Culinary Dictionary

Wondering if you really want to try those tacos de lengua? Use our Mexican Food Glossary to help you decide.
A  B  C  CH  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 
A
Achiote - Red paste made by grinding annatto seeds and adding garlic and lime juice or vinegar. Popular in the Yucatán Peninsula.
Adobo - Smokey chile marinade made of chile peppers, garlic, vinegar or citrus juice, garlic and spices. Often served on pork or chicken.
Agua Fresca - Cold beverage flavored with fruit, grains or seeds. Common aguas frescas in Mexico are jamaica, tamarindo, and horchata.
Alambre - Diced chicken or beef sauteed with bacon, optionally cheese and vegetables like green peppers and onions. Served with tortillas and salsas. Similiar to fajitas.
Almuerzo - Lunch
Ancho chile - Dried poblano chile peppers
Annatto - Seeds from the Yucatecan annatto tree used to make achiote paste.
Arrachera - Marinated and grilled flank steak.
B
Barbacoa - Meat barbecued in a pit. Depending on the region, the meat may be borrega (lamb) in central Mexico, barbacoa de cabeza (cow head) or cabrito (kid goat) in the North, or cochinita pibil (pork) in the Yucatán.
Bistec - Beefsteak
Bolillo - Bread roll used for tortas and sandwiches
Botanas - Snacks often served free of charge in a cantina with purchase of a beer.
Brocheta - Kebab
Burritos - A large white tortilla rolled up around fillings such as meat, salsa, rice, beans, and avocado.
C
Cabrito - Kid goat, Usually the entire body, minus the head and feet, is roasted and served.
Cajeta - Caramel-like confection made by simmering goat's milk with sugar. Often is served out of a squeezable bottle.
Calamar - Squid
Caldo - Broth soup, usually offered as chicken or beef.
Camarón - Shrimp
Carne asada - Marinated and grilled flank steak.
Carnitas - Pork roasted in lard and citrus juices, then shredded. Often served from carts in corn tortillas with pickled onions and eaten for breakfast.
Cecina - Thinly sliced and cured beef, often served in tacos.
Cena - Dinner
Ceviche - Seafood cooked by marinating in lime juice, mixed with tomatoes, onions, and at times, avocado. Shrimp, fish and squid or a combination are commonly offered.
Cochinita pibil - Roasted and shredded pork that has been marinated in sour orange juice and achiote. Often served for breakfast in tacos or tortas.
Coctel - Cocktail, In seafood restaurants, this refers to a seafood cocktail. Shrimp, fish, crab, or squid may be mixed with with red salsa and presented in a cocktail glass for consumption.
Comida corrida - Literally means food on the run, or fast food. But few things are fast in Mexico. Comida corrida refers to the large meal eaten at lunchtime which includes soup, a main course and dessert. Most restaurants will have a menu del dia (menu of the day) allowing you a choice of 2-3 main courses. The limited options theoretically make for quicker preparation.
Cordero - Lamb
Costillas - Ribs
Crema - Similiar to sour cream, but less thick and less sour tasting.
CH
Chaya - Green leafy vegetable, often compared to spinach. Native to the Yucatán Peninsula, this veggie is packed with vitamins, but can be poisonous if consumed raw.
Chelada - Mexican beer served in a glass on ice with a lime wedge and salted rim.
Chicharrones - Fried pork rinds
Chilaquiles - Crunchy tortilla strips fried with eggs, chicken and/or cheese, and covered in a red or green sauce. Served for breakfast.
Chiles en nogada - Poblano chili pepper stuffed with ground meats, spices, raisins or other chopped fruits, topped with a walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds, and served at room temperature. This is a classic Mexican dish that is often served in September around Mexican Independence Day.
Chile Relleno - Roasted and peeled poblano pepper stuffed with cheese, dipped in an egg white batter, and fried. Often served with a red sauce.
Chorizo - Spicy pork or beef sausage.
Chuleta - Pork chop
D
Desayuno - Breakfast
E
Empanadas - Masa dough stuffed with a filling, folded over into a crescent shape, and fried. Fillings vary but may include cheese, chicken, potatoes, and chorizo.
Enchiladas - Corn tortillas are quickly fried in oil, soaked in a sauce, filled with meat or cheese and rolled. The rolls may then be covered with additional sauce, cheese, crema or lettuce.
Escabeche - Vegetables pickled in vinegar, oil and herbs. Jalapeno peppers, carrots, onions and cauliflower are commonly used. May also refer to a meat stew.
F
Flan - Rich custard dessert made with condensed and evaporated milk, and covered with a soft caramel topping. Similiar to creme brulee but without the crisp caramel topping.
Flauta - Large tortilla, rolled up with meat, and fried.
Frijoles Charros - Pinto bean soup with bits of pork or bacon, spices and vegetables.
G
Gordita - Thick masa dough shaped like a small pita. Often filled with a guisado.
Gringa - Pastor taco made with a flour tortilla.
Guacamole - Mashed avocado, often mixed with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, chiles, garlic and/or lime juice. May be served as a dip with tortilla chips or as a garnish with a meal.
Guisado - Cubes of meat cooked in a sauce.
H
Helado - Ice cream
Hominy - Dried corn kernels that have been boiled in lime juice and water to remove the hard outer hull. Used in menudo and pozole and to make masa.
Horchata - Milky looking cold beverage made of water, rice, sugar and cinammon.
Huaraches - Literally means sandals. A thick piece of masa dough about the shape and size of a sandal is fried and covered with refried beans, meat, lettuce, cheese and crema.
Huevos Mexicanos - Breakfast dish of eggs fried with tomatoes, onions and chaya (representing the red, white and green of the Mexican flag).
Huevos Rancheros - Breakfast dish of tortillas topped with fried eggs and coverd in a red salsa.
Huitlacoche - Mexican corn truffle. Fungus which grows on ears of corn. Considered a delicacy in Mexico, it is more expensive than the corn itself. Huitlacoche has an earthy, pungent flavor and is used to flavor soups, tamales, and enchiladas, as well as other specialties.
J
Jaiba - Crab
Jamaica - Cold beverage made by brewing water with hibiscus flowers. Some say it reminds them of pomegranate juice.
L
Langosta - Lobster
Lengua - Beef tongue
Limonada - Lime-ade
M
Mariscos - Seafood
Marquesita - A crepe is rolled around shredded edam cheese and condensed milk. The crepe hardens after rolling and reminds many of an ice cream cone. Alternative fillings such as nutella may also be offered. Often served from a cart at fiestas and special events.
Masa - Corn dough. Dried corn kernels are boiled in lime juice and water to remove the hard outer hull, and then mixed with water to form a dough. Used as the dough for tortillas, tamales, gorditas, etc. A staple in Mexican cooking.
Menudo - Tripe soup, considered a hangover cure in Mexico.
Mezcal - Like tequila, mezcal is an alcoholic beverage distilled from the agave plant, but the production process is different. Mexicans generally drink mezcal straight without lime or salt.
Michelada - "My chelada", meaning a michelada is your own customized version of a chelada. To a chilled and salt-rimmed Mexican lager beer, one may add hot sauce, Worchestersire sauce, soy sauce, Maggi seasoning, and/or clamato juice.
Milanesa - Pork or beef cutlet, lightly breaded and fried.
Mojo de ajo - Garlic sauce, often served over fish filets.
Molcajete - Bowl made of volcanic rock used for grinding or mashing foods. Often used to make guacamole and salsas.
Mole - Complex sauce made of many ingredients and having many variations. Ingredients may include unsweetened chocolate, chiles, spices, nuts, fruits and seeds. May be served over chicken, turkey, or enchiladas.
Molletes - Toasted bolillo halves topped with warm refried beans and chihuahua cheese. Popular Mexican breakfast.
N
Nopales/Nopalitos - Cooked slices of cactus paddle.
O
Ojo Rojo - "Red Eye" Mexican beer cocktail made with lager beer, clamato or tomato juice, and dashes of hot sauce and Worchestire sauce.
P
Paleta - Ice popsicle usually made from fresh fruit.
Panucho - Thick circular masa dough fried and filled with refried beans, topped with shredded meat, lettuce, cheese and crema.
Papadzules - A Yucatecan dish of enchiladas filled with hard-boiled eggs, often covered with a pumpkin seed sauce.
Para llevar - To go/Carryout
Pastor - Thin slices of pork marinated in achiote and roasted on a spit. The pork is sliced off the spit and served in a taco with onions, cilantro and pineapple.
Pavo - Turkey
Pescado - Fish
Pico de Gallo - A relish of raw diced tomatoes and onions, with cilantro and/or chile peppers. Also referred to as salsa Mexicana.
Pipian - Pumpkin seed sauce often served over chicken, turkey or fish.
Plato fuerte - Main entree
Poblano chile pepper - Large, dark green, mildly spicy chile pepper.
Poc Chuc - A Yucatecan specialty, pork steak is marinated in sour orange juice and achiote, and then grilled.
Pollo - Chicken
Pozole - Soup made of hominy, pork and spices.
Puerco - Pork
Pulpo - Octopus
Q
Quesadilla - Flour tortilla filled with cheese, folded over and pressed flat. Heated over a griddle until cheese melts. Other ingredients may be added to the cheese, such as mushrooms and rajas.
Queso Fundido - Mexican cheese fondue. May be served with mushrooms, roasted poblano peppers or chorizo. The fondue is usually spooned onto tortillas and eaten as an appetizer.
R
Rajas - Roasted, peeled, and sliced poblano peppers.
Raspado - Snow cone, shaved or crushed ice flavored with a fruity juice or syrup.
Res - Beef
S
Salchicha - Sausage. In Mexico, franks or wieners are referred to as salchica.
Salbute - Thick circular masa dough fried and topped with shredded meat, lettuce, cheese and crema.
Salsa - Sauce
Sope - Thick circular masa dough fried and topped with refried beans, shredded meat, lettuce, cheese and crema. Sopes generally have a rim to hold the ingredients in.
T
Tacos Dorados - Deep-fried tacos filled with shredded meat.
Tamale - Corn masa dough stuffed with meat, wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf, and steamed.
Tamarindo - The sweet tamarind fruit is used in aguas frescas, paletas, raspados, dried fruit snacks and salsas.
Tampiqueña - Grilled steak served with enchiladas and beans. Comes from the northern Mexican state of Tampico.
Taquito - Small tortilla, rolled up with meat, and fried.
Tinga - Shredded meat (pork, beef or chicken) cooked in a sauce of tomato, onion, garlic and spices. Often served on tostadas.
Torta - Mexican sandwich made of bolillo rolls, may be filled with refried beans, shredded or sliced meats, lettuce
Tortilla - A thin, flat unleavened bread made of masa for corn tortillas or harina (flour) for flour tortillas.
Tostada - Fried corn tortilla. When on a menu, it may be topped with refried beans, meat, lettuce, cheese, and/or crema.
Tres Leches - Meaning Three Milks, this refers to the rich Tres Leches cake, soaked in sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and whole milk or cream.
V
Vegetariano/Vegetariana - Vegetarian (Use 'o' for male, 'a' for female)