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Mexican Pantry Essentials Guide

This Mexican pantry essentials guide is going to walk you through the staple ingredients you need for cooking amazing Mexican food. It will cover everything from produce, spices and seasonings, dry goods, canned items and refrigerator staples. If you’re a beginner when it comes to making Mexican food then you should find this guide extremely helpful. I will make sure to link to plenty of recipes utilizing these essential ingredients.

The ultimate Mexican pantry essentials list

Mexican food is beloved my many throughout the world. It’s well known for it’s unique and delicious flavors often combining flavors such as salty, spicy and sweet. Mexican cuisine is also known for being economical but still incredibly yummy at the same time.

Produce

Fresh produce is an extremely important part of Mexican cuisine. It’s used to make delicious salsas, guisados, sopas, pickled vegetables and snacks such as these cucumbers with chili seasoning.

One of our favorite recipes using produce is papas a la Mexicana (Mexican style potatoes). It’s super easy and so good! Here’s a list of essential produce you’ll want to stock up on:

  • Garlic
  • Onion (white)
  • Cilantro
  • Serrano peppers
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Limes
  • Cucumbers
  • Avocados
  • Fresh fruit (for making agua frescas such as agua de melon and agua de fresa)

Avocados are not just used for guacamole. They’re also great on tortas de jamón (Mexican ham sandwiches) in salsa verde and for garnishing soup such as cocido (Mexican beef soup).

Chopped tomatoes, onion, jalapeno and cilantro.

Spices, seasonings, dried herbs, oil and extracts

Having a well stocked spice cabinet is always vital for any type of cuisine. Here’s a list of what you’ll want in your spice cabinet when you first get started with Mexican cooking:

  • Mexican cinnamon sticks (canela)
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Ground cumin
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Chicken bouillon
  • Bay leaves
  • Mexican oregano
  • Vegetable oil
  • Vanilla extract

The seasonings are very important when it comes to making yummy soups like meatball soup or picadillo soup.

Canela (Mexican cinnamon) is a very common item you’ll find in most Mexican homes. It’s used to make arroz con leche (Mexican rice pudding), horchata, cinnamon milk tea and many other delicious recipes.

mexican cinnamon stick

Dry goods/packaged items

Here’s a list of dry goods and packaged items my Mexican pantry is always stocked with:

  • Oats (old fashioned)
  • Masa harina
  • Dry pinto beans
  • Tostada shells
  • Corn tortillas
  • Long grain white rice
  • Pasta (such as vermicelli, fideo, shells and elbows)
  • Duros
  • Brown sugar (or piloncillo)

Dry goods such as oats, rice and pasta are extremely handy in Mexican cooking. With these items you can make Mexican oatmeal, Mexican rice, rice atole, oatchata, fideo and many other delicious recipes!

Masa harina is used to make tortillas, picaditas, tamales and it can also be used to make dumplings which is one of my favorite ways to use masa marina.

Masa harina in a bowl.

Pinto beans are served weekly if not daily in many Mexican homes. They’re inexpensive, delicious and filling.

The tostada shells are served with ensaladas and chicken tinga. They can also be simply topped with refried beans, pico de gallo and some shredded lettuce. Hopefully you can see how easy, simple and versatile Mexican cooking can be.

It’s no surprise that tortillas are on the list. You simply cannot have Mexican food without tortillas, preferably corn tortillas.

They are served with almost every meal! And of course you can’t have the most famous Mexican food, tacos with out tortillas! Some of our favorite taco recipes include crispy bean tacos, shrimp tacos and fried ground beef tacos.

stack of tortillas

Duros are a super easy and inexpensive snack that can be prepared in just 10 minutes. They’re worth a try if you’ve never had them before!

Brown sugar is similar to piloncillo which is an unrefined cane sugar which is commonly used in Mexican cooking. It’s used as a sweetener in recipes such as camote con leche (sweet potatoes with milk), chocolate atole and this delicious Mexican Christmas punch. It can be hard to find piloncillo in grocery stores. However you should be able to find it at a local Mexican super market.

piloncillo and canela

Canned goods

Canned goods really come in handy because they last a long time and they cut down on meal preparation time. Canned goods I always have in my pantry include:

  • Corn
  • Tuna
  • Tomato sauce
  • Pinto beans (or black beans)
  • Chipotle peppers in adobo
  • Evaporated milk
  • Sweetened condensed milk

Corn is a great canned vegetable to keep on hand as it can be added to rice, soups and rajas (roasted poblano strips).

Canned tuna is incredibly versatile and can be prepared many ways. A lot of people think tuna is boring.

However, I have many recipes on this site showing that’s definitely not the case!

Some of our favorite recipes using canned tuna include tuna tacos and atún a la Mexicana.

Canned tuna

Canned tomato sauce comes in handy when I need to make sopita or entomatadas but don’t have fresh roma tomatoes on hand.

When I don’t have time to make a fresh pot of beans, canned beans are the next best thing. If they’re prepared right they can taste just as good as fresh. Some of my favorite recipes that I use canned beans in include enfrijoladas and charro beans.

Canned chipotle peppers are amazing. They have a smoky and spicy flavor that work wonderfully in recipes such as barbacoa and Mexican seafood soup.

I love to stock up on evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk especially in the summer time when I’m making lots of refreshing aguas frescas.

The evaporated milk adds a touch of creaminess while the sweetened condensed milk adds creaminess and sweetness.

Pecan horchata, strawberry horchata and Mexican iced coffee are just a few drinks that use these canned milks.

Condiments/sauces

Of course you always want to have plenty of condiments and sauces on hand to add flavor to your favorite recipes. These are some great ones you’ll want to have:

  • Pickled jalapeños
  • Mayonnaise
  • Tajin
  • Hot sauce

Pickled jalapeños are great way to add flavor and heat to foods such as quesadillas or migas.

Mayonnaise is used for many Mexican ensaladas such as pasta salad with ham and Mexican chicken salad.

There are many options when it comes to Mexican hot sauces. These are great for when you don’t have a homemade salsa on hand.

valentina salsa and chile

Fridge/freezer

This Mexican pantry essentials guide wouldn’t be complete without a list of items that should be in your fridge /freezer for Mexican cooking. The ingredients listed below along with the ingredients I listed earlier work together to create lots of delicious Mexican recipes.

  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Queso fresco
  • Ground beef
  • Hot dogs
  • Chicken breast

Eggs can be used in many different recipes such as in huevos a la Mexicana or papas con huevo.

Queso fresco can be used to fill enchiladas, enmoladas, enfrijoladas or entomatadas.

Ground beef is great to have on hand for easy recipes like picadillo and fideo loco.

Hot dogs can be sliced and added to scrambled eggs, migas and even drunken beans.

Chicken breast can be used to make pollo a la Mexicana, pollo a la mostaza and milanesa de pollo.

Follow me on Facebook to see lots of Mexican recipe videos!

Mexican pantry staples

I hope you have found this list of essentials super helpful. If you have any questions let me know in the comments below!

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