A to Z of Mexican

A

Albondigas
Spanish for ‘meatballs’, these can be made from beef, pork or lamb and are usually served with a deliciously juicy tomato sauce.

B

Borracho
Translates as ‘drunk’… but in culinary terms it refers to something that is cooked in wine or another alcohol to add flavour and to help tenderise meat.
Burrito
Literally translates as ‘little donkey’, this is a large flour tortilla wrapped around a delicious filling, all kept in place with a clever fold at one end – which makes it look a little like a donkey’s ear.

C

Cantina
A Mexican kitchen.
Cerveza
The Spanish word for ‘beer’ - always useful to know!
Chimichanga
A deliciously crispy, deep-fried burrito made by piling beef or chicken, beans, cheese and sometimes rice into a soft flour tortilla. The filled wrap is then deep-fried until crisp and golden, and served up sizzling hot with cool guacamole and a dollop of fresh sour cream.
Chilli Con Carne
Literally means ‘chilli with meat’ – typically made with tender diced or ground beef, spicy chillies, a large helping of juicy kidney beans and a rich, tangy tomato sauce.
Chipotle
There’s nothing more Mexican than a smoked chilli and that’s exactly what a chipotle is - a dried and smoked jalapeño chilli. Nice and spicy with a deliciously smoky taste, these are perfect for adding an extra taste dimension to your Mexican dishes – try adding to your sauces or marinades, or chuck into the pan when you’re frying meat or veg .
Chorizo
A spicy pork and beef sausage with distinctive smoky flavours and a rich deep red colour that comes from smoked red peppers. Fried chorizo and scrambled eggs is a popular Mexican breakfast - wrapped up in a soft flour tortilla it makes an unbeatable breakfast burrito.
Coffee based liqueur
A rich Mexican liqueur made with fine flavour Arabica coffee beans - said to be inspired by the drinks prepared by the ancient civilizations of the Yucatan Peninsular.

D

Dips
What tortilla chips were made for! Guacamole is perhaps one of the most famous dips – made typically with smooth mashed avocados a little chilli and a dash of zesty lime. Then there’s tangy salsa, typically made with juicy chopped tomatoes and finely diced onion with chilli. And you can always rely on a dab or two of sour cream to add some contrasting cool flavours.

E

Empanada
Similar to our good old British pasties - empanadas can be either savoury or sweet. So when you bite in you might find seasoned ground beef and vegetables, shredded chicken, beans, melted cheese… or succulent fruit and cool fresh cream.
Enchilada
Soft corn tortillas wrapped around a filling of succulent meat, juicy veg or tasty seafood, typically covered in a tangy chilli sauce then topped with cheese and served all golden brown and bubbling.

F

Fajita
Perhaps one of the most famous of Mexican dishes and a real hands-on meal, perfect for getting together with friends and family. Soft flour tortillas typically filled with sizzling beef or chicken with onion, strips of pepper, crisp lettuce and a little sour cream.
Frijoles Refritos
This means ‘Refried Beans’, but these aren’t really fried more than once – it’s actually a mis-translation from the Spanish phrase. The translation should be more like ‘well fried beans’. Traditionally made with pinto beans, soaked overnight, then cooked and mashed before being fried once in oil or butter.

G

Guacamole
A classic dip made typically with smooth, mashed avocado, diced zingy onions and a squeeze of lime to add a wonderfully zesty edge.
Guajillo
A medium hot chilli pepper perfect to add a little friskiness to your favourite sauces.

H

Huevos Rancheros
A classic Mexican breakfast which translates as ‘country style eggs’. Fried eggs, juicy tomatoes, onion, red peppers and corn tortillas - a hearty start to the day!

J

Jalapeño
Probably the best known (and certainly the most popular) chilli, prized for its medium heat - but watch out, some can be quite hot! You’ll find their lively heat in many a tangy salsa - they also add a deliciously spicy topping to crunchy, cheesy nachos or crispy tacos.

M

Margarita
The most popular tequila-based cocktail and a Mexican institution! Made with tequila, triple sec and lime juice, served in a salt rimmed glass.

N

Nachos
A delicious contrast of crisp tortilla chips typically served with melted cheese, tangy tomato and juicy beans, smooth guacamole, spicy jalapeño chilli and cooling sour cream.

P

Picante
Hot - as in spicy!
Poblano
A very mild variety of chilli pepper that takes on a deep red colour when ripe. Its mildness means it can be used in any number of recipes, sauces and even by itself – which means it’s also a very popular chilli.
Pollo
The Spanish for chicken, whose versatility means it goes beautifully with the vivid flavours and aromas of Mexican cooking - from sizzling fajitas and crunchy tacos to baked, bubbling hot enchiladas.

Q

Quesadilla
Literally translated as ‘little cheese’ a quesadilla is a fried or grilled corn, wheat or flour tortilla, filled with cheese to which you can add tender chicken, onions or a cheeky chilli or two. Think of it as a Mexican cheese toastie you can slice up and share!

R

Refried Beans
These beans aren’t actually fried more than once – it’s just a mis-translation from the Spanish ‘Frijoles Refritos’ which means ‘well fried beans’. Traditionally they’re made with pinto beans, soaked overnight, then cooked and mashed before being fried once in oil or butter. See ‘F’ for ‘Frijoles Refritos’

S

Salsa
Can mean any type of sauce but usually refers to a tangy tomato sauce typically used as a dip for tortilla chips or to spice up your tacos - made with succulent, chunky pieces of tomato, diced onion and a dash of lively chilli.
Sangria
A wine punch made with red wine, sliced fruit and usually a dash (or two!) of brandy.
Sour cream
An essential in Mexican food - to add a cooling edge to spicy dishes.

T

Taco
Crunchy corn or wheat tortillas typically filled with succulent seasoned beef, tender chicken, colourful veg or freshly cooked seafood - then topped with crisp lettuce, grated cheese and a dash of tangy salsa.
Tequila
A Mexican spirit distilled from the agave plant - related to the yucca, but don’t try it at home!
Tortilla
A thin flat bread made from wheat flour - tortillas have been staple of Mexican food for over 12,000 years and they’re still just as popular today! Deliciously versatile, you can use them to wrap up sizzling fajitas, create a hearty burrito, a golden brown, cheese-covered enchilada and so much more.
Tostada
Literally means ‘toasted’, a Tostada is a satisfying dish of crunchy fried tortilla with all sorts of toppings like refried beans, crisp salad, tangy cheese, cooling avocado and spicy salsa.

V

Vino
The Spanish word for wine - need we say more?

W

Wedges
Thick cut, deep-fried potatoes with a delicious Mexican seasoning and served with your favourite dips.

X

Xnipec
Pronounced ‘Shnee-pek’, this is a tasty chilli salsa or relish, made from habanero chillis, which are one of the hottest varieties of chilli. The name translates literally as ‘dog’s nose’ - and refers to how your nose will run when you eat it, because it’s hot hot hot!

Y

Yerbabuena
Mint - sometimes spelt ‘Hierbabuena’ - this is a key ingredient for your Mojito cocktails.

Z

Zumo
This means ‘juice’ and is usually used with reference to orange juice. In Mexico zumo often refers to the oil or zest of an orange peel.