Beso Del Chef: 7 Herbs and Spices Used in Mexican Dishes

Herbs and spices are always present in every dish, no matter what cuisine. They bring spice (no pun intended) to every dish, hence their unique taste and aroma. Not only are they delicious, but they are also full of nutrition. These little ingredients will surely make anyone excited to indulge. 

There are a lot of countries that grow and supply herbs and spices to the rest of the world, and one of them is Mexico. It is a beautiful South American country rich in culture and cuisine. Their dishes are known and loved by people globally, and they recreate them from time to time. Thanks to the popular herbs and spices like the Mexican oregano and Mexican allspice, there is no surprise that Mexico has made a big contribution to the world of popular cuisines. Stick around to know more herbs and spices that come from Mexico!

1. Hoja Santa

The Piper auritum or popularly known as the Hoja Santa. It is a velvety leaf herb found in Mexico, California, and Florida. Southern Mexican cuisine also uses the hoja santa. This herb is perfect to use dried or fresh and is abundant for the whole year. Its other names include the yerba santa and root beer plant. 

The Hoja Santa has different flavor levels, depending on its age. It has a strong taste and aroma when it is still young and tender. There is also a hint of mint, anise, and eucalyptus in its flavor and aroma profile. This herb is used for wrapping meats and cheeses and added in stews and egg dishes.

2. Ancho Chili Powder

It does not scream Mexican cuisine if there is no heat and spice. Thanks to the ancho chili powder, any Mexican dish will be brought to life. The ancho chili powder is made from the famous ancho chilis. They are dried poblano chili peppers which you can purchase whole or ground.

Various meats are stuffed into these peppers, then served with beans and rice. They are also a significant ingredient in making mole, a famous Mexican sauce. Once ground and made into powder, the taste is smoky, mildly spicy, and slightly fruity. It is the perfect herb to put in soups and other dishes with sauces on them. These peppers are also famous for their health benefits, like carbohydrates, protein, potassium, and minerals. 

3. Smoked Paprika

The smoked paprika is known for its added bitterness over the heat, and it became the top of almost everyone’s grocery list. Depending on the peppers used, paprika comes in different aromas and flavors like sweet, smoky, and hot. It is nice to know that smoked paprika is used in numerous ways. It can serve as a dry rub in steaks, extra seasoning to any savory dish even in dishes like mac and cheese, can be added to fish and chicken marinate, and even sausage stuffings. The beauty of the smoked paprika is that it fits well with almost any dish and has less heat compared to other Mexican peppers. 

4. Cumin 

Cumin dates ways back into ancient Egypt and some parts of the Middle East. It was originally for mummifying dead bodies, but it has now grown into an aromatic and flavorful spice used in Various Mexican dishes. Cumin are seeds harvested manually from an annual plant, and they come in brownish-yellow, green, black color variations. Its flavor is a blend of sweetness and a touch of bitterness, which makes it fit for almost any Mexican dish. 

Cumin is popularly used in Tex-Mex dishes, like tacos, chilis, baked beans, steaks, and deconstructed taco rice bowls. This herb also helps in proper digestion and weight loss, that is why it is always on a fitness guru’s kitchen shelf.

5. Coriander

The coriander is part of the parsley family used for bringing and pickling. It is usually complimentary with other herbs like cumin and fennel, perfect for Mexican dishes’ flavors. When you dig into your curry dishes and Mexican salad with creamy coriander sauce, you will taste the lemony and tangy flavor. This tiny spice is also a superfood because it helps lower blood sugar levels, strengthens the immune system, and improves brain and heart health. Anyone will be encouraged to add coriander to their favorite dishes.

6. Cilantro

Do you love good Mexican salsa? Well, you surely have tasted and smelled the pungent yet lemony and peppery cilantro, another famous herb used in various cuisines. It is a leafy herb that is also part of the parsley family. This herb is usually finely chopped and added to enchilada and taco meat mix. It is also added to numerous pasta sauces like the famous creamy pesto pasta. Just like any leaf herb, cilantro is packed with nutritional benefits such as reducing anxiety, preventing urinary tract infections, and aiding in menstrual functions in women.

7. Achiote 

The achiote seeds are another famous spice originally from Mexico and the Caribbean. While it is a popular spice, it is also a coloring agent that gives an orangey-red color to dishes. The seeds are harvested from the Bixa Orellana shrub then cooked in water to release the coloring. Unfortunately, the achiote has no flavor, but its scent gives off a peppermint aroma. If it is powdered and mixed with other herbs, it can help aid in bringing out a smoky flavor to fish, chicken, and beef. These red seeds also serve as an anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant. 


The herbs mentioned above are just some of the numerous herbs and spices around the world. Each of them plays a huge role in making the flavors pop. Who knew that the tiniest ingredients can bring such great flavor, aroma, and even health benefits to every dish. It is important to know how to harvest, purchase, handle, and store herbs and spices because it is different for each one. If you want to start your own cooking, you can visit to learn all things food and dining!


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