It isn’t always easy to recreate spice blends as faithfully and respectfully as possible. Perhaps no example better highlights this issue than “Mexican Spice Blend.” Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask about our Mexican spice blend, necessitating the delicate response that no such blend exists, but we’d be happy to suggest one for you. Mexican Spice Blend seems to be everywhere, yet comes from nowhere.
So what is Mexican spice blend? Most of the time, Mexican spice blend is synonymous with “taco seasoning,” a chile and cumin heavy concoction that goes great on ground beef, delivering a satisfying, albeit vague, south-of-the-border sensation.
But Mexico is famous for the variety and complexity of its many dishes, and it’s a shame to treat such a cuisine so generally. Approaching Mexican seasonings according to dish, as in taco seasoning, is a good start, but delving into regional flavors is the best way to approach Mexican spice blends. Here are a few examples of dish-specific and regional spice blends:
The influence of Syrian cuisine on Mexican food is often underappreciated. 19th century migrants brought their knowledge of spices and grilling methods, resulting in now famous Mexican dishes like tacos al pastor. This brilliant combination of Middle Eastern favorites like cumin and cinnamon with central American chilies makes the perfect aromatic couch for sweet pineapple and sour vinegar.
Arguably Mexican, this spice blend was built around another famous dish: the burrito, specifically, the California burrito. A hearty American combination of onion and garlic powder, along with Mexican chilies and Spanish herbs creates a powerful flavor base that can withstand the heat of grilling a carne asada steak.
This fabulous cross-border blend contains the best of Mexican herbs and chilies and hearty spices like clove and adjwain and is closest to a basic Mexican spice blend meant for tacos. While few would call Texas a region of Mexico, much of its culinary lineage is clearly derived from Mexico’s northern states. This dry, sparse region is proud of its grilling and simple cooking.
Oaxaca is the most cherished culinary region of Mexico. Renowned for its deep, layered flavors, such as mole, Oaxaca is home to an incredible variety of chilies and ways of combining their different flavors. This rub contains a delicate combination of famous Mexican chilies meant to honor the tradition of combining several chilies with a few herbs, spices, and salt. Best for grilling poultry and vegetables, it’s also a great seasoning for potatoes.
Finally, if an “authentic” Mexican spice blend is what you’re looking for, then venture to the region surrounding Mexico City- before the arrival of Columbus. Tlatelolco rub contains only spices that are native to Mexico, like allspice and avocado leaf. Named for the great market at the center of the Aztec empire, this blend offers the hot, spicy, sweet aromas from the heart of an ancient empire.
So there really is no Mexican spice blend officially, but there is an infinity of flavor combinations that can satisfy a craving for Mexican food. Traditional dishes from renowned regions have been worked and reworked over centuries, and offer an ideal starting point. Enjoy your journey!