The herbs and spices of Mexico are more extensive than just common taco seasoning. Get creative on your next culinary adventure by learning a little more about the herbs, spices and spice mixes of our brothers “South of the Border”. While this popular cuisine can be dragon-fire breathing hot stuff (usually on the Tex-Mex side), the majority of Mexican cooking has a depth of flavor that just tickles the taste buds with an intense flavor.
These herb/spice blend recipes specifically employ the ingredients of Mexico. You can use.replacements such as common oregano or cinnamon, but be aware the flavor profiles will not be the same. So if you are looking for AUTHENTIC flavor I urge you to go the extra mile and source your seasonings from those botanical varieties specific to Mexico. You may find a new friend in these herbs/spices you will use on a regular basis in your cooking!
Chili Powder Blend
Many people assume chili powder is just ground chilies, but it’s actually a blend of dried, powdered chilies, cumin, oregano, and other herbs/spices specific to the region. Chili Powder Blend is frequently used as seasoning for meats and vegetables and has a mild to medium spiciness. The first recipe listed shows you how to make your own which means you can bump up the volume of heat as much as you like!
Ancho Chili Powder
Ancho chili powder is different than regular red pepper which is usually made from cayenne pepper. It’s sweet and rich with a dried fruit flavor. It usually consists of poblano peppers that are smoked and dried.
The taste profile, the aroma and color of Mexican (or Ceylon Cinnamon) is very different and substituting Cassia Cinnamon for Mexican cinnamon will give you very different results. Mexican Cinnamon is soft and fragile and not hard and brittle like Cassia Cinnamon. Mexican Cinnamon is very fragrant and the only cinnamon that should be used if you are going for a traditional Mexican recipe.
Mexican oregano is a relative of lemon verbena. Native to Mexico, it also grows in Central and South America and is sometimes referred to as Puerto Rican oregano. Although this herb shares the basic pungent flavor of Mediterranean oregano, it also has notes of citrus and mild licorice. Used fresh or dry, Mexican oregano pairs well with chile peppers, cumin, and paprika. Add it to Latin American dishes, Tex-Mex chili, and salsa.
This dried seed, which is sometimes ground, has a warm, smoky flavor and is slightly bitter. It pairs well with almost any meat and a variety of heartier vegetables and legumes.
When referencing this herb/spice in Mexican cooking, the leaves (herb) are known as cilantro while the seeds (spice) are called coriander. It is frequently found in salsas, moles, cheeses, broth-based soups, rice and beans. The seed is sweet, spicy and a bit lemony while the leaves have a more distinct taste, kind of citrus-peppery-spicy flavor, maybe in the same rough neighborhood as lemongrass.
Some folks have cilantro allergy. If you are one of these people, neither the leaves nor the seeds should be eaten. If you suffer from this dread disease or you have a genetic quirk where it tastes soapy, you can use substitutes. Flat leaf (Italian) parsley would be the obvious choice, but it could add more bitterness than you might want for your recipe. You could tone that down with just a touch of honey. Don’t use a lot of honey–start with a half teaspoon or so. Alternatively, you could use just a little parsley and add in Mexican oregano. If you are preparing a dish with dried coriander, cumin is a great substitution as it provides a similar warm, spicy flavor.
Chipotle isn’t a variety of pepper, but rather dried, smoked jalapeños. It has a distinctive flavor that complements many foods like sauces, salsas, and marinades. Chipotle can usually be found dried or preserved in an adobo sauce (a smoky chili-based sauce made with tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices).
To print out this one-page Mexican Spice Blends InfoGraphic for your own use, click here. I have provided both imperial and metric measurements. To my Aussie friends, you may use the same measurements as it equals out in your system also.
UPDATE: For those who requested this InfoGraphic on plain white background, here is the printable: Mexican Spice Blends InfoGraphic-White Background.
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