Glossary of Mexian Cooking

Glossary of Mexican Cooking

Tortillas: A basic part of most any Mexican meal. They are made either of wheat flour (popular in the north of the country) or ground corn, and are best served hot. When fried, they are called tostadas.

Frijoles (beans): A standard Mexican dish served with just about everything. Frijoles de olla are boiled beans with seasoning; frijoles refritos are beans mashed and fried.

Chicharrón: Fried pork rind. A popular appetizer, often served with tortillas and guacamole or salsa.

Salsa: Hot sauce, served with most everything. It may be made of red tomatoes or green tomatoes (or both), and usually contains chili pepper, onion, salt, and other seasonings. The texture varies from liquid to chunky and relish-like. Each cook and each restaurant has their own recipe.

Guacamole: Avocado mashed or blended with green tomatoes, chili peppers, onion, garlic, and other seasonings.

Wheat flour tortillas (in the basket), and two common shapes of white bread - bolillo and telera.

Queso Fundido: Melted cheese served with tortillas and often with guacamole and/or salsa.

Ceviche: Raw fish or other seafood, marinated for hours in lime juice and served as a cocktail, often with chopped onion, avocado, cilantro, and tomato.

Huitlacoche: A black fungus that grows as a parasite on ears of corn. It is a delicacy when cooked and served in quesadillas or as a filling for enchiladas.

Flor de Calabaza: Squash flowers, cooked and served in quesadillas or by themselves.

Nopales: Cactus, most commonly served cooked in salads or grilled.

Gorditas: Fried corn dough filled with refried beans or chicharrón, and topped with cream, cheese, and lettuce.

Huachinango al Mojo de Ajo: Red snapper (fish) fried with lots of chopped garlic. Generally served with the head and tail attached.

Machaca: Dried shedded beef, sauteéd and served with wheat flour tortillas. Sometimes served scrambled with eggs or in various sauces. It’s most popular in the northern states of Mexico.

Tamales: Banana tree leaves or corn husks filled with corn meal and sometimes pieces of chicken or pork. Sweet tamales often have sugar and raisins, and are served as dessert.

Barbacoa: Mutton, cooked in an underground pit and served in tacos. In the north of the country, they often use goat meat instead of mutton, and roast it on a spit.

Tostadas: Fried corn tortillas covered with shredded chicken or beef, refried beans, tomatoes, lettuce, cream, and salsa.

Enchiladas: A semi-fried corn tortilla filled most commonly with chicken and covered with cheese, sauce, and often cream and onion slices.

Mole: A truly Mexican sauce composed of ground chili peppers, many different spices and herbs, and a bit of chocolate. (It is often referred to as a “chocolate sauce” in English-language cookbooks, but in my opinion the small proportion of chocolate used in the recipe and the absence of chocolate flavor in the finished dish make this description seem silly.) Mole is usually poured over chicken or turkey, or used to make enchiladas. There are two main types: mole poblano (a deep red-black in color), and mole oaxaqueño (black).

Carne Asada: Grilled thin slices of beef, served with tortillas. Cebollitas (grilled green onions) and lime juice are a common garnish.

Carnitas: Chunks of roasted or deep-fried pork. Served with tortillas, chopped onion and cilantro, and guacamole and/or salsa.

Romeritos: An herb, somewhat like fresh-cut grass in appearance, prepared in mole sauce or some other sauces.

Quesadillas: Fried tortillas filled with cheese, chopped beef, squash flowers, or any one of many other items. Served with salsa and/or guacamole.

Sope: A grilled tortilla, topped with refried beans, salsa, cheese, chopped onion, and often lettuce and meat.

Tacos: Soft corn tortilla filled with meat, beans, chicken, pork, or some other food. Very UNlike U.S.-style tacos.

Burritos: Wheat flour tortillas filled with meat, cheese, or ham and cheese.

Chorizo: Spicy Mexican sausage, fried and served with scrambled eggs, sprinkled on pizza, made into tacos, spread on sopes, etc.

Pozole: Hearty hominy soup with shredded pork, garnished with lettuce or cabbage, radish slices, chopped onion, dried oregano, and chili peppers.

Menudo: Pieces of intestine (tripe) served in broth and accompanied by tortillas. (Said to be a good cure for a hangover.)

Chilaquiles: Fried tortilla chips served on a platter with sauce, onion slices, and often cheese and/or cream sprinkled on top. Shredded chicken, carne asada, or a fried egg is also often put on top of it all.

Cochinita Pibil: Shredded pork served with a spicy sauce. It is native to the Yucatán peninsula.

Chile Relleno: A chile pepper, stuffed with beef, cheese, or another filling, dipped in beaten egg and fried, then served in a thin tomato broth.

Chile en Nogada: A poblano chili pepper, stuffed with a sweet-savory beef filling, sometimes dipped in beaten egg and fried. It is served covered by a sauce made of white cheese, cream, and walnuts or pecans. Pomegranate seeds are sprinkled on top. The green of the pepper, white of the sauce, and red of the seeds represent the three colors of the Mexican flag.

Cabrito: Roasted kid. Very popular up north.

Cecina: Dried slices of beef or pork prepared in all sorts of sauces or grilled.

Milanesa: Breaded and fried pork, beef, or chicken steak. Served with tortillas.

Torta: A bolillo or telera loaf, filled with meat, cheese, sliced tomato and onion, avocado, or any number of other items; a very hearty sandwich.

Churros: Tubes of fried dough, dredged in sugar and usually served with hot chocolate.

Flan: Rich custard topped with a caramel sauce.

Natilla: A thinner custard pudding.


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