The Ultimate Guide to Chadon Beni (or Culantro or Recao)


Chadon beni is the not-so-secret ingredient in Caribbean cuisine and Trinidad food.

It has such a dominant, herbaceous flavor that is hard to find a substitute for… It’s so good.

Here’s everything you need to know about chadon beni.

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What is chadon beni

Chadon beni is an aromatic, tropical herb belonging to the Apiaceae family, which includes other aromatic plants like coriander, cumin, and parsley.

Its botanical name is Eryngium foetidum (synonym: Eryngium antihystericum).

Culantro Plant

Chadon beni has many other names including:

  • shado beni or shadow benny
  • bandania or bandhaniya
  • fitweed
  • Mexican or long or thorny or sawtooth coriander
  • sawtooth herb
  • culantro
  • recao
  • cilantro ancho
  • herbe à fer
  • ngò gai
  • mùi tàu

In Trinidad, we call it chadon beni, shadow benny, and bandhania.

In French Patois, chardon means herb and beni means blessed. So, chadon beni loosely translates to blessed herb. Shadow benny likely comes from the English pronunciation of the French Patois word.

In a Bhojpuri Hindi dialect, dhania means coriander or cilantro. I’m not sure what the first part (ban-) means, but that’s where the term bandania or bandhaniya originates.

What is the difference between cilantro and culantro

Both cilantro and culantro are aromatic herbs belonging to the Apiaceae family. Cilantro has long, thin stems, broad-lobed lower leaves and fine upper leaves. Culantro has long, narrow leaves with spiny, sawtooth edges. Culantro leaves also have a stronger smell and taste.

Here’s a look at the leaves of the two plants.

difference between cilantro and culantro

How to grow chadon beni

There are two ways to grow the plant: by germinating the seeds or by propagating root cuttings.

With the former, scatter the seeds in a moist part of your garden. With enough warmth and water, they will germinate into tiny culantro plants within one to two months.

If you purchase the leaves at the supermarket and there are small roots to the bottom, cut the leaves off and add the base to water. They will form roots within a week. Plant them in your garden six inches apart.

Chadon beni plants like shady conditions best, although they can handle the hot tropical climate. Water them often and they will never stop growing.

The plants can also survive in poor soils with very little fertilizer. However, with well-drained, fertilized soils, the leaves are larger, greener and more abundant.

As the plant matures, a tall flower stalk will start growing out of its center. At the top, you’ll see lots of prickly leaflets and flowers. Here’s my garden with lots of chadon beni plants and their flower stalks.

Chadon beni flower stalks

When the flowers dry, tiny brown seeds will develop.

Close up of chadon beni flower stalk and seeds

Harvest these seeds and scatter them in another part of your garden.  

If you have enough seeds, trim the stalks in younger plants. This will cause the plants to grow more leaves – which is what you want!

Another important point: if you don’t trim the stalks, the plant stops producing leaves and only focuses on growing the flower stalk and seeds.

By the way, the stalk and prickly leaflets are all edible.

What are the health benefits of chadon beni?

There are very few studies that look into the benefits of chadon beni. The majority have been lab studies; there are a couple animal studies too.

This 2011 study reviewed past research on the plant. It identified studies that proved the anti-parastic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial benefits of extracts of shadow benny.

The study also listed the traditional uses of the plant for treating:

  • burns
  • fever
  • hypertension
  • fits
  • asthma
  • constipation and diarrhea
  • stomachache
  • infertility complications
  • worms
  • snake bites
  • malaria

In this 2012 lab study, the leaf extract of culantro had antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on cancer cells. The findings of the study noted the plant had: “high potential to be used as a food supplement to reduce risk of cancer associated with inflammation.

A look at the volatile compounds in the plant’s essential oil has shown eryngial is its main compound. Eryngial is responsible for the anthelmintic (worm killing) benefits of chadon beni.

Although the plant has positive benefits, don’t eat too much of it. This animal study found excessive consumption of the herb negatively affected kidney function in mice. Ten grams should be enough for you per day.

Where to buy chadon beni

Find both chadon beni seeds and live plants on Amazon.

culantro plants

The leaves are also sold as large bunches in Asian (especially Thai) and Caribbean markets and supermarkets.

Can you eat culantro raw

Culantro is eaten raw in many Caribbean, Latin and Asian dishes. It is used as seasoning in uncooked dishes too like pineapple chow and mango chow.

How does chadon beni taste

Chadon beni tastes like a stronger, sharper and more herbaceous version of cilantro. Therefore, cilantro is a mild substitute for culantro.

Which recipes use chadon beni?

Caribbean green seasoning

Caribbean green seasoning

Caribbean green seasoning is used in most savory Caribbean dishes as a flavoring agent. Its main ingredients are chadon beni and garlic.

Other herbs and peppers are also added to the green seasoning. You can add cilantro, Spanish thyme (or Mexican mint), fine thyme, ginger, scotch bonnet peppers and more.

The seasoning is used in marinades, soups, stews, curries and other savory dishes.

Find my Caribbean green seasoning recipe here.

Chadon beni sauce

Chadon beni sauce is a popular condiment in Trinidad and Tobago. It is especially enjoyed with bake and shark and other popular Trinidad food.

The sauce is made with shadow benny leaves, garlic, pepper, lime juice, salt and water.

Recaito

Recaito is an incredibly popular seasoning in Puerto Rican cuisine. It is often used in rice, sauce and soup recipes.

It is made with culantro (or recao), cilantro, ajicito peppers, garlic, onion, Cubanelle (Italian frying) peppers, bell peppers and more. Check out Meseidy’s recipe from The Noshery.

Chadon beni tea

Shado beni tea is enjoyed on the islands. It is made by steeping a couple leaves in boiling water for a few minutes before serving. The root can also be steeped and served. The tea is traditionally used for colds, flus, fever and upset stomachs.

What do you make with shado beni? Let me know in the comments!

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