achiote (ah-chee- oh-teh): Nothing to sneeze at, achiote is a dark red paste made from the crushed seeds of the annatto tree. It has a mild, paprika-like flavor.
adobado(a) (ah-doh- bah-doh): seasoned with adobo.
adobo (ah- doh-boh): a red or green paste and marinade made with achiote, garlic, canela, and other seasonings.
agave (ah- gah-veh): a plant family of several hundred species with long, swordlike leaves. Members include the century plant and the blue agave that is used to make tequila (see Respuestas). In Mexico, the agave is called the maguey (mah- ghey).
agua fresca ( ah-gwah frehs-kah): Literally “fresh water,” the name actually refers to colorful, sweet fruit beverages (see Instrucciones,
aguacate (ah-gwah- kah-teh): avocado, from the Nahuatl word ahuacatl.
ajillo (ah- hee-yoh): diminutive of ajo, garlic; al ajillo means “with garlic.”
alambre (ah- lahm-breh): skewer.
albóndiga (ahl- bohn-dee-gah): “That’s one spicy meatball.”
anticucho (ahn-tee- coo-choh): kebab.
antojito (ahn-toh- hee-toh): “Little whim”; refers to a variety of snacks, often made with small tortillas or masa tarts.
arrachera (ah-rrah- cheh-rah): grilled,marinated skirt steak like that traditionally served at ranch cookouts in northern Mexico; think of it as uncut fajitas.
arroz (ah- rrohs): rice, not a rose by any other name.
asado(a) (ah- sah-doh): grilled or roasted.
bandera (bahn- deh-rah): “flag.” The popular dish enchiladas banderas has three sauces—green, white, and red—like the panels of the Mexican flag.
bebida (beh- bee-dah): drink.
bistek ( bees-tek): beefsteak.
bolillo (boh- lee-yoh): Literally “small ball,” this crusty, elongated roll makes the perfect sandwich, or torta.
borracho (boh- rrah-choh): “drunk.” The main difference between frijoles a la charra and borracho beans is that the latter are cooked with beer.
botanas (boh- tah-nahs): snacks or appetizers.
buen provecho (bwehn proh- veh-choh): roughly equivalent to “bon appétit”; a popular saying in Mexico.
buñuelo (boo- nyweh-loh): a flat, round, crisp pastry, often dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon and traditionally served at Christmas.
cabrito (kah- bree-toh): a young goat—no kidding.
cajeta (kah- heh-tah): caramel sauce made with goat’s (or sometimes cow’s) milk; named for the small wooden boxes ( cajetas) in which it was once packed.
calabacitas (kah-lah-bah- see-tahs): squash cut into small pieces.
caldo ( kahl-doh): broth.
camote (kah- moh-teh): sweet potato, a popular empanada filling.
campechana (kahm-peh- chah-nah): mixed- seafood cocktail, often in a spicy, tomato-based sauce. The name comes from the Mexican coastal city of Campeche.
canela (kah- neh-lah): Often called Ceylon cinnamon, canela is the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree; sold in small curled, dried sheets, it is lighter in color and more papery, and generally has a milder flavor, than the stick cinnamon common in the United States.
carbón, al (kahr-bohn): cooked over charcoal.
carne ( kahr-neh): meat, usually beef; carne asada is a grilled steak.
carne guisada ( kahr-neh ghee- sah-dah): a stewlike beef dish with a gravy flavored with onions, chiles, cumin, and other spices.
carnitas (kahr- nee-tahs): This dish, whose name means “little meats,” consists of shreds or cubes of braised pork; used as a filling for tacos and burritos.
ceviche (seh- vee-cheh): a raw seafood cocktail that has been “cooked” in a citrus juice marinade.
chalupa (chah- loo-pah): In Mexico, this “little boat” is a canoe-shaped masa shell or crisp tortilla with lettuce, refried beans, cheese, and other toppings. In the United States, a round fried tortilla is usually substituted for the masa shell. A chalupa compuesta is a chalupa with the works—sour cream, guacamole, and mucho más.
champiñón (chahm-pee-nyohn): mushroom.
charra, a la ( chah-rrah): a dish cooked the way a wife of a charro (Mexican horseman) prepared it. Frijoles a la charra are pinto beans with chile, bacon (sometimes chorizo), and cilantro.
chicharrones (chee-chah- rroh-nehs): fried pork rinds, a crispy snack that lets you literally chew the fat.
chilaquiles (chee-lah- kee-lehs): a popular dish made with pieces of day-old corn tortillas cooked with a sauce. Confusingly, it can include scrambled eggs, like migas (see Respuestas).
chorizo (choh- ree-soh): spicy ground-pork sausage.
chuleta (choo-leh-tah): chop, as in pork chop.
cochinita pibil (koh-chee- nee-tah pee- beel): a dish from the Yucatán consisting of pork seasoned with achiote, orange juice, and spices, wrapped in banana leaves, and cooked in a pit known as a pib.
cocina (koh- see-nah—not koh- chee-nah, the way everybody is mispronouncing it lately): kitchen.
comal (koh- mahl): a thin, circular, usually cast-iron griddle traditionally used for making tortillas but also great for roasting chiles and spices (see Instrucciones.
comida (koh- mee-dah): meal; comida corrida means “lunch on the run” or “quick lunch”; a moderately priced set lunch, Mexico’s blue-plate special.
costilla (kohs- tee-yah): rib.
crema ( kreh-mah): a cultured cream, similar to sour cream and crème fraîche.
crudo(a) ( kroo-doh): This just means raw, not impolite.
deshebrado(a) (dehs-eh-brah-doh): shredded.
divorciado(a) (dee-vohr-see- ah-doh): “divorced”; refers to two foods that are set apart from each other on the plate, like huevos divorciados—two fried eggs on fried tortillas, one topped with red salsa and the other with green.
dulce de leche ( dool-seh deh leh-cheh): “A sweet made of milk,” this is another name for the soft, praline-like caramel candy called leche quemada.
elote (eh- loh-teh): corn, usually fresh.
empanada (em-pah- nah-dah): This small pastry turnover with various sweet or savory fillings proves that good things do come in small packages.
encebollado(a) (en-seh-boh- yah-doh): with (cooked) onions.
enchilado(a) (en-chee- lah-doh): in chile sauce; strictly speaking, the filling and tortillas are not part of the definition.
enfrijolado(a) (en-free-ho- lah-doh): in bean sauce.
enmollado(a) (en-moh- yah-doh): in mole sauce.
entomatado(a) (en-toh-mah- tah-doh): in tomato sauce.
epazote (eh-pah- soh-teh): Known in English as wormseed and considered a weed in many countries, this pungent plant has a strong flavor; it is indispensable in black beans.
escabeche (es-kah- beh-cheh): a vinegar-based marinade used in making a popular condiment of pickled jalapeños, carrots, and onions.
espinacas (es-pee- nah-kahs): spinach.