Hola homies! It’s your girl, Bernadette, author of Herencia Cookbook, full of traditional Salvi-Mex recipes with a modern (and sometimes healthy-ish) twist. In today’s post, I will tackle the following topic: how to stock a Latin pantry. I am a Los Angeles Latina who loves to cook authentic Latinx recipes. After growing up on Salvadorian and Mexican recipes, and now writing a cookbook, there are some things that I simply must have in my kitchen. These are ingredients that you will always find in my pantry or fridge. Read on for my take on how to stock a Latin pantry!
How to Stock a Latin Pantry: Top Ingredients
I keep several different types of peppers stocked up at home. For instance, I use serrano peppers in my cooked salsas or caldos. Serranos are extra spicy. (Be sure to remove the seeds in order to avoid any unpleasant bitter flavors.) Additionally, I keep jalapenos at home, almost at all times. I typically keep both fresh and canned jalapenos at home. Fresh jalapenos are excellent for fresh pico de gallo or homemade guacamole. Canned jalapenos are great for nachos. Plus, they last so long in the jar, I know I can always count on them! Jalapenos are spicy, but not as spicy as serranos. Jalapenos are actually much milder than serrano peppers.
You will also almost always find bell peppers in my fridge! This vibrantly colored food is high in vitamin C and carotenoids. Cooked bell peppers work great in fajitas or stir-frys. Fresh bell peppers are delicious in salads. Sometimes, I cut bell peppers into strips and eat them like snacks!
Learn more about peppers here.
You will also find that I keep all sorts of different tomatoes at home. The tomatoes I use the most in my Hispanic home cooking are roma tomatoes. They are slightly juicy, but also quite firm. Therefore, roma tomatoes hold up great chopped up in salads or in fresh, homemade pico de gallo or guacamole. I also use roma tomatoes in cooked salsas, like salsa roja. The roma tomato will allow my salsita to have a liquid texture, without being too runny. Basically, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you have roma tomatoes at home, you can cook some yummy Latin food! I also keep tomatillos on hand at home often. Tomatillos come in handy when I want to change it up and make a salsa verde. This salsa often is tangier than red salsa, so it is great to make things a bit versatile.
Check out how to make delicious salsas with tomatoes here.
My uncle says that cilantro is good to keep your mood chill and keep you from trippin’. My guess is because it adds so much flavor to food. If your food tastes great, what is there to trip over? Am I right? But, really, cilantro is amazing to add to homemade pico de gallo, guacamole, and soups. In fact, adding a handful of cilantro to soup right before it finishes cooking can add an amazing infusion of flavor that is not too overpowering. CIlantro can elevate a boring noodle soup to a delicious and comforting caldo de fideo.
Onion adds an amazing burst of flavor to any Hispanic cooking. Sometimes, I will add onion to my oil before I saute anything. This infuses my oil, and therefore my food, with onion flavor, without having to bite into an actual onion. I also use onions in soups to add a deeper flavor. Add fresh, diced onion into pico de gallo and guacamole. Or, simply add sliced onion to fresh salads. Onions are a key ingredient in all of my Latinx cooking.
I use a lot of garlic in my cooking. So did my great-grandma, whom I had the pleasure of knowing for the first ten years of my life. She was my father’s grandmother. My dad and I say she lived so long because she cooked with garlic so much! To honor her memory (and because it tastes so good), I keep garlic in my home at all times. I even have some planted in my garden!
Garlic can be used in a lot of different ways in the kitchen: You can whole garlic cloves in soups, beans, and similar dishes that I make from scratch. Before serving, just ensure to fish the garlic out to avoid biting into a whole clove. I mince garlic and use it to add flavor to steaks, chicken, or fish. Minced garlic can add flavor without adding too many calories (or too much sodium). Fun fact: during my 5th month of pregnancy, I took a nutrition class to learn how to properly nourish my growing baby boy! The instructor informed me that fragrant ingredients (like garlic, onion, and cilantro) can help keep our immune systems strong. I add garlic to a lot of my cooking, Latin or otherwise, for the flavor and immune-boosting benefits.
Lemons and Limes
Lemons and limes are high in vitamin C. Add some to your water and you instantly have a vitamin C boost. Add some to your cooking, and you can enjoy some authentic Latin flavor. For instance, I add lemon to all of my soups for a tangy kick. I also add it to a lot of my cut fruits and vegetables for a sweet and sour treat. I even squeeze limes into my beer. So yes, Hispanic foods and drinks of all kinds are just not the same without lemon and lime!
My husband jokingly reminds me that, in my first trimester of pregnancy, when most foods grossed me out, he could always count on me enjoying queso fresco inside a corn tortilla. It’s true. Queso Fresco is like my old reliable. You will almost always find it in my fridge at home. Queso Fresco is high in calcium and protein and therefore offers that nutritional benefit. I love to eat it with a corn tortilla to accompany just about any caldo. Or, if I make zoodles in a spicy tomato sauce, I love to crumble just a little queso fresco on top. There are a lot of ways to enjoy it. By using queso fresco, all of my Latin dishes feel more authentic. Or a dish that may not necessarily be Latin suddenly tastes like a fusion dish.
Corn tortillas are delicious! I love to eat them with breakfast eggs on the weekend. Suddenly my plain eggs turn into a delicious Latinx meal when I top them with salsa and enjoy them inside a corn tortilla. Or, I can put meat or chicken and salad inside a tortilla and suddenly I created a soft taco. I like this brand of corn tortillas, due to the flavor, brand story, and values.
Beans are high in fiber, protein, and folate. I enjoy pinto beans in Mexican dishes and black beans in Salvadorian dishes. I keep dried beans at home and try to cook about a cup a week to nibble on here and there. (The raw beans expand so much once they swell with water during the cooking process.) I also keep canned beans on hand for times when I want beans fast, and may not have time to cook up a batch. When using canned beans, I try to shop for BPA free packaging. I also rinse thoroughly before using and season to my preference to ensure flavor. I typically find myself buying this brand of canned beans. Which beans do you like best? Black beans? Pinto beans? Maybe something else?
Learn more about the health benefits of beans here.
Learn how to make black beans from scratch here.
How could I write an article about how to stock a Latin pantry without including Tajin?! I put Tajin in my caldos. I put it on chopped cucumber or jicama. Sometimes I even put it on salads. I love it on ravanos. I just really like Tajin ok!
Learn how to make a delicious Michelada with Tajin here.
What is your take on how to stock a Latin pantry? Did you agree with the ingredients? Was there an ingredient that we totally missed and need to add to our next post? Here, at Herencia Cookbook, we would love to know! Be sure to hit us up in the comments. Finally, are you interested in learning to cook with some of these ingredients to make your own Latin dishes? Then be sure to check out my blog and my book for authentic Salvi Mex recipes with a modern (and sometimes healthy) twist. Until next time, Buen Provecho! Herencia Cookbook is currently available for sale on Amazon.