Some staple pantry items and spices are unique to Mexican cooking however, many you will find in your own cabinet. When you keep your pantry full of the basics you will have what you need for most Mexican recipes. A stocked pantry offers ease and quick prep for many Mexican appetizers, side dishes and entrees.  Salsas, flavorful nachos, spicy soups, thick hearty stews, tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tamales and tortas have similar dry ingredients. So keeping these ingredients on hand keeps cooking easy. I have put a quick list together to save you time and money. Your cooking adventures will be easier and tastier! My aim is to help you organize your pantry and introduce you to new and time honored favorites. So take a look at what I keep in my pantry.

Staple Items ~Dried Hot Red Chile pods  - Usually rehydrated, blended and used in sauces. They are available in plastic bags, typically in the produce or Mexican section of the grocery store. I often get them down at the Farmers Market from Shari Franzoy at Desert Gardens.

Red-Chile-bowl I am constantly making red chile sauce for various Mexican entrees such as red enchiladas, smothered burritos, posole and Huevos Rancheros. ~Corn tortilla chips – great for nachos, salsa, and garnish for soups and stews. ~Canned Diced tomatoes – nice foundation for salsas, soups and stews. ~Canned corn – I add corn to enchilada fillings, create corn salsas and tasty side dishes. ~Chicken and Beef Bouillon – I often use bouillon in sauces and soups for flavor. ~Chipotle chile in adobo – This chile adds flavor to sauces and entrees. It is a unique flavored dried jalapeno in a smoky flavored deep red sauce made with onions, tomato and garlic. Usually found in the Mexican section of the grocery store. ~Pinto Beans – Gotta have these in the pantry…I make a pot of beans, bean dip, bean and cheese burritos, side of beans continuously!!

Spices Just of pinch here and there creates a complexity of flavor in Mexican cooking. Here are a few favorites. ~Cayenne pepper – this is a chile powder that has a hot edgy flavor to it. It spices up sauces, stew and salsas. ~Cinnamon – This is a fragrant spice that blends well with fruits and chocolate. It is wonderful with nuts and adds to baked Mexican breads, cakes and sweets. It has a spicy clove flavor to it. ~Cumin – Earthy, nutty flavor and aroma. Just a pinch adds flavor to sauces and marinades ~Hot Red Pepper Flakes- These flakes come from hot dried red peppers and add heat to salsa, marinades and sauces. ~Mesquite seasoning blends – a nice blend of spices that works well with Mexican cuisine. It compliments chile flavors. It accents grilled meats and poultry nicely.

Additionally, I like a shortcut here and there. I recently picked up a few packages of Tia Rita’s Authentic southwestern Instant Picante Salsa Mix from Jim at the Truck Farm combination of all natural ingredients jalapeno, onion, tomato, salt, garlic and cilantro. Spice mixtures like these mix well with tomatoes for salsa or sour cream for dip.

Truckfarm1 I also keep Tia Rita’s Green Chile Seasoning Blend  - dried green chile garlic, assorted peppers, lemon. I add this to soups, roasted meats and marinades for grilling.Truckfarm2 Check out the Truck Farm at the Farmers Market on Main Street or stop by their place at 645 S Alameda Blvd, Las Cruces, NM 88005, (575) 523-1447.

This little list gives you a starting point in building your Mexican pantry. There is so much more we can add…we will just have to make room!!