Common Herbs And Spices Used In Mexican Food

Posted on: 11 November 2021

If asked to name ingredients used in Mexican food, you could probably come up with peppers, tomatoes, and masa. But what about herbs and spices? In many cases, it is the herbs and spices that really give Mexican dishes their signature flavors. Here's a look at some of the key ones used across the spectrum of Mexican cuisine.


Cumin is a spice that offers a combination of mild heat and a pleasant, toasted flavor. It is usually sold as a dried powder with a greenish hue. Mexican cooks use it to flavor meat mixtures, such as those used in tacos and burritos.

Mexican Oregano

If you're used to Italian oregano, you may be surprised by how different Mexican oregano tastes in comparison. It's a similar green herb to Italian oregano, but its flavor is more pungent and spicy. It can be added to cooked dishes, but it's also minced and added to raw salsas.

Chile Powder

There are a number of different chile peppers often used in Mexican food. Ancho chiles, cayennes, and Aleppo peppers are some of the most common ones. Any and all of them can be dried and then ground into a fine powder called chile powder. This is then used to add spiciness and heat to various dishes.


You may not think of cinnamon as a Mexican spice, but it's quite common in dessert dishes. You'll also see it used in mole sauce, a unique, chocolate-based sauce that is sometimes served over chicken. Most of the cinnamon used in Mexico is Ceylon cinnamon, a variety that's not quite as spicy as the cassia cinnamon used in other cuisines. As such, it can be added to fruit dishes and drinks without overwhelming them with its flavor.


Cloves are another warm spice often used in Mexican cuisine. You'll see them used in many desserts and drinks. Sometimes, a chef will add whole cloves to a dish and then filter them out before serving the dish. Other times, ground cloves will be sprinkled in.


Cilantro is a green herb related to parsley. It has a pungent, lemon-like flavor that some people love and others hate. It's almost always used fresh on top of tacos, burritos, and other dishes, and it can be minced and added to salsas.

The herbs and spices above really set the tone for Mexican cuisine. As you can see, they have quite a variety of flavors, which is what makes Mexican cuisine itself so varied. 

For more information on herbs and spices used in Mexican food, contact a restaurant near you.