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5 Essential Ingredients for Mexican Cooking

Mexican cuisine is ancient - and one of our favorites! It’s got over nine thousand years of history; and a mix of Aztec, Mayan and Spanish culture. And guess what? Mexican food tastes even more amazing when prepared on a Blackstone Griddle! The five essential ingredients of Mexican cooking today are still the same from centuries ago - but with a little mix. When the Spanish colonized the region, they tasted the Aztec meals and were amazed by its spice. Back then Europeans only had black peppers from India, and the heat from the red chilis got them excited. And chocolate was a brand-new thing. Back then it was a cacao beverage - served like coffee - and only for the noble Aztecs. The Spanish had a try and said it was a drink that makes you wide-awake and strong.

Corn

Corn is the staple for making dough for centuries in the Mexican region. The native peoples, such as the Mayans and Aztecs, had corn farms and used the ingredient to make tortillas, soups, and even beverages. Before the arrival of the Spanish, corn was a sacred dish - a offering to the gods - and highly valued as a nutritious meal. In fact, corn is originally from Central America and became popular worldwide when the Spanish brought it back to Europe. The list of corn dishes is huge - here are the favorites by Mexicans:
  • Corn Salad
  • Corn Soup
  • Taco
  • Tamale (corn dough wrapped in banana leaves and a meat/vegetable filling)
  • Tortilla
  • Street corn (Corn on the cob with sour cream, cheese, and chili powder)
And the Mexicans also make drinks with corn - these are non-alcoholic:
  • Atole (corn, cane sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and water)
  • Pozol (corn, lime, cocoa beans, and water)
Now it’s time for the alcohol - and when it comes to corn, the Mexicans make some neat Cervezas (beer in Spanish). The Aztecs used to make their own beers even before the Spanish came, so Mexico has a rich history when it comes to the classic drink. Then the German immigrants arrived and the beer sector skyrocketed: several breweries opened throughout the country and now Mexico exports beer worldwide.

Chili Peppers

You already know it - Mexican food is spicy. And yes, a lot of dishes use chili peppers, but there’s a reason for that. During the Aztec empire, chiles were considered an essential ingredient - just like corn. Almost every dish was cooked with chiles, and if a meal wasn’t spicy, it wasn’t considered a proper meal. And chilis were considered sacred. Aztecs would use it as medicine, in rituals, and even for pest control. When the Spanish came, the chili pepper lived on through cuisine and most Mexicans eat the ingredient on a daily basis. The most popular meals with chili peppers are:
  • Enchiladas (tortilla with a meat/vegetable filling and covered with chili sauce)
  • Entomatada (tortillas covered in a tomato, garlic, onion, oregano, and chili sauce)
  • Pozole (meat stew with cabbage, chilli peppers, onion, garlic, avocado, and limes)
Mexicans also use chilli peppers for their sauces and seasonings. Here are the most popular:
  • Chamoy (apricot, plum or mangos with chili peppers)
  • Salsa (tomato, onion, garlic, cilantro, and chili peppers)

Avocado

Avocados are native to Central and South America, used by native peoples from Mexico to Peru for over 15 thousand years. The Aztecs used it for sauces and considered the avocado an aphrodisiac. They spread it on tortillas, just like we do now with guacamole. Mexicans use avocados mostly as a spread or filling - and it balances out the spice of chili peppers. The most popular meals are:
  • Avocado Soup (avocado, chicken, and lime)
  • Guacamole (avocado, lime, tomato, and chilli peppers)
  • Tacos (avocado, cheese, tomato, and chili pepper filling)
  • Quesadillas (avocado, cheese, tomato, and chilli pepper filling)

Beans

Along with corn, beans were an essential in the Aztec diet. They were the main source of protein since meat wasn’t common - only Aztec peoples from the coast regularly ate fish, and red meat wasn’t a part of the diet until the Spanish arrived. Nowadays in Mexico, beans are a staple dish like corn and used in a lot of dishes along with meat. Here are the most popular:
  • Bean tacos (tacos with pinto beans and chili peppers)
  • Bean tortillas (tortilla with pinto bean and chili pepper filling)
  • Carne a la tampiqueña (pinto beans, tortilla, onion, sirloin steak, lettuce, and cheese)
  • Carne en su Jugo (soup of flank steak with pinto beans, bacon, garlic, and chili peppers)
  • Refried Beans (pinto beans, garlic, and chili peppers)

Cocoa (chocolate)

Cocoas (a.k.a. Cacao) are native to Mexico and were a sacred ingredient for the Aztecs. Only the nobles could eat them, and they were reserved for rituals and weddings. A common recipe was “cacao water”: Hot water with ground cacao, corn, chili, and honey. According to Aztec legends, cacao was a sacred ingredient only for the gods. But then the god Quetzacoatl planted a cocoa tree and taught the people how to turn its beans into a drink. The other gods felt betrayed that their sacred beverage was shared - and kicked Quetzacoatl out of paradise. The aztec nobles felt like gods when drinking cacao, and legends say the Aztec king Montezuma would drink up to 50 cups a day. Back then, the natives didn’t have any sugar, so the drink was bitter - more similar to coffee than the hot chocolate you get today. Cacao was so valuable that it was a form of money, and Aztecs used it to purchase other ingredients, clothes, and even fresh water if they lived far away from rivers and lakes. Nowadays the cacao lives on as chocolate and is adored from coast to coast in Mexico. Unlike the chocolate desserts we have in the US, Mexicans like their chocolate a bit more bitter. Here are the popular recipes:
  • Champurrado (corn flour, chocolate, and water drink)
  • Licuado (banana, chocolate, and sugar smoothie)
  • Mole (chocolate and chilli pepper sauce)

Mexican Dishes to Cook on the Blackstone Griddle

Flat tops and Mexican cuisine are best amigos. Back in the day, the Aztecs cooked tortillas on clay griddles called comals and till today Mexicans cook meals on a flat top for spicy and hot flavor. So cook up the 5 essential ingredients of Mexican cuisine on a Blackstone Griddle. It’s made of cold-rolled steel and fits up to 28 burgers - all at the same time. And there’s no cold spots - the temperature is equally distributed. Talk about tortillas, fajitas, and quesadillas without any burns! And if you want to take a Mexican spin on the griddle, our experts recommend these recipes. Each one has been fully approved for griddle cookin’. And they pack in Mexican flavor:
So, what’s your favorite Mexican ingredient? Tell us in a comment, and if you’re gonna cook up a dish send us the pics - use #BlackstoneGriddles and #GriddleNation on social media so we can check out your photos!