Guide to Pantry Staples for Mexican Cooking (How to Stock a Mexican Pantry!)

Guide to Pantry Staples for Mexican Cooking (How to Stock a Mexican Pantry!)

Ready to graduate from Taco Tuesday? Our Mexican Pantry Essentials Guide will teach you about the main pantry staples for Mexican cooking so you can start enjoying authentic dishes any day of the week!

  • By Brittany Yamamoto-Taylor
  • February 15, 2022

Many of us have grown up thinking mainly of tacos and enchiladas when we think about Mexican food. However, Mexican cuisine is deliciously diverse with some dishes rich in cheese or fried to perfection, while other meals break out (or stuff in!) the veggies or stew up a storm. It isn’t a surprise that there is a wide variety of tastes and techniques embedded in Mexican food because the country is so deeply influenced by both indigenous and Spanish cultures, as well as some African and Asian traditions.

Although we can all agree that Mexican food is delicious, we know that between grinding this and drying that, handling traditional ingredients may sound intimidating to home cooks that didn’t grow up making Mexican dishes. That is why we decided to put together a Mexican Pantry Essentials Guide that will teach you all about the main pantry staples for Mexican cooking in an easy and visual way! Our guide will walk you through what the Mexican pantry must-haves are, what they taste like, and how they are commonly used. All you have to do is download our free PDF guide and you won’t need to feel nervous about trying your hand at authentic recipes any time, any day.

You can get our Mexican Pantry Essentials Guide below and also continue reading for a breakdown of some fresh staples as well as some recipes that may pique your palate.

Infographic

Mexican Pantry Staples

This Mexican Pantry Essentials Guide will teach you about the main pantry staples for Mexican cooking so you can enjoy authentic dishes any day of the week!


Fresh Ingredient Staples

Now that you know about the main pantry staples for Mexican cooking, here is a brief list of some of the fresh ingredients that won’t last quite as long, but are must-haves nonetheless… 

Fresh Herbs:

  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Mexican oregano (fresh is common in addition to dried)
  • Thyme (fresh is common in addition to dried)
  • Epazote – bright and pungent with a citrusy, slightly tarry flavor (fresh is common in addition to dried)

Fruits and Veggies:

  • Avocado
  • Limes
  • Chiles*
  • Tomatillos – small and round green fruit with papery husk; it is tart and a bit fruity
  • Jicama – light brown root vegetable with crisp and slightly sweet white flesh
  • Purslane / verdolaga – leafy green vegetable with crisp texture and a salty and tangy flavor
  • Huauzontle –  slightly bitter leafy green vegetable whose name means “hairy amaranth”
  • Chayote fruit – bright green, crispy gourd that is usually handled like summer squash

* There are a plethora of types of fresh chiles used in Mexico. Some common ones include jalapeño, poblano, habanero, serano, bola, chilaca, and anaheim. If you want to learn more about chiles, check out our Guide to Peppers, Salsas, and How to Use Them

Meat:

  • Chorizo
  • Goat
  • Sheep

Unlike the meats and seafood we included in our Mexican pantry list, these 3 meats are not as commonly found frozen.


Salsas

Although homemade salsa is the true Mexican way, we know that so many of us are pressed for time before throwing roasting chiles into the mix. So, if you choose to go the store-bought route, there’s no judgement here! We completely get it and it’s never a bad idea to keep a couple jars in your pantry for everyday use. You can pick up the most common types of Mexican sauces at most grocery stores in the U.S. — from salsa verde to pico de gallo to enchilada sauce.

However, if you would like to learn more about making salsa at home, get our free Guide to Peppers, Salsas, and How to Use Them:

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Quick and Easy Recipes to Try 

Now that you know more about Mexican pantry must-haves as well as some key fresh ingredients, we think you might be pretty excited to start cooking more Mexican food at home. Here are a few of the fun recipes (that all have gluten-free, vegetarian, and paleo options) that we include in our meal planning service regularly. We have over 80 Mexican-inspired meals in our Meal Plan Archives that include more traditional recipes like chimichangas and also some quirky and delicious fusions.

Slow Cooker Sopa Azteca with Avocado and Baked Tortilla Strips

This flavorful soup is full of warm spices and colorful veggies. Make it in the slow cooker and set out all the toppings for a meal that’s ready whenever you are. You can also use an Instant Pot or make the meal completely ahead of time since it reheats well and then freeze the leftovers!

Smoky Paprika Grilled Shrimp Quesadillas 

Melty cheese, savory shrimp, creamy mashed avocado, and fresh corn on the cob? Yes, please! We know that grilling is a little extra work in this recipe but will add great flavor to all components of the dish. However, if you’re short on time or just prefer to cook indoors, you can skip the skewers altogether – everything will come together quickly on the stovetop.

Mexican Meatball Bowls with Rice and Lime Slaw

We always love a good variation on a burrito bowl and this one is particularly fun! Using Mexican spices, fluffy rice, zesty lime slaw, rich cheese, and probiotic-packed Greek yogurt, the whole family can assemble these bowls to their liking around the dinner table. You can also make everything ahead of time and always pop leftover meatballs and rice in the freezer for a quick meal on a busy week.

Tamale Pie with Ground Turkey, Zucchini, and Yogurt 

Hearty and comforting, tamale pie is a thoroughly American casserole that was inspired by Mexican tamales. Top it with a dollop of Greek yogurt for a creamy finish and make extras because it freezes and reheats so well.


Now that you know how to stock a Mexican pantry, we hope you have gotten inspired to make some Mexican meals STAT! If you know someone who wants to bring a bit more Mexican food into their life, we would love for you to send this article over to them. We would also love to know what some of your favorite Mexican dishes are, so please leave them in the comments below!

If this Guide to Mexican food pantry staples has been useful to you, check out our Indian, Middle Eastern, and Chinese Pantry Guides, too. You can also stay tuned for more infographics and how-to articles by signing up for our weekly email below. 

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