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The Flavors of Mexico

The Most Commonly Used Spices


Cumin seeds
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Onions and Garlic

Let's start with the most common flavors you may find in Mexican food. First there is garlic. It comes fresh, in a jar or in powdered form and is used in many recipes. Salsa, taco seasoning and Spanish rice are just a few recipes that use garlic.

Next is onion which usually comes fresh or powdered. It is commonly used in conjunction with garlic.


Other common flavors are oregano, cumin and chili powder. Mexican oregano gives their dishes a rich earthy flavor. There are other types of oregano such as Mediterranean. You are probably familiar with this version used in Italian cuisine. Oregano pairs well with tomato based dishes and lends an interesting flavor to other recipes.

Cumin has been around since the beginning of history. It's origin lies somewhere in the Mediterranean but has expanded in popularity because it is easily grown all over the world. It has a toasty yet somewhat bitter taste and gives Mexican dishes a certain flavor that can't be replaced.

Chile Powder

Chile powder is actually a blend of dried, powdered chiles, cumin and oregano. Other spices are sometimes included in the mix, but those are the key ingredients. It is used primarily for seasoning meats and vegetables but has other uses as well.

Ancho chile powder is another wonderful Mexican flavor. It is almost sweet and has rich dried fruit flavors.

Another chile powder commonly used and gaining popularity outside of Mexico is Chipotle. Actually it a just a jalapeno that has been dried and smoked. Chipotle has a distinctive flavor that goes well in many sauces and salsas. It is also the primary flavor in Adobo, a marinade.

Unusual Flavors

Epazote is one of the lesser known spices. It is used to flavor beans and is supposed to calm any intestinal discomfort beans may cause. It also goes by "Mexican tea." It is very pungent and should be used sparingly as it is poisonous in large quantities.

Cinnamon, cloves and anise are also used to add unique dimensions of flavor to Mexican dishes.

Cocoa is used in several dishes to add a very rich warm flavor. Spices combined with small amounts of cocoa and peanut butter are used to make Mole, a thick sauce often served over chicken. Raisins can also be used to flavor certain dishes.

Try using a combination of these different flavors to season your meats and vegetables!

*If you would like to learn how to cook Mexican cuisine, sign up for the E-course- Beginners Guide to Cooking Mexican Cuisine and find out about the history of Mexican food as well as learning to cook some authentic recipes. This 6-day course is delivered directly to your e-mail inbox.

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