Despite the fact that there were 38,000 Mexican restaurants back in 2011, few people understand what authentic Mexican food is. Many people think that all Mexican food is spicy, for instance. But really, it's more accurate to say that authentic Mexican cuisine is more spiced. Like many countries in warmer climates, spices are an important part of the cuisine.

The best Mexican food often relies on the same four spices to help flavor their Mexican dishes, whether they are preparing handmade burritos or a taco bar. Whether you are an aspiring chef or simply a fan of Mexican cuisine, it is important to understand these important spices. 

  1. Garlic
    Garlic is immensely popular in cuisines all over the world, but nowhere is it better loved than in Mexico. It is used in a number of different formats, including fresh, preserved, and powdered and can almost always be found in salsa and taco seasoning.

  2. Oregano
    While many people have associated Oregano with the Mediterranean variety used in Italian food, there is also a very popular ingredient called, aptly enough, Mexican oregano. This variety is actually related to lemon verbena and has subtle undertones of citrus and licorice. It is, as you might expect, the latter that is used in Mexican Cuisine.

  3. Cumin
    Cumin is another non-native ingredient that has become hugely important in Mexican restaurants. It has an astringent, toasty flavor that makes it very distinctive. How distinctive? Try making taco seasoning without it and see what you think.

  4. Onion Powder
    While onions themselves are popular in many Mexican foods, the powder offers a lot more flexibility thanks to it's more subtle nature. Typically the best onion would be the white onion.

  5. Chile
    It's a poorly kept secret that most chile powders don't have a lot of actual chile in them. Most of what comprises chile powder are oregano and cumin. Still, the chilis are an important part of Mexican cuisine. After all, the pepper is usually what the powder is named after: ancho chili powder; chipotle chili powder, etc.

Authentic Mexican Food is very flavorful, but only rarely is it truly spicy. Keep that in mind next time you decide to whip up an enchilada.