I love to cook and these are my top 5 Oaxacan ingredients and my favorite ways to use them!

  1. Masa: More than just for tortillas! I love corn masa dumplings in mole de olla, the texture is similar to a matzoh ball dumpling. They are often called ‘chochoyotes’ and unlike matzoh contain a good amount of pork fat (asiento).
  2. Huitlacoche: While these corn smut mushrooms are often pureed to a paste and used in omelets and empanadas, my favorite way to eat them is sauteed whole and fresh, with guajillo chile and almonds. I like to serve them on toasted baguette and topped with queso fresco for a yummy appetizer. Don’t use canned huitlacoche- it will make you think you don’t like it:)
  3. Hoja Santa (Latin name Piper auritum): This fragrant leaf is a key ingredient in mole Amarillo, lending an anise flavor to the silky sauce. However, the leaf is also a great addition to salads or on sandwiches instead of lettuce.
  4. Chapulines: Grasshoppers are a kitschy delicacy to try when you are in Oaxaca. They come roasted with salt and chile and are a common snack at sporting events. I like to use the chapulines in salad dressing. Blend a handful of chapulines with olive oil, honey, and salt until you get the desired consistency. Adds complex smoky and yeasty flavor to your favorite veggies.
  5. Nopales: This slimy cactus is incredibly versatile and healthy. For a quick immune-booster add raw nopal (spines removed) to your favorite smoothie. They are also great roasted or sauteed and added to scrambled eggs or used as a quiche or empanada filling.

Jane Bauer leads cooking classes at Chiles&Chocolate Cooking School where she shares her love of Oaxacan cooking and history.