What’s Mexican cooking? Yes, you answered it right. It is also about spicing up the recipes with mixed flavors. There are major spices that when added to Mexican recipes make a complete dish. These are:
- Baharat (a sweet, resinous and warm herb)
- Za’atar (dried red berries of the Staghorn Sumac)
- Harissa (dried chilly, soaked with olive oil)
- Quatre Epices (cinnamon and allspices also called garam masala)
- Berbere (tempered dried chilies)
- Ras El Hamout
6 Best Herbs For Mexican Cooking
- The following Are The 6 Herbs That Could Be Added To The Mexican Cooking:
- Other Spices to Consider
- The 5 essential herbs in Mexican cuisine
- 4 Mexican flowers you should include in your diet
- More Than Mere Cilantro, a Guide to Mexican Herbs
- Mexican Spices, Dried Chiles & Herbs Category Products at MexGrocer.com
- 1. Cumin
- 2. Garlic Powder
- 3. Cinnamon
- 4. Mexican Oregano
- 5. Onion Power
- 6. Coriander (or Cilantro)
- 7. Chili Powder
- 8. Paprika
- 9. Black Pepper
- 10. Cloves
- 5 Mexican Herbs For A Flavor-Full Life!
- Mexican Herbs: A Kick Of Flavor Your Family Will Love
- So, What Is This Article Going To Cover?
- Emulate Traditional Hispanic Cuisine With The Mexican Herbs
- ForeignHerbs and Spices– in the Mexican Cuisine –
- Bay Leaf
- Cauliflower Leaf
- Fig Leaf
- Grape Leaf
- Medlar Leaf
- Orange Leaf
- Mexican Chiles and Chile Powder
The following Are The 6 Herbs That Could Be Added To The Mexican Cooking:
Cilantro has a double personality. During its early vegetative state, it is known as Cilantro, and its leaves are used for seasoning the Mexican dishes.
But when grown up, its seeds assume the name of ‘coriander.’ These seeds are ground to be used in pickles, curries, stews and soups. It has a distinct cooling and refreshing taste.
It is a freshgreen spice and is grown in kitchen gardens. Since it resembles parsley, it is also known as Chinese parsley. It is an annual plant. It is a must-to-be-added herb in any Mexican Cooking. It can be dried and frozen for longer use
Oregano is a flowering plant, belonging to the mint family, Lamiaceae. It is a perennial herb that grows from 20 to 80 cm.
The leaves are one to 4cm long and are opposite. The flowers are 3 to 4 mm and purple in color.
It is also called Wild Marjoram. It is an important medicinal and culinary herb, which has been in use for more than thousand years.
It’s unique, pleasant smell comes from the combined contents of chemicals like:
It possesses anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties. But the Mexican oregano required for therecipe is a small shrub, which is in fact pseudo-oregano.
Thymes are Mediterranean plants. They are woody perennials, semi-green or evergreen. They are anupright small shrub, are low-growing and grow in creeping forms. There is a total of 400 varieties of thymes.
The culinary thyme, known as Thymus Vulgaris is common thyme. So, what doesthyme look like? Most of them look similar.
The active ingredient Thymol, the essential oil gives the flavor. The citrus comes due to the Neral and Geranial.
The best varieties of culinary thyme are narrow-leaf French, Lemon Thyme, Broadleaf English and e-of thyme. When frozen, thymegives pronounced flavor to the Mexican cooking.
Use the sprigs of fresh thyme while roasting meats and poultry. Six average sprigs yield about a tablespoon of leaves. You can even just chop the leaves and add to the whole recipe.
If you crush the leaves lightly, volatile flavored oils will be released. You can keep the fresh thymein therefrigerator for about a week.
You can use Thyme in the Mexican recipes such as Beef Post Roast, Sautee Asparagus with Lemon and Thyme, Chicken Breast Marengo, Broccoli Mash, Classic Ratatouille Recipe.
It is a cooling leafy herb and flavors perfectly in salsa or other richly-flavored dishes. It is often used to garnish or decorate your served plates and adds freshness.
It is added at the end of the cooking. It is, however, a little bitter. The plants can be grown in full or partial shade. Parsley may be either flat-leaf (Italian) or curly (Moss)
Mint has the botanical name Mentha: Peppermint or Piperita. These herbal plants are hardy perennial and grow quickly and densely and may sometimes become a nuisance.
You can grow the plant it in a confined space such as a container or even between the paved areas. The branches grow upward.
There are five kinds of mint leaves; namely:
- Apple mint
- Ginger mint
- Orange mint
These can be used in Mexican cooking of desserts, meats, and salads.
Majorana has gray-green leaves and is sometimes confused with Oregano. In fact, all Majorana are oreganos, but all oregano is not majoranas.
Oregano is the genus, and sweet marjoram or Origanum majorana is the one variety of over 50 types of Oregano.
Sweet Marjoram tastes minty and citrus, with a pinch of spice. The leaves are added at the end of the cooking as otherwise, it loses its delicate flavor. It can be added in dressings, salads, eggs and mushroom sauces.
In Mexican cooking, it can be best utilized for thick vegetable soups, fish, beef, chicken, pasta, game, meat loaf, and sausages. It also flavors bean, beet and tomato dishes.
Other Spices to Consider
Herb to spice up beans such as Rajas Chilies assumes a special mention in Mexican cooking. Besides all the herbal ingredients used in Mexican cooking, the one that needs worth mentioning is rajas chilies.
These are popularly known as “Bhut Jolokia” and are the unparalleled and hottest chili in the world.
It contains 1,001,304 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). To make it heat free, it has to be diluted1 million times. The ordinary green chili that most Indians use has 15,000 to 40,000 SHU.
With the addition of the Mexican, Cooking becomes tasty, decorative, mouth-watering, eye-teasing, medicinal, pure, and organic.
Aren’t all the above herbs interesting? Yes, you must try them in some manner or the other. You may use this to make a unique recipe of your own!
The 5 essential herbs in Mexican cuisine
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Mexican cuisine relays on the use of different herbs to create delicious and unique flavors. These are the 5 most used herbs in Mexican gastronomy:
Experts explain that the use of epazote provides a unique flavor to dishes such as beans, tortilla soup, and broths.
Eating epazote regularly is beneficial for the digestive system, as it has an antiparasitic effect, which consists of eliminating and expelling the parasites inside the organism. It also helps to stop diarrhea and laxative at the same time because it gets rid of any toxic residue in the intestine.
2. Avocado leaves
Although it is a leaf, it provides a delicious flavor. It can be used either fresh or dried.
In the center region of Mexico, the leaves are used in mixiotes and other meat dishes and in Oaxaca, it is used when cooking mole.
The avocado leaves are rich in calcium and potassium, which is beneficial for bones and the nervous system.
According to nutrition expert Fernanda Alvarado, quelites are quite versatile since they can be used in salads, side dishes, soups, and main dishes.
Quelites help to improve digestion and a healthy weight.
It is the key ingredient in many sauces, chicken soup, and beans.
According to experts from the University of Puebla, coriander can help in the treatment of diabetes type 2 and with the sides effects of medicines used to treat this illness.
Parsley is used in all kinds of broths, soups, and rice. It contains iron, it is rich in fiber, therefore, it is good for digestion.
4 Mexican flowers you should include in your diet
Most edible flowers in Mexico have natural properties that can be beneficial for your health
More Than Mere Cilantro, a Guide to Mexican Herbs
Pipicha can go by chepiche, pipitza, or papalo delgado. Lindeman
Gratefully, the days when it took diligent searching to find a sprightly bunch of cilantro in your local supermarket are gone. Fresh epazote for a pot of beans? No problem. As herbs like cilantro, culantro, and epazote inch their way into the American herb canon, there’s still a bounty of Mexican herbs to discover — many of which were used in Mesoamerican cooking millennium before the Spanish arrived, and thus retain their indigenous and fun-to-pronounce names. Here’s a guide to lesser-known fresh Mexican herbs available in NYC.
This distinctive herb is an essential ingredient in the heroically large Poblano sandwiches, cemitas. The sharp flavor of the papalo buzzes through the layers of cheeses and meats in the sandwich like a serrated knife. The name comes from papalotl, the Nahuatl word for “butterfly,” though the pretty scalloped leaves belie its pungent bite. It can also be chopped fine and added to guacamole.
The epazote plant has serrated, tapering leaves, similar to a dandelion greens. It’s a perennial that grows wild in many parts of Mexico and the United States, with a punchy resinous aroma as sharp as gasoline. It’s indispensable when cooking black beans and is also used to flavor quesadillas, mushroom dishes, and can also be made into a tea to ameliorate gastric distress, which is why it’s traditionally added to the bean pot.
Depending on the region you’re in and to whom you’re talking, pipicha goes by several names: chepiche, pipitza, or papalo delgado. There are a few varieties of this herbaceous plant, one of which looks like tarragon and the other like miniature papalo, both of which are used in corn and squash dishes, and sometimes eaten raw in salads. Its brassy, cilantro-like flavor is a vital addition to sopa de guias, a soup made with squash vines, flowers, and herbs.
Halachas or alaches goes by the Latin name Anoda cristata. It’s essentially a weed, with soft, spear-shaped leaves and small purple flowers, eaten regionally in Mexico. It can be sautéed, like most greens; it partners well with zucchini; and it’s cooked into a soup with mint, corn, and squash. It can also be brewed into a tea as a homeopathic cure-all.
“Quelites” can refer to any leafy green vegetable: mustard greens, rapini, amaranth, or even spinach, though the ones commonly sold as quelites in Mexican markets are often a variety of lamb’s quarters, a wild spinach of sorts. Sautéed with garlic or onion, the greens taste similar to spinach and are extremely high in vitamins and minerals. This bunch of wilting quelites, above, look like a variety of amaranth. Yerba buena, mint, a common Mexican herb, can be seen in the background.
These fetching bundles are the tall stalks of the lemongrass plant, used for making one of the most popular Mexican teas. It’s considered a digestive and is also used medicinally.
If you have a torrid love affair with Mexican food (and who doesn’t) you’re probably familiar with a couple herbs and seasonings commonly used in recipes. But, my friends, getting the right kick to your Mexican food goes way beyond chili powder, cayenne pepper and cumin.
You can really take things up a notch by broadening the spectrum of spices you use. Try incorporating some of these herbs and spices into your cooking.
More: Panuchos Are the Mexican Street Food That Turns the Taco Outside In
And here’s a huge tip: It’s best to grind your own spices as opposed to using the pre-ground ones that come in a jar according to Mexconnect. When you grind your own, the flavor is far superior and you can control the quantities you use better. Also, pre-ground spices tend to go stale way before you finish the bottle.
Commonly made from annatto seeds, coriander, oregano, cumin, cloves, garlic and more, achiote paste used in a variety of dishes, especially marinades.
The Food Network has an easy-to-follow recipe to make your own achiote paste here.
Frequently used to preserve chipotles, adobo sauce is a smoky chili-based sauce made with tomatoes, onions, garlic and other spices. It’s a tad on the hot side and may be used in place of chili powder in many dishes to provide an additional kick. It also makes for a great meat marinade.
Give Chowhound’s recipe a try.
Ancho chili powder
Ancho chili powder is different than regular chili powder. It’s sweet and rich with a bit of a fruit flavor.
The best part? You can make your own at home for dirt cheap.
With a flavor similar to licorice, anise is typically used in dessert cakes and especially cookies, according to Mexconnect.
It is also used in molés, and is sometimes given to help settle an upset stomach.
Many people assume chili powder is just ground chilies, but it’s actually a blend of dried, powdered chilies, cumin and oregano. It’s frequently used as seasoning for meats and vegetables and has a mild spiciness.
Contrary to popular belief, Chipotle isn’t just the name of a Mexican fast-food chain.
Chipotle is actually a dried jalapeño, and it has a distinctive smoked flavor that complements many sauces, salsas and marinades. You can get it dried or preserved in adobo sauce.
Fresh cilantro is used in a variety of Mexican dishes. Both the leaves and the seeds (coriander) are edible. You can add it in salsas, molés, cheeses, broth-based soups, rice and beans — pretty much anything you want to give a fresh zip to.
More: 19 Taco Meat Recipes That Will Make Taco Night Feel Brand-new Again
Clove (clavo de olor)
The clove is the dried flower bud of an evergreen tree native to Indonesia, according to Mexconnect. Cloves are similar to cinnamon, but have a slightly smokier flavor and more pungent aroma. It’s often used to add depth to sauces (like molé) and other dishes. Add a clove when making stock, and in baking.
Coriander (semilla de cilantro)
Coriander is actually the seed of the cilantro plant, and is sweet, spicy and a bit lemony. It’s what gives chorizo it’s super distinct flavor.
Use coriander any time you want to intensify other spices in the dish you are preparing.
We use cumin all the time and might not associate it with traditional Mexican dishes, but it’s actually used in the cuisine quite a bit, according to the Casa Blanca Mexican restaurant website. It has a bitter, somewhat toasty taste that stands apart from other spices, and is frequently used in taco seasonings.
Try using it with almost any meat, or heartier vegetables and legumes.
The heart-shaped leaves of hoja santa are used frequently in yellow molés, or as a wrapper or seasoning for meat, fish, mushrooms and tamales, according to rickbayless.com.
It’s got a strong and rather unexpected flavor (which has been described by various people as similar to mint, eucalyptus, peppercorn, allspice or anise) and should be used sparingly.
Cinnamon used in Mexican cuisine is referred to as “true cinammon,” and is similar in taste to what we know as cinnamon in the U.S. (which is actually cassia cinnamon).
Mexican cinnamon is often used in both sweet and savory dishes, according to Mexconnect.
When you think of oregano, you think Italian, right? But adding Mexican oregano to your dishes will add a fresh, earthy taste, according to the Casa Blanca Mexican restaurant. It’s often used to season tomato-based dishes. It’s stronger and more bitter than Mediterranean oregano, so be careful with the amounts you use.
Papalo is similar to cilantro, but much more bold and complex, according to underwoodgardens.com. It’s kinda considered to be an acquired taste, and packs more heat than cilantro, but it is often eaten raw with tacos, and in cemitas, guacamole and salads.
Romerito (also known as seepweed) looks a bit like rosemary, but it’s flavor profile is closer to spinach.
Romerito is always cooked and almost never eaten raw and is most often used in traditional holiday dishes, mixed with nopales (cactus), potatoes or molé sauce, according to specialtyproduce.com. You can also saute Romerito and add to savory cakes or rice and bean dishes.
More: Copycat Chipotle Sofritas Are So Easy to Make at Home
Before you go, check out our slideshow below:
Image: Brandi Bidot / SheKnows
Originally published May 2013. Updated February 2017.
Mexican Spices, Dried Chiles & Herbs Category Products at MexGrocer.com
Mexican Spices and Herbs at MexGrocer.com
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.
Herbs uses for food and remedies
Herbs were not only used to prepare food, they were also used by the Aztecs as home remedies and infusions, since there was no medicine back then. The use of herbs to treat illnesses has been past down generation to generation, even today teas made out of herbs are still used to cure simple ailments at home; however other serious illnesses should be treated by a doctor. Cinnamon, cumin, epazote, and even oregano can be taken as in infusions for ailments such as intestinal gas, common colds, headache, stomachache, arthritis, menstrual cramps, colic, indigestion, seasickness, coughs and many more. MexGrocer has a wide selection of whole dried chile peppers, ground chile peppers and spices, whole spices, and other spices as well as herbs and teas for you to choose from to make your teas at home and give your dishes an authentic Mexican flavor and aroma. Corona Real, El Guapo and Mexichef are some of the brands you’ll find at MexGrocer.com that offer a wide selection and quality of herbs and spices. Our Mexican herb and spice medley pack is a “Must have” for any aspiring Mexican Chef, you can either get it for yourself, friends or family. This medley includes 15 different herbs, spices and dried chiles that are not easily found north of the border. A cook book will perfectly complement this pack so you can put the herbs and spices to use. The Mexican herb and spice medley and cookbook make an excellent gift idea.
Burritos, tacos, and other Mexican food are as much of a favorite for Americans as pizza, pasta, or burgers. Part of the appeal of Mexican food is that delicious flavor which comes from several herbs and spices that are popular south of the border. Spices commonly used in Mexican cooking can transform simple and cheap plant-based ingredients such as rice and beans into flavorful, main course worthy dishes. Here are 10 Mexican spices to spike up your meals with recipes from the Food Monster App.
Cumin is popular in Mexican cuisine, but it has also been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine for its healing properties. It also contains iron; just 1 tablespoon of cumin contains 20 percent of the recommended daily value of iron. Try it in this Mexican-Spiced Tofu Scramble by Rhea Parsons!
2. Garlic Powder
Garlic has a pungent flavor, and though fresh garlic is superior in taste and freshness to the powder, it helps to have garlic powder around for Mexican food. Use it for this flavorful Cathy Elton‘s Chipotle Chocolate Chili.
Mexican cinnamon is often considered by bakers and chefs to be “true cinnamon,” and it specifically comes from Sri Lanka, often labeled as Sri Lankan cinnamon or Ceylon. Use it in this Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles recipe by Emily von Euw.
4. Mexican Oregano
Mexican oregano is different than the typical oregeno you probably have in your cabinet, called Origanum Vulgare, which is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean. This type of oregano works well with tomatoes and aromatic Mexican food. Try it over these Cheezy Roasted Tomatoes by Carrie Forrest.
5. Onion Power
Onion powder can give a nice little kick to dishes when using onions would be too overpowering in taste. For making salsas, burrito fillings and pasta dishes, onion powder is great to have. Use onion powder for this Mexican Lasagna by Marly McMillen.
6. Coriander (or Cilantro)
Cilantro, whether fresh or dry, is welcomed for Mexican favorites like salsa and guacamole. Use fresh cilantro for these Spicy Vegan Nachos by Amie Valpone.
Chili powder packs the right amount of heat, giving great flavor and spice to Mexican food. Use 2-4 tablespoons of chili powder to make your own Fajita Seasoning like in this recipe by Veronica Grace, which you can use to season tofu, tempeh, beans or veggies.
Paprika is a red powder made from grinding dried sweet red peppers. The color varies from bright orange-red to deep red, depending on which peppers are used. Use this red spice for these Tex-Mex Burgers by Attila Hildmann.
9. Black Pepper
Black pepper comes from the berries of the pepper plant, and it can be found in almost any cuisine, paired with salt. Use black pepper for these Tamale-Inspired Bowls With Beans by Zsu Dever.
Cloves have a warm, sweet and aromatic taste that works well for desserts. Try them in this Vegan Spiced Shortcrust by Clémence Moulaert.
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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5 Mexican Herbs For A Flavor-Full Life!
Mexican Herbs: A Kick Of Flavor Your Family Will Love
Mexican herbs are the perfect strategy to add more flavor to your life! People always ask me what the secret to authentic Mexican cooking is. My first answer is “having a Mexican mother.” They usually laugh, but there is a lot of truth behind the statement. Nothing beats having the first-hand experience. When I was young, my mom taught me a lot of things. She taught me how to ride a bike, how to tie my shoes, and how to read a book. As I grew older, I became fascinated by what she did in the kitchen. Her cooking was delicious and absolutely amazing.
Everything always smelled so good and drew me in. One day I stepped in the kitchen and asked her how to cook. Since then, I have never looked back. Of course, not everyone will have the luxury of growing up with authentic home cooked Mexican food. The real answer to the question is that the secret to authentic Mexican cooking is using the proper herbs and spices to really emulate all the flavors from the region. Many Western recipes substitute traditional herbs in favor of something more familiar. It ends up removing some of the distinctive flavors in the process. Follow along with Tiny Modern Kitchen.
So, What Is This Article Going To Cover?
In this article, I’ll be exploring five Mexican herbs: Cilantro, Mexican Oregano, Thyme, Mexican Bay Leaf, Epazote. I’ll briefly touch upon their uses and their benefits in order for you to understand and recreate traditional Mexican cuisine in your own kitchen.
The first herb is one that is familiar around the world. Cilantro has a distinctive flavor that is hard to describe without having tasted before. It adds an almost cooling taste to a dish, which helps to balance out the spiciness or heat-factor of many foods.
It’s not limited to spicy things, however, and I often use it to spruce up seafood or even as a cocktail ingredient. In terms of nutritional value and health benefits, cilantro contains antioxidants, anti-cancer properties, vitamin A, and may help reduce sodium intake and promote healthy skin. It tastes great and is good for you, no wonder it’s used so much in Mexican cooking!
Fun fact: Some people find that cilantro tastes like soap. These people actually have a genetic reason for this, and their olfactory-receptor genes amp up their ability to perceive chemicals in cilantro that resemble the flavor of soap. So if you have an argument about the taste of cilantro in the future, remember that your genetics could be affecting how you perceive the flavor.
Mexican oregano is not often found or used outside of Mexico. In fact, when a recipe calls for Mexican oregano it’s common to replace it with regular oregano or omit the ingredient entirely. However, in order to experience true Mexican cuisine, Mexican oregano is a must-have. It does taste similar to regular oregano but has a sweeter profile and comes off as more intense. You only want to use half as much of Mexican oregano as you would with regular oregano. Feel free to add it to soups or enchiladas to complement and enhance the existing flavor profiles.
Like cilantro, Mexican oregano provides antioxidants and helps prevent cancer, while also helping to fight bacteria and reduce viral infection. I have lots of fond memories of Mexican oregano being used in my mom’s kitchen growing up, and I love introducing it to people who only know the regular kind. It can be hard to find in regular big box chain stores, but if you don’t have any Latin grocery stores nearby you can always order some online.
Ability to pair with spicy foods is a common trait in Mexican cuisine when it comes to picking herbs and spices. Thyme is no exception to the rule. It’s pronounced like “time” and is the butt of many kitchen puns. It has a warm and comforting flavor that matches well with any sort of heat or spiciness in a dish. The flavor is very distinct so you’ll always be able to tell when it’s used in cooking. Thyme is antibacterial, insecticidal, and possibly antifungal. Essentially it’s useful for killing off things you don’t want to be in your body. I’ll usually put thyme in soups, sauces, salads, and dressings.
Freezing thyme keeps it edible for longer and actually brings out the flavors even more. You should take this into account both before and after preparing a meal. You’ll want to use less thyme than a recipe calls for if yours is frozen, and you might want to reconsider tossing a dish in the freezer if you know it has a lot of thyme in it. Finally, use it sparingly. Always remember that a little thyme in the kitchen goes a long way for your taste buds!
Mexican Bay Leaf
Where Mexican oregano was more flavorful and intense than regular oregano, Mexican bay leaf is milder and less harsh tasting than the regular bay leaf. This is another herb that you will have some difficulty finding outside of Mexico but is used in all sorts of Mexican dishes. It comes from the dried leaves of an evergreen shrub native to Mexico. I would describe the flavor as slightly floral, herbal, and a bit bitter.
It’s used by Mexicans quite liberally and extensively in soups, stews, broths, and rice. Medicinally, Mexican bay leaf has been used to treat cancer, gas, dandruff, and joint pain or boils. In terms of nutritional benefits, the leaf is usually taken out before consuming it so there is little nutritional value to be gained. The smell of a Mexican bay leaf in your broth is enough to bring anyone running into your kitchen looking for a taste.
This herb is not often seen outside of Mexican cooking. It is mostly used to flavor black beans but it can also be used in sauces. People say that epazote tastes medicinal, reminding them of oregano, anise, citrus, and mint. One thing to note is that epazote doesn’t cook well and loses a lot of flavors if heated up. I recommend adding it your meal is cooked as a garnish.
This way you get the full flavor of the herb and it’ll look picture perfect too. I love putting epazote in a quesadilla with a corn tortilla – delicious! There isn’t much in terms of health benefits for epazote. It can be used to treat intestinal parasites, but too much can be poisonous to a human. Western medicine stays away from this herb in favor of safer alternatives that do the same thing.
Emulate Traditional Hispanic Cuisine With The Mexican Herbs
There you have it! These five Mexican herbs are a staple in any Mexican household. Feel free to use them to emulate traditional Mexican cuisine or to experiment and create culinary fusions. Now that you know about these herbs, keep an eye out for them the next time you search up a recipe online. You’ll know if the recipe is a traditional Mexican dish or if it was simply inspired by the cuisine based on what kind of herbs and spices that are used.
Remember the flavor profiles I’ve described in the article. If you feel a dish is missing a little something, try adding one of the herbs to see if that was the oomph you were looking for. Experimenting will allow you to create dishes that match your palate and preferences in a way that following a recipe would never be able to. Once you’ve mastered the art of Mexican herbs, you might just find people asking you the secret to Mexican cooking as well.
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Herbs and Spices
– in the Mexican Cuisine –
There are approximately 26,000 edible species of plants, which are used for different purposes like: wrap, aromatize, season, infuse, cook or use them fresh. Here you will only get to know some of those plants – the most important ones.
If you are going to use fresh leaves we recommend selecting leaves that are totally green. If you have the complete plant with roots put them in water or if you only have the leaves cover them with wet cloths to keep them fresh for longer time.
If you are going to use dry leaves we recommend choosing whole leaves not the ones that are broken because they tend to be older. Store them in a glass container in a dry and dark area.
– If you want to dry fresh leaves place them in a warm place and away from humid environments.
Now, let’s explore the herbs and spices that have been adopted by the Mexican cuisine, throughout its history since the arrival of the Spaniards till nowadays.
Basil | Bay Leaf | Cardamom | Cauliflower Leaf | Chard | Cinnamon | Clove | Coriander | Cumin | Fennel | Fig Leaf | Grape Leaf | Marjoram | Medlar Leaf | Mint | Orange Leaf | Oregano | Parsley | Pepper | Purslane | Rosemary | Salvia | Spearmint | Spinach | Tarragon | Thyme | Watercress
This herb of fresh and intense aroma is native of Portugal and Morocco. Since ancient times it has been known as an aphrodisiac herb.
Arugula’s flavor is bitter and similar to pepper’s. Therefore only use a little in your salads and to compensate the bitter taste we recommend adding a sweet dressing, that will create a perfect combination.
– This herb also mixes very well with cheeses and it is high in vitamin A and C.
This native herb from India, can be eaten fresh in salads or dried which serves to season and aromatize soups, pastas and meats.
…it gives such a good flavor and smell to pastas that the Italian cuisine has adopted bail as one of their main spices.
Basil’s aroma is quite similar to mint’s and its taste fluctuates in three categories:
1) It has a sweet taste as jasmine.
2) An acid taste like lime.
3) A spicy flavor like clove.
This spice also offers health benefits because it is digestive, it combats headaches and reduces fatigue.
The laurel is a tree from the Mediterranean and its leaves have been used for various purposes. In the ancient Greece and Rome people were crowned with bay leaves as a Symbol of Victory.
In gastronomy bay leaves are used whole to season soups, stocks and the delicious pozole. These leaves are perfect for stews that are cooked over low heat. The leaf flavor is balsamic and a little bitter. For this reason use few leaves while cooking and discard them before serving.
Therefore use bay leaves to give a stronger flavor to the food, moreover they can also be used to mix with vinegars and oils… it is said that these leaves help to whet your appetite.
Cardamom, in its natural form, consists of a set of seeds which come wrapped in a pod… and at the moment of opening the pod… a delight of aromas and flavors is ignited.
This plant is native to India and it is considered a luxury spice because it is very expensive. Both its aroma and flavor are strong and penetrating, therefore use it with moderation.
Its smell is strong, citric and a little spicy, while its flavor is also slightly spicy carrying a combination of lemon and orange. This combination of both aromas and flavors goes very good with thecinnamon – an exquisite combination is created.
In the kitchen it is used to aromatize and season food and drinks; it’s also used in desserts. In India it is used to season rice, curries, sauces and other foods.
– Medically aids with indigestion, relieves pain caused by hemorrhoids, accelerates the metabolism and improves body odor.
It’s believed that cauliflower comes from Asia. Its leaves have an intense flavor, for this reason when they are used in the kitchen only few are added. Within its culinary purposes they are used in salads, salsas and soups like in the popular vegetable soup.
– Cauliflower leaves’ are high in fiber and vitamin B.
Chard is a plant native to the Mediterranean area and Africa. Its flavor is similar to spinach however it differs because it has a soft vanilla taste and slightly bitter touch. Chard is excellent for preparing soups, tortas, salads, empanadas, etc.
Besides being a good kitchen ingredient it also has healing properties it is a good diuretic, it helps the immune system, it has anticancer properties, its high fiber makes it good to treat constipation, good against stress and its high water helps to lose weight… and it has few calories.
There’s no better way to describe cinnamon than from its Greek etymology “kinamon” sweet wood, that is cinnamon’s best description of its aroma and taste.
Cinnamon is a spice native of Sri Lanka; it is extracted from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree. Its bark is short and while it dries it is rolled forming the cinnamon branches.
Historically the cinnamon has been used since the time of the Egyptians.
Medically it is believed that cinnamon helps with diabetes, weight loss, colds, heart and kidney problems.
The cinnamon comes in various presentations, as a branch, stick and ground.
With these examples it can be seen that it’s a spice specialized in desserts… although other recipes are also prepared with cinnamon like the mole.
Believe it or not the clove come from the Spice Islands, it’s true that’s the way Maluku Islands are called in Indonesia.
Cloves come from the clove tree and are the flower buds that have not blossomed yet. Clove’s aroma is strong, spiced and slightly sweet, while the taste is spicy, refreshing, strong and similar to cinnamon. Use clove sparingly in your dishes, if not its flavor may harass the palate.
The clove goes very well with the cinnamon and the cumin. It is used in beverages such as spiced coffee and main course dishes, it is also used in desserts.
Medically is used as a toothache painkiller due to its anesthetic properties.
The coriander, also known as Chinese parsley, can be used as a herb for its leaves or as a spice for its seeds. This herb is native of North Africa and Southern Europe and it has been used since time immemorial.
Cilantro’s flavor can be described as a combination between parsley, mint and lime. This type of combination does create a strong flavor, therefore don’t add a lot of cilantro in your dishes… you can see it as an excellent seasoning that goes with any type of food and adds an extra touch of flavor, freshness and aroma.
The coriander is used in a wide variety of dishes in the Mexican cuisine. It is used to prepare salsas (like the famous guacamole), soups, appetizers and even desserts… along with parsley and epazote is the most used herb in the Mexican cuisine.
– It is also used to garnish dishes like: Puebla style rice, ceviche, chilaquiles, etc.
As a tip… while chopping the cilantro try to use only the leaves, as it is sold in bunches with stems and roots. Also remember that it has to be refrigerated after useing.
Medically it serves as an antioxidant, it helps preventing digestive problems and bad breath.
The cumin plant has fruits that contain seeds, being these the ones that are used as a spice when they dry. Native of the Mediterranean area cumin is used raw, roasted, ground or whole.
In the kitchen is used either to whet appetite as well as to season and aromatize drinks, breads, soups, cheeses, etc. Its aroma is strong and a bit sweet; while its flavor is intense, peppery, bitter and nutty.
Thanks to cumin’s digestive properties, you can add it to dishes that are considered difficult to digest; cumin will make this task easier. Cumin is also used against stress, to relieve diarrhea and to alleviate gastritis.
This herb is almost used entirely in gastronomy. Native of Italy fennel is a very aromatic herb, the smell is similar to mint. Its seeds are used as a spice to season breads, cakes and fishes.
Its stem and leaves can be used either raw or cooked which serve to give an aniseed flavor to soups, vegetables, rices, pastas, etc.
If the fennel bulb is available it can be used in salads to give a feeling of freshness and it also gives an aniseed touch. In medicine fennel is used as a diuretic and it helps to relieve of conjunctivitis.
The common fig tree is native to the Middle East. The leaves of this tree are very famous because they were worn by Adam and Eve to cover themselves, when they were expelled from paradise.
In gastronomy fig leaves are used whole and mainly in desserts to give a sweet and fruity touch. These leaves can be used in candies, jams, tamales, rice pudding, teas, etc.
Medically they serve against warts and skin problems.
It is also known as “vine leaf”. The grape leaves are native to Turkey and they have a taste similar to spices with a slightly bitter touch.
Since these leaves are too large (measuring approximately 10 inches) therefore they are used to wrap food like rice, bell peppers and different types of meats.
The grape leaves have anti-inflammatory properties and they also contain high levels of vitamins and minerals.
This is the herb that you have to have handy to aromatize your food with a sweet fragrance similar to pine and lime. We believe that due to this fantastic aroma it is an herb that has been associated with joy.
The marjoram plant is native to the Mediterranean region and its leaves are the ones that act as condiment. Normally the leaves are used dry because the aroma becomes more intense.
With the marjoram can be aromatize soups, pastas, meat, fish, vinegars, oils, butter, cheese, etc. It also adds an interesting flavor similar to oregano although it is milder.
– The marjoram is also used to relieve headaches, respiratory diseases and it has digestive properties.
The medlar tree is native to Europe and Asia. Its leaves have a sweet aroma and its taste is similar to medlar’s skin. This is an elaborated flavor because it’s strong, sweet, slightly bitter and with a light citric touch.
The leaves are high in calcium and they are used in the kitchen to prepare jellies, jams, liqueurs, teas and the famous punch.
When mint’s fresh, strong, sweet and spicy aroma is perceived it automatically stimulates and whets the appetite; preparing the palate to enter into a world of flavors…
On the other hand when mint is eaten it gives a cool aftertaste sensation which opens the airways making more perceptible the food’s aroma that are about to be eaten.
Mint is native to the area of Asia and the Mediterranean. It is widely used in aromatherapy and in the dental industry as it gives a sense of freshness and it fights bad breath. Medically is used as a digestive treatment, it also helps with nauseas and respiratory problems.
The mint leaf is normally used fresh although it can also be used dry. In the culinary arts it has infinite applications as it can be found in salads, cakes, mousses, ice-creams, candies, gum, chocolates, drinks, teas, liquors, etc.
The orange tree, native of Asia, not only its fruits are used in the kitchen also its leaves. The leaves are mainly used to aromatize desserts like cakes, cookies, pancakes, etc.
Orange leaves are high in vitamin C and provide a beautiful orange scent and citric flavor.
The oregano plant is a small shrub from which its leaves are used as a spice. The leaves can be used either dry or fresh, although when they are dry they have more aroma and flavor.
This plant is native to the Mediterranean. The word oregano comes from the Greek meaning “joy of the mountains” because it grows everywhere. Mythologically it was Aphrodite who gave oregano its aroma.
Oregano has a smell that is strong, fresh, penetrating and slightly spicy. Its flavor is strong, bitter, spicy and with a slightly mint touch. This flavor is normally confused with the marjoram, but this is lighter.
The oregano is widely used in pastas, pizzas, fish, sauces and in pozole is a must. It also has healing properties because it is a very good antioxidant.
Its intense green color, its sense of freshness and its lovely aroma makes it part of many dishes around the world, to the extent that it is considered the most used herb in world’s gastronomy.
Parsley is native to the Mediterranean area and it comes in 2 versions:
Parsley is sold in bunches; whenever you buy a bunch discard the yellow stems and leaves because their taste is not good… and speaking about taste, parsley’s tasty flavor can be described as fresh, slightly spicy and with a tiny touch of pepper. The taste is usually confused with cilantro’s but they are really two different things.
– Among its benefits, parsley contains high amounts of vitamin C, it serves as a diuretic, for hypertension and it has a potent anti cancer activity.
Pepper is native to India and it has been very important throughout history because it was used to improve the taste decomposing food (imagine those days without fridges, most of the food was rotten). Such was its value and importance that it was even used as an exchange currency (a type of barter).
This spice is sold whole and ground. Due to the fact that pepper plant’s fruit (piper nigrum) is processed at different ripe stages, there are 3 types of pepper:
The pepper is free and it is on all the tables due to the benefits that provides. It helps to burn fat, improves the digestion, blood circulation, fights hemorrhoids and it is a potent antioxidant.
– We recommend buying whole peppercorns and store them in a pepper grinder to preserve pepper’s aroma and taste for a longer time.
In many parts of the world it is believed that this herb, native to the Middle East, is just part of the undergrowth and it is not edible. Therefore all the benefits that purslane has to offer are lost.
Its leaves are fleshy and juicy; the taste is sour, nutty and salty. They are primarily used in salads, sauces, soups and accompanying pork meat (can also be used as if they were spinach). Nutritionally it contains a large amount of Omega-3 fatty acid, more than fish and it is cheaper than fish.
In the alternative medicine it is good for the digestive system, the urinary system, it relieves constipation and it is also a good treatment for insect bites.
Rosemary is a shrub native of the Mediterranean and North Africa. Its taste and aroma is intense, they can be described as a combination of pine, walnut and lavender.
Its aspect is lovely because it has blue and purple flowers which sometimes are used in salads.
In the kitchen is used to give a stronger flavor to the food such as meats and vegetables, therefore use it sparingly. The rosemary is also used in the perfume and cosmetics industry. In the medicine is a good pain killer and improves memory.
Don’t confuse rosemary (in Spanish romero) with romertios, these are 2 totally different things. The romeritos is a dish made with the romerito plant which is combined with mole.
This plant native to the Mediterranean etymologically means “to cure”, because in ancient times it was used to cure many diseases.
It is a very aromatic herb, its taste is a bit bitter and spicy. It is used to season meats and fatty foods.
The spearmint aroma and flavor is quite similar to that of mint; it only is a bit softer. Native to Europe this herb is digestive, it aids with liver problems, burns and bad breathe – it is also used in the perfume industry.
In the kitchen it is primarily used for desserts like candies, gum, ice-creams, cakes, etc. It is also used to season soups, salads, vegetables, salsas, liqueurs, cocktails and to prepare Cuban mojitos.
It is believed that spinach originated in ancient Persia, as they were the first to commercialize it.
This leaf is high in water and low in calories making it a very good food for diets. It’s also very nutritious, as it is high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants…
…although it is not as nutritious as to make you as strong as Popeye 🙁 unfortunately that’s a myth because it doesn’t contain as much iron as it was believed.
The spinaches are used in the kitchen to cook empanadas, omelets, salads, side dishes and many more plates. They are widely used in vegetarian cuisine.
In the traditional medicine they are considered to have anti-cancer agents, they also help to maintain bones, eyes, skin and to combat anemia.
This herb native to Russia and Western Asia draws attention for its spicy and aniseed aroma. Its taste is similar to a combination between pepper and anise.
The tarragon in its fresh version is used to aromatize salads. In its dry version is used to season meats, creams, butter, etc. It is also used to mix with oils and to boost vinegar. It is recommended to use it in small portions.
– It is a good diuretic, facilitates menstruation and prevents gastritis.
The thyme, the herb of the warriors, of courage and of bravery was used in ancient times as a symbol of strength.
This herb native to North Africa and Asia is very aromatic, the smell is similar to lime. Although there are hundreds of species of this plant, the most used and the most common is the “thymus vulgaris”.
Not only use this herb in the kitchen when you want to aromatize your food but when you want to intensify the flavor of your food adding a slightly spicy taste similar to clove and to the mint.
This spice can go through long cooking periods, therefore it is ideal to prepare soups; it also serves to season the chicken and different meat types. Medically is an excellent bacteria killer and it helps with respiratory problems.
Whenever you want to add a sophisticated flavor to your salads, watercress is the alternative.
This herb native to the Middle East and Europe it has an intense aroma and a strong flavor sort like a spicy mustard. Therefore don’t add too many watercresses on your plates because all the other flavors will be lost.
Watercresses are also used as a side dish mainly in dishes that have meat. Preferably, serve the watercress fast because their leaves and stems while being exposed to the air for a long time tend to change color to a dark purple.
– Watercresses are high in iron and are recommended for treating kidney problems and anemia.
*Consult with your doctor about the medical benefits previously mentioned.
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Mexican Recipes with Many Spices
◈ Chicken in Red Pipian
◈ Pork in Green Pipian
◈ Red Pozole
Mexican Chiles and Chile Powder
Mexican Chiles are a staple in this cuisine. They are used in salsas, stews, and vegetable dishes. A true Mexican dish always has at least some form of chile in it, whether it is fresh, whole dried, flakes or ground. Ground chiles are used as a condiment in much the same way that Americans use ketchup. If by some weird chance chile isn’t included, then a hot sauce will be served with the meal or snack. The importance of the chile comes from the Mesoamerican period, which is generally considered to have occurred between 1000 and 1697 AD, where this spicy fruit was considered to be as much of a diet staple as both corn and beans. It is almost as if food without chiles is not food at all.
Some popular chiles include:
- Ancho chiles- The dried version of the Poblano chile. It is mildly fruity in flavor and has undertones of plum, raisin, tobacco, and a hint of earthiness. It rates anywhere from 4,000-9,000 on the SHU scale.
- Chipotle Morita chiles- These chiles are smoky in flavor and are extremely popular for their ability to give flavor even when used in small amounts. They rate from 5,000-10,000 on the SHU scale.
- Pasilla Negro chiles- These chiles are pungent and taste of chocolate and raisins. They have a rating of 1,000-2,000 SHU.
- Habanero chiles- With a whopping rating of 150,000-325,000 SHU, these chiles are described as having a tropical coconutty or mango flavor, after the mouth ceases to be on fire.
- Guajillo chiles- This chile is characteristically just a little tart. It is slightly hot with a rating of 2,500-5,000 SHU.
- Serrano chiles- A range of 8,000-18,000 SHU describes these chiles. They are crisp, smoky, and kind of fruity in flavor.
- De Arbol chiles- These chiles have a grassy flavor with an acidic heat. 15,000-30,000 SHU.
Chile powders are just as important to Mexican cuisine as chiles are. They are great for when fresh or dried chiles are unavailable and they are just as spicy and delicious as their whole counterparts. Chile powder is also great for people who don’t like the texture of chiles but still want the spiciness of the fruit.
These are just touching on the many wonderful flavor options in Mexican cooking. There are plenty of other flavors just waiting to be tried, and dishes waiting to be explored. If you are a fan of chiles and fresh produce especially, Mexican cooking might just be the cuisine for you.