Chipilin/Longbeak Rattlebox/Crotalaria longirostrata

Chipilín is native to El Salvador and is a staple in the Salvadoran diet and popular among Guatemalans and people from southern Mexico. This green leafy vegetable is not cultivated on an agricultural scale; it’s something you might find at farmers’ markets. Chemical analyses show that the foliage is rich in calcium and iron. We must be careful of the seeds and roots since they are undeniably toxic. Introduced populations of this perennial legume exist on the island of Maui in Hawaii. In Australia importation has been banned because it is an invasive plant that disrupt and take over natural habitats. Other common names of plants that fall under this genus are longbeak rattlebox and chipilin. The name rattlebox comes from the fact that as the heart-shaped seeds mature, these seeds detach, become loose in the pod, and produce a rattling sound when shaken. Derived from the Greek word crotalus, the name of the genus also means castanet.

The chipilín (Crotalaria longirostrata) is a tropical legume domesticated since pre-Hispanic times maintaining the anthropocentric characteristics reported for other plants of the country. It covers a wide range of uses such as: food and refreshing drink for humans, cover crop or green manure (by fixing atmospheric nitrogen), improvement of fallows, paper elaboration, medicinal plant and melliferous species. An alternate possibility for its use would be as forage for animal feeding, as has been reported in Mexico and other countries. Notwithstanding that Crotalaria longirostrata is considered at world level as one of the 16 most important species of edible leaf, literature reports on it’s chemical composition and/or its nutritional value in Mexico are scarce. The present study describes the nutritional value of the plant evaluated by means of its chemical composition and in vitro digestibility.

Anyhow, Chipilin leaves can be boiled much like Pak Choy or Spinach. But much more common is the incorporation of finely chopped leaves into tamales, pupusas, soups, or sauces. You can used it in sautéed, or dried for seasoning. My Grandma would only use it for chipilin rice soup twice a week, (a good source of iron and calcium for her grandchildren) this soup is traditionally made with chicken or pork with rice, carrots, chayote, potatoes , green beans and aromatic spices that required a long, gentle simmering. As for me, my favorite was cream of corn with these edible flowers. This vegetable is hard to find here in the USA. Though, frozen products are an alternative for creating Central American dishes.

Chipilin Soup with Masa Dough balls

1 bag of frozen chipilin
1 cup of instant masa harina (corn flour used to make tortillas and tamales)
1 cup of vegetables of your choice
¼ of an onion
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Start by creating your soup base – boil your clean vegetables in water until they are tender. The chipilin is very flavorful, so I recommend not using something too strong that will compete with the flavor of the chipilin. Here I’m just using carrots, onion, garic, celery and chayote. I didn’t even bother to chop the vegetables; I just boiled them for about ten minutes until they were tender. Remove the vegetables and save them for later. Soak half a bag of the frozen chipilin it in a large bowl of water. The chipilin is very strong so you don’t need a lot. After a few minutes start separating the thawed leaves and move to a different container, leaving grit, dirt and the tough dry grass-like stems behind. You should end up with just the clean tender green leaves, discard everything else.

Create the dumplings by combining half a cup of the warm broth and one cup of masa harina. Mix until the flour becomes crumbly, add a little bit of olive oil and start kneading by hand. Incorporate the thawed chipilin leaves, adding more liquid as necessary.With wet hands form several bite size balls (about the size of a ping-pong ball) and set aside.
Bring your broth to a soft rolling boil. Add your “bolitas” one by one, until all of them are completely covered in broth. Cook them gently until they start floating (about 8 to 10 minutes). Chop the cooked vegetables and add them back to the soup. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.

Chipilin Leaf Tamales


2 Kg fresh Corn dough
10 gr. Chipilin leaves
100 gr. white Onion
50 gr. bell Pepper
400 gr. pork Lard (optional)
Shredded Chicken (optional)
1 lt. water 4
4 banana Leaves


In a blender, mix the corn dough with the water and strain to remove lumps. In a frying pan, sauté the onion, the bell pepper and the chicken, add the dough and the chipilin leaves, season and let cook for 25min at low heat. Cut the banana leaves in 25cm squares to make the tamales, stuffing each square with approximately 150 gr. of dough.
Once all the tamales are made, put them in a steamer for 1hr and 30 min.The tamales can be served with hot tomato sauce.

About zoom50

“It’s amazing how people can get so excited about a rocket to the moon and not give a damn about smog, oil leaks, the devastation of the environment with pesticides, hunger, disease”
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4 Responses to Chipilin/Longbeak Rattlebox/Crotalaria longirostrata

  1. zoom50 says:

    Hello there,
    Thank you for coming to my blog. I’m so glad you “found” me! And even happier that I found you! I look forward to learning a lot in your blog. I’ll be back to visit.

    Thanks for the suggestion. I will add the rss subscription service as soon as I have a chance.
    Have a good weekend.

  2. Maria del Pilar Yamada says:

    You have this plant o seed for sale?

  3. Anonymous says:

    quisiera saber si tienen información acerca de las diversas especies del Chipilin muchas gracias.

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