What Makes Mexican Food Unique? Exploring the Flavors and Traditions of Authentic Mexican Cuisine

Traditional Mexican food history runs deep. It began with simple, native foods and flavors found only in Mexico.

Most of the indigenous ingredients used were beans, vanilla, peanuts, tomatoes, chili peppers, and coconuts.

Spices were also abundant and this gave their food a distinct taste.

There was not much meat, so the people turned to the bounty of corn and beans for their main courses.

Seaside communities had seafood to add to their food.

As the Spanish came to Mexico, they brought with them cheese, beef, pork, chicken, and goat to the mix.

Mexicans did their magic and gave way to many unique Mexican foods that we all know and love.
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What Is Real “Authentic” Mexican Food?

Not all things that label themselves “Mexican” are really Mexican and this counts for food as well.

Most of the Mexican food we encounter – the shell tacos, nachos, fajitas – did not originate in Mexico. The better term for them is Tex-Mex.

If you are to call something “authentic,” according to The Spruce Eats, food or recipe must have been traditional Mexican food prepared for 50 years or more.

Traditional Mexican Food History: It’s All About That Spice


A food with authentic Mexican flavors needs to have used spices that are originally from Mexico.
Two of the most important spices in Mexican cuisine would be oregano and cumin.

The Mexican oregano is different from the oregano you know from Italian cuisine. It gives off a more earthy, delicate flavor that makes it perfect for dishes that have tomato in it.

Cumin also has some Mediterranean roots and it has a bitter, fierce flavor that adds life and vibrance to Mexican food dishes.

best mexican dishes - El Rincon

Chile powder is very different from regular chili powder (mind the E, it makes a big difference). The key ingredients to great chile powder are dried chiles, cumin, and oregano.

One kind of chile powder is ancho chile powder which is the main component of Mexican hot chocolate. It sounds unusual at first but it is a popular drink in Mexico.

Chipotle (not the restaurant) is also a great chile powder. It is basically made from dried, smoked jalapeño and it goes well with sauces and salsas.

Other spices important in Mexican cuisine are epazote, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, and anise.

Epazote is important for some bean dishes as they are paired together to help lessen discomfort from eating beans.

Cocoa can be used to make mole, a traditional Mexican sauce added to go with chicken.

Key Ingredients In Mexican Food Dishes

If we are to talk about Mexican ingredients, we need to mention corn first. Mexico is famous for its “masa” or dough and it is not made from wheat but from corn.

Unique Mexican foods like tamales, soups, and tortillas. Almost every Mexican dish needs tortillas to complete it.

One of the best Mexican dishes would be the huitlacoche, a delicacy added to tamales or omelets, which is a fungus found on ears of corn.

Beans or frijoles, is also a star in many Mexican recipes. Dishes like soups, salads, and refried beans are famous. Different beans are used like pinto beans, black beans, red beans.

Avocados and tomatoes are also important to traditional Mexican food. The famous guacamole would be nonexistent without avocados and salsas would be lifeless without tomatoes.

Both are used as fillings and additions to the classic burritos and tacos. A lot of salads and soups have tomatoes in them.

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Preparation of Authentic Mexican Dishes

There are certain aspects of traditional Mexican food that has not been translated to Tex-Mex dishes. A lot of the cooking practices and techniques are different.

Plus, a lot of ingredients are not grown in the United States and can only be found in Mexico.

In fact, popular Mexican food in the US like tacos and salsa are prepared very differently.


We have all had tacos at least once. What we have in many Mexican restaurants must have been Tex-Mex tacos. Here are main components of Mexican tacos:

  • The fillings for Mexican tacos are made from meat that would be marinated overnight or longer with Mexican spices. It will then be fried, stewed, or grilled and seasoned with only salt and pepper.
  • Mexican tacos are not smothered with a lot of cheese like American tacos. The only topping they add to tacos are diced onion and fresh cilantro. If there’s no cilantro, your tacos are incomplete.
  • There are no hard taco shells in Mexico. Tacos use soft taco shells made from corn tortillas.

The kinds of tacos also depend on where you are in Mexico. It could be the cazuela, asador, tacos al carbon, fish tacos, or cazo.

There are different ways of preparing each tacos recipe but they all have a common denominator: they taste good!


There is no better combo than chips and salsa. In Mexico, salsa is more than a dip for chips and they are not always spicy.

They elevate the taste of the meat in tacos that’s why salsa is always found in tacos. Here are mouth watering salsas you should know about:

  • Pico de gallo – This salsa is raw and you prepare this by mixing in tomatoes, jalapenos, lime, cilantro, and onions.
  • Salsa verde – The green color should not be confused with guacamole. You make this by cooking tomatillos with spices, garlic, and onion.
  • Salsa roja – The red, tomato sauce is paired with cooked chili peppers that does not only give the appearance but also the taste of spice.
  • Salsa negra – Salsa negra really means “black sauce” because of the dried, roasted chilies combined with oil and garlic.
  • Avocado salsa – This salsa is also different from guacamole even though it has avocado as its base. It runs thinner than guacamole as it has more lime and vinegar parts.

There is so much life and vibrancy involved in authentic and unique Mexican foods.

Here at El Rincon, we offer both traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes that you are sure to enjoy.

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