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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26 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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

    This is amazing!

  4. 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.

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