Must-Have Ingredients for Cooking Mexican Food

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Ingredients for Cooking Mexican Food El Chubby's Fresh Mexican Grill DenverIf you love the cuisine, there are certainly some must-have ingredients for cooking Mexican food. So, our team at El Chubby’s Fresh Mexican Grill in Aurora, have put together a list of basics to make your Mexican food cooking experiences easier. You should be able to locate many of these items at your local grocery store, but for some staples, a specialty market may make it easier. If you are lucky enough to have a Latin market near you, you will likely be able to locate all of the items on this list.

Our list of must-have ingredients for cooking Mexican food include recommendations for how much to keep on hand for two people. This can be adjusted depending on how much delicious Mexican food you plan to add to your meal rotation, as well as the number of people in your family.


To keep your avocados fresher longer, you can let them ripen on the countertop and then put them in the fridge where they will last an additional week or so. For two people, we recommend having four avocados on hand.


These are definite must-have ingredients for cooking Mexican food, especially salsas for your tacos and burritos. Look for jalapeños that are both taut and green. In many areas, you will be able to find these year round. Keeping your peppers in the fridge will help them last as long as 1-2 weeks. For two people, 5 jalapeños should work.


These peppers look like skinny jalapeños. They are much spicier than jalapeños and have a brighter, grassier taste. If you can’t find serranos or don’t want so much heat in your dishes, jalapeños work just fine.


These peppers can be more difficult to locate, but if you want chiles rellenos, you’ll need to hunt these peppers down. When choosing your poblanos, look for those that are darker green with taut skin. Poblanos are quite mild in comparison to jalapeños and serranos and their flavors are quite distinct so if you use a different pepper, the taste will not be the same. Poblanos are larger, so keeping two on hand should be sufficient for two people.

Chipotles in Adobo Sauce

These are cans of jalapeños soaking in a delicious, tangy sauce. The peppers are smoky and sweet as a result of the sauce and they make a great addition to certain dishes. Latin markets, as well as large grocers, usually carry them. Any leftover peppers will keep well in the fridge in a covered container. Two cans of chipotles in adobo sauce should work well.


We recommend Roma or plum tomatoes because there is more flesh and fewer seeds, but really any tomatoes will work in your dishes. Keeping ten on hand should cover your needs.


Tomatillos are the centerpieces of any green sauce in Mexican cuisine. Fresh tomatillos are generally housed in the produce area, near the jalapeños. Taut, green ones will serve you best. Overly wrinkled ones are well past their prime. In lieu of fresh tomatillos, canned ones are a fine substitute. Two cans or 10 fresh ones should be a good amount for stocking your kitchen.


Mexican cooking involves a lot of onion, so these are at the top of the list of must-have ingredients for cooking Mexican food. Either yellow or white onions work well. Yellow onions provide a sweeter flavor and the white ones are generally sharply flavored. Choose the ones you like best. Four onions are a good amount to have on hand.

By the way, if all this talk of ingredients is making you too hungry to cook, come see us at El Chubby’s Fresh Mexican Grill in Aurora for a delicious Mexican meal.


Firm garlic is best and two bulbs should be a good amount to keep in the house.


One bunch is fine for keeping on hand, but storing it can be difficult. You can store cilantro longer by keeping the stems in water (as though they were a bunch of flowers) and storing it in your refrigerator. Some people will loosely cover the head of the bunch with a plastic bag. This will help keep your cilantro fresh for as long as two weeks.


While this might seem out of place, who doesn’t love a delicious breakfast burrito? You can use whatever potato you prefer. Many people like russets while others prefer reds, yukons, or goldens. Use what you enjoy and have three or so on hand for your cooking.


Limes can be pricey in some places, so shopping around for a good price will help you. Latin markets sometimes have a deal on them, so you may be better off getting them there. They keep well in the fridge. Consider keeping at least five on hand for all your Mexican cuisine needs.

Black or Refried Beans

If you are an expert in making your own beans, you probably have a batch already made in the wings. For those who have not yet attempted their own, two cans of whatever kind or brand you prefer should be perfect. We recommend this for everyone because sometimes there is not enough time to make them from scratch.

White Rice

Long-grained white rice is what is commonly used in many Mexican meals. Two pounds of rice should work well for two people.


At least a package of corn and flour tortillas in your refrigerator are must-have ingredients for cooking Mexican food. Whatever brand your prefer will work fine, but we encourage you to check your local Latin market for homemade or local offerings which may be extra delicious and less expensive.


Monterey Jack is a great default cheese to keep on hand, but cheddar and mozzarella will also work. Having cotija on hand can add a great garnish to your tacos, but other cheeses can do the job well if you are unable to locate any.

There are a few other must-have ingredients for cooking Mexican food, including tortilla chips, chicken or skirt steak, eggs, chicken or vegetable stock, cream, and hot sauce to name a few more. If stocking your kitchen has made you hungry, come see us at El Chubby’s Fresh Mexican Grill in Aurora for a delicious carne asada burrito, cheesy chile relleno or a combo plate piled with your tasty favorites.

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