Just picturing a few of the best-known Mexican dishes, it is easy to visualize some of the core foods needed to create them. Appealing to the eye, nose and palate, Mexican cuisine is rich with variety. Popular the world over, Mexican staple foods are incorporated into the dining of all cultures as full entrees or individual snacks.
Most Mexican dishes involve a tortilla. Mexican wraps are made of corn in authentic Mexican foods, as opposed to the flour-based tortillas we see more prevalent in the United States. Tortillas are warmed to make them soft and to help bring out the flavor before they swaddle a host of delicious ingredients inside. They are used in making burritos, quesadillas and enchiladas.
Beans, or frijoles, are the core protein and source of substance in Mexican foods. Even if a meat is included in a burrito, beans are usually added to the dish, since they truly are a deeply embedded staple in Mexican dishes. They are easily grown, cheap, plentiful and can be prepared in a variety of ways. They can be seasoned to fit any dish and can be a side dish on their own. Beans can be boiled or refried, which creates a mashed consistency.
Corn, or maize, is a central part of Mexican culture and food. It serves as a foundation to many Mexican specialties, especially as the critical ingredient in tortillas. Cooking fresh corn husks to a thin paste leads to another Mexican favorite in tamales where the husks enclose other delicious ingredients.
Avocados and Guacamole
The beautiful and flavorful green avocado is prevalent in Mexican dishes and often serves as the equivalent of both a condiment and a dip, depending on the dish or context. Guacamole can be mild, medium or spicy; smooth or chunky; and contain mayonnaise or not.
Mexican foods are rich in the use of a variety of peppers. They can be sweet, tangy or spicy, depending on the dish and the cook’s attention to guests’ taste buds. The fresh peppers often used are bell peppers, which are mild and somewhat sweet, while the hotter peppers often added to recipes are chiles, serrano, jalapeno, poblano and habanero. Dried peppers include ancho, which is a dried poblano; chipotle, a dried jalapeno; and mulato, another type of dried poblano.
Other Mexican Staple Foods
A few other items that are synonymous with Mexican cuisine are salsa, cilantro, tomatoes, onions, queso or cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips and fresh fruit.
References and ResourcesSixWise: The Six Healthiest Staple Foods in Mexican Cuisine
Different World: Mexican Food
Visual Geography: Food in Mexico