Where to Buy Mexican Ingredients
A lot of the ingredients you will need to cook the best Mexican foods are easy to find. Staples such as corn, tomatoes, avocadoes, tortillas, and chili powder are widely available. However, what about masa, chorizo, local chocolate, piloncillo and other native ingredients?
Sometimes you can make substitutions in recipes but for an authentic result, it is best to use the right ingredients. Sometimes there are American versions of Mexican ingredients so you should always check the label before buying anything if you are unsure.
Stores and Markets
There are a lot of places to shop online if you want to buy these ingredients and you can get pretty much anything online except fresh produce. A lot of major grocery store chains stock Hispanic ingredients because there is a demand for them. Some stores are happy to order certain products so have a word with the manager if you cannot find what you are looking for.
Is there a Hispanic market nearby? Some Mexican markets have a “tortilleria” where fresh tortillas are made. Also, look out for a “panaderia” (bakery) or “carniceria” (meat market). Hispanic stores will stock authentic and traditional ingredients and it is a good idea to stock up on your favorites for future recipes, especially if you have to travel a little way to get to the store.
Another option is to check out your local market. Beans, rice, and other ingredients should be available from there. A farmers’ market is a great source of fresh produce and you might be able to get fresh chili peppers too. Gourmet specialty stores sometimes carry these ingredients so they are worth investigating too.
Don’t Be Afraid to Tweak
There is probably going to come a time when you find a Mexican recipe you really want to make, but you are unable to find one or more of the ingredients that go into it, unless you live in Mexico or near a huge Latin food store. Some of the fresh produce available in Mexico can be very difficult to get in the US, and if it is out of season you are left either waiting until later in the year to make the dish, or using canned or frozen goods instead of the fresh equivalent. Rather than give up, you might wish to tweak the recipe.
Sometimes there are optional ingredients in a dish, such as epazote which is added to bean-based recipes sometimes, not only for its unique flavor, but also because it can help with the gas beans sometimes produce in the body. Epazote grows wild in some parts of the US and of course you can find it in Mexican supermarkets, but if you cannot find it and it is not one of the key ingredients in the recipe, simply leave it out.
If a recipe calls for a certain kind of chili pepper or chili powder, you can substitute something you have, and the dish should still come out well. As long as you can think creatively you can still make wonderfully authentic Mexican recipes even if you do have to omit or swap the occasional ingredient.
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