10 Essential Ingredients For Mexican Cooking

By: Bob's Red Mill | May 20 2019
Mexican cuisine uses fresh produce, bright vegetables and bold herbs and spices to create a variety of the intense and vibrant flavors of Mexico. From green-hued tomatillo salsas to corn tamales and slow-roasted carnitas tacos, traditional Mexican food is a feast for all of the senses. Sometimes it’s sweet, sometimes it’s spicy, sometimes it’s a mix of both! But always, it’s tasty and sure to hit the spot. The most popular Mexican ingredients are beans, rice, avocado and limes. They’re utilized in nearly every dish, from hearty enchilada casseroles to creamy drinks like horchata. Read on to learn the top ingredients in Mexican cooking and to find some recipe inspiration for your next taco or burrito night at home!


10 Essential Ingredients For Mexican Cooking | Bob's Red Mill From frijoles charros (“cowboy beans”) to authentic refried beans made from pinto beans and seasoned black beans, beans are an important part of Mexican cuisine. Whether you’re serving beans as a side dish or putting them in burritos, they add a wonderful boost of protein and texture to meals of all kinds. You can use beans in Gorditas, a classic Mexican flatbread filled with additional ingredients like carne asada, cheese, tomatoes, chorizo and salsa. Use whatever type of beans you’d like—refried, black, pinto—and all types of meat. You can choose to make your gorditas vegan, vegetarian or gluten free, but however you make them, these little pockets of dough are absolutely delicious! This recipe for Cinco de Mayo Corn Flour Arepas with Pintos & Enchilada Sauce showcases another way to use this popular Mexican ingredient. Arepas are fried rounds of dough and they hold up well with hearty ingredients like beans.


10 Essential Ingredients For Mexican Cooking | Bob's Red Mill From cheesy rice with tomatoes, garlic and onion to a simple side dish served alongside your chicken taquitos, rice is a staple in traditional Mexican cooking. It can even be used in enchiladas, like in this creative recipe for Rice and Bean Vegan Enchiladas. Alexa of Fooduzi loves Mexican food, so she took our Organic Golden Masa Harina Flour and created this beautiful, from-scratch enchilada recipe. For her filling, she uses a base of jasmine rice, red bell pepper, garlic, black beans and hummus, spiced up with cumin, chili, dried oregano and smoked paprika. She tops her delicious dish with enchilada sauce, sliced avocado, cilantro and hot sauce—and the end result is drool-worthy. Vegan or not, this dish is one worth creating! Pair these enchiladas with a homemade horchata, which is traditionally made with rice, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. For a slightly different version of Horchata, Mandy from Kitchen Joy Blog uses a mix of our Almond Flour and Rice Flour along with hot water, Mexican cinnamon sticks, vanilla and cold water or milk. The end result is decadent and delightful.


10 Essential Ingredients For Mexican Cooking | Bob's Red Mill We all know that guacamole is one of the shining stars in Mexican food, and that sliced avocados can be added to just about anything, from a simple bean dish to a topping for tostadas. To jazz up your usual avocado routine, whip up a batch of these Chocolate Avocado Brownies. Both avocados and brownies are important parts of Mexican food and you’ll find both in this unique twist on classic brownies made with Bob’s Red Mill Coconut Flour.


10 Essential Ingredients For Mexican Cooking | Bob's Red Mill Tortillas and Mexican cuisine go hand in hand, and there’s nothing quite like the flavor and texture of tortillas when you make them homemade. The excellent news is that they couldn’t be easier! This recipe for Homemade Tortillas calls for just three ingredients—  Golden Masa Harina Corn Flour or Gluten Free Golden Masa Harina, sea salt and hot water. That’s it! And once these round wonders come to life, you’ll be asking yourself why you haven’t been making them homemade all along. Between veggie scrambles in the morning and shredded chicken tacos in the evening, we’re certain you’ll find many excuses to eat them right up. You can also use your homemade tortillas for Easy Enchilada Casserole, which is perfect to make for a big group (especially when you’re working within a small budget).


10 Essential Ingredients For Mexican Cooking | Bob's Red Mill Cilantro seems to be the quintessential herb of Mexican cooking. With its vibrant green color and its fresh taste, cilantro is used in everything from guacamoles to salads. It’s often used as a garnish for tacos and casseroles, or thrown into rice or bean dishes. Basically, cilantro can be used anywhere you see fit! If you’re a cilantro lover like we are, give this recipe for Shrimp Tacos with Homemade Corn Tortillas a try. As an added bonus, it has cilantro in both the flavorful slaw and the shrimp.


10 Essential Ingredients For Mexican Cooking | Bob's Red Mill Limes can be found in almost every meal or beverage when you’re eating Mexican food. Whether it’s salsas, margaritas or tacos, nothing makes flavors soar like a squeeze of fresh lime juice. The lime—or limón—is like a national produce icon. If you’re looking to take your creativity to the next level with Mexican cuisine and limes, try making this Tamal de Limón for a special occasion. These lime tamales come to Bob’s Red Mill courtesy of Fany Gerson from her book My Sweet Mexico (a favorite among the BRM test kitchen). Fany makes her brilliant tamales with cornhusks, butter, vegetable shortening, sugar, Golden Masa Harina Corn Flour, whole milk, grated lime zest, a pinch of salt and the option of green food coloring for a burst of color. These tamales are a labor of love, so make sure to set aside enough time to make them and enjoy your cooking meditation.


10 Essential Ingredients For Mexican Cooking | Bob's Red Mill Cheesy quesadillas, gooey enchiladas and everything from the cotija in our salads to the queso fresco on our street corn—our love for cheese knows no end. Cheese is a prominent ingredient in Mexican culture and cuisine, and it adds everything from flavor to texture to comfort. If you’re a fan of cheese but still looking to uphold a nutritious and well-rounded diet, take a peek at these Low Carb Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas. The low carb tortillas are made with coconut flour, heavy cream, egg whites and xanthan gum and can be filled with any sort of cheese your heart desires.


10 Essential Ingredients For Mexican Cooking | Bob's Red Mill From salsas to sauces, tomatoes are as crucial to Mexican cooking as just about any other ingredient. You can use them to top your tacos or to create a sweet and spicy homemade salsa. This recipe for Easy Corn Tostadas from Camille Styles uses a dough made of Bob’s Red Mill Masa Harina Corn Flour and a delicious tostada topping of organic black beans, seasonal veggies, shredded cheese and guacamole, plus a bunch of diced ripe tomatoes. You can add meat if you’d like, but the fresh produce may make you feel like you don’t even need it, after all.


10 Essential Ingredients For Mexican Cooking | Bob's Red Mill Whether it’s the grilled Mexican corn on the cob called elotes or a corn-based salsa, corn has long been a part of Mexico’s agriculture. From more basic recipes like simple corn tortillas to something a little more creative like this 5 Ingredient Mexican Quinoa, Mexican cooking calls for corn in all sorts of ways. The quinoa dish, for example, is made with Organic Quinoa Grain, red bell pepper, black bean and corn salsa, fresh cilantro, avocado and salt and pepper. Essentially, it’s lots of our favorite Mexican flavors combined into one dish (with a quinoa twist).

Other Mexican Ingredients

10 Essential Ingredients For Mexican Cooking | Bob's Red Mill In addition to the 10 popular ingredients above, here are some additional ingredients and spices that are common to Mexican food.
  • Tomatillos
  • Nopal (cactus)
  • Shredded beef and chicken
  • Jicama
  • Chipotles en adobo
  • Pork
  • Vinegar
  • Mexican cinnamon
  • Chorizo
  • Jalapenos
  • Mexican oregano
  • Chili powder
  • Poblano peppers
  • Cotija
  • Cumin
  • Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Garlic
  • Citrus
From yellow corn and bright green limes to subtly sweet avocados, Mexican cuisine is home to some of the most diverse and delicious ingredients out there. Whether you’re a taco lover or an enchilada enthusiast, there are so many fantastic ways to enjoy traditional Mexican cuisine. We hope this article has inspired your next authentic Mexican dish and given you some newfound inspiration into a food and culture we love. Have any favorite Mexican dishes or food recipes you like to make? Feel free to share your ideas and cooking techniques on how to cook Mexican food in the comments below. From all of us at Bob’s Red Mill, thanks for reading! Wishing you a happy, healthy day ahead.


  1. Roberta
    I feel like limes are not talked about enough as being a key ingredient. I buy limes every time I make Mexican food. I'm glad to see this ingredient in your recipes.
  2. the mexgerm
    Wow! All Mexicans know what the main 3 ingredients in Mexican cuisine are since they are as symbolic as the flag - chile / green - cebolla / white and tomate/ red. FYI In Northern Mexico we don't use queso fresco or cotija - we use a German style cheese, that's very similar to Muenster. It's made by the German settlers there and is definitely superior to most other cheeses in Mexico.

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