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Cooking Mexican-inspired meals at home doesn’t have to be daunting! Stock up with these pantry items and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the flavors of Mexico at home, any day of the week.
Cooking Mexican food at home can feel a bit confusing at first. There are so many different dishes to make, loads of different types of chiles (around 100 varieties from Mexico alone!), plus sauces, condiments, etc… it can be overwhelming, to say the least.
But don’t let that intimidate you! You can start small by getting your pantry set with a few staples that will let you tackle a wide range of Mexican-inspired dishes at home, even on busy weeknights!
Ready to stock your pantry? Let’s go!
Spices for Mexican Cooking
A little spice can go a long way when it comes to adding Mexican flair to your recipes.
I love doing things as simple as tossing veggies with a little oil and taco seasoning and roasting them in the oven. They’re perfect for tacos, burritos, and grain bowls, and depending on how small you cut your veggies, they cook up really quickly.
I used this method for my Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro Chimichurri and they were fantastic!
Of course, taco seasoning is great for ground meat as well – beef and turkey are my family’s go-to choices. Tofu tacos are another wonderful meat-free option.
If you want to branch out beyond the standard taco seasoning, I recommend using a combination of 4 spices: chili powder, cumin, coriander, and dried oregano. This simple mixture adds a surprisingly deep flavor that tastes like it took much more work than it actually did.
These Tex-Mex Meatballs with Mexican Cauliflower Rice are another favorite that utilize several of these spices, as do my Roasted Kabocha and Eggplant Tacos with Poblano Crema.
Not everyone is familiar with the flavor profiles of each of these spices, so here’s a little crash course, along with some helpful tips from the Spicely Organics product pages:
- Cayenne pepper brings the heat and color to many dishes such as enchiladas, Cajun hot sauce, and curries.
- Chili powder blends are different from Chili pepper in that they have been blended with spices as well. It is very popular in American cuisine.
- Coriander seeds are warm and fruity and, when roasted, nutty flavors emerge. Coriander is a great addition to a slow braise on meat and pairs very well with chilies and lime. Add 1 teaspoon ground coriander to 4 cups liquid for your next chili or tortilla soup.
- Cumin can be used in meatloaf, sausages, vegetables, cheeses, soups, relishes, rice, and is often found in chili blends and Mexican style cooking. Cumin is one of the most recognizable spices with a distinct earthy flavor.
- Garlic Granulates can be substituted for fresh garlic in recipes that call for the flavor. Garlic granules are thicker than garlic powder and more easily dispersed than garlic flakes. It can be used in a variety of dishes, such as meats, vegetables, and sauces.
- Onion Granulates add a sweet and salty component to savory dishes. Onions can be added to pizzas, soups, sauces, and casseroles.
- Oregano is often times a key ingredient in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. Use Spicely Organic Oregano in tomato sauces, soups, and salad dressings. Try adding oregano to omelets and frittatas, breads, and your favorite meat dishes!
- Taco Seasoning offers an easy way to make tacos. It’s salt-free and sugar-free and contains 100% Certified Organic paprika, garlic, pepper, oregano, onion, cumin and chili ancho. Sprinkle on meats or in sauces, 1-2 Tbsp seasoning per 1 lb meat before cooking. To use as a marinade, mix seasoning with water and a little oil, add meat and marinate.
Canned and Bottled Goods for Mexican Cooking
Spices aside, there are some canned and bottled goods that come in handy when it comes to Mexican cooking. Canned beans and legumes can replace meat in many dishes, and can also be used to stretch the amount of meat you need to feed your family as well. Here are a few of the items that I like to keep on hand:
- Black beans are one of my absolute favorite ingredients. I like serving them warm on top of rice with some finely chopped red onions, as filler in tacos, and as a topping on bowls. They also work beautifully in homemade salsas, like my Mango, Jicama + Black Bean Salsa.
- Chickpeas aren’t just for hummus! Chickpeas, also known as garbanzos, make a great addition to Mexican meals. You can swap out your taco meat for these fiber-and-protein-packed beauties like I did in these Spiced Chickpea Tacos with Cilantro-Peach Relish. I used that same chili powder/cumin/coriander/oregano spice mix that I mentioned above for that recipe, and it was a huge hit at the dinner table!
- Diced green chiles are a fun way to add a mild kick to your Mexican dishes. Great on nachos or tossed in with shredded chicken in your favorite taco or enchilada recipe.
- Hot sauce is a great way to wake up your tastebuds! I like adding some Mexican flair to plain ol’ scrambled eggs with salsa, cheese, and plain Greek yogurt. There are so many different flavor profiles when it comes to hot sauce, so it’s fun to keep a variety on hand if you have room! We have a whole section of the refrigerator door dedicated to hot sauces from several different countries. YUM!
- Refried beans are one of my favorite parts of any Mexican meal. I serve them alongside tacos and fajitas, spread on top of tostadas, or layered in with nachos. While I grew up with mostly eating the type made from pinto beans, there’s also a delicious black bean variety.
- Salsa comes in so many varieties. I tend to go with mild or medium since my 6-year-old enjoys eating chips & salsa, but you can also amp up the heat by going with hot salsa. It’s a great addition to breakfast tacos!
- Sunflower oil is by far one of the most used items in my kitchen. I like it because, unlike olive oil, it has a high smoke point. This means you can use it for high heat cooking and can grill, roast, and fry without worrying about overheating it. It also has a very mild flavor, which lets all of the other ingredients shine through. Grapeseed oil is another good choice.
Other Pantry Staples for Mexican Cooking
Now that you have spices and some basic canned/bottled goods, there are a few more items that will make your Mexican meals come together more quickly.
- You can use broths & stocks in place of water when cooking rice and grains, as a way to add liquid to soups and stews, and for helping create pan sauces and glazes. I like keeping low-sodium varieties on hand, that way I can control the amount of salt that goes into my meals. Vegetable broth is a great option to keep in your pantry since it can be added to vegetarian and vegan-friendly dishes, but also ones that contain meat. Chicken, beef, and mushroom are other alternatives.
- Rice makes a great side dish for Mexican meals, especially when paired with beans. It’s a great way to round out a meal, and my kiddo can go.to.town on a pile of seasoned rice!
- Tomatoes aren’t just for Italian cooking! I love this tomato sauce from Pomi because the resealable carton makes it easy to use a little at a time and save the rest for another day. I like the richness that a bit of tomato adds to meats and sauces.
- Tortilla chips are always welcome when it comes to Mexican mealtime. We love these purple corn tortilla chips – they’re nice and sturdy and hold up to being dipped in salsa, guacamole, and refried beans. These blue ones are also fun. And I have to say that I’ve been a fan of Late July’s products for years now – their chips stay fresh, as long as you keep the bag sealed, longer than any other chips I’ve encountered. Because there’s nothing sadder than a stale tortilla chip!
So there you have it! Lots of options to get your pantry prepped for cooking all sorts of delicious Mexican-inspired meals.
What’s your favorite Mexican dish? Have you ever tried making it at home? And are there any other cuisines you’d like to see featured here for a pantry staples post?
I have lots of ideas, but I’d love to hear what you want to see! Drop me a comment below and let me know what you think!
Looking for more ways to celebrate Taco Tuesday? Check out some of our favorite recipes:
- Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro Chimichurri
- Roasted Kabocha and Eggplant Tacos with Poblano Crema
- Slow Cooker Chipotle Pork Tacos with Avocado + Chipotle Cremas
- Spiced Chickpea Tacos with Cilantro-Peach Relish
- Tofu & Black Bean Taco Boats with Jicama Mango Salsa
- Mandarin Chipotle Pork Tacos
- Taco Salad with Homemade Chipotle Ranch Dressing
- Margarita Bars
- Mango, Jicama + Black Bean Salsa
- Tequila-Lime Shrimp Tacos
- Power-Packed Tacos
- Taco Salad
- Slow Cooker Shredded Green Chile Chicken
- Shredded Chicken Tacos
- Tuna Tostada with Avocado Dressing + Chipotle Sour Cream
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