Throwback Thursday: Basic Mexican spice mix

Throwback Thursday: Basic Mexican spice mix
Tony Jackman’s Mexican-style chicken with beans, corn and peppers, cooked with a homemade spice mix. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Mexican cuisine became an international food trend in the Nineties when Mexican and Tex Mex restaurants sprang up in cities all over the globe. It’s time for a resurgence, and we can start by making our own homemade Mexican style spice mix.

By Mexican cuisine we mean just that, the food of Mexico, but by Tex Mex we’re talking about the food of the Tejano people of the great American state of Texas, which derives from the original further south.

Tex Mex, Wikipedia tells us, “is a subtype of Southwestern cuisine, found in the American Southwest”. Southwestern cuisine is described as being “food styled after the rustic cooking of the Southwestern United States. It comprises a fusion of recipes for things that might have been eaten by Spanish colonial settlers, cowboys, Native Americans, and Mexicans throughout the post-Columbian era; there is, however, a great diversity in this kind of cuisine throughout the Southwestern states”. Think cowboys and beans, rustic and proud.

The Mayan civilisation domesticated maize (corn, sweetcorn) centuries ago, and it is still all over Mexican cuisine, which derives at its core from mesoamerican cuisine, with the Spanish influence taking hold later. Essentially, we think of corn, peppers (chilli and bell) and beans as being at the core of modern Mexican cuisine, though its history is complex with tentacles going deep into time.

Historically, the region has been obsessed with vegetables, with meat such as beef and chicken being introduced by Europeans much later, along with certain spices and herbs. Chillies and chocolate were always endemic.

But it’s when it all comes together that that magical “Mexican” thing happens; the notably fulsome, rewarding, comforting feeling that sweeps over you when eating this very special cuisine.

And it doesn’t take much to put something together that brings you that reward. To start with, try making your own version (okay, my own) of a basic Mexican spice mix designed to sing of Mexico, sunshine and sombreros. This can be stored in a jar in the cupboard and brought out to flavour any Mexican-style dish in weeks or months to come, even a simple chilli con carne.

This week I made a dish of chicken portions with beans, corn and peppers, using this spice mix. Here’s all you need…

(Makes about ½ a cup)


1 Tbsp garlic powder

2 Tbsp onion powder

1 Tbsp chilli powder

1 Tbsp paprika

1 Tbsp ground cumin

1 Tbsp dried oregano

1 Tbsp sugar

½ teaspoon fine salt


Mix ingredients together in a small bowl and spoon into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store until needed. DM

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed in a bowl by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.


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