If you start a recipe and are missing an Mexican specialty ingredient check out this list for a possible substitute.
From achiote to tomatillos, here are some of the most common Mexican specialty food items and suggested substitutions in case you can’t find them at your market.
Achiote paste: Rust-colored flavorful paste made from the flowering seed of the annatto shrub. It can be found in the ethnic section of the grocery store.
Substitute: Achiote oil may be available. Turmeric powder, just enough to color the dish (1 to 2 tablespoons per recipe), should do. Too much can make the dish bitter.
Queso fresco: Fresh Mexican cheese with a crumbly texture and slightly acidic flavor.
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Substitute: Feta cheese.
Dried California/Mew Mexico chili: Dark burgundy chili with a mild to medium-hot flavor.
Substitute: Ancho chili pepper, a more commonly found dried chili.
Panela cheese: Fresh Mexican cheese made from whole unpasteurized milk curds.
Substitute: Monterey Jack or mozzarella.
Mexican chorizo: Spicy pork sausage.
Substitute: Hot Italian sausage or make your own with ground pork, garlic, cumin and paprika.
Chile de arbol: Small, bright red, fairly hot dried Mexican chili.
Substitute: Chile powder.
Tamarind pods: Tropical fruit both sweet and sour in taste.
Substitute: Lemon juice, lime juice or cider vinegar with a little sugar added.
Maggi sauce: Hydrolyzed vegetable protein-based sauce used as a flavor enhancer in Latin/Asian cuisine. It can be found in the ethnic section of the grocery store.
Substitute: Equal part mixture of Worcestershire sauce and dark soy sauce.
Masa harina: Popular Mexican flour made from treated corn.
Substitute: Finely ground corn meal.
Tomatillo: Mexican relative to the gooseberry with a tart flavor.
Substitute: Green tomato and lime juice.
Courtesy Marcela Valladolid, host of “Mexican Made Easy'”on foodnetwork.com.
For more information, visit www.foodnetwork.com.