huacatay herb is widely used in Peruvian cuisine. 

Lately there has been growing interest in Huacatay (pronounced “wah-ka-tay”) because of its intense flavor. But what is Hucatay in English?

Huacatay plant known as Peruvian Black mint in English
Huacatay Plant

Huacatay Plant Description

Huacatay is widely used in cooking but it does not look like your average garden herb. Black Peruvian mint can grow up to 6 feet tall.

The leaves are long and dark green with serrated edges. Huacatay plant blooms tiny yellow and green flowers.

Peruvian mint grows and thrives in wide open spaces and grasslands.  so in many areas the Huacatay plant is considered an invasive weed.

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Huacatay In English

The Huacatay plant is biologically known as Tages minuta. Some English names for Huacatay are Peruvian black mint, Black mint, Mexican mint, Muster John Henry, and Southern marigold.

Huatacatay is abundant in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and other southern sections of South America.

Although the herb that is native to the Andean Region, it has been naturalized in Africa, Asia and Europe.

Huacatay Black Mint Uses

The most flavorful of the marigold species are, the Tagetes patula (French marigold), Tagetes tenuifolia (African marigold) Tagetes lucida (Mexiacan marigold ) and Tagetes minuta (Huacatay)

Peruvian Huacatay flavor profile has been described as a combination of lime, mint, cilantro and basil.

While the dried and fresh Huacatay leaves are used in Peruvian cooking, the herb’s flowers and leaves have other uses as well.

1. Huacatay Leaves Tea

Since the Inca Civilization, Huacatay Peruvian black mint has played an important role in folk medicine.

Huacatay leaves are used to make a hot herbal tea that is used as a home remedy. It’s easy to make Huacatay tea. Here’s how:

How to Make Huacatay Tea

  • 2 teaspoons of crushed leaves in
  • 8 ounces of boiling water.
  • Addi a few mint leaves will enhance the flavor.
  • Steep for 5 to 7 minutes
  • Sweeten to taste and serve.
dried huacatay leaves
Dried Huacatay Leaves

The tea is consumed for relieving sore throats, the common cold, muscle spasms, and indigestion.

Peruvian black mint is also used topically for treating skin infections.

2. Cooking

The aromatic flavor of the Huacatay plant makes it an important ingredient in South American cuisine, especially in the Adean region. 

In Peruvian cuisine, Huacatay leaves are pounded into a paste that is rubbed on meats and poultry. They are also added to stews, soups and vegetables to enhance their flavors.

A creamy aromatic green sauce made with the herb is served as a condiment. When fresh Huacatay leaves are not available, Huacatay paste makes a great substitute.  

3. Marigold Essential Oil

 When the plant is in bloom, it is harvested and the plants oil is extracted from the stems and leaves. Tagetes Marigold oil is considered an essential oil.  

The oil is used in making of things like ice cream flavoring, baked products, and soft drinks. Marigold oil is also utilized in the manufacture of cosmetics such as creams and lotions.

There are a few ways you can use the oil:

  • Aromatherapy: Add a few drops of tagetes essential oil to a diffuser or inhaler and breathe in the aroma.
  • Topical application: Dilute tagetes essential oil with a carrier oil, such as jojoba oil or almond oil, and apply it to the skin.
  • Massage: Add a few drops of tagetes essential oil to a carrier oil and use it for a massage.
  • Bath: Add a few drops of tagetes essential oil to a warm bath.

Huacatay Plant Health Benefits

Several studies we dont to investigate the medicinal value of Huacatay herb. One study aimed to determine whether the herb can be used to treat stomach and intestinal discomfort.

After analyzing two compounds extracted from the plant, the study confirmed that the plant does show anti-inflammatory properties.

Other research confirm the antispasmodic, aromatic, antiseptic, diuretic, sedative, and antimicrobial properties of Huacatay plant. 

They also found that the Huacatay leaves naturally contain antioxidants, calcium, iron and potassium.

Where to Buy Huacatay

Huacatay paste available in specialty Central and South American markets. It can be found in Mexican markets as well.

If you are unable to find Huacatay paste locally, you can always find it online. Note that the paste mainly comes labeled as Peruvian Mint Paste.

Huacatay essential oils is marketed under the name Tagetes Essential oils. You can buy high quality Tagetes oils on Amazon and Etsy.Com.


Huacatay is a marigold species that has been used in Andean cuisine for many centuries.

The herbs’ unique flavor makes it popular among lovers of Peruvian food. But the aromatic flavor black mint is contribute to its growing popluarity.

In addition, studies have confirmed that the plant has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antimicrobial properties which may contribute to Huacatay plant heath benefits.

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