Spain colonized Mexico, which spanned 300 years starting in 1521. Undoubtedly, it left marks on the country, including its influences on Mexican food. They definitely brought their ingredients and cooking techniques, eventually becoming integral to Mexican cuisine.
Before colonization, naturally, Mexicans used native ingredients available for their indigenous dishes. When the Spaniards arrived, they also introduced many things about cooking, including the following:
Chiles: Many Mexican dishes become even more flavorful because of chiles. This ingredient is best to add when making salsas, stews, sauces, and marinades. Way back, Spaniards introduced particular chiles—the Capsicum annuum family of peppers, including jalapeños, serranos, and poblanos. These are spicier, less sweet, more vegetal, and slightly smoky taste than the native Mexican squash-shaped peppers.
Jalapeños is one of the known chiles and can be served fresh or pickled. Serranos have a hotter profile than jalapeños and are best for dishes like salsas and sauces. On the other hand, Chipotles are smoked jalapeños that have a subtle smoky flavor, while guajillos are dried chiles with a mild heat level and fruity taste.
Chorizo: This type of sausage originated in Spain and has become a popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine. It can be any of the following:
- Serve as tacos, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, or as an accompaniment to other dishes
- A flavoring item to add to soups and stews. It is also an excellent addition to lard in creating a rich, tasteful fat for baking
- A grilled or fried type of breakfast dish
- An ingredient to make chilaquiles (a tortilla-based dish)
Garlic: This herb is typical in tacos, tortillas, burritos, and other Mexican food. In terms of options, a cook can choose between the native one from Mexico and garlic brought by Spaniards. Both varieties are still widely used in Mexican cuisine. The difference is the garlic from Spain has a more intense aroma and a slightly larger bulb size. And accordingly, Spaniards influenced the popularity of using garlic in several dishes.
Olive oil: Spain had a long history of using and promoting the production of olive oil since ancient times. And their introduction provides Mexicans with an alternative to their usual lard or butter fats. Today, olive oil is an element in many traditional dishes such as enchiladas and chiles rellenos.
Cumin: Compared to other ingredients, it was the Arab traders who brought cumin to Mexico. Spaniards made cumin a more popular spice as they spread its use beyond Mexico. Today, cumin is also an integral ingredient in traditional Mexican food.
Tomatoes: According to historical records, the Spaniards brought tomatoes, specifically the species Solanum lycopersicum or botanically known as Lycopersicon esculentum. These were the same type of tomatoes in South America before the 16th century. This variety eventually became the modern-day Roma tomato through continued cultivation in Mexico.
Dishes: Burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and salsas are all derived from traditional Spanish recipes. It is the same with the Mexican-style rice dishes like paella and arroz con pollo. Mexico has also adopted some popular desserts from Spain, such as flan and churros.