Mexican Spices

Mexican Spices and Herbs

Why are spices so unique and loved in Mexico? Herbs and spices are essential to every day foods because dishes would be dull and bland without spices. In Mexican cuisine it is precisely its herbs and spices that make the meals special, and stand out above all others, otherwise without them, dishes would be boring and ordinary. Spanish conquistadors where the first to introduce herbs and spices in Mexico when they first arrived in the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan which is now Mexico City. The Spaniards discovered that the Aztec’s diet consisted mainly of dishes that were made with corn, chiles and herbs as well as tomatoes, nopales and beans. Other foods found in their diet were tomatillos, avocado, mamey, vanilla, chocolate, jicama, pineapple, squash, sapote, guava, peanuts, huitlacoche, sweet potato, turkey and fish. When the conquistadors invaded Mexico they not only brought horses, cattle, sheep, goats, chickens and pigs, but they also introduced new fruits, barley, wheat, rice, almonds, wine, olive oil, as well as parsley, oregano, coriander, black pepper and other spices. The indigenous cuisine was then enhanced by the fusion of Mexican and Spanish cuisine giving birth to all the delicious dishes we savor today.

Use of Spices in the Mexican Cuisine

Mexican dishes get their flavors and aromas that are highly treasured in Mexican cuisine, from the herbs and spices that they are made with. Mexican cuisine is known for its unique flavors, indigenous herbs and spices, as well as colorful decorations. Mexican dishes are prepared with sufficient amount of herbs and spices, which include seeds and leaves of aromatic plants. Almost all Mexican dishes contain spices such as garlic and garlic powder that can be found anywhere, but there are other spices that are more rare. Epazote is one of those rare spices, used to give flavor to foods like beans.Chile powder is an essential and inseparable seasoning in Mexican cuisine used in a variety of dishes and recipes like meat, poultry, stews, vegetable dishes and salsas. Chili powder is a mixture of dried and ground chiles along with other spices that are sometimes added. There a various types of chile powders, which give a different flavor to dishes and are used in various recipes. Other chile powders include Chipotle and Ancho chili, as well as the popular green chili powder or pasilla chili powder. Chili powders sold in stores are made with spices like garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, and coriander. Other common spices used in Mexican dishes, besides chili powder include oregano and cumin; oregano goes well with foods that have tomatoes because of its rich earthy flavor, while cumin with its toasty, somewhat bitter taste gives Mexican dishes a unique, irreplaceable flavor. Cinnamon, anise and cloves also add incredible and unsurpassable flavors to Mexican dishes. Cocoa is another key ingredient in Mexican cuisine because it adds a rich warm flavor to numerous dishes. The thick sauce served over chicken or turkey known as Mole, is made with a mixture of chiles and spices combined with small amounts of cocoa to give it its rich brown color and flavor.