Mexican Food Glossary


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Ajo - Garlic
Albóndigas - Meatballs
Al Horno - Oven-baked
Ancho - A Poblano chilli that has been dried and turned a black-red color; means wide.  The most popular dried chile in Mexico and the US.  It’s dried poblamo chile and the smoky-sweet flavor accents numerous dishes.  Approx. 3”-4” long, dark, reddish brown, sweetest of all the dried chiles and slightly fruity flavor
Antojito - An hors d'oeuvre or small snack food
Arroz - Rice
Asadero cheese - A white cow's milk cheese of Mexican origin: comes in braids, balls or round. Also known as Chihuahua and Oaxaca cheese.
Asar - To roast or broil
Barbacoa - Barbecued meat
Borracho - Cooked with wine; means drunk
Buñuelo - Puffy, sweet, deep-fried pastry
Burrito/Burro - Large flour tortilla wrapped around a filling
Calabaza - Squash, pumpkin
Caldo - Soup, broth
Caliente - Hot to the touch (temperature)
Camarón - Shrimp
Canela - Cinnamon
Capirotada - Spicy bread pudding served during Lent; means a little bit of everything
Carne -
Meat, specifically beef see Chilli con carne
Carnitas - Shredded Pork
Cebolla - Onion
Cerveza - Beer
Ceviche - Salad made of raw fish "cooked" in limejuice combined with tomatoes, onions, spices, chiles, served with chips as an appetizer
Chalupa - Our special custard and fruit on a flaky shell
Chicharrones - Deep fried pork rinds, a favorite snack in Mexico
Chilaquiles - Corn tortilla pieces marinated in chile, layered with a filling, sauce and cheese, and baked in a casserole
Chile con queso - A melted cheese dip seasoned with mild green chilies. Served with tortilla chips
Chiles rellenos
Chili con carne - Translates to "chili with meat", diced or ground beef, chilies and chili powder
Chili Powder - Commercially, the product made from ground red chiles, including a variety of other spices
Chimichanga - Deep-fried meat-filled burritos.
Chipotle - Ripened and smoked jalapeno. Fiery hot with lasting smoky flavor
Chorizo - Spicy pork and beef sausage
Churro - Mexican specialty made of a  sweet-dough spiral, deep-fried, coated  with cinnamon and sugar
Chuleta - Chop or cutlet
Cilantro - coriander or Chinese parsley.  You either love it or hate it.  It is used extensively in Tex Mex and Mexican Food cooking.   This green, highly aromatic spice exudes a somewhat bitter taste that is usually acquired over time.  Fine chopped leaves are used as a condiment or as an ingredient in dishes.  The stems are chopped and used in soups and beans.  The dried cilantro herb is called cumin or comino.   The seed produced at full maturity is coriander
Coco - Coconut
Comal - Heavy, round griddle for baking tortillas
Ejote - String bean
Elote - Corn.  Sometimes helote
Empanada -Turnover
Enchilada - A corn tortilla dipped in red chile sauce, rolled around just about anything, then topped with sauce and cheese
Enrollado - Rolled
Ensalada - Salad
Escabeche - Pickled
Fajita - Skirt steak.  Most people associate "fajita" with a taco or the strips of meat that go into the taco.  Beef skirt steak comes from the outer covering of the breast near where the brisket comes from.   There are only 2 skirts per cow, a highly flavorful cut of meat as a result of the fat membrane that ‘burns’ off when cooked
Farina - Wheat Flour
Fideos - Vermicelli.  Thin pasta
Flan - Baked custard with caramel coating
Flauta - Beans, specifically pinto beans that are grown
Gallina - Hen
Garbanzo - Chickpea
Gazpacho - Cold, spicy tomato and vegetable soup
Granada - Pomegranate
Guacamole - avocado mixture that is made from ripened avocados and lemon or limejuice, diced onions and tomato, cilantro. 
Guajolote - In Mexico, turkey; pavo is turkey in other Spanish-speaking countries
Habanero - Mexico’s hottest.  Delicate looking green, yellow and orange "lanterns" are prized by the Yucatecos for their hotter-than-heck fire.  Green and crispest, orange are softest.  The special fruity flavor compliments fresh salsas made with tropical fruits
Harina - Wheat flour
Huevo - Egg.  Also blanquillo
Jalapeno - The most widely used fresh green (ripens to red) chile in the US.  Also, referred to as the Texas sweet pickle.  Averages 2" in length.  The "hot" comes from the seed and the membrane.  It is the most used pepper in Tex Mex cooking with Serrano pepper coming in 2nd.   A great source of vitamin C.  When ripened and smoked, it becomes a chipotle chilli
Jamón - Ham
Jícama - A crisp, white, edible root
Kahlúa - Coffee-flavored liqueur made in Mexico
Lechuga - Lettuce
Maíz - Corn
Mano - A piece of volcanic rock used with both hands to grind food against another rock.  Means hand
Manteca - Lard
Mantequilla - Butter
Manzana - (Peron and rocolo chile) Fresh chile, looks like a cross between a yellow bell pepper and a golden habanero.  Medium to hot at its peak.  It has black seeds and the flower is purple.  Fruity flavor with a thin flesh
Margaritas - The national drink of Mexico, made with Tequila, Controy and fresh lime juice served either blended with ice or on the rocks in a salt-rimmed glass
Mariscos - Shellfish;  Fish is pescado
Masa - Dough, usually referring to ground hominy, called nixtamal
Menudo - Tripe soup;  New Year's Day tradition to ease hangovers
Miel - Honey
Molcajete - Volcanic rock shaped like a bowl in which food is ground
Mole - Term used for a thick sauce or paste.  The classic mole is made with chiles, unsweetened chocolate, nuts, bananas and chicken stock
Mora - A cordovan-colored chipotle with a fruit-leather texture.   This midsize Jalapeno is lightly smoked and often used for canned chipotles in adobo.  Mostly used in salsas and sauces
Naranja - Orange
Nixtamal - Hominy;  Raw corn grains, soaked in lime, then ground to make a dough (masa) for tortillas, tamales, chalupas
Nopales - Cactus pads cooked and used like okra
Oja - Cornhusk, used to wrap tamales; sometimes hoja
Olla - Clay pot.  A utensil in which beans are simmered
Pan - Bread
Pepino - Cucumber
Picadillo - Meat hash
Picante - Hot to the taste buds
Piloncillo - Brown sugar formed into a cone for marketing
Pimienta- Black pepper
Pipián - A sauce made of pumpkin seed, chile and spices
Poblano - A variety of chilli
Pollo- Chicken
Postre - Dessert
Quesadilla - Grilled cheese sandwich made with a tortilla
Queso - Cheese
Rábano - Radish
Relleno - Stuffed
Repollo - Cabbage
Ristra - String of dried red chiles
Sal - Salt  "Sin sal" means without salt, useful to know when ordering a tequila cocktail called a margarita, which usually is served with its rim coated with salt
Salsa - Sauce  Usually, refers to a tomato-based condiment used to dip or to accent dishes.  If the salsa is uncooked, as in Pico De Gallo, it is referred to as "salsa cruda."  If it is processed, in Tex Mex lingo, this is called "chile."  If cooked and then bottled, this is called "picante"
Sangría - A drink made of red or white wine, sugar, oranges, lemons and lime
Seco - Dry
Sopa - Soup
Taco - A corn tortilla folded over a filling
Tamale (plural is tamales) - A corn husk stuffed with masa, meat or beans.  Masa (dough) that surrounds your choice of filling, traditionally pork.  The 5"-6" long and 1" thick tamale is wrapped in a soaked cornhusk and steamed to cook dough
Tatemar - Verb meaning to roast, peel and seed green chiles
Tejano - Spanish word meaning "Texan"
Tequila - Distilled liquor made from agave, or century plant
Tomatillo - Looks like a tiny green tomato, actually a relative of the gooseberry family. Used in salsa verde and in many sauces
Topopo - A salad shaped like a volcano or pyramid
Torta - A Mexican sandwich made from bolillo (hard Mexican roll) cut in half and stuffed with tomatoes, avocados or guacamole and carne asada, shredded beef or chicken, cheese and salsa
Tortilla - A thin, flat bread made from wheat flour or corn masa
Tortilla Press - A device used to flatten balls of masa (corn meal dough) into thin patties for tortillas
Tostada - A fried flat corn tortilla topped with a layer of beans, shredded beef or chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, avocado and salsa

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