How to cook Mexican food
Do you know your ancho chilli from your chipotle pepper? We explain the key ingredients in Mexican cooking and present our perfect Mexican sharing menu.
Mexican cuisine is about more than chilli con carne and fajitas – there are subtleties in flavour that come with using different varieties of chillies along with other fresh ingredients in a wide array of dishes. These need to be carefully balanced to get just the right level of heat and spice. But before you start getting creative, get to grips with the basics.
If you've got a craving for chilaquiles or you can't resist moreish mole, get even more mouth-watering inspiration with our top 10 foods to try in Mexico and 5 cheap eats in Mexico for travelling on a budget.
Know your chillies
Can range from super spicy to moderately hot. Slice them and sprinkle over nachos or blitz them for salsas.
These are smoke-dried jalapeños. Soak and blitz them to make your own paste.
These dried, smoked poblano peppers aren’t very spicy. Soak, then add to dishes with a spot of their soaking water for extra flavour.
Other key ingredients
These tomato-like fruits can be tricky to find, but they’ll give your salsa the perfect balance of sweetness and freshness.
Make sides of these by cooking them with chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic and chipotle paste, or use our recipe for easy BBQ beans.
Ancho chilli powder
The secret weapon in Mexican food – a sprinkling in a marinade or a mole (a Mexican sauce) adds the perfect smoky sweetness that makes Mexican dishes sing.
Cholula hot sauce
Need spice? This’ll do it! Splash in while cooking, or to season. But be careful: it is hot!
Blue corn tortillas
Made from blue masa harina flour, these will provide an authentic touch and will also ensure your tacos look picture-perfect.
Create a Mexican feast
Our sharing menu is ideal for a relaxed meal with friends on a Friday night. As with any cuisine that needs specialist ingredients, what you have access to will affect what you can make. We’ve stuck to easy-to-find ingredients in these recipes while giving you options to up your game if you can get hold of a bigger range. Refer to our key information on chillies along with next level ingredients (above) to give your party platter the wow factor.
Fish tacos with Baja sauce
These amazing fish tacos don’t need deep-frying. They're ready in just 20 minutes and are great for feeding friends and family. Baja sauce is a spicy mayonnaise with garlic, chilli and a zing of lime that matches well with cod. For a handy recipe hack, add fajita seasoning to give you all the right flavours without having to buy jars of all the individual spices.
Belly pork & pineapple burritos
Tuck into this seriously meaty belly pork and pineapple dish, but ensure your guests are prepared for a blast of heat. An optional 1-2 tsp of ancho chilli powder will make your marinade more fiery, or you can stick to just 2 tbsp of chipotle paste for a moderate kick. Try serving with Mexican red rice.
No Mexican meal would be complete without side dishes. Try a generous few spoonfuls of curtido as a slaw piled into a burrito for some extra freshness and crunch. If you're looking for something with a bit of tang, make our tomatillo salsa. This healthy sauce boasts green chillis and chunky avocado, and it packs a punch. Be sure to include liberal spoonfuls of our 5-star guacamole and if you can't find tomatillos, you can use under-ripe or green tomatoes.
Quench your guests' thirst with a michelada, a refreshing Mexican beer cocktail. But be warned: the first rush of lime-tinged refreshment is soon followed by a hit of black pepper and the secret ingredient, a couple of dashes of hot sauce. If you prefer to dial down the heat, try one of our delicious mocktails including spritzers, cordials and coolers.
What's your favourite Mexican dish? Let us know in the comments below...