Many people enjoy visiting Mexican restaurants when they decide to eat a meal away from home. Traditional Mexican dishes can be hearty and filling, and they have a unique flavor that reflects the geographic area in which they originated.
If you are hoping to try something new the next time you visit your favorite Mexican restaurant, it can be beneficial to have an understanding of the different peppers used in Mexican cooking to help you determine which dishes you will like.
Here are three common types of peppers found in Mexican dishes, and some of the characteristics that define these traditional ingredients.
1. Cascabel Peppers
If you are looking for traditional Mexican dishes with just a touch of heat but a lot of flavor, then look for menu items that contain cascabel peppers. These peppers retain their round shape when dried, and the seeds rattle around inside of them. These characteristics give the cascabel (which means little bell or rattle in Spanish) its name.
The cascabel pepper has a mild heat, and lends an earthy or nutty flavor to the dishes prepared using this unique pepper. You can find cascabel peppers in many traditional Mexican soups, marinades, and salsas.
2. Poblano Peppers
Most people are familiar with the poblano pepper in its dried form. When dried, the poblano is referred to as an ancho chile and added to sauces and salsas. If you are hoping to try a fresh poblano pepper, your best bet is to order chile relleno.
This traditional Mexican dish features a roasted poblano pepper that has been stuffed with cheese, coated with egg, and then fried to give it a crisp texture. The poblano pepper is a mild, yet flavorful chile that will pair perfectly with a spicy cheese mixture. You can try this out at most Mexican restaurants. Poblano peppers can also be used in fresh salsa to give the salsa a hearty and slightly sweet flavor.
3. Guajillo Peppers
If you are looking to try a traditional Mexican meat dish, you will likely find that the rub used to season chicken features guajillo peppers. These dried peppers have a mild flavor reminiscent of green tea, with berry undertones that pair perfectly with the mild taste of chicken.
You will find that rubbed meats seasoned with guajillo peppers are pleasantly sweet, but have a surprisingly hot finish.
Learning about the peppers found in traditional Mexican dishes will help you better identify menu items that you would enjoy at your local Mexican restaurant.