Mexican is hands-down one of our favorite cuisines: The fresh, spicy, and hearty flavors always keep us coming back for more. You’re lying if you don’t often dream of devouring a never-ending bowl of guac. Lucky for us, it’s super easy to cook all kinds of Mexican food at home. All you need to do is stock your pantry with a few of the essentials so you’re ready to heat up the cast iron any time of day (or night). Whether you’re craving fish, tacos, or rice and beans, you can whip up authentic Mexican food…right now.
Here's What You'll Need
These beauties are a must-have, as they’re featured in practically every Mexican dish you’ve ever had. With tons to choose from, the most common chile peppers include jalapeño, poblano, habanero, guajillo, and chipotle. While each has a distinct flavor (hot, smoky, sweet, etc.) they should be added to each dish sparingly—taste as you go so you know if you can handle more heat.
A definite Mexican staple, cilantro is an herb with fresh, citrus-like flavors. If you’re a fan, make sure to keep a fresh bunch on hand. Some recipes will call for minced leaves, while others just use it as a garnish. Side note: We know cilantro can be a polarizing flavor (and actually tastes like soap to some), so don’t worry if you want to skip this one.
A true star, avocado adds that can’t-resist-ya creamy element to many Mexican dishes. Mild in nature, avocados are both nutty and buttery, depending on ripeness. Texture plays a major role here too, as it can change a dish depending on how it’s prepped (smashed, sliced, cubed, etc.). Other than guac, we love adding avo to our tacos, using it as a base for salad dressing, and for making a spicy crema to slather on everything.
If you have oregano in your pantry already, its most likely of the Mediterranean variety. We recommend picking up some Mexican oregano, which has a more complex flavor profile while being milder in nature. Its citrus undertones amp up the rich and spicy flavors commonly found in your favorite Mexican meals.
Finally, it’s time for cheese. Cotija is a hard cow’s milk cheese named after the Mexican city of Cotija, Michoacán. With a mild and salty flavor, cotija can (and should) be added to any dish. Crumble it over tacos or refried beans and you’ll be forever pleased.
Not only is lime essential for margaritas, but it’s an absolute staple in any Mexican kitchen. A fruit with naturally high acidity and sour notes, lime juice is known to bring Mexican flavors up a notch—whether squeezing over tacos, seafood, soup, or even salad dressing. And, it cuts spice when necessary.
Dried beans are a super important part of Mexican cuisine—they’re usually served with every meal.They provide a hit of protein and pair with basically everything. Some favs include pinto (which are used to make refried beans) and black beans. The latter are used more often, whether on their own as a side, or incorporated into popular dishes like burritos.
This summer staple is a perfect addition to sides, salads, and salsas galore. And, if you haven’t tried Mexican street corn, you are missing out. Think corn on the cob, but smothered in a glorious mixture of mayo, cilantro, lime juice, and chile.
This strong, aromatic spice is definitely a staple, especially when tacos are in the picture. Whether you pick up a bottle of cumin seeds, or prefer it already ground, cumin is known to be warm and earthy. It plays very well with other seasonings, especially chile and oregano.
Last but not least: the tortilla. Tortillas keep everything together, whether fajitas, burritos, or tacos. You have your choice of corn or flour, but ultimately, it’s up to you. We love warming up tortillas in the oven before eating them—not only will they be more flexible, but they taste even better all toasty.
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