Beginner’s Guide to Modern Mexican Cooking

Mexican food background with traditional spicy meal and chalkboard hat vector illustration

Gabriela Camara, a cookbook author, shows you how to make delicious Mexican food at home.

Mexican food is diverse, rich, and varied. The modern Mexican recipes by Gabriela Camara, a chef and cookbook author, are no exception.
She promotes sustainable, local agriculture in both her cookbooks and restaurants. The quality of the ingredients makes a dish great, but it is the ability to balance the dishes that make them sing. Her recipes and her approach to Mexican food are not meant to be the ultimate guide but a reference. This is how she lives, eats and breathes Mexican food, so she thought, why not share this with you.

Ask an Expert: Gabriela Camara

I interviewed Gabriela, and I flipped through her book My Mexico City Kitchen Recipes and Convictions to learn the basics of Mexican cooking at home.

Gabriela respects Mexican cuisine’s traditions, but they do not bind her. However, Gabriela wants you to find the best quality and sustainably-sourced products. She wants you to have fun.
The basics are essential, but you can also learn how to combine them to create endless possibilities.

Mexican cooking: Essential ingredients

In the beginning pages of My Mexico City Kitchen, Gabriela states, “… “The fewer ingredients and steps in a dish, the more care you need to put into it,” This is because quality and importance play a more significant role.

SALSA – Gabriela suggests learning to make a mildly spicy green or red salsa. You can keep them in the refrigerator for several days to add them to eggs, fish, and chicken.

MASA A corn-based, wet dough made with nixtamalized yellow or white corn. It is used in making tortillas and tamales.

Fresh Masa:

If you live in an area with a tortilla, you will be able to get it fresh. You can buy fresh masa in small quantities and keep it for a few days. It may also ferment.
Masa Harina is Often found in supermarkets. It is just masa dehydrated; it is packaged in the same way as flour and is similar to cornmeal.


Use dried beans whenever possible. Although it takes more planning, the texture and taste are superior to what you find in a can. It all depends on the age of your ingredients. Try heirloom varieties. If they aren’t available locally, Gabriela suggests that you order them online from Rancho Gordo. When drying dried beans, she has some don’t s and some do s.

Gabriela does not pre-soak beans because they can blister.

Salt the water at the end of the cooking process.
Do not boil the beans.
Let them simmer.
Add herbs, garlic, or other aromatics.

According to Gabriela,

Mexican rice is usually cooked in liquid with puréed vegetables, adding flavor and color to the dish. She prefers long-grain, sustainably grown white rice.

HERBS/AROMATICS Gabriela stated in an email interview that she believes in simplicity and moderation in cooking. “But you usually need more than one of the ingredients.” Cilantro, garlic, oregano, and epazote are essential ingredients for a Mexican-inspired recipe. However, they can be used together.

EPAZOTE This herb can be used fresh or dried, and it is often used in Mexican cuisine because of its robust flavor. The herb is often added as an ingredient to beans to aid digestion, and it has an earthy, intense flavor.

Understanding Flavor

Although salt and acid can balance heat in a Mexican food dish, it’s not all about heat.

Gabriela states a common misconception that Mexican food must be spicy to be authentic. “Even heat should be used in moderation not to overpower any other ingredients in a dish or sauce unless you’re making a special spicy sauce that can hold it and reap the benefits.

To create Mexican cuisine, you can use chilies, salsas and herbs and spices, herbs, spices, salt, and other ingredients. One bite can be bright, spicy, acidic, or smoky.

Discover The Spice House’s selection of Mexican spices, herbs, and chiles

Mexican food requires balance when it comes to the foundations of good cuisine.

“As in any great food, and as my dear Samin Nosrat would put it: Salt fat acid heat. I also add smoke.”

Laura Mariano

Written by Laura Mariano

Laura Mariano is a food blogger who founded Recipes By to make cooking easier. Growing up on a farm in Spain, Laura was inspired by exquisite dishes prepared using simple ingredients. Laura Mariano is particularly known for making anyone can cook.

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