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The 7 best spices of Mexican gastronomy

Mexican cuisine is one of the richest and most varied cuisines in the world, renowned for its diversity of flavours, ingredients and culinary techniques. 

Mexican cuisine is the result of a fusion of indigenous and European influences, with a touch of African and Asian culinary traditions.

Mexican cuisine is known for its richness of flavours and the use of a wide variety of spices and seasonings.

7 Mexican spices

Some of the most common spices and condiments in Mexican cuisine are:


Oregano is an aromatic herb widely used in Mexican cuisine and in many other cuisines around the world. 

Mexican oregano, known as “epazote,” is particularly popular and differs from common oregano. This herb has a distinctive flavour and a strong aroma, with an earthy touch and a slight aniseed flavour.

Epazote is used in a wide variety of Mexican dishes, such as tamales, soups, stews, and especially in bean dishes and quesadillas. 

Epazote is believed to have digestive properties and is traditionally used to reduce flatulence associated with beans.

In Mexican cuisine, epazote is an essential spice for flavour and authenticity in many dishes, and its distinctive flavour contributes to the richness of Mexico’s gastronomy.


Cinnamon is a spice widely used in Mexican cuisine, especially in sweet dishes and some mole preparations. Cinnamon is obtained from the inner bark of cinnamon trees and comes in the form of sticks or powder.

In Mexico, cinnamon is used in various preparations, such as the traditional champurrado (a hot chocolate drink with cinnamon), rice pudding, atole (a thick corn drink flavoured with cinnamon), and in some desserts such as flan or churro, where cinnamon powder is sprinkled on top of the fried dough.

Cinnamon adds a distinctive flavour and aroma to dishes and drinks, bringing a warm, slightly sweet touch. 

In Mexican cuisine, cinnamon is a prized ingredient and is used both in sweet dishes and in some moles and sauces that may incorporate a hint of cinnamon to enhance the complexity of flavours.


Achiote, also known as annatto, is a spice that is widely used in Mexican cuisine, especially in the cuisine of the Yucatan Peninsula region. 

Achiote is a paste or seasoning paste obtained from the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana), which are red and have an earthy, slightly spicy flavour.

Achiote is mainly used to add colour and flavour to a variety of dishes, being one of the key ingredients in the Yucatan’s iconic dish, “cochinita pibil”. 

Cochinita pibil is pork marinated and slow-cooked in achiote, sour orange juice and other spices, which gives it its characteristic red colour and delicious flavour. 

In addition, achiote is used in other Mexican dishes and sauces, such as chicken pibil and various fish preparations.

Achiote is also found in other Latin American cuisines and is used to add colour and flavour to rice, soups, sauces and marinades. 

It is a versatile spice that adds a special touch to dishes, in addition to its contribution to the distinctive colour that characterises many Mexican preparations.


Vanilla is a spice used in many cuisines around the world, including Mexican cuisine. Vanilla is known for its distinctive flavour and aroma and is widely used in both sweet and savoury preparations.

In Mexican cuisine, vanilla is used in many Mexican desserts and drinks. Examples include vanilla flan, rice pudding, atole (a thick corn drink), ponche and champurrado (hot chocolate drink), among others. 

Vanilla enhances the flavour of these dishes and gives them a sweet and aromatic touch.

In addition, Mexico is one of the world’s leading producers of vanilla. Mexican vanilla is appreciated for its quality and its deep, complex flavour. 

Mexican vanilla is commonly found in the form of extract, vanilla pods and vanilla sugar, which are used in baking and desserts.

Vanilla is an essential ingredient in Mexican cuisine, and its mild, sweet taste contributes to the richness of traditional Mexican pastries and beverages.

Bay Leaves

Bay leaves, also known as laurel or bay laurel, are a spice commonly used in Mexican cuisine and in many other cuisines around the world. 

These leaves come from the laurel tree (Laurus nobilis) and are used to add flavour and aroma to all kinds of savoury dishes.

In Mexican cuisine, bay leaves are an essential ingredient in the preparation of stews, soups, sauces and other slow-cooked dishes. They are often added to broths and moles, where they add a subtle flavour and characteristic aroma. 

They are also used in the preparation of tamales, stews, beans and other traditional dishes.

Bay leaves are characterised by their slightly bitter taste and herbal aroma. They are used whole, but are usually removed before the dish is served, as they are somewhat stiff and are not consumed. 

Their main function is to enhance the flavour of the stew while cooking.

Coarse pepper

The “pimienta gorda” or “pimienta tabasqueña” refers to a variety of pepper that is native to the Tabasco region of Mexico. 

Although often associated with the Tabasco region, this pepper is also cultivated in other tropical areas of Mexico and Central America. This is why the fat pepper or Tabasco pepper is mainly used in Mexican and Central American cuisine.

The fat pepper is characterised by its round, wrinkled shape, which makes it look like a small pumpkin. It has a mild flavour and a slightly citrus aroma, which makes it suitable for use in sauces and dishes. 

It is often used in the preparation of hot sauces, such as the famous “Tabasco sauce,” which is made with Tabasco chillies, vinegar and salt.

This variety of allspice should not be confused with black pepper, which is a completely different spice. 


Cloves are a highly prized spice and widely used in Mexican cuisine, as well as in other culinary cultures around the world. 

Cloves are the dried flower buds of the clove tree (Syzygium aromaticum) and have a distinctive flavour and aroma, with a warm, spicy and sweet touch.

Cloves are a versatile spice that brings a deep and distinctive flavour to many Mexican dishes. Its sweet and spicy flavour combines well with other ingredients and contributes to the richness of flavours in many Mexican recipes.

And you, which Mexican spice do you prefer? Did you know about these widely used Mexican spices?At Taqueria de Birra we are experts in tacos and Mexican food since 1989, so if you want to taste some quality traditional tacos or other typical recipes, we invite you to order to take away or come and try them at C/ Don Pedro, 11 or at Plaza de las Comendadoras, 2.