Mexican food has been a staple in the American diet for decades, but as diners become more refined, they’re seeking more authentic experiences. People now look for more than Tex-Mex style burritos and neon margaritas; they want to feel connection to the culture of our southern neighbor.
Mexican cuisine has evolved over thousands of years of civilization and draws on native crops combined with European influences. Staples such as beans, tomatoes, chilies, cacao, and avocado have been cultivated since the Mayan empire. Spanish colonialism brought meat and dairy, while French and other European influences were introduced from the Caribbean.
So what does authentic Mexican look like? Keep an eye out for these trendy ingredients:
Mezcal has been making waves in the bar scene for a couple years now and there’s no reason to think it will end soon. Like tequila, mezcal is made from the agave plant but it can be made using different varieties (or blends) beyond just the blue agave used in tequila. In the past, consumers rarely thought of it as anything more than tequila with a worm in the bottle, but this spirit shows real staying power with a wide range of flavors from super smooth to smoky and complex.
This green gourd is common in Mexican cuisine, especially that of the Yucatan peninsula. It can be fried, mashed, cooked in soup or just sautéed and served as a side dish. While the idea of a salad in Mexican cuisine can conjure images of iceberg lettuce in a deep fried tortilla shell, the classic dish ensalada de chayotes utilizes this squash for a satisfying first course.
Long ignored by American consumers, this second class beef cut is becoming easier to find in American supermarkets. Packed with flavor and mouth coating gelatin, this meat requires long cooking times to break down and release all of that goodness. The explosive popularity of electric pressure cookers means this Mexican standby could be poised to become an easy meal.