In Memory Of Karen Nicole Smith, 1972 - 2016

Shado Beni explained.

caribbean-hot-sauceShadow beni is a leafy herb native to the West Indies and Central America. It is widely used in the cuisine of these regions, and it also appears in Asian foods. This herb can sometimes be difficult to obtain outside these regions; sometimes specialty stores will stock it frozen or in cans. If shadow beni is not available, cilantro can be used as a replacement.

This herb has a multitude of alternate names, which adds to the confusion for many cooks. Formally, shadow beni is known as Eryngium foetidum, but it is also known by bhandhanya, fitweed, long coriander, false cilantro, culantro, recao, shado beni, sawtooth, spiritweed, ngo gai, ketumbar java, Mexican coriander, donnia, and spiritweed, among many other names. This profusion of alternate titles is especially frustrating for cooks who try to work with ethnic recipes, as many people are unaware of alternate names for the herb.

As the name “culantro” suggests, shadow beni tastes very much like cilantro, with a somewhat stronger and more lingering flavor. This flavor is often utilized in marinades and sauces, and the herb is also used as a garnish and to dress various foods. The distinctive pungency is especially popular in Trinidad, where shadow beni is used in traditional salsas and dressings, along with hot sauces.

As is the case with cilantro, shadow beni is not to everyone’s taste. The flavor tastes strange to some people, while others find it very enjoyable. As the scientific name indicates, shadow beni can taste almost fetid at times, especially when paired with poor choices of seasoning and spices. However, the flavor is also quite unique, and some foods simply wouldn’t taste the same without shadow beni or cilantro, as people who have attempted to omit these herbs have noticed.

In the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, shadow benny is often readily available at produce markets, because it is a commonly used ingredient. Outside of these areas, the herb can be challenging to find, as it is a bit obscure. In regions with an ethnic community, shadow benny can sometimes be obtained at regional grocers, or especially larger markets which cater to the minority community. People can also grow shadow benny at home from seeds or starts; its growth habit is much like that of cilantro, so care is advised in especially warm climates, where the herb may bolt to seed.
Side Note: Seems shado beni isalso spelled as “shadow Benny”,  “Shado Benny” and “Shado Benni”

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  1. Luc-René Tabare
    July 30, 2023 / 7:48 am

    I just wanted to tell you that this T&T name is a corruption of the french patois “Chardon béni”, coming from our Martinique créole. This world is also used in St.Lucian créole.
    “Chardon” means thistle in french, and “béni” means “holy”. Chardon is a reference to the prickly bracts of Erygium, similar to thistle.
    In French Guyana, the plant is called “razyé lafièvre”, we means “fever weed” (weed against fevers). In haitian créole, they say “coulante”. In Brazil they say “coentro de caboclo”, which means “cilantro of the mulatos”
    The official name for Erygium foetidum in French is “Panicaut fétide”, but chardon béni is so poetic!

  2. MixPrere
    May 10, 2020 / 4:02 am

    Thank you very much for the invitation :). Best wishes.
    PS: How are you?

  3. Mahadeo Bisnath
    November 3, 2018 / 4:06 pm

    I was born in Trinidad but lived all my life in England. This herb was just a weed to us at the time. No one knew what it was, far less using it for cooking. This Bandhanya is used in every foods now, especially curries and sauces.
    I spend a few months every year in Cambodia, and they have been eating this for centuries. They call it Gee-Anna in Khmer language.

  4. February 24, 2018 / 5:01 am

    I live in Montserrat and it is known as Ram Goat Bush, used to make bush tea or a herbal morning drink and also one of the ingredients in making bush rum. will be offered on my website soon.

    • Jason... Joseph
      October 27, 2021 / 4:13 pm

      WOW goat’s milk 🍪

  5. Janelle Chandler
    August 4, 2014 / 7:35 pm

    This is amazing!

  6. John Jay
    May 4, 2014 / 3:22 pm

    Shado Beni is a transformation of “Chardon Béni” french words saying “blessed weed/herb” because it grows everywhere in subtropical or warm/humid places and was used for medicinal purposes.
    It is now easier to find them in North America than a couple decades ago.

    • George A Soltysik
      July 28, 2023 / 10:05 am

      I think you are right about the French origin of the name.

  7. Henry
    April 24, 2014 / 9:55 am

    After searching all over at various stores and grocery stores in my area here in the US I was able to find Shadow Benny or Culantro at a Compare Foods Supermarket. They also had quite a bit of the fresh herb on display in the Veggie section. As far as I can tell Compare Foods here is ethnic big chain grocery store it seems that cater to the Latino population. Which also made it easier to find stuff used in the Caribbean as well.

    Growing up on St.Kitts I could not recall the name Shadow Benny for the life of me hearing Chris talking about it and wondered why I never heard it. Like many the islands maybe we called it by another local name maybe… maybe. When I found the herb in Compare Foods Supermarket it was not listed on display as Shadow Benny nor Culantro. But on my Receipt it was listed as Culantro. The leaves had a bit of a prickly edge which was how I noticed it seeing it next to all the other herbs. When I smelled the herb in an instant I knew I’d smelled this herb before when I was a kid in St.Kitts. It used to grow all over the place and in our neighbors yard like a wild bush. My Grandmother who is now 85+ when I was a kid when we had certain ailments would send us kids to pick some the leaves and make some kind of tea concoction to make us well. Guess it has some medicinal properties. But just one smell of the pungent herb and knew I’d encounter it before but never knew what the name of plant was. But now I do know where to get it though.

    • Fay
      May 16, 2016 / 1:18 pm

      In St Kitts we call it fitzweed or fitzweed

    • Natasha
      July 28, 2021 / 9:21 am

      In St Kitts its valled Fit bush….they use it to make teas

  8. James
    March 14, 2013 / 1:18 pm

    In Ottawa you can pick it up a Chinese greengrocer. I often take it all though as I make green sauce for just about all my friends who are now I think addicted to it..they have it with everything just like ketchup.

    • John Collens
      May 24, 2013 / 5:17 pm

      What do they call it in the chinese greengrocer? I have been trying to find it in Vancouver. Thanks, John

      • Guest
        June 2, 2013 / 1:38 pm

        I found it last week at the 88 Supermarket in Van…4801 Victoria Drive. It's known as ngo gai in Vietnamese stores. I was told T&T carries it at times but I never found it there.

    • chris
      January 3, 2014 / 1:17 pm

      any chance you’d share the recipe for your ‘green sauce’?

  9. trinishanti
    February 3, 2013 / 4:06 pm

    i live in the caribbean island of Antigua,but originally frm trinidad,i love shado beni it taste very good in my meat dishes,i just love it..

  10. Trini Girl
    January 6, 2013 / 9:56 am

    Hi Chris, I really enjoy all your information, your recipes just remind me of my roots,Trini to de Bone

  11. Maria
    February 28, 2012 / 8:22 pm

    This herb is called "sneki wiwiri (snake weed) in Suriname. It is used for preparing homeopathic medicins. Surinamese people do not eat it. I know that in Brazil and French Guyana it is used in fish dishes. I also do.

  12. ilovemnm
    July 24, 2011 / 1:47 am

    HELP! How much shado beni should I use when making the green season paste?

  13. jema
    July 10, 2011 / 8:23 am

    When we got sick we used to boil it and drink the water as a tea when I was a child back home in Trinidad! To this day I can’t stand the smell or the tatse of it! Maybe that’s why I hate cilantro so much too!!

  14. kitty
    May 19, 2011 / 9:16 pm

    Chris: first off, I really like this website. A big thanks! I found it while trying to find a recipe for pickled christophenes. still unsuccessful on that, so if anyone knows a recipe for pickled christophenes I'd love it. I had them in St. Vincent.

    I'm always trying to cook all sorts of Caribbean dishes since I live in Miami. I'm trying to figure out what "shado beni" is called here since I've never heard that term here – I think its culantro, is that correct? Its got spines on the sides of the leaves? and taste kind of similar to cilantro but stronger? I ask because the picture is not what I have growing as culantro.
    If your shado beni is the same as culantro, then "Recaito" is the same as your Green Seasoning according to my Puerto Rico cook friends. Recaito is used mainly in Puerto Rican dishes from what I gather. I guess everyone and every region has their own version. Recaito is made with culantro, cilantro, garlic, onion, and cubanelle pepper. The trouble is is trying to follow these recipes is that everyone has a different name for everything!

    • sjw5404
      May 9, 2012 / 2:08 pm

      Hi Kitty I live in NY and watched a spanish cooking show where they made suffrito. One of the ingrediants was culantro which I found out is also called "shado beni" which is available in most produce markets. I agree with you

    • Mike
      September 26, 2015 / 9:39 pm

      The cubanelle peppers your friends use are really a substitute for the preferred pepper “aji dulce” (aka ajicito), which has gotten very hard to find over the past few years, even in areas with a lot of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans (like New York, among other places.)

      Ajices dulces look almost exactly like Scotch Bonnets – they’re just a little bit “flatter” – but they aren’t spicy at all. (Well, sometimes you come across one with a little heat, but they’re the exception.) Generally, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans used them green, before they ripen and turn orange/red/yellow, but a couple of ripe ones in the mix won’t hurt anything. The flavor is not entirely dissimilar to cubanelles, but it is unique, so they’re definitely worth looking for. These days, they can be expensive (though I don’t know why they became so scarce all of the sudden), but if they’re aren’t prohibitively priced, I think they’d be worth trying at least once.

      Also, they’re semi-distant cousins of Trinidadian “pimentos” or “seasoning peppers”, though they’re not as aromatic, so if you come across a batch of those in their unripe state, you might give them a try as well.

  15. Chi
    January 4, 2011 / 2:32 pm

    Got da mangos got de garlic BUT where could i get de SHADO BENI inda uk ! Help …………

  16. Becky
    December 13, 2010 / 7:15 pm

    I am so excited that I at last found recao…what culantro is called in St. Croix. I live in Costa Rica now and my Tico husband thought I was crazy calling culantro recao. I was trying to explain this green sauce that we used and NOW I have the recipe for that as well…many thanks to you. I will be making my Caribbean green seasoning this week using culantro (which is used in everything here).

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