Aceite de olivo Olive oil
Acelga Swiss chard
Acitrón Candied fruit made from
shoots of the biznaga cactus used as a candy or ingredient in
Acocil Small, fresh water
Acuyo Piper sanctum. Plant with
large leaves which has an anis-like flavor and is used to flavor stews
and to wrap tamales. More often called hoja santa in Mexico and "root
beer plant' in this country.
Achiote The seed of the annato
tree which is used to make a seasoning paste of the same name in the
Yucatan. The paste is made by grinding the seeds with garlic, spices
and lime juice or vinegar.
Adobo A seasoning paste, usually
containing ground chiles, vinegar, garlic and spices that is used to
coat meats, poultry and seafood prior to cooking or drying to
preserve. Similar to the Yucatan recado or recaudo, and achiote.
Aguacate Avocado. In Nahuatl the
avocado was called ahuacatl, which means "testicle," referring to the
shape of the fruit.
Aguamiel The sweet juice of the
maguey plant, that when fermented produces pulque.
Aguas frescas A genre of soft
drinks made by infusing water with various flavorings including
tamarind, chía, and flor de jamaica
Aguja Litterally "needle." A cut
of chuck steak that is one of the favorite al carbón (char-broiled)
specialties of northern Mexico
Ahumar To smoke foods. For
example, pescado ahumado means smoked fish.
Albaricoque Apricot. See also
Albóndiga Meatball. Meat,
poultry or fish that is ground and rolled into balls with other
ingredients before cooking.
Al carbón Cooked over charcoal
or wood coals
Alambre Literally "wire." Refers
to shishkabobs. Also see brocheta.
Alegría A traditional sweet dating from pre-Hispanic times made
of toasted amaranth seeds and honey or syrup.
Almuerzo Traditionally a
midmorning meal that is often used as a translation for "lunch."
Al vapor Food cooked al vapor is
Añejo Refers to something that
has been aged, such as liquor or cheese.
Antojito The word antojito comes
from the Spanish word antojo which means whim. An extensive list of
the foods referred to by "antojitos", follows: Aperitivo
Appetizer or aperitif.
Arracheras Skirt steak or
Arriero Mule driver. Several
dishes were named after these colorful characters.
Asadero A barbecue or grill.
Also a type of cheese the texture of mozzarella that is made with half
fresh and half day-old milk.
Asar To broil
Atole A thick drink, dating from
pre-Hispanic times, made with ground, dried corn and water or milk,
and occasionally with other ingredients and seasonings, that can be
taken hot or cold.
Ayocote A large type of bean,
also spelled ayecote.
Azafrancillo Ditaxis heterantha.
A plant whose bulbs are used to color foods, and often used as a
substitute for saffron.
Azucarera Sugar bowl
Bacalao Dried fish, usually cod,
a traditional Christmas dish in Spain and parts of Mexico.
Balché A Mayan alcoholic
beverage made from bark of the balché tree and honey.
Bañar Literally "to bathe."
Often used in instructions to cover a food with sauce.
Barbacoa Meat cooked in a
sealed, underground pit, usually wrapped in maguey or sometimes banana
leaves. Often the meat is placed on a grill over a cauldron filled
with water, vegetables, beans, chickpeas, herbs and spices to create a
soup, flavored with the drippings.
Batidora electrica Electric
Batir To whisk or beat as in to
Birria A barbacoa specialty of
Jalisco made with lamb or goat.
Bizcocho Cupcake or cookie,
often flavored with anis.
Biznaga A type of cactus,
resembling a barrel cactus, from whose young stalks acitrón, (candied
cactus) which is used as a flavoring in stuffings such as for chiles
en nogada, is made.
Blanco de Patzcuaro A mild
flavored fish from Lake Patzcuaro in Michoacán, for which the town of
the same name is justly famous. It is usually fried in an egg batter
and is often served al mojo de ajo: with garlic sauce.
Blanquear To blanch
Blanquillo Egg. A term not used
much in Mexico, but which avoids the possible double entendre of the
more common huevo, which is also a slang term referring to testicles.
Bocadillo Snack or finger food
Bolillo French style, crusty
bread rolls made in the shape of a bobbin that is served with entrees
and used for sandwiches.
Borracho Literally "drunk" and refers, in the culinary sense,
to sauces made with pulque, beer or tequila, and to beans cooked with
pulque or beer.
Botana Snacks or appetizers,
often taken with drinks in a bar or before a meal.
Brasear To braise
Brocheta Shishkabob or skewer.
Also called alambre which literally means "wire."
Buñuelo A fritter made of fried
wheat flour dough and flavored with a syrup or honey, and often anis
and cinnamon as well.
Cabuche Flower of the biznaga
Cacahuacentli Also spelled
cacahuacintle and cacahuazintle. A type of corn with large ears and
round grains (resembling cacao beans) often used to make tamales
cernidos (strained tamales, meaning that the dough is strained to make
it extra fine and spongy) and pozole.
Cacerola Casserole dish.
Café Coffee or a cafe.
Café de Olla Mexican style
coffee made in a clay pot
Caguama A large, now endangered,
turtle. Also used to refer to an extra large bottle of beer or any
Cajeta A confection made by
simmering goat's milk and sugar to a
thick paste. A specialty of Celaya now found throughout Mexico. Sell
also leche quemada.
Calabaza Pumpkin or very large squash
Caldo Soup or broth
Camote Sweet potato. Also refers
to the famous cigar-shaped sweets of Puebla which are made with sweet
potatoes and fruit.
Campechano A term applied to
various seafood cocktails
Campechana Cocktail. Sometimes
used in general and sometimes to refer to specific drinks from
Campeche where the word cocktail is said to have originated.
Capear To cover food with batter
and fry it.
Capirotada A pudding of bread
fruit and syrup flavored with spices such as cinnamon and allspice,
commonly prepared during Lent.
Capulín A type of fruit
resembling a wild cherry, used for medicinal and ornamental purposes.
Carne asada Broiled meat. Also,
in parts of northern Mexico, this term refers to a cookout or picnic
where meat is cooked over coals.
Carne de puerco Pork
Carne de res Beef
Carne molida Ground meat or
Cazón Shark. See also tiburón.
Cazuela Large, clay cooking vessel that is wider at the top
than at the bottom.
Cebollitas de cambray Green
onions or scallions
Carnitas Pork, usually simmered
in enough lard to cover it, often with the addition of garlic and
sometimes fruit juices, until tender and crisp, then used as a filling
for tacos. A specialty of Michoacán.
Cebiche Often spelled ceviche.
Fish that is "cooked" by the chemical action of lime juice in which it
is soaked, and is then mixed with other ingredients and served,
usually as an appetizer.
Cecina Paper thin pieces of
dried or partially dried beef or pork that are sometimes infused with
powdered or ground chiles and other seasonings. Sometimes called
tasajo, especially in Oaxaca.
Cedazo Strainer or sieve
Cernir To sift
Ceviche See cebiche
Ciruela pasa Prune
Clavetear To decorate or adorn
Clavo de olor Clove
Clemole Another word for mole,
sometimes used in the diminutive, clemolito.
Cocada A sticky sweet made with coconut.
Cocer To cook, boil or simmer.
Cocinar To cook.
Codillo Elbow or knuckle.
Col Cabbage. See also repollo.
Coladera Colander, sieve or
Colonche An alcoholic beverage
found in northern Mexico, made by fermenting tunas from the nopal
Colorín Edible, red flowers from
the tree of the same name.
Comal A griddle made originally
from clay, but now more usually from iron, steel, tin or aluminum.
Comida A meal, often referring
to the principal one taken in the mid or late afternoon.
Confitar To crystallize. To
sweeten. To cook fruit in syrup.
Conserva Preserves. Food
preserved in sealed, sterilized jars.
Cortar To cut
Corunda A trangle shaped tamal
which is a speciality of Michoacán.
Costillas chuletas Rib steaks.
Cuitlacoche Often spelled
Huitlacoche The intensely black, mushroomlike corn smut used as a
filling for antojitos or an ingredient in soups.
Chabacano Apricot (See also
Chambarete Shank of beef
Chamberete de carnero Lamb or
Champiñon Mushroom. See also
Champurrado An atole flavored
Charal Minnow-sized fish, often
from Lake Patzcuaro in Michocán, that are dried.
Charola Baking dish.
Chaya Jatropha aconitifolia.
Large-leafed vegetable used to flavor soups, stews and to wrap
Chayote A type of squash called
Mirliton in the southern U.S..
Chía, Salvia hispanica. A plant whose seeds have been used
since pre-Hispanic times as in ingredient in drinks, cereals and
tamales. Oil extracted from the seed was one of the few pre-Hispanic
sources of fat.
Chicozapote Manilkara zapota. A small brown fruit from the
chicle tree from which latex is made. The fruit is quite sweet and
excellent in taste.
Chicharrónes Pork skins which
are fried in lard and eaten as a snack or used as a filling for tacos
and as an ingredient in soups.
brown-skinned fruit with a mild flavor somewhat like that of a pear.
Chilacayote Cucurbita Ficofolia
Bouché. Gourd with edible flesh and seeds.
Chilatole An atole flavored with
ground broiled tomatoes and chiles.
Chilmole A flavoring paste from
the Yucatan made with dried chiles that are dry roasted on a comal
until blackened, often with grain alcohol to enhance the charring
effect, and other spices. Also spelled chimole or chirmole
Chilocuil Red maguey worms.
second in popularity to the meocuil or white maguey worm.
Chilorio A meat filling, popular
in northern Mexico. Usually made with pork but sometimes with beef,
that is boiled, shredded, then fried with ground chiles and other
Chilpachol A soup made with crab
meat and tomato.
Chimichanga Often spelled
chivichanga. See Antojitos.
Chiquihuite A large, often
Chirmole See chilmole.
Chirimoya Annona cherimola Mill.
A scaley greenish-brown fruit that is white inside with large seeds.
Very sweet with a custard-like flavor and grainy texture.
Chorizo Mexican or Spanish style sausage. The Spanish version
is usually dried and flavored with paprika, while Mexican style
chorizo is usually sold fresh either in links or in bulk and is
flavored with chiles such as the ancho and pasilla.
Chorote An atole served in the
state of Tabasco, flavored with sugar and chocolate.
Chuleta Chop (as in chuleta de
puerco, or pork chop).
Damiana Turnera diffusa; Turnera
aphrodisiaca. Planta turnerácea. An herbal plant found in Baja
California that is said to have aphrodisiacal qualities. It is used as
an ingredient in a sweet liquor of the same name that makes an
excellent addition to the Margarita cocktail. It is also used to make
Dasayuno Breakfast. Literally:
Break Fast (Des Ayuno).
Derretir To melt.
Desgrasar To remove grease.
Deshuesar To remove bones
Destapador Bottle opener
Desvenar Remove veins, as from
Diezmillo Chuck steak
Diluir To dilute
Dorado Dolphin. Also means
Dorar To brown
Dulce Sweet or candy.
Dulcería Candy shop
Dzotobichay A tamal from the
Yucatan that is wrapped with chaya leaves.
Ejotes Green beans
Elote Fresh corn, (as opposed to
maíz or dried corn).
Embutido Cold meat, sausage and
the making of sausage.
Empanada A pastry turnover
filled with either meats or fruits and other sweets.
Empanizar To bread or to fry
items such as meat that have been coated with bread crumbs.
Enchilado Meat, cheese or other
foods that are coated with chile paste or powder. For example: queso
enchilado, is a cheese that has been coated with chile.
Enharinar To flour
Ensaladera Salad bowl.
En su jugo Meat or poultry
cooked in its own juice.
Entomatadas See Antojitos.
Epazote Chenopodium ambrosioides.
An herb found wild throughout North America that is used extensively
to flavor beans, soups, stews and quesadillas.
Escabeche A mixture of vinegar,
oil, herbs and seasonings used to preserve or "pickle" foods such as
poultry, fish, chiles and other vegetables.
Escaldar Blanch, scald.
Escamoles Ant eggs, considered a
delicacy in pre-Hispanic times.
Escurrir To strain.
Espelón A small, black bean from the Yucatan.
Estofado A stew. Stewed or
Exprimir To squeeze.
Falda Literally "skirt," but
usually refers to the flank steak rather than the skirt steak, which
is usually called arracheras.
Fiambre A mixture of
various foods such as fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses that is
usually marinated in a dressing and served cold.
Fideos Noodles or
pasta, usually fideo refers to a coil of dried, angel hair sized pasta
Flamear To flame as in
a flaming dessert.
Flan Custard or
dessert made with milk or cream and eggs.
Flautas See Antojitos.
Flor de calabaza
Flor de jamaica The
deep red portion of the flowers which cover the seeds from a plant
often referred to in English as hibiscus, used to make soft drinks and
Fondo Broth or consume
made from soup bones or, a reduced stock
Freir To fry.
word for tomatillo, sometimes used in northern Mexico.
Beans cooked with beer or pulque.
Frijoles colados Beans
that are cooked, then strained before frying.
Beans fried with cheese, a specialty of Sonora.
Mexican dish made by cooking kid in its blood.
Fundir To melt. See
Golosina Candy or
Grasa Grease or fat.
ground to a paste, sometimes mixed with onions, chiles, tomato, lime
juice and cilantro.
Guajolote Turkey (see also pavo).
Accompanyment to the main entree such as vegetables.
Guanábana Annona muricata
L. A medium large, sour fruit often used in ice cream.
Guayaba Psidium guajava L. A medium to small yellow
fruit with a fresh, almost sour, pungent taste that is delicious to
some and awful to others. The trees leaves were used by the Aztecs in
the treatment of diarrhea.
Guisar To stew or
Guiso A stew or
Gusanos de Maguey
Worms found on the Maguey (agave) plant that, when fried are
considered a delicacy. The worm often found in bottles of mescal.
Haba Boradbeans, Large,
yellowish, broad beans of the lima bean family, originally from Europe
and popular in Mediterranean cooking.
Harina de Maíz Flour
made from nixtamalized corn for making masa for tortillas and tamales
Harina de trigo Wheat
Helado Ice cream
Hervir To boil
Hierbabuena Mint. Also
Hojaldre Puff paste
Hoja Santa Piper sanctum.
A plant whose large, soft leaves with the flavor of anis are used as
an ingredient in stews and tamales. Often referred to as the rootbeer
plant. Especially popular in Oaxaca. See also acuyo
Hongo Mushroom. Also
referred to as champiñon
Horchata Soft drink prepared by blending water or juice with
melon seeds or rice, and with additional ingredients including fruits,
coconut, almonds and sugar.
Hornear To bake in an
Huauhtli Nahuatl word
nuttalias. Sometimes spelled Guausoncle. . A plant related to
epazote whose leaves are coated with batter and fried.
Huevo Egg. Careful,
this is also a slang word for testical. A safer word to use is
Blanquillo, although it is little used in Mexico. .
Jalea Jelly or marmalade
or candy made from sugar and milk or from fruits and pumpkin seeds.
Jícama Pachyrrhizus erous.
An edible root with much the texture and taste of a cross between an
apple and water chestnut.
Jitomate Tomato. Also
Jumil An insect that
is eaten both alive and dried. A specialty of Taxco.
Literally "burned milk, another term for cajeta.
Lima agria The sour
lime found in Yucatan and used in the area's cuisine.
Longaniza A sausage flavored
with chiles and other spices.
Machacar To grind or crush.
Maíz Corn in its dried
state (as opposed to elote which refers to fresh corn).
Mamey Pouteria sapota.
Tree and the edible fruit it bears which is peach colored and almost
too sweet to some tastes. A favorite ingredient in ice cream.
Manitas Pigs feet
Manjar A delicious
dish or delicacy
Marquesote A sweet bread or tort usually made with
wheat, rice or corn flour and eggs.
Masa Dough of ground
nixtamal from which tortillas are made.
Menudo Soup or stew
made with tripe and flavored with chiles. A specialty of northern
Mexico, that is considered a cure for hangovers.
Meocuil White and most
popular (from a culinary standpoint) maguey worm.
Merienda A light meal
or snack taken either between the comida and the cena. Similar to an
English high tea.
three-legged, flat, stone implement used for grinding corn, chiles and
liquor made from the juice of various agaves, often roasted over open
fires giving it a smokey taste.
Mezclar To mix.
Milanesa A breaded,
fried cutlet of veal, beef or pork.
Milpa Cornfield. Often
beans, squash, tomatillos, tomatoes and chiles, the most important
elements in Mexican cooking, grow amongst the corn.
Miltomate tomate de
milpa, or fresadilla Tomatillo
parchment-like membrane of the maguey, or the dish made by wrapping
meats and vegetables in it much the way we use parchment paper, and
cooking them in a steamer of barbacoa pit.
Mojo de ajo Garlic
Molcajete Stone mortar
used principally to prepare sauces
Molde para pastel Cake
Mole From the Nahuatl
word molli, or sauce. Now refers to traditional stews which are
thickened by their own ingredients including chiles, nuts, fruit and
Moler To grind
Molletes Bolillo or
small French rolls cut in half and buttered and toasted, or covered
with refried beans and cheese and heated. A popular breakfast item.
Morcilla Meat, often
entrails, cooked in blood or stuffed into intestines and grilled or
Nata Skin or cream. The top
skimmed off milk or cream.
Nixtamal Dried corn
which has been heated and soaked in an alkaline solution to loosen the
skin, and to facilitate the release of vital nutrients.
Nogada A sauce made
from peeled, ground nuts, as in chiles en nogada.
Nopal The typical
Mexican edible cactus, either the whole plant or the leaf. Called
nopalitos when the leaves are chopped into small pieces. Considered an
aid to lowering cholesterol.
Nuez Literally nut. In
the north it usually refers to pecans
Nuez moscada Nutmeg
Olla Exprés Pressure cooker
Olla podrida A stew of
meats and vegetables
Ostionería Small cafe
specializing in seafood
Pan dulce Sweet bread.
sugar, usually sold molded into small, hard cones. See also panocha
sugar, sugar, usually sold in small, very hard cones.(Be careful as
panocha is also a slang word meaning vagina) See also panela and
Panuchos See antojitos
Papa Potato. Papá
means father, so be careful of the pronunciation.
Papas fritas French
frys (Also called papas francesas)
Papel de aluminio
Papel encerado Wax
Parrilla A grill, such
as a barbecue grill.
Pavera Roasting pan.
Pavo Turkey (see also
Pechuga Breast as in
chicken breast: pechuga de pollo.
Pejelagarto Lepidoseus viridis.
A type of alligator gar eaten in Tabasco.
Pelar To peel.
Pepita Pumpkin or
Pibil Word for the
barbacoa pit used in the Yucatan.
Picada See Antojitos.
Picadillo Filling made
of ground meat.
Picante Hot as in
cane sugar, usually found in small hard cones. See also panela and
Pimienta de jamaica or dulce
Pimienta negra Black
Pimentón dulce Paprika
Piñon Pine nut
Pinole Flour made from
roasted, dried corn. Used to make a drink flavored with sugar,
cinnamon and anis, and sometimes sugar.
Pipián A stew that is
similar to the moles, usually containing ground squash seeds and nuts.
Pitahaya Hylocereus undatus.
A tropical plant with beautiful flowers and tasty fruit.
Pitaya Stenocereus stellatus.
Fruit from a type of prickly pear cactus, from which the juice is made
into an alcoholic beverage.
Pierna Leg, as in leg
Pizca A "pinch" of an
herb or seasoning
Plátano Plantain or
banana. (In some places Platáno macho refers to the plantain and
platáno tabasco to the banana).
small plate, but also refers to the main dish or entree plate.
Ponche Punch, made
with liquor such as brandy or rum and fruit, and usually served hot.
Especially popular at Christmas time.
Pozole Soup made with
meat (usually pork) and nixtamalized corn kernals called cacahuazintle,
and flavored with chile. A speciality of Jalisco. There is also a
wheat pozole common to the state of Sonora.
Puchero A large dish,
Pulque Mildly alcoholic drink
made by fermenting aguamiel (the juice of the maguey plant).
Quelite Generic name for edible,
wild plants, used much the way we use the term "greens."
Quemador Stove burner.
Queso añejo A hard,
aged cheese that when coated with chile is called queso enchilado.
Also called queso cotija.
Queso asadero Stringy
cheese with the texture of low fat mozzarella that is made from part
fresh milk and part milk that has been allowed to ripen over night.
Queso cotija See queso
Queso fresco Literally
fresh cheese. A fresh soft cheese, often homemade.
Queso panela A fresh cheese
Rajas Slices of skinned poblano
chiles that are fried, sometimes with onions, and served with broiled
Rallar To grate.
Raspada Shaved ice
flavored with syrup.
Recado or recaudo
Yucatan style seasoning pastes that are usually smeared on meats,
poultry and fish prior to cooking. They are made by grinding together
ingredients like annato seeds, garlic, and chiles. Similar to achiote.
Refresco Soft drink.
Rejilla Grate, or
Remojar To soak
Repollo Cabbage. See
Confectionary. The art of making desserts and pastries.
Requeson Curd Cheese,
Res Beef (as in carne
Recipiente hondo Bowl
Romeritos Suaeda torreyana.
A wild vegetable that looks much like rosemary, that is often mixed
with mole sauce and shrimp and served during Lent.
Rompope Mexican style
Ropa Vieja Literally "old
clothes." Refers to a stew made with shredded meat.
Sábana Literally "sheet."
Tenderloin steak pounded paper thin and briefly seared on a comal or
parilla before being served, often with a sauce and melted cheese.
Salpicón Mixture of
finely chopped or shredded ingredients.
Salpimentar or Salpimeinta
To season with salt and pepper.
Literally "rooster's beak." Uncooked relish made with diced tomato,
onion and fresh chile. Usually called pico de gallo, in northern
Sangria Drink of
Spanish origin made with fruit juice, fruit and wine, rum or brandy.
Sangrita A combination
of orange juice, grenadine, chile and sometimes tomato juice that is
the favorite accompaniment to tequila in Mexico.
Sazonar To season
Sopa Soup. The word
caldo, (broth) is often used.
Sopa seca Literally
"dry soup." Includes rice and pasta dishes
Sopera Soup bowl
Taco (and types of tacos)
Tamales See Antojitos.
Tapa Lid or top.
Tapar To cover.
Tasajo Thinly sliced,
dried or partially dried beef or pork that is often flavored with
chile. Also called cecina.
Te or thé Tea
Tejocote A tree which
produces a fruit resembling a crab apple. Used in syrups and punches.
Tejolote The pestle
used with a molcajete
Telera A type of
wheat-flour roll usually used to make tortas (Mexican style
sandwiches). It is oval in shape and has two ridges lengthwise along
the top, giving it the appearance of a trilobite.
Tepache An alcoholic
beverage made from pineapple and sugar, or cane juice and other
called tepescuintle The paca, a small, plump rodent found more often
in South America than Mexico.
Tequesquite Rock salt
distilled from the juice of the blue tequila agave.
Tesgüino Beer made
from corn, principally by the Tarahumara Indians who live in the high
mountains of Chihuahua.
Tiburón Shark (see
Tomate de milpa
Tomatillo. Sometimes refers to the wild tomatillo.
Also called tomate de milpa, tomate verde and fresadilla.
Torta Literally a pie
or tort but also refers to a Mexican style sandwich (torta mexicana)
usually made by removing most of the crumbs from both sides of a split
telera or bolillo, then filling it with everything from various meats
and cheeses to a tamal. See antojitos.
Tortilla Flat, thin
bread made from nixtamalized corn. The most important aspect of
Tostar To toast
Totoaba A now
endangered fish with delicately flavored flesh found in the Sea of
Totopos In most of
Mexico totopos is the word used to describe the fried tortilla chips
served as appetizers and snacks. However, in the state of Oaxaca
totopos refer to very large corn tortillas that are often cooked until
Tuba Alcoholic beverage made
from fermented palm juice.
Tuna The fruit of the nopal
Uchepos A tamal that is
aspecialty of Michocán, made from fresh rather than dried corn.
Uva pasa Raisin
Vainas de vainilla Vanilla beans
Vasija Vessel or container
Vaso A drinking glass
Xnipec A chile sauce or relish
common in the Yucatan whose name means literally, "dog's nose."
Xoconostle A type of cactus
Yerbabuena See hierbabuena.
Zacahuil A gigantic tamal, often
filled with a suckling pig or whole turkeys, and cooked in a pit.
Found mostly along the Gulf Coast in Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí and
Zapote Trees which produce
tropical fruits including the zapote prieto and zapote blanco. The
former is quite good and the latter somwhat sour.
Zumo Juice. The word jugo is
more common in Mexico. In Mexico zumo often refers to the oil of an