Root Beer Plant in a Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

After learning about the root beer plant in the edible garden of Old School Produce, I discovered that I have one thriving in my own back yard! More commonly known as Hoja Santa (or sacred leaf ), root beer plant has edible leaves. Their aroma hints of anise and licorice, and when you rub it between your fingers, close your eyes and smell it, you can understand why it is called “root beer plant.” You can use the leaves to wrap seafood, minced chicken, even goat cheese, and grill or steam the parcels you made. Trying out these leaves as a culinary herb I used them to make this roasted tomatillo salsa.
By / Photography By Francine Spiering | June 25, 2015


Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare an ice bath: Fill a bowl with cold water and add ice cubes. Roast the tomatillos 20–30 minutes, or until lightly charred. Strip the root beer leaf of its center stalk and blanch the leaf in boiling water briefly (about 15 seconds). Remove with a slotted spoon and immediately put in the prepared ice bath. This helps to preserve the chlorophyll (the green pigment in the leaves). Drain the leaf and put in a blender, along with the roasted tomatillos, Serrano (add more or less depending on the heat you like), cilantro, shallot and lime juice, and pulse until it emulsifies.

Serve this salsa as is with blue corn chips or as a side with roast chicken, grilled seafood, pork chops, steak, or with sweet potato fries, for instance.


  • 5-6 tomatillos, husks removed, cut into quarters
  • 1 teaspoon salt flakes
  • ½ tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 shallot, chopped fine
  • 1 serrano pepper, seeds removed, chopped coarse
  • 1 root beer leaf (they are quite strong in flavor, be sure not to overpower the salsa)
  • ½ bunch cilantro, chopped coarse
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