If you’re looking to expand your culinary horizons, Mexican cuisine is a delicious and vibrant option to explore. And the best way to do that is through the pages of a cookbook. With a long and layered history, Mexican cuisine offers an abundance of unique flavors, ingredients, and techniques that are only just starting to be fully appreciated in Western kitchens. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of Mexican cookbooks and discover some of the best titles to help you bring the flavors of Mexico into your own home.
The Rich History of Mexican Cuisine
Before we dive into the cookbooks, let’s take a moment to explore the origins and evolution of Mexican cuisine. It is one of the oldest and most diverse of the world’s culinary traditions, with a history that stretches back thousands of years. Ancient civilizations such as the Aztecs and the Maya developed a complex and sophisticated cuisine that relied heavily on corn, beans, and squash, as well as a wide variety of wild game, fruits, and vegetables. The arrival of Spanish colonizers in the 16th century added new ingredients such as beef, pork, and chicken, along with European spices and cooking techniques. And in the centuries since, Mexican cuisine has continued to evolve and adapt, drawing influence from African, Asian, and other world cuisines.
The Influence of Indigenous Cultures
The foundation of Mexican cuisine lies in the culinary traditions of pre-Hispanic cultures. These indigenous peoples were skilled farmers and hunters, and they developed unique techniques for growing and preparing food that formed the basis of Mexican cuisine. One of the most important of these was the nixtamalization of corn, a process that involves soaking and cooking corn in an alkaline solution such as lime. This process makes the corn more nutritious and easier to digest, and it is a crucial step in making traditional Mexican dishes such as tortillas, tamales, and pozole.
Another important contribution of indigenous cultures to Mexican cuisine was the use of chili peppers. The Aztecs and other pre-Hispanic cultures used chili peppers not just for their flavor, but also for their medicinal properties. Today, chili peppers are a staple of Mexican cuisine, and are used in everything from salsas and marinades to stews and soups.
Indigenous cultures also developed a wide variety of other dishes that are still popular in Mexico today. For example, mole, a rich and complex sauce made with chili peppers, chocolate, and other ingredients, has its roots in pre-Hispanic cuisine. Other dishes, such as chiles en nogada and cochinita pibil, are also rooted in indigenous culinary traditions.
The Impact of Spanish Colonization
The arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century brought about significant changes to Mexican cuisine. Among the most important of these was the introduction of new ingredients such as wheat, rice, and various meats. Spanish cooking techniques such as frying and baking were also incorporated into Mexican cuisine, leading to the creation of dishes such as chiles rellenos and buñuelos. The Spanish also brought with them their own crops, including spices such as oregano, cumin, and cinnamon, which are now staples of Mexican cooking.
One of the most significant changes brought about by Spanish colonization was the introduction of dairy products. Before the arrival of the Spanish, dairy products were not a part of Mexican cuisine. But with the arrival of cows and other livestock, cheese, milk, and cream became important ingredients in many Mexican dishes. Today, cheese is an essential component of dishes such as enchiladas, chilaquiles, and quesadillas.
The Evolution of Mexican Food in the United States
Mexican cuisine has long been popular in the United States, but for many years it was limited to Tex-Mex fare such as tacos, nachos, and burritos. In recent years, however, there has been a growing interest in authentic Mexican cooking, and a wave of Mexican-American chefs and cookbook authors has emerged to help satisfy that demand. These chefs and writers are introducing American cooks to the rich and varied world of Mexican cuisine, and many of them are making significant contributions to the culinary world at large.
One of the most important contributions of Mexican-American chefs has been the popularization of regional Mexican cuisine. Mexican cuisine is incredibly diverse, with each region having its own unique dishes and cooking styles. Chefs such as Rick Bayless and Diana Kennedy have helped to bring these regional cuisines to a wider audience, introducing Americans to dishes such as Oaxacan mole, Yucatan cochinita pibil, and Veracruz-style seafood.
Another trend in Mexican cuisine in the United States has been the fusion of Mexican and other cuisines. Chefs such as Roy Choi and Susan Feniger have created dishes that combine Mexican flavors with Korean, Thai, and other Asian cuisines, while others have blended Mexican and American flavors to create dishes such as tacos made with fried chicken or barbecue brisket.
Overall, the evolution of Mexican cuisine in the United States has been a vibrant and exciting one, with chefs and home cooks alike constantly pushing the boundaries and exploring new flavors and techniques. Whether you are a fan of traditional Mexican dishes or are looking to try something new and innovative, there is no shortage of delicious and inspiring options to choose from.
Top Mexican Cookbooks for Authentic Recipes
Now that we’ve explored the history and evolution of Mexican cuisine, let’s take a look at some of the best Mexican cookbooks on the market today. These books are filled with authentic recipes, helpful tips and techniques, and beautiful photos that will help you recreate the flavors of Mexico in your own kitchen.
“Mexico: The Cookbook” by Margarita Carrillo Arronte
This massive tome is the definitive guide to Mexican cuisine, with over 700 recipes from all over the country. Arranged by region, the book covers everything from basic salsas and moles to more complex dishes such as cochinita pibil and chiles en nogada. The book also includes helpful sections on ingredients, techniques, and equipment, as well as beautiful photos that will make your mouth water. If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to Mexican cooking, this is the book for you.
You can find this book here.
“Pati’s Mexican Table” by Pati Jinich
Host of the popular PBS series of the same name, Pati Jinich is a passionate advocate for traditional Mexican cuisine. Her book, “Pati’s Mexican Table“, features over 150 recipes that showcase the breadth and depth of Mexican cooking. From street tacos to elaborate holiday feasts, Jinich covers it all, with helpful tips and personal anecdotes throughout. The book also has a strong focus on Mexican history and culture, making it a great all-around resource for anyone interested in Mexican cuisine.
“Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico” by Bricia Lopez
Bricia Lopez is a fifth-generation Oaxacan and co-owner of the famed Guelaguetza restaurant in Los Angeles. Her book, “Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico“, is a celebration of the food and culture of her home state. Filled with intimate family stories and traditional recipes, the book takes readers on a journey through Oaxaca’s vibrant culinary landscape. From tlayudas to mezcal, Lopez covers it all in this heartfelt tribute to her heritage.
Mexican Cookbooks for Vegetarians and Vegans
Mexican cuisine is full of delicious vegetarian and vegan options, from hearty bean soups to fresh salsas and guacamole. These cookbooks focus on plant-based dishes that are both nutritious and flavorful.
“Vegan Mexico” by Jason Wyrick
Drawing on his experience as a professional chef and restaurateur, Jason Wyrick has created an impressive collection of vegan Mexican recipes in his book “Vegan Mexico“. From breakfast to dessert, Wyrick covers it all, with dishes ranging from simple to more complex. The book also includes helpful sections on ingredients and techniques, as well as beautiful photos that will inspire you to get cooking.
“Mexican Vegetarian Cooking” by Edith Metcalfe de Plata
First published in 1970, “Mexican Vegetarian Cooking” is a classic of vegetarian and Mexican cooking alike. Featuring over 200 recipes, the book covers everything from appetizers to soups to main dishes to desserts. The recipes are simple and easy to follow, and the book includes helpful sections on cooking techniques and ingredients. Whether you’re a vegetarian or just looking to cut back on meat, this book is a must-have for any Mexican food lover.
Mastering Traditional Mexican Techniques
While Mexican cuisine is known for its bold flavors and vibrant spices, the techniques behind the dishes are just as important. These cookbooks focus on the traditional techniques that make Mexican food so unique, from making your own tortillas to perfecting your salsa skills.
The Art of Making Tortillas
Tortillas are the foundation of much of Mexican cuisine, and learning to make them from scratch is a must for any serious cook. There are many books on the subject, but one of the best is “Tortillas: A Cultural History” by Paula E. Morton. This book covers everything from the history of tortillas to the different types of corn used to make them, as well as tips and techniques for making perfect tortillas at home.
Perfecting Your Salsa Skills
Salsa is a crucial element of Mexican cuisine, and learning to make it properly is key to creating authentic dishes. “The Great Salsa Book” by Mark Miller is an excellent resource on the subject, covering everything from the history of salsa to the different types of chiles used to make it. The book also includes over 70 recipes for different types of salsa, ranging from mild and fruity to fiery and complex. Whether you’re a salsa beginner or a seasoned pro, this book is sure to help you up your salsa game.
Cooking with Chiles: A Guide to Heat Levels and Flavors
Chiles are a ubiquitous ingredient in Mexican cuisine, and understanding the different types and heat levels is crucial to creating balanced and flavorful dishes. That’s where “The Chile Pepper Bible” by Judith Finlayson comes in. This comprehensive guide to chiles covers everything from the mild and smoky poblano to the fiery and ubiquitous habanero. The book also includes recipes for dishes that showcase the unique flavors of each type of chile, as well as tips and techniques for working with them in your own cooking.
Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a beginner in the kitchen, there’s no shortage of Mexican cookbooks to help you explore this vibrant and delicious cuisine. From traditional techniques to modern adaptations, these books offer something for everyone. So grab a copy of your favorite book, stock up on some ingredients, and get ready to spice up your kitchen with the flavors of Mexico.
What is unique about Mexican cuisine?
Mexican cuisine is uniquely colorful, vibrant, and spicy. It uses a multitude of different herbs and spices and their dishes often represent Mexican history and culture.
What are the best Mexican meals?
Tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, quesadillas, chilaquiles, chili con carne, and nachos are among the most common Mexican dishes that are eaten across the globe.
Are fajitas easy to make?
Fajitas is one of the easiest dishes to make. Simply fry your chicken and vegetables in oil, add your fajita spices (whether shop bought or freshly made) and serve with tortillas, salad, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and salsa.