Glossary with terms of Mexican Cuisine
Achiote. Red paste made by grinding annatto seeds and adding garlic and lime juice or vinegar. Popular in the Yucatán Peninsula.
Adobo. Smokey chili marinade made of chile peppers, garlic, vinegar or citrus juice, garlic and spices. Often served on pork or chicken.
Agua Fresca. Cold beverage flavored with fruit, grains or seeds. Common aguas frescas in Mexico are jamaica, tamarindo, and horchata.
Al carbon. Meat (any type) cooked over charcoal or wood coals.
Ancho. Dried poblano chile.
Annatto Seeds. Small seeds ground up and used in Yucatan’s
Asada. Broiled (as in Carne Asada is meat broiled over hot coals).
Agave. A native Mexican plant with broad, flat leaves that come to a point on the end and grow a single tall flower at maturity. The heart of the blue agave plant (piña) is used to make high quality tequila. Miel de Agave.
Barbacoa. Meat cooked in an underground pit, usually wrapped in banana or agave leaves.
Birria. Jalisco’s barbacoa (BBQ) specialty. Usually made from lamb or goat, or a combination of both.
Bolillo. Coarse, crispy white roll of bread in the shape of a bobbin.
Burrito or Burritos. Pretty much anything rolled up in a big flour tortilla.
Cajeta. A specialty of Guanajuato and San Luis Potosi. Confection of goat’s milk simmered with sugar, or basically goat milk caramel.
Carne. Meat, beef or pork.
Carne Asada. Broiled meat, usually skirt or flank steak cooked fast over hot coals.
Carnitas. A Mexican food specialty of Michoacán. Simmered pork within fruit juices and used in tacos and burritos.
Ceviche. Raw fish marinated in Mexican lime juice and mixed with tomatoes, onions, chiles and spices. Served as an appetizer.
Chayote. A type of squash.
Chicharrones. Deep fried pork rinds.
Chilaquiles. Fried tortilla pieces topped with mild red sauce and cheese and sour cream. Served as an appetizer or for breakfast.
Chiles rellenos. Roasted and peeled poblano pepper. Poblano chiles are placed over a frying pan to gild. The skin and seeds are then removed, dipped in batter, stuffed with cheese or meat and covered with lightly spiced red sauce. Poblano chili pepper are stuffed with ground meats, spices, raisins or other chopped fruits, topped with a walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds, and served at room temperature. This is a classic Mexican dish that is often served in September around Mexican Independence Day.
Chilorio. A meat filling from northern Mexico (Culiacan, Sinaloa) made with boiled, shredded pork that’s fried with ground chiles and spices
Empanadas. Masa dough stuffed with a filling, folded over into a crescent shape, and fried. Fillings vary but may include cheese, chicken, potatoes, and chorizo.
Enchiladas. Corn tortillas are quickly fried in oil, soaked in a sauce, filled with meat or cheese and rolled. The rolls may then be covered with additional sauce, cheese, crema or lettuce.
Escabeche. Vegetables pickled in vinegar, oil and herbs. Jalapeno peppers, carrots, onions and cauliflower are commonly used. May also refer to a meat stew.
Elote. Fresh corn.
Envinar. Some alcoholic beverages such as beer or wine are used combined with others to cook or flavor meat and sauces.
Epazote. A wild herb that grows all over North America. Used to flavor Mexican food soups and stews.
Flauta. Long corn or flour tortilla filled with beef or chicken and deep fried.
Frijoles. Beans (usually kidney, bayo, pinto or black)
Gordita. Thick masa dough shaped like a small pita. Often filled with a guisado.
Guacamole. Mashed avocado, often mixed with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, chiles, garlic and/or lime juice. May be served as a dip with tortilla chips or as a garnish with a meal.
Guisado. Cubes of meat cooked in a sauce.
Guajillo. Medium hot dried chile.
Gusanos de Maguey. Worms living in agave plants that are considered a delicacy when fried. Also found in bottles of mezcal to denote the particular type of agave plant.
Habanero. Hottest Mexican chile. food chile pepper.
Helado. Ice cream.
Horchata. Soft drink made by blending ground rice with water or juice and melon seeds.
Huitlacoche or Cuitlacoche. In Mexico, Huitlacoche or Cuitlacoche is a Mexican food delicacy to be savored. Also called corn smut, maize mushroom, Mexican truffle or Mexican caviar. The kernels have a smoky-sweet flavor. Buy Monteblanco Huitlacoche at Huitlacoche
Jalapeños. Medium hot chile pepper. jalapeño peppers
Jícama. A crunchy, delicious white root, served sliced and sprinkled with lime and chile powder.
Leche quemada. Burnt milk. Also known as cajeta.
Maguey. Agave. Miel de Agave. Agave Nectar.
Masa. Dough of ground corn meal, lime and water used to make corn tortillas.
Menudo. Robust, medium spicy soup with tripe, hominy, onions and spices.
Mezcal. Distilled liquor made from juice of several types of agaves. Mezcal.
Mojo de ajo. Cooked in garlic sauce.
Molcajete. Stone mortar used mostly to grind chiles for salsas. Buy your Molcajete here.
Mole. Complex dark sauce with chiles, nuts, spices, fruits, vegetables, chocolate and seasonings.
Mollete. The Mollete is a bolillo roll of bread that is toasted and smothered with refried beans, cheese and salsa. Birote.
Nixtamal: Dried corn kernels treated with cal - lime.
Nogada: Sauce made from ground walnuts to make chiles en nogada.
Nopalitos: Nopal or Nopales (prickly pear) cactus leaves chopped into pieces. Tender cactus.
Pambazo: Pambazo is a Mexican dish made from special bread dipped in a red guajillo pepper sauce and filled with potato, chorizo, lettuce and cream.
Papadzules: Dish from Yucatan of soft, rolled corn tortillas filled with varying ingredients and topped with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and tomato sauce.
Pasilla: Long, thin, almost black chile.
Pepitas. Pumkin seeds, unhulled. An ingredient for mole verde and pipian.
Piñones. Pine nuts. Pinones.
Pipian Sauce. Similar to a mole, made from ground pepitas (squash seeds or pumpkin seeds) and other nuts. (Pepian)
Poblano. Dark green, rounded fresh chile used for chile rellenos.
Poc Chuc - A Yucatecan specialty, pork steak is marinated in sour orange juice and achiote, and then grilled.
Pozole. Robust, medium spicy soup with pork or chicken, hominy, onions and spices. Also called posole.
Pulque. Fermented beverage using agave invented by the Mayans for medicinal purposes.
Quesadilla. Flour tortilla filled with cheese, folded over and pressed flat. Heated over a griddle until cheese melts. Other ingredients may be added to the cheese, such as mushrooms and rajas.
Queso Fundido. Mexican melted cheese (fondue). May be served with mushrooms, roasted poblano peppers or chorizo. The fondue is usually spooned onto tortillas and eaten as an appetizer.
Rompope: Sweet, thick alcoholic beverage with vanilla and eggs.
Sangría. Spanish beverage made with brandy, wine, Controy fruit juice and fresh fruits.
Sangrita. A favorite accompaniment to tequila made from orange juice, grenadine, chile powder and frequently, ften tomato juice.
Serrano. One of northern Mexico’s favorite chiles. Small, green and very hot.
Sopa. Soup. Also called caldo or sopa.
Taco. Usually a fried corn tortilla, folded in half and filled with meat, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and salsa. Can also be served soft and filled with a variety of ingredients. Soft taco.
Tamales. Tamales are a Mexican dish consisting of seasoned chopped meats or vegetables enclosed in corn masa (dough) and wrapped in a softened cornhusk. The savory packages are steamed and the cornhusks are peeled away before eating.
Taquito. Little taco made of corn tortilla filled with meat, rolled up and fried. A small version of the flauta.
Tequila. World renowned liquor distilled from the juice of the blue agave, which only grows within 100 miles of Guadalajara.
Tomatillo. Relative of the gooseberry family. Resembles a small green tomato. Very flavorful and used in many sauces.
Tortilla. Flat, thin, circular unleavened bread made of masa for corn tortillas or flour for flour tortillas. Most essential food in Mexican cooking.
Tostada. Fried corn tortilla, often topped with beans, meat, tomatoes, lettuce and salsa.