So, what is this green sauce that we call a Haitian Epis? Haitian Epis is a traditional paste or seasoning that is the base for most savory dishes in Haitian cuisine. This Epis is the backbone of Creole and Haitian cooking.
Haitian cuisine, also known as Haitian Creole cuisine, originated during the colonial times where West African and French, Spanish and some Arabic people were brought together. Creole cuisine itself is composed of bold spicy flavors mainly influenced from the African people.
When we speak about the bold and spicy flavors that are a must in Creole cuisine, we are specifically referring to seasonings that marry well together and are used to bring out all the flavors in a dish to make them bold. Some of these ingredients include allspice, cayenne pepper, scotch bonnet peppers, bay leaves, mustard seeds, peppercorns, and nutmeg.
You can have more of a read about how the Creole cuisine here.
A Quick and Easy Marinade
Haitian Epis is a quick and easy marinade that can be made in advance. Prep time can be between 10-15 minutes depending on how big of a batch you’re making. Making a big batch over the weekend is ideal too, as the Epis can be used throughout the course of the week to use on meats, in soups, stews or as a cooked dip. You can also choose to make your Epis ahead of time and store it in the freezer.
The Ingredients for Haitian Epis
Haitian Epis is made from a blend of fresh herbs, onions, garlic, and peppers (both sweet and spicy peppers)—the exact ingredients and quantities will differ from person to person. This marinade is very similar to the traditional Caribbean green seasoning as well as Dominican sofrito.
Haitian Epis is traditionally made in a mortar and pestle—all the ingredients are crushed until they have formed a thick paste. However, today many opt for the fast and modernized route of placing the ingredients into a food processor and blending.
How to Use Haitian Epis
The sauce is used to marinade meats or used as a base in vegetable dishes. A couple spoonfuls of epis will always be required in traditional dishes like Poul Nan Sos (Haitian stew chicken), Griyo (also known as Griot, fried pork shoulder) and plant-based soups and stews like Sos Pwa Nwa (Haitian black bean soup).
Once cooked, Haitian Epis gives grilled and stewed dishes an added sweet but spicy flavor. The Epis is not only great for the grill season but can be incorporated in everyday weeknight cooking too. You can cook it down and use it as a side dip with roasted potatoes or plantains. Feel free to use it like a pesto, also, cooked down then added to some pasta and a choice of your protein.
Tips and Tricks for Making Haitian Epis
- When making the epis you will want to either use a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Avoid using a blender or any type of gadget that will turn the sauce into smoothie consistency. You want your Epis to have some texture to it.
- To achieve a consistent texture, make sure you chop all of the ingredients to small or medium pieces before placing in the food processor.
- When you start blending the ingredients, avoid adding any water to it (which you may feel tempted to do if the food processor looks like it's struggling a little. If the food processor you are using is not very powerful then it will be best to add the ingredients in smaller batches and blend it that way. The reason to not add any water is because majority of the ingredients have a high-water content, and this will affect the recipes you will use the epis in.
Haitian Epis Swaps and Substitutions
Not all Haitian Epis recipes include leeks, however I find that adding a leek into my Epis recipe gives it additional sweetness that I personally like when using it to marinade grilled meats. You can use additional leeks in the recipe if you are having a hard time getting ahold of scallions.
A traditional Epis calls for the use of a scotch bonnet peppers. Scotch bonnet peppers are small fiery chili peppers that is popular in African and Caribbean cuisine. They are closely related to habanero peppers. Scotch bonnets are primary used in epis, but they can be hard to get hold of. If you can’t find them, you can easily substitute them with habanero, bird's eye chilies, or powdered cayenne pepper.
Alternatively, if you have a low tolerance for chilis, you can use half the scotch bonnet peppers, which is what I used, or you can even use a quarter. Mild red or green chili peppers, a teaspoon of chili flakes or black peppercorns can be adapted to this recipe to make it a little more mild.
How to Store Haitian Epis
Haitian Epis can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days, when storing it this way its best the Epis is kept in an airtight container. Feel free to store these in glass mason jars or plastic containers.
If you’re making a bigger batch and don't intend to use it all at once, this marinade can also be frozen and will last for up to 3 months. The best way to freeze this is to add 2 teaspoons in ice cube trays and that way you can take it out as you need without having to defrost a whole batch of Epis.
More Sauce and Marinade Recipes
There is no salt in this epis recipe, so be sure to season the dishes you use this in accordingly.
- 1 cup fresh parsley (leaves and tender stems), roughly chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 2 small scotch bonnet peppers, diced
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 1 small leek, root end removed and thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup of olive oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 lime, juiced
- 10-15 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
Place ingredients in food processor:
Place the parsley, bell peppers, scotch bonnets, scallions, onion, celery, leek, and garlic into the food processor, followed by the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lime juice, and thyme.
Pulse ingredients in food processor:
Pulse until all the ingredients have broken down and it has begun forming a loose textured paste, about 30 seconds.
Store Haitian Epis:
Pour the epis into a mason jar and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Alternatively, you can portion the epis into an ice cube tray and freeze for later use.
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