Mexican food has been around for centuries and is one of the most historically rich cuisines in the US. Among Americans, Tex Mex is by far the most popular version of it. But more and more, fine dining restaurants are discovering different regional recipes of Mexican food and adding them to the menu. Local restaurants and home cooks are also seeking to reconnect with traditional Mexican cooking, known for its authenticity and rich tastes.
Cooking Mexican food at home is easier than you think. Here’s everything you need to get started with making these authentic and delicious dishes.
There’s More Than One Mexican Cuisine Culture
The Mexican food we know today has evolved over centuries of cooking in Mexico and is deeply rooted in the cooking culture of the Southwest. While the recipes started from ingredients native to Mexico, there were also some outside influences. The Spanish conquest, for example, introduced meats from domesticated animals such as beef, pork and chicken. Here are some of our favorite culinary customs from different regions in Mexico.
This type of cuisine comes from the Mexican state Chiapas. Unlike other areas in Mexico, this region keeps many of the traditional ingredients. Chipilin herb and Yerba Santa are often used in tamales. Chiapas is the only region to use these. While chilli peppers are used very frequently in other regions, in Chiapas they prefer sweeter seasoning. Popular dishes include tamales, sopa de pan and a beverage called pozol made from fermented corn dough.
Since Mexico City is a center of migration from other regions of the country, the cuisine there is a mix of dishes from all over the country. Street food is very popular in Mexico City with taco stands and lunch counters on every street. Common dishes include barbacoa, birria, cabrito, carnitas, mole sauces, tacos with many different fillings and tortas.
Beef is very common in this region and grilling is the region’s most distinctive cooking technique. Growing cattle in northern Mexico has also helped promote cheese production. That’s where you’ll find the widest varieties of cheese in Mexico: queso fresco, ranchero and 56 varieties of asadero. Wheat is another important ingredient in northern Mexico and it’s commonly used for tortillas.
In Oaxaca, corn is the staple food used for making tortillas, empanadas, tamales and more. They prefer black beans which are commonly served in soup or as a sauce for enfrijoladas. Regional chile peppers along with herbs such as hoja santa, give the food it’s special flavor. Chocolate is usually hand ground and combined with almonds, cinnamon and other ingredients to make beverages.
The cuisine of Veracruz is known for its use of corn, vanilla and herbs such as acuyo and hoja santa. This type of cuisine also incorporates a wide variety of tropical fruits, such as papaya, mamey and zapote, along with citrus fruit and pineapple. Parsley, thyme and cilantro are also used frequently especially in Huachinango a la Veracruzana, which is the most famous dish of the region.
Get all the ingredients you need for a Mexican feast here!
Mexican Food in the US
Mexican food is very adaptable and it has been embraced by American food culture with tortillas, salsa, chilli, burritos and tacos becoming staples of Mexican food in American homes and restaurants.
Today, as young Americans are looking to rediscover the authentic Mexican cuisine, the differences between Mexican food and Tex Mex are becoming more accentuated. Here are some of the basic differences between authentic and Americanized Mexican food
- Cheese. Authentic Mexican cuisine uses white cheese whereas Tex Mex uses yellow cheese such as cheddar. Tex Mex enchiladas for example are usually topped with yellow cheese while the traditional Mexican enchiladas are usually topped with queso fresco.
- Cumin. One of the most used spices in Tex Mex, while it’s not as common in the authentic Mexican kitchen. Chilli peppers, oregano and cilantro are more frequently used.
- Flour tortillas. While flour tortillas are used in Mexico, the traditional tortilla is made from corn. Tex mex adapted the traditional tortilla and used wheat tortillas instead of corn to appeal to the American taste.
- Ground beef. Tex Mex cuisine uses ground beef in many of the dishes, while authentic Mexican dishes usually use other types of meat such as: carne asada (beef steak), pollo asada (chicken) and carnita (pork).
Popular Tex Mex Dishes
The traditional nachos consist of fried corn tortilla chips covered with melted cheese and sliced jalapeno peppers. The modern nachos are commonly topped with cheese, guacamole, salsa, sour cream or jalapeños.
Chili Con Carne
The official dish of the US state of Texas, Chili Con Carne is a spicy stew containing chilli peppers, beef, and often tomatoes and beans. Other seasonings include garlic, onions, and cumin. The dish may be served with toppings such as grated cheese, diced onions, and sour cream.
Any grilled meat served as a taco on a tortilla. In many restaurants, the fajita meat and vegetables are served on metal platters or skillets, accompanied with warm tortillas and condiments such as guacamole, queso or salsa
Where to Get Ingredients?
The first step to cooking authentic Mexican recipes is filling your pantry with fresh vegetables and different types of meat and cheese. Download the free Cheetah app to stock up on all the ingredients you need and let the Fiesta begin!