Latin Flavors! The must-have spices and seasoning

Latin Flavors! The must-have spices and seasoning

In case you don’t know them already, here’s a complete glossary.


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By: Enriqueta L.

If you were to ask me which condiments are staples in my kitchen, the first thing that comes to my mind is herbs and spices, fresh or dried, and onion and garlic. If I'm asked for only five herbs and spices, I would say black pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, oregano, and cinnamon. The following is a glossary of spices and condiments most used in our Latin kitchen. They give our dishes that special touch. If you don't use them, perhaps it's time to try them!

Basil : common use herb, fresh or dried, in the new Latin-American kitchen. It is used in soups and salsas.

Annatto oil : infusion of vegetable oil with annatto seeds which is used to color foods. Oil colored with annatto seeds.

Adobo marinade: prepared with spices and other ingredients such as oil, lemon or orange juice, tomato, onion, garlic, husk tomato which is used to marinade meat, poultry, and fish. Dry marinades can also be prepared using salt, pepper, dry herbs and spices.

Ajilli Mojili : is a Puerto Rican sauce prepared with garlic, black pepper corns, oil, vinegar, and lime juice.

Capers : mix of capers, green olives, and pimentos. Delicious in all kinds of stews.

Dressing : mix of spices and condiments to marinade, rub, or season food.

Anise : perfumed seeds that are used in Venezuela to make sweet arepas.

Cinnamon : this spice is a must in our kitchens. It is used to prepare gruel, oatmeal, smoothies, custards, cakes, and in some Mexican and Central American kitchens, it is used in savory dishes.

Chili powder : dry, ground chili, commonly used in Mexican, Central American, and tex-mex kitchens.

Cilantro: This herb is a staple of Latin American kitchens. It's in beans, stews, tacos, etc.

Cloves : used whole or ground, specifically in desserts.

Cumin : spice that is a must in our kitchens to provide a unique flavor to our rice, meats, poultry.

Coriander: Herb with a flavor similar to cilantro. Just like recao (Puerto Rico), Mexican coriander (Mexico), coyote cilantro (Costa Rica), and cilantro ancho or sabanero (Dominican Republic).

Dill : herb that is mostly used for fish.

Epazote : herb that is mostly use in Mexican cooking.

Hogao : Colombian sauté made with onion, chives, garlic, and tomato seasoned with salt, cumin, and pepper.

Loroco : herb commonly used in Central American cooking.

Marjoram : herb similar to oregano. It is used dried or fresh.

Sour orange : citric fruit whose juice is used to make marinades, specifically in Caribbean and Cuban cooking.

Oregano : common use herb, specifically dried or dehydrated, in Latin American cooking.

Spanish thyme : herb with a definite flavor that is used specifically in Puerto Rican cooking to make sautés.

Nutmeg : spice that is used in small proportions to flavor sauces like white sauce and in making desserts.

Papaloquelite or papalo : herb that is used in Mexican gastronomy. In Bolivia it is known as coriander.

Parsley : common use herb in soups, stews, and also to garnish all kinds of dishes.

White pepper : ground or whole, it is used as a condiment. Its spicy flavor is smoother than black pepper.

Cayenne pepper : variety of dry red chili in flakes

Guayabita pepper : originally from the Caribbean and Guyana, the peppercorns taste and smell like pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.

Allspice : it is aromatic and smells like cloves and cinnamon.

Black pepper : its peppercorns are used grated or ground as a condiment.

Parsley : common use herb in soups, stews, and also to garnish all kinds of dishes.

Pique : Puerto Rican spicy salsa made using vinegar, spicy peppers, spices, and sour orange.

Rosemary: Herb that is used fresh or dried, to flavor meat and poultry.

Thyme: Herb that is used fresh or dried, to flavor meat, sauces, and soups.

Sauté : used in many Latin dishes, it tends to have garlic, onion, and depending on what is being cooked, tomato, peppers, spicy peppers, and spices like cumin and oregano.

Vanilla: spice that is used in liquid form (vanilla essence extract) when making desserts.

What are your favorite spices for sweet or savory dishes?


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