Flavorful Mexican Herbs, Spices, and More
It is true that many traditional Mexican recipes are spiced but this is not the same as saying they are “spicy.” A lot of people believe that all Mexican dishes are hot and packed with chilies but this is not the case. Some Mexican recipes like burritos, enchiladas and Mexican salad recipes are mild or feature aromatic herbs and spices rather than potent ones.
Some people will add hot sauce to their food because they enjoy the spicy flavor but others will enjoy the food the way it is. Different people like different amounts of heat and what is mild to one person is strong enough to make another’s eyes water, so where possible let people add their own heat in the form of hot sauce, fresh chopped chilies or chili powder.
The Importance of Chilies in Mexican Food
A lot of recipes do call for chilies because this is where a lot of the dish’s flavor comes from. You can always use less chili than the recipes says, if you really do not want a strong flavor.
Chilies in cans and jars are usually milder than fresh chilies. Green Tabasco sauce, canned green chilies, mild enchilada sauce, chili powder, and mild green taco sauce are good options for a milder chili taste.
Adding Flavor to Mexican Dishes
It is a good idea to learn about some of the more popular herbs and spices used in Mexican recipes if you want your food to have a good, traditional flavor. A dash of ancho chili or a few cilantro leaves can add authenticity to a Mexican recipe and these ingredients are not hard to find.
Remember that the quality of the spices and herbs you use can make or break your dish. There is no point in making an authentic Mexican recipe and then throwing in some chili powder, which is a year past its expiry date, or using ground coriander instead of fresh cilantro. Coriander and cilantro might be in the same family but they have very different uses when it comes to Mexican food recipes. If you cannot find the right ingredient, or a good replacement, you might want to make another dish.
How to Use a Mexican Spice Blend
You can either use a “Mexican seasoning” blend, which is a mixture of Mexican spices to add a Mexican flavor to your meat, fish, or vegetable dishes or make your own spice blends. Combine various types of chili powder or spices to make a tasty spice blend and then keep it somewhere cool and dark, in an airtight container. You will probably only need to use a pinch at a time and spice blends keep for months.
Once spices start to lose their smell and color though, it is time to throw them out. Some spices simply lose their flavor and others become bitter if they get old. When in doubt, use new spices.
Since a jar of spice is, only a couple of dollars and you will only need half a teaspoon or so at a time, spices are very economical and they are often very important in the flavor of a finished dish.
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