Authentic Mexican Food Article -
Add a Comment

Authentic Mexican Food

What's "real" Mexican food, anyway?

Mexican food encompasses a rich, diverse culinary culture. The earliest agricultural staples of the Aztecs, who dominated northern Mexico, and the Mayans, who occupied the southeastern Yucatan, were beans, squash and chile peppers. Maize or nixtamal (corn), “the Gift of the Gods,” is the cornerstone of Mexican cuisine. It appears in almost everything: tortillas, enchiladas, tamales, tacos, even dessert (sopapillas). Early Mexican dishes included atole (hominy porridge, which evolved into Pozole soup), tortillas, and tamales, both savory and sweet.

Spanish Influence

The region also yielded avocados, peanuts, tomatoes, squash, and coconuts. But it was the conquest of Mexico by Spain in 1521 that most influenced the Mexican cuisine we know today. The Spaniards introduced new livestock--pigs, cows, and sheep had never been seen before in the New World--as well as dairy products like cheese. They also brought herbs and spices, including garlic, sugar cane, and coriander. Coriander leaves, known as cilantro, are featured in many Mexican dishes.

Spanish influences evident in modern Mexican cuisine include quesadillas, now a Mexican street-cart staple, and burritos. Until the conquistadors arrived, there was no wheat in Mexico. Burritos are still practically unheard of in southern Mexico, where tortillas are made the traditional way, with corn. The colonization of Mexico also brought the assimilation of cuisines and cooking techniques from France, the Caribbean, Portugal, West Africa, and South America.

Chile, not Chili

There are reportedly more than 60 varieties of chile peppers, from very mild Anaheims to fiery hot habaneros. Jalapeños are the most recognizable, alongside chipotles--jalapeños that have been dried and smoked--the primary flavor in adobo sauce. A favorite Mexican main course, Chiles Rellenos, features large poblano chiles stuffed with cheese or spicy meat (picadillo). Jalapeño poppers, an American bar-menu staple, are a version of these.

Chili, on the other hand, as in spicy chili con carne, is an entirely American version unrelated to the Mexican pepper, and not a Mexican dish. Other non-traditional, gringo versions of Mexican food include the American-born nacho and refried beans, a Tex-Mex revision of frijoles refritos. Tex-Mex food is a modern hybrid incorporating southwestern cowboy fare. Looking for a telltale sign that your Mexican food isn't authentically Mexican? Mexican dishes never use American yellow cheese. Queso Monterey, Queso Chihuahua, and Queso Fresco are used instead.

Oct. 27, 2013 5:48 pm
Thank you for the recipes!!!!
Apr. 20, 2014 2:56 am
thank you for this info., we love mexican food and this will help us keep on hand the basic items in our pantry.
Sep. 27, 2014 9:42 am
I really appreciate being able to pick up the laptop and go straight to my for anything I might feel like preparing. - Thank you All Recipes
Subscribe Today!

In Season

Back To School Already?
Back To School Already?

Hard to believe, but many kids will be back in school at the end of the month. Get ready.

Cauliflower Recipes
Cauliflower Recipes

You won't believe all the things you can do with cauliflower. It's a great low-carb option.

Subscribe Today! Only $7.99
Subscribe Today! Only $7.99

Delicious recipes, party ideas, and cooking tips! Get a year of Allrecipes magazine for $7.99!

Related Videos

Authentic Mexican Tortillas

Make your own tortillas to use in soft tacos, quesadillas, or your favorite dish.

Authentic Mexican Breakfast Tacos

Spiced chorizo and scrambled eggs make the best breakfast tacos.

Easy Mexican Casserole

See how to make an easy, tasty Mexican casserole.

Recently Viewed Recipes

You haven't looked at any recipes lately. Get clicking!
Quick Links: Recipe Box | Shopping List | More »
Argentina  |  Australia & New Zealand  |  Brazil  |  Canada  |  China  |  France  |  Germany  |  India  |  Italy  |  Japan  |  Korea  |  Mexico

Netherlands  |  Poland  |  Quebec  |  Russia  |  SE Asia  |  United Kingdom & Ireland  |  United States