Hispanic Kitchen

Spice It Up!

Latin Food Glossary: Spanish into English

Here, you'll find many common and practical Spanish cooking terms — about 1000 in fact! We've also included some regional (non-standard) terms you might encounter in some of our Spanish-language content. Different names do exist for the same things, depending on the region. For example, in Mexico, peppers are called chiles. In other regions, such as the Caribbean, they are called ají.


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Abrelata — can opener

Abulón — abalone

Aceite — oil

Aceite con achiote — annatto oil

Aceite de girasol — sunflower oil

Aceite de maíz — corn oil

Aceite vegetal — vegetable oil

Aceituna — olive

Acelga — Swiss chard

Acerola — West Indian or Barbados cherry

Achiote or Achote — annatto seeds

Achiotera — a container used to store annatto oil with its seeds. The oil is heated every time it is needed so the seeds can release their yellow color.

Acido — acid; acidic

Acompañante — side dish

Aderezo — dressing (aderezar: to dress or to season)

Adobo — a basic marinade used in various cuisines

Agave — a family of succulent plants, some of which are edible. Tequila in particular is made from the blue agave species.

Agave nectar — a sweetener commercially produced in Mexico from several species of agave. Used as a sugar substitute.

Agitar — to shake

Agridulce — bittersweet

Agrio — sour

Agua — water

Aguacate — avocado. See photos of California avocadoes and Florida avocadoes.

Agua de Azahar — orange blossom water. A distilled water made of orange blossoms, used to flavor traditional desserts like rice-flour stovetop custard.

Aguamiel — The sweet juice of the maguey plant, which when fermented produces pulque.

Aguardiente — a liquor or clear brandy from fermented fruit juice. The word "aguardiente" literally means "burning water."

Aguas frescas — In Mexico, a class of soft drinks made by infusing water with various flavorings including tamarind, chía, and flor de jamaica

Aguas de frutas — juices made from fruits (Mexico)

Aguja — Literally, "needle." A cut of chuck steak that is one of the favorite al carbón (char-broiled) specialties of northern Mexico. Elsewhere, it can also mean a type of slender fish.

Ahumado — smoked

Ahumar — to smoke food. For example, pescado ahumado means smoked fish.

Ajiaco — a general name for a variety of brothy stews

Ají amarillo — Peruvian yellow pepper

Ají caballero or Ají picante — hot chili pepper

Ají chileno — Chilean hot pepper sauce

Ají dulce — sweet chile pepper

Ají manzano — a very hot yellow Peruvian pepper

Ajili Mojili — A traditional Puerto Rican sauce made with garlic, peppercorns, oil, vinegar, and lemon juice.

Ají panca — dry, hot, burgundy-colored, Peruvian chile pepper

Ají rocoto — a hot Peruvian red chile

Ajo — garlic

Ajonjolí — sesame seeds

Ajo porro — leeks

Alacena or despensa — pantry

Alambre or brocheta — shish kabob

Albahaca — basil

Albaricoque — apricot. In Mexico, it's chabacano.

Albóndigas — meatballs

Alboronia de chayote — chayote salad

Alcachofa — artichoke

Alcaparras — capers

Alcaparrado — a mixture of green olives, capers, and pimientos.

Alcapurria — a traditional Puerto Rican fritter made of grated yautia (taro root) and green bananas, stuffed with picadillo. It can also be stuffed with crabmeat or chicken.

Alcaravea — caraway

Al carbón — cooked over charcoal or wood coals

Al gusto — to taste (as in, salt and pepper to taste)

Alimento — food

Aliño — dressing or seasoning

Alioli — garlic mayonnaise

Almeja — clam

Almendra — almond

Almíbar — syrup

Almidón — starch

Almojabana — rice-flour fritter

Almuerzo — lunch

Altea — marshmallow

Al tiempo — at room temperature

Alubias — white beans (Spain)

Al vapor — steamed

Amargo — bitter

Amarillo — "yellow", or ripe yellow plantain

Anacardo — cashew

Anafre — portable burner. Used in the old days in place of a stove.

Anato/Onoto — annatto. In Bolivia, urucu.

Anchoas — anchovies

Anguila — eel

Angulas — elvers (baby eels)

Añejo — aged

Anís estrellado (Illicium verum) — star anise

Anís en semilla — aniseed. Used mostly to prepare desserts.

Anón — sugar apple or sweetsop (fruit)

Antiadherente — nonstick

Antojito — In Mexico, an appetizer

Aperitivo — appetizer or aperitif

Apio — celery; also celery root

Arándano — berry; specifically blueberry or cranberry

Arepa — A dish made of ground corn dough or precooked corn flour. There are many varieties of arepas enjoyed in both Colombia and Venezuela.

Arequipe — milk caramel

Arrachera — In Mexico, marinated, grilled flank or skirt steak

Arroz — rice

Arroz amarillo — basic yellow rice made with annatto oil, which can also be combined with meat, seafood, or vegetables.

Arroz blanco — white rice

Arroz con coco — coconut rice

Arroz con dulce — Puerto Rican rice pudding. A traditional dessert made with rice, coconut milk, ginger, and spices.

Arroz con gandules — yellow rice with green pigeon peas. This is Puerto Rico's national rice dish.

Arroz con pollo — yellow rice with chicken

Arroz integral — brown rice

Arroz moros — White rice blended with black bean sauce and black beans

Arroz y habichuelas — rice and beans

Arroz Valencia — short-grain white rice (also known as pearl rice)

Arveja — pea

Asadero — A barbecue or grill. In Mexico, also a type of cheese the texture of mozzarella that is made with half fresh and half day-old milk.

Asado — roasted; also, a roast

Asadura — offal

Asar — to roast or broil

Asopao — A stew thickened with rice, some meat, shrimp or pasta and commonly enjoyed in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Atole — a traditional masa-based Mexican and Central American hot drink.

Atún — tuna

Auyama — squash (Puerto Rico usage)

Avellana — hazelnut

Avena — oat

Ayote — pumpkin

Azafrán — saffron

Azúcar — sugar

Azúcar de confección — confectioner's sugar

Azúcar glas — powdered or icing sugar

Azúcar granulada — granulated sugar

Azúcar morena (piloncillo) — brown sugar

Azúcar moscabada (piloncillo) — brown sugar

Azúcar prieta — brown sugar


Bacalao — salted codfish (if you want fresh, unsalted cod ask for "bacalao fresco")

Bacalaíto — salt codfish fritter

Bandeja — tray

Baño María — bain Marie; a double-boiler

Barbacoa — Meat cooked in a sealed, underground pit, usually wrapped in maguey or sometimes banana leaves. Often the meat is placed on a grill over a cauldron filled with water, vegetables, beans, chickpeas, herbs and spices to create a soup, flavored with the drippings.

Barriga de cerdo — pork belly

Barrilito — a type of Puerto Rican rum

Báscula — scale

Batata, Batata Blanca — yam or sweet potato. A root vegetable with a skin that varies from pink to purple. It has a gray-white flesh and a very sweet taste.

Batido — shake (any kind of shake)

Batidor — whisk

Batidora — mixer (device)

Batir — to whisk, mix or beat

Bayas — berries

Beber — to drink (also tomar)

Bebida — beverage or alcoholic drink

Berenjena — eggplant

Berro — watercress

Berza — cabbage (Spain)

Besito de Coco — coconut kiss. A traditional dessert made with fresh-grated coconut, sugar, and spices.

Betabel — beet

Bicarbonato de soda — baking soda

Bijol — A red food coloring made from the bija seed.

Birria — A barbacoa specialty of Jalisco made with lamb or goat.

Bistec — beefsteak

Bizcochitos — anise seed cookies (Mexico)

Bizcocho — torte or cake

Blanquear — to blanch

Bocadillo — snack or finger food; in Spain, a sandwich

Bocadito (or pasta de bocadito) — a spread made with ham, cheese and relish

Bodega — Latin grocery store

Bogavante — lobster (Spain)

Bolillos — French-style bread rolls

Bollo de pan — a loaf of bakery bread or a roll

Bolsa de repostería — pastry bag

Boniatillo — Cuban sweet potato pudding

Boniato — a white flesh, sweet, root vegetable. Boniato photo.

Boronia de chayote — chayote squash stew

Borracho — Literally "drunk" and refers, in the culinary sense, to sauces made with pulque, beer or tequila, and to beans cooked with pulque or beer.

Borrego — lamb or young sheep

Botanas — snacks or appetizers (Mexico)

Botella — bottle

Brasear — to braise

Brevas — figs

Brocheta — skewer or kebab

Brócoli — broccoli

Budín — pudding or pie

¡Buen provecho! — bon appétit!; good eating!

Buñuelos — fried sweet puffs topped with a brown sugar syrup

Buñuelo Beignet — A fritter made with flour, eggs, butter, and sugar. It can be sweet or savory (made with Parmesan cheese).

Buren — flat griddle (Puerto Rico) traditionally made of clay to cook casabe

Butifarra — pork sausage seasoned with spices like cinnamon and anise.


Cabrito — young goat. Usually prepared in a stew.

Café — coffee

Café con leche — café au lait (or latte at Starbucks)

Café de Olla — Mexican-style coffee made in a clay pot

Café negro — black coffee

Café puya — unsweetened black coffee

Café tinto — espresso

Caimito (or Estrella) — star apple

Cajeta — A thick syrup of caramelized, sweetened goat milk or cow milk.

Calabacín — zucchini

Calabaza — squash or pumpkin, most often the orange West Indian pumpkin

Calamar — squid

Calamar en su tinta — squid in its ink. Sold canned, it is often used to make rice with squid or black rice.

Caldero — cauldron or cooking pot

Caldo — broth (can also be soup or stew, depending on context)

Calentar — to heat

Caliente — hot

Callos — tripe

Camarón — shrimp

Cambur — banana

Camote — yam (sweet potato)

Campechano — A term applied to various seafood cocktails.

Canela — cinnamon

Cangrejo — crab

Canistel — custard fruit or eggfruit. Also known as lúcuma. 

Caña de azúcar — sugar cane

Caqui — persimmon

Carambola — star fruit. Photo of carambola

Caramelo — caramel. Made of granulated sugar; used to coat the pan in which flan is cooked.

Caraota — bean (Venezuelan term)

Carbonada — a stew from Chile (country)

Cardamomo — cardamon

Carne — meat

Carne asada — literally roasted beef; also pot roast

Carne de puerco — pork

Carne de res — beef

Carne molida — ground beef

Carnero — mutton (an old sheep)

Carne vieja — dry salted beef, sold in small slabs covered with a layer of lard. It is usually prepared with scrambled eggs and onions.

Carnicería — butcher shop

Carnitas — Pork, usually simmered in enough lard to cover it, often with the addition of garlic and sometimes fruit juices, until tender and crisp, then used as a filling for tacos. A specialty of Michoacán.

Carta — menu

Casabe — a flat bread made with grated cassava (yuca)

Cáscara — fruit peel or husk

Cascos (Casquitos) de Guayaba — guava shells. They are usually cooked in a sugar syrup as a dessert.

Castaña — chestnut

Cazuela (1) — pot; can be made of aluminum or traditional earthenware

Cazuela (2) — a dessert casserole made of calabaza and yam

Cebada — barley

Cebolla — onion

Cebolleta — scallion (green onion)

Cebollín — scallion

Cebollino — chives

Cecina — In Mexico, paper-thin pieces of dried or partially dried beef or pork that are sometimes infused with powdered or ground chiles and other seasonings. Sometimes called tasajo, especially in Oaxaca.

Cedazo — strainer or sieve

Cena — dinner

Centeno — rye

Cerdo — pork

Cereal — grain or cereal

Cernidor — sifter

Cernir — to sift or run through a sieve

Cereza — cherry

Cerveza — beer

Ceviche — raw fish "cooked" in lime juice. Popular in Peru and Ecuador

Chabacano — apricot (Mexico). Elsewhere, albaricoque.

Chacales / Chuales — hominy

Chalote — shallot

Champiñón — mushroom

Champola — a soursop drink made with milk

Champurrado — Mexican hot chocolate

Chancho — pork

Charcutería — store specializing in cold meats and cheeses

Charola — In Mexico, a baking dish

Charque/Charqui/Charquicán — a dried, salted meat, usually horse or cow meat, enjoyed in Chile and Bolivia.

Chauchas — green beans

Chaya — A large-leafed vegetable used to flavor soups, stews and to wrap tamales.

Chayote — a vegetable of the squash family, also known as vegetable pear. It has a white or green skin and cream-colored flesh, with a somewhat bland taste.

Chía — plant whose seeds have been used since pre-Hispanic times as an ingredient in drinks, cereals and tamales. Oil extracted from the seed was one of the few pre-Hispanic sources of fat.

Chicha — A corn beverage commonly enjoyed in Peru.

Chícharo — pea

Chícharos verdes — whole green peas

Chicharrón — pork crackling. Deep-fried pieces of pork skin or cut-up pieces of boneless pork shoulder. Small pieces of deep-fried chicken or fish are also called chicharrón.

Chicozapote — A small brown fruit from the chicle tree from which latex is made. The fruit is quite sweet and excellent in taste.

Chifles — very thin green bananas or green plantain chips

Chilaquiles — A breakfast dish made with day-old tortillas, red or green salsa, and chicken and/or egg.

Chilatole — an atole flavored with ground broiled tomatoes and chiles

Chilacayote — gourd with edible flesh and seeds

Chile — Chile peppers originated in Brazil and spread north to Central and North America. There are 26 known species of chile pepper, 5 of which are cultivated.

Chiles en nogada — made with green chiles stuffed with ground meat and almonds and covered with walnut sauce chili powder

Chile molido — chili powder

Chiles relleños — stuffed chiles, poblano chiles stuffed with cheese or meat and fried

Chillo — red snapper (also known as pargo)

Chilmole — A flavoring paste from the Yucatan made with dried chiles that are dry roasted on a comal until blackened, often with grain alcohol to enhance the charring effect, and other spices. Also spelled chimole or chirmole.

Chilorio — A meat filling, popular in northern Mexico. Usually made with pork but sometimes with beef, that is boiled, shredded, then fried with ground chiles and other spices.

Chilote — sweet corn, also called elote

Chilpachol — a soup made with crab meat and tomato

Chiltepe — pickled peppers

Chimichanga — deep fried burritos

China — orange

Chipotle — smoked, dried jalapeño chile, canned in adobo sauce

Chiquihuite — in Mexico, a large, often shallow basket

Chirimoya — custard apple (closely related to sugar apple and guanábana. It has a scaley greenish-brown appearance and is white inside with large seeds).

Chirivía — parsnip

Chironja — a cross between an orange and a grapefruit

Chivo — goat

Chocolate caliente — hot chocolate

Chontaduro — peach palm fruit

Chorizo — sausage. (Spanish sausage is dried and spiced, while Mexican chorizo is usually sold fresh either in links or in bulk and is flavored with chiles such as the ancho and pasilla.)

Chorote — an atole served in the state of Tabasco, flavored with sugar and chocolate

Chuleta — chop, either beef or pork

Churrasco — a general term for grilled meat or steak

Churros — fried dough rods sprinkled with sugar

Ciervo — venison (deer)

Ciruela — plum

Ciruela pasa — prune

Clara de huevo — egg white

Clavo — clove

Cobo — conch (a large sea snail)

Cocada — a sticky sweet made with coconut

Cocer — to cook

Cochino — pig

Coco rallado — shredded/grated coconut

Coco seco — dry, mature coconut with a brown, hairy shell and firm white flesh

Coco verde — green coconut. The flesh is soft and the water, which is usually sweet, can be drunk straight from the coconut shell.

Coctelera mezcladora — cocktail shaker

Coditos — elbow macaroni. Also ham hocks.

Codorniz — quail

Col — cabbage

Colador — sieve

Colador de café — cloth colander used in the old days to prepare coffee. Also a small coffeepot for Cuban coffee.

Coles de Bruselas — Brussels sprouts

Col rizada — kale

Coliflor — cauliflower

Colonche — An alcoholic beverage found in northern Mexico, made by fermenting tunas from the nopal cactus.

Comal — griddle used in Mexican cooking

Comino — cumin, used to season many dishes

Conchas — literally "shells"; another name for clams

Conejo — rabbit

Congelado — frozen

Congelador — freezer

Congrí — rice and red-bean dish from eastern Cuba

Conservas — preserves

Copa — wine goblet; can also mean a drink

Coquito — rum eggnog. This is a traditional Christmas drink in Puerto Rico.

Corcho — cork

Cordero — lamb

Cortar — to cut

Corvina — sea bass

Cosecha — harvest

Costilla — rib or chop

Crema — cream

Crema agria — sour cream

Crema catalana — a kind of custard

Crema de coco — coconut cream

Crema de maíz — cream of corn

Crema de mesa — table cream

Crema dulce — sweet cream

Crema para batir — whipping cream

Crema Tártara — cream of tartar

Cremera — creamer

Crepas — crepes

Criolla/o — creole. This term is used to denote traditional Puerto Rican and Cuban cooking.

Crocante — crisp

Croqueta — croquette

Crudo — raw

Crujiente — crunchy

Cuchara — tablespoon (utensil)

Cucharada (Cda.) — tablespoon (measurement)

Cucharadita (Cdta.) — teaspoon (measurement)

Cucharita — teaspoon (utensil)

Cuchillo — knife

Culantro — another name for recao

Cuña — wedge. For example, cuñas de limón are "lemon wedges"

Cúrcuma or azafran de las Indias — turmeric


Deje (dejar) reposar — let rest

Delgado — thin

Delicioso — delicious

Derretir — to melt

Desayuno — breakfast

Descansar — to rest

Deshuesar — to debone

Despensa — pantry

Destapador — bottle opener

Destapar — to uncover, or remove a lid

Desmenuzar — to shred or crumble

Desvenar — to devein, for example chiles or shrimp

Diente de ajo — clove of garlic

Diluir — to dilute

Disolver — to dissolve

Doblar — to fold

Dorado — Dolphin fish (also known as mahi-mahi); also means "browned"

Dorar — top brown

Dulce — a sweet or dessert

Dulce de membrillo — quince jelly

Dulce de plátano — a dessert dish made with very ripe yellow plantains cooked in red wine, sugar, and spices.

Durazno — peach

Duro — hard

Duro frío — snow cone flavored with syrup


Echalote — shallot

Ejote — green bean (Mexico)

Elote — In Mexico, fresh corn, as opposed to maíz or dried corn.

Elaborar — to make or prepare

Embutidos — Cold meats, sausages, and the like.

Empanada — a turnover. A fritter made of dough stuffed with meat, chicken, fish or vegetables.

Empanadilla — a small turnover

Empanizar — to bread or to fry items such as meat that have been coated with bread crumbs or flour

Emparedado — sandwich

Enchilado — Meat, cheese or other foods that are coated with chile paste or powder. For example: queso enchilado, is a cheese that has been coated with chile.

Encurtido — pickled

Endibia belga — Belgian endive

Endulzar — to sweeten

Enebro — Juniper berry

Eneldo — dill

Enfriar — to cool

Engrasar — to greasen

Enharinar — to flour

Enjuagar — to rinse

Enrollar — to roll up

Ensalada — salad

Ensaladera — salad bowl

En su jugo — in its own juice

Entrada — entree

Entremés — hors d'oeuvre, starter

Envase — package

Envoltura — wrapping

Envolver — to wrap

Epazote — a common Mexican herb; pungent and bitter. It also known as Mexican tea. It is used extensively to flavor beans, soups, stews and quesadillas.

Escabeche — pickled

Escaldar — to blanch

Escalfar — to poach

Escarbadientes/Palillo de dientes — toothpick

Escurridor — colander

Escurrir — to drain

Espárrago — asparagus

Espátula — spatula

Especies — spices

Espina — fish bone

Espinaca — spinach

Espinazo — spine

Estofado, guisado, guiso — A stew; stewed or braised

Estofado de bodas (wedding stew) — In Mexico, a delicious long-cooked combination of beef, fruits, chiles, and other spices, typically served at weddings.

Estofar, guisar — to stew

Estragón — tarragon

Estufa — stove

Exprimidor — juicer

Exprimir — to squeeze

Extracto — extract


Falda — skirt (cut of meat)

Fécula — starch

Fécula de maíz — corn starch

Fenegreco — fenugreek

Fiambres — mixture of various foods such as fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses that is usually marinated in a dressing and served cold.

Fideo — noodle

Filete — fillet

Finamente picado/a — minced

Firme — firm

Flan — custard. A national dessert of Spanish heritage made of milk, eggs, sugar, and spices.

Flor de calabaza — squash blossom (used in sauces, soups, quesadillas)

Flor de jamaica — The deep red portion of the flowers which cover the seeds from a plant often referred to in English as hibiscus, used to make soft drinks and "tea."

Fogón — a hearth; also a stove

Fondo — Broth or consume made from soup bones or, a reduced stock

Frambuesa — raspberry

Frasco — jar

Freír — to fry

Fresa — strawberry

Fresco — fresh

Frío — cold

Frijol(es) — bean(s)

Frijoles blancos — white bean

Frijoles borrachos — In Mexico, beans cooked with beer or pulque

Frijoles carita — black-eyed peas

Frijoles colorados — red kidney beans

Frijoles peruanos — Canary beans

Frijoles pintos — pinto beans

Frijoles refritos — refried beans

Frita cubana — Cuban hamburger

Frito — fried

Fritura — fritter

Frituras — in plural, it can mean a variety of fried foods, usually as a single dish

Frituras de cobo — conch fritters (conch is a large sea snail)

Fruta — fruit

Frutas cristalizadas — candied fruits

Frutas secas — dried fruit, such as raisins, dates, apricots, cranberries, etc.

Frutos secos — nuts

Fuego — heat or fire. Fuego alto (high heat); fuego moderado (medium heat); fuego lento (low heat).

Fufú — mashed plantain or yam paste (Cuba). In the Dominican Republic it is known as mangú; in Puerto Rico it is known as mofongo.

Funche — Puerto Rican polenta

Fundir — to melt


Gajo de limón — lemon wedge

Galleta — cookie

Galleta molida — cracker meal, often used for breading

Galleta por soda — soda cracker

Gallina — hen

Gambas — shrimp (Spain usage)

Gandinza — pork liver

Gandules — green pigeon peas

Ganso — goose

Garbanzo — chickpea

Garnacha — In Mexico, a traditional appetizer based on a fried disk of corn dough and topped with a mixture of meat, vegetables, and salsa.

Gaseosa — soft drink

Gelatina — gelatin

Genjibre — ginger. Photo of fresh ginger

Girasol — sunflower

Glaseado — glaze or glazed

Gofio — ground toasted corn; enjoyed for breakfast

Golosina — candy or sweet

Gramo — gram

Granada — pomegranate

Granizado — ice drink or snow cone

Grano — grain

Grasa — fat or grease

Guacamole — avocado ground to a paste, sometimes mixed with onions, chiles, tomato, lime juice and cilantro

Guajolote — turkey (Mexico)

Guanábana — custard apple or sweetsop (fruit)

Guandú — pigeon peas (Panama)

Guanime — Puerto Rican tamale

Guarapo de caña (or just guarapo for short) — sugar cane juice

Guarnición — side dish or garnish

Guayaba — guava

Guayo — grater. Also known as rallador.

Guineo — banana (term used in Puerto Rico)

Guineo — Guinea fowl (term used in Cuba for a large fowl bred for food)

Guineo maduro — ripe yellow banana. Eaten as a fruit.

Guineo manzano — apple banana. Eaten green as a vianda (root vegetable), or ripe, as a fruit.

Guineo niño — lady-finger banana. Eaten only when ripe. Dipped in flour and deep-fried, it is served as a side dish.

Guineo verde — green banana. Eaten as a side-dish starch. Green bananas are a part of the viandas family. The leaves are used to wrap guanimes, pasteles, and arroz apastelado.

Guingambo — okra (in Puerto Rico)

Guisado — stewed

Guisantes — whole green peas

Guisar — to stew or cook

Guiso — stew or casserole


Haba — lima (fava) bean

Habichuela — bean

Habichuela blanca — white bean

Habichuela colorada — small red kidney bean

Habichuela rosada or rosita — pink bean

Hallaca (or Hayaca) — Venezuelan-type tamale wrapped in plantain leaves.

Harina — flour

Harina de maíz — in Mexico, flour made from nixtamalized corn for making masa for tortillas and tamales. In Caribbean cooking, a polenta-like gruel.

Harina de trigo — wheat flour

Helado — ice cream

Hervir — to boil

Hielo — ice

Hierba (alt. sp. yerba) — herb (the generic meaning is "grass")

Hierbabuena — spearmint. Also spelled "yerbabuena"

Hígado — liver

Higo — fig

Hinojo — fennel

Hogao — tomato and onion cooking base

Hoja — leaf

Hoja de guineo (hoja de plátano) — banana leaf used to wrap pasteles and guanimes/tamales.

Hoja de laurel — bay leaf

Hojaldre — puff pastry

Hojas de maíz — dried corn husks used as wrappers to make tamales

Hojuelas — flakes

Hongo — mushroom

Horchata de ajonjolí — a drink made of ground sesame seeds, water, and sugar

Hornear — to bake in an oven

Hornilla — burner

Horno — oven

Huachinango — red snapper (Mexico)

Hueso — bone

Huevo — egg

Huevos duros — hard-boiled eggs

Huitlachoche (or cuitlacoche) — fungus that grows on corn, considered a delicacy in Mexico

Húmedo — moist

Humitas — fresh corn cakes steamed in corn husks (Andes)


Jaiba — blue crab

Jalea — jelly or marmelade

Jamón — ham

Jamoncillo — condensed milk used as a spread or ice cream topping (Mexico)

Jamón de cocinar — smoked cooking ham

Jamón serrano — Spanish cured ham, similar to prosciutto

Jarabe — syrup

Jarra — pitcher

Jengibre — ginger

Jerez — sherry wine from Spain

Jíbaro Envuelto — lady-finger banana dipped in flour, fried, and served as a side dish (Puerto Rico)

Jícama — a sweet, crisp vegetable used as starch, in salads and appetizers. Photo of Jícama.

Jitomate — a less common name for tomato

Jocoque — Mexican cultured sour cream

Jocote — Spanish plum

Judías verdes — green beans (Spain)

Juey — Caribbean land crab

Jugo — juice

Jugoso — juicy


Kahlúa — a dark rich Mexican coffee liqueur

Kilo — kilogram


Lacón — ham hock

Langosta — lobster. The lobster commonly found in the Caribbean Sea is the spiny or rock lobster. It is common in Florida but rare elsewhere in the U.S.; Maine lobster can be substituted.

Lasca — slice

Lata — can or tin

Lavar — to wash

Leche — milk

Leche condensada — condensed milk

Leche de coco — coconut milk

Leche descremada — fat-free (cream-free) milk

Leche evaporada — evaporated milk

Leche frita — fried milk (a Spanish dessert)

Leche malteada — malted milk

Leche quemada — in Mexico, another name for cajeta (caramel)

Lechón — pig

Lechón asado a la varita — a whole pig seasoned with adobo and cooked slowly over a charcoal pit.

Lechón de mechar — beef round cut (Puerto Rico) to make pot roast.

Lechonera — a stand where pit-roasted pig is sold by the pound or by the portion.

Lechosa — papaya

Lechuga — lettuce

Legumbre — vegetable

Lengua — tongue

Lenguado — sole or flounder

Lentejas — lentils

Levadura — yeast

Libra — pound (lb.)

Lichi — lychee

Licor — liquor or liqueur

Licuadora — blender

Licuar — to liquify

Lima — lime

Limón — lemon

Limonada — lemonade or limeade

Limón verde — key lime, a very acidic variety of lime

Limpiar — to clean

Litro — liter

Llama — flame

Locro — a traditional winter Andean stew made from potatoes with regional variations

Lomo — loin

Loncha — slice

Longaniza — Spanish pork sausage, seasoned with cilantro, spices, and bay leaves. Used to make yellow rice.

Loroco — an herb common in Central America

Lúcuma — Known in the U.S. as custard fruit. It is a yellow subtropical fruit native to Peru.


Mabi — a fermented drink made from the bark of the mabi tree in Puerto Rico.

Macerar — to soak or macerate; also to marinate

Machacar — mash or smash or crush

Magdalena — cupcake

Magro — lean

Maguey — agave

Maíz — corn. In Mexico, it refers to dried corn, while fresh corn is called elote.

Maizena cornstarch

Maíz morado — purple corn

Maíz mote — giant white corn, also known as hominy. In Spanish, may be simply called Mote.

Maíz pozolero — Mexican-style hominy. Also known as Cacahuazintle in Mexico.

Maíz trillado — hominy

Malagueta — allspice

Malanga — a root vegetable with brown skin and white or purple flesh. It is also known as yautía or mandioca.  Malanga photo.

Mamey — A fruit with a rough, brown skin and bright, red flesh. The seed is shiny and large. Frozen pulp is available year-round in Hispanic markets in the U.S.

Mamoncillo — the fruit of a Caribbean tree in the soapberry family, with green skin, pink flesh, and a large pit. Also known as quenepa or limoncillo.

Mandarina — mandarin orange (tangerine)

Manzana — apple

Maní — peanuts (also known as cacahuetes in Spain)

Manitas — In Mexico, it refers to pigs' feet. In other places, pigs feet are called paticas

Manjar — delicacy

Manojo — bunch (of herbs, for example)

Manteca — lard

Mantecadas — muffins

Mantecado — a Spanish shortbread, very similar to polvorón. In Puerto Rico, mantecado is the word for ice cream.

Mantel — tablecloth

Mantequilla — butter

Mantequilla de cacahuate/de maní— peanut butter

Maracuyá — passion fruit

Margarina — margarine

Mariquitas — plantain chips (could be cut round or long)

Mariscos — seafood

Marquesote — In Mexico, a sweet bread or tort usually made with wheat, rice or corn flour and eggs

Masa — corn dough used for making tortillas, tamales, enchiladas, etc. Also used to refer to a mass of dough of any kind.

Masa harina — instant corn flour

Mate — an herbal drink enjoyed in Argentina and Uruguay

Mayonesa — mayonnaise

Mazapán — marzipan

Mazo — bunch (of herbs, for example)

Mazorca de maíz — corn on the cob; ear of corn

Medianoche — a Cuban sandwich with sweet cuban bread, roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese and slicked pickles. Generic meaning is "midnight".

Médula — marrow

Mejillones — mussels

Mejorana — marjoram

Melado — a sugar-cane based syrup

Melaza — molasses

Melocotón — peach

Membrillo — quince jelly (quince is also the fruit)

Menta — mint

Menudencias — giblets

Menudo — beef tripe and hominy stew

Merengue — meringue

Merienda — snack

Merluza — hake or whiting

Mermelada — marmalade

Mero — grouper. In other instances, mero can refer to halibut.

Mesa — table

Metapil — Stone roller used with the metate (grinding stone) in traditional Mexican cooking.

Metate — A three-legged grinding stone used in traditional Mexican cooking.

Mezcal — Distilled liquor made from the juice of various agaves, often roasted over open fires giving it a smokey taste

Mezcla — mixture

Mezclar — to mix or blend

Miel — honey

Migas — crumbs; also Mexican breakfast scrambled eggs

Migas de pan — bread crumbs

Mijo — millet

Milanesa — a general term for a meat, veal or chicken dish enjoyed across the Americas with regional variations, usually breaded and fried.

Miltomate — another name for tomatillo

Mofongo — fried green plantain mashed in a mortar and shaped into a ball. Traditionally it was seasoned with fresh garlic and pork cracklings. New versions are stuffed with seafood, chicken, or vegetables. Also known as fufú (Cuba) or mangú (Dominican Republic).

Mojito — a Cuban cocktail with white rum, mint, sugar, lime juice and soda

Mojo — a classic sauce in Puerto Rico made with olives, tomato sauce, and vinegar

Mojo de ajo — a garlic dipping sauce served with tostones or boiled cassava

Molcajete — traditional Mexican version of the mortar and pestle

Molde — mold (shape or pan)

Mole — a Mexican sauce made from a paste of chiles, chocolate, spices, used to top meat entrees

Moler — to grind

Molido — ground (example: ajo molido is ground garlic)

Molinillo — in Mexico, a carved, wooden tool for foaming hot chocolate

Molleja — chicken gizzard; usually served as an appetizer. Also an Argentinian dish.

Molletes — Sweet anise seed rolls. Usually accompanied by Mexican chocolate.

Molotes de plátano macho — In Mexico, small, sweetly ripe plantain croquettes.

Mondongo — a thick soup made with beef tripe, assorted root vegetables, and seasonings.

Moras (Zarzamoras) — blackberries

Moras azules — blueberries

Morcilla — blood sausage

Moros y Cristianos — white rice and black beans

Mostaza — mustard

Mote — hominy (Peru and Ecuador)

Muslo — drumstick (chicken)


Nabo — turnip

Nance or Nanche — yellow cherries

Naranja — orange

Naranja agria — sour orange, used mainly to prepare marinades

Nata — cream, usually the top skimmed off milk

Natilla — soft custard

Navajas or machas — razor clams

Nevera — refrigerator

Níspero — loquat

Nixtamal — hominy; ground to make a dough

Nogada — a Mexican sauce made from peeled, ground nuts, as in chiles en nogada

Nopal — cactus fruit. Photo of nopal.

Nopalitos — tender cactus strips

Nuez — nut or walnut

Nuez de Castilla — walnut

Nuez moscada — nutmeg

Ñame — A root vegetable with rough, brown skin and white flesh. It is used in sancocha and eaten boiled.  Ñame photo.


Oblea — wafer

Olla — pot

Olla de presión or Olla exprés — pressure cooker

Orégano — oregano

Orégano brujo — Puerto Rican wild oregano with a distinctive pungent aroma. It is mostly used to make sofrito.

Ostiones — oysters (singular: ostión)

Ostra — oyster


Pacana — pecan

Paella — a Spanish dish that consists of rice, saffron, chorizo and meat or seafood.

Paellera — a round, shallow iron pot with two handles, used to cook paella.

Paleta — chuck shoulder

Pallares grandes — jumbo lima beans

Palomitas de maíz — popcorn

Palta — avocado (in Argentina, Chile, Perú and Uruguay)

Pan — bread

Pana or Panapén — breadfruit

Pana de pepita — breadfruit nut. A chestnutlike seed that is generally eaten boiled.

Panadería — bakery

Pandebono — a Colombian bread made of corn flour, cassava (yuca) starch, cheese and eggs

Pan de molde — square-cut, American-style commercial bread

Pan dulce — sweet rolls or sweet bread

Panela — brown sugar cane or unrefined sugar

Panela en polvo — powdered cane sugar

Panqué — pound cake

Papa — potato; in Spain, potato is known as patata.

Papalo or papaloquelite — Mexican herb also known as Bolivian coriander

Papa rellena — stuffed potato (appetizer or snack)

Papas fritas — French fries

Papaya — a sweet, orange-fleshed tropical fruit; also known as fruta bomba.  Papaya photo.

Papel de aluminio — aluminum foil

Papel de cera (or papel encerado) — wax paper

Papel pergamino — parchment paper

Paquete — package

Parcha — passion fruit

Pargo — snapper (fish)

Parrilla — grill; "a la parrilla" means grilled

Pasa — raisin (also "uva pasa")

Pasta — paste

Pasta de guayaba — guava paste. This is found in most bodegas and many supermarkets. It is used in many desserts, and as a jam.

Pastel — cake, pastry or pie

Pastelería — pastry shop

Pasteles — dumplings made from shredded root vegetables, stuffed with picadillo and boiled in banana or plantain leaves (Puerto Rico).

Pastelitos — Cuban pastries

Pastel de masa — grated assorted root vegetables stuffed with pork, olives, and raisins and wrapped in banana leaves. A traditional Christmas food.

Pastelón de plátano — yellow plantain pie made of fried slices of yellow plantain, beef picadillo, and green beans.

Pastinaca — parsnip

Patacones — another name for tostones (fried green plantain)

Patas de cerdo/puerco — pig feet

Patata — potato (Spain usage)

Pato — duck

Pavo — turkey

Pechuga de pollo — chicken breast

Pegao — the crusty bottom of the rice that sticks to the pot. It is scraped and served with bean stew.

Pelador — peeler

Pelar — to peel

Pepinillo — pickle or gherkin

Pepino — cucumber

Pepitas — pumpkin seeds

Pera — pear

Perejil — parsley

Perifollo — chervil

Pernil de cerdo/puerco — pork shoulder

Pescadería — fishmonger

Pescado — fish

Petit-pois — green peas (also known as arvejas or guisantes)

Pez espada — swordfish

Picadillo — a basic beef stuffing mix made of ground beef, sofrito, raisins, and olives.

Picante — spice or spicy

Picar — to snack or to cut

Picor — the heat or spiciness of a chile pepper

Piel — skin

Pierna — leg ("pierna de cordero" means leg of lamb

Pilón — mortar and pestle

Piloncillo — unrefined brown sugar

Pimentón — paprika

Pimienta blanca — white pepper

Pimienta cayena — Cayenne pepper

Pimienta de jamaica — allspice

Pimienta dulce — allspice

Pimienta húngara — paprika

Pimienta negra — black pepper

Pimienta roja — Cayenne pepper

Pimiento (rojo/verde/naranja/amarillo) — bell pepper (red/green/orange/yellow)

Pimiento morrón — roasted red pepper. Usually sold in cans or jars, preserved in water and salt.

Pincelar — to brush on (for instance, a sauce)

Pinchos — skewered beef cubes

Pinole — Flour made from roasted, dried corn. Used to make a drink flavored with sugar, cinnamon and anis, and sometimes sugar.

Piña — pineapple

Piña colada — a cocktail made with light rum, coconut cream and pineapple

Piñole — toasted ground corn, makes a delicious drink with milk

Piñón — pine nut

Piñón de amarillo — yellow plantain pie (Puerto Rico)

Pinzas — tongs

Pionono — a fritter made with yellow plantain. The plantain is cut lengthwise and fried. It is then shaped into a cup, stuffed with beef, chicken, or crab, sealed with eggs, and pan-fried.

Pipián — stew similar to the moles, usually containing ground squash seeds and nuts.

Pique — Puerto Rican hot sauce of vinegar seasoned with hot peppers, spices, and sour orange.

Pistacho — pistachio

Pitaya — dragon fruit

Pizca — a pinch

Plancha — grill or griddle

Plátano — plantain or banana

Plátano macho — a banana that is fried for desserts

Plátano maduro — yellow plantain

Plátano manzano — apple banana (a small, tart type of banana)

Plátano verde — green plantain

Platanutre — plantain chip

Platillo — literally, small plate, but also refers to the main dish or entree plate

Plato — dish

Platón — platter

Plato principal — main dish (also "plato fuerte")

Poblano chile — a large, mild, green Mexican chile. Photo of Poblano chiles.

Pollo — chicken

Polvo — powder (en polvo — in powder form)

Polvo de chile — chili powder

Polvo de galleta — cracker meal

Polvo de hornear — baking powder

Polvorear — to powder, sprinkle (as with sugar, etc.)

Ponche — traditional Mexican Christmas punch made with unrefined dark brown sugar, cinnamon sticks and winter fruits.

Porotos verdes — green beans

Postre — dessert

Pote — any container or empty metal can

Pozole — Soup made with meat (usually pork) and nixtamalized corn kernels called cacahuazintle, and flavored with chile. A speciality of Jalisco. There is also a wheat pozole common to the state of Sonora.

Presa de Pollo — chicken pieces

Procedimiento — procedure

Procesador de alimentos — food processor

Puerros/porros — leeks

Pulpo — octopus

Pulque — Mildly alcoholic drink made by fermenting aguamiel (the juice of the maguey plant)

Punto de nieve — egg whites beaten until very stiff (literally, "snow peak")

Pupusa — El Salvador's version of the corn tortilla, they're thicker than Mexican ones and often stuffed with beans, cheese or meat

Puré de papas — mashed potatoes

Puré de tomate — tomato purée


Quelites — In Mexico, a generic name for edible, wild plants, used much the way we use the term "greens."

Quemar — to burn

Quequisque — malanga

Quesadilla — a wheat or corn tortilla, folded over a filling and cooked until the cheese melts.

Quesadilla de elote — fried sweet corn cake

Queso — cheese

Queso asadero — stringy cheese with the texture of low-fat mozzarella

Queso blanco, Queso de hoja or Queso del país — Puerto Rican white cheese. This cheese does not melt.

Queso cotija — A hard, aged Mexican cheese

Queso de papa — cheddar cheese

Queso fresco — a fresh, soft cheese

Queso fundido — melted cheese

Queso panela — a fresh cheese resembling feta

Quimbombó — okra (in Cuba)


Rábano — radish

Rábano picante — horseradish

Rabo — usually refers to oxtail; literally, "tail"

Raíz — root

Rajas (pronunced RA-haz) — strip or stick, such as cinnamon sticks (rajas de canela); in Mexico, it is strips of roasted chile, usually poblano, cooked with onion.

Ralladura de limón / Ralladura de naranja — lemon zest / orange zest

Rallar — to grate or score

Raspado — snow cone flavored with syrup

Rebanada — slice

Rebozar — to coat

Recaito — a key seasoning in Puerto Pican cooking made of onions, garlic, peppers, and recao or cilantro

Recao — culantro (coriander)

Receta — recipe

Refresco — soft drink

Refrigerios — snacks

Relleno — filling or stuffing. (Rellenar = to stuff.) Also a fritter made of mashed potatoes stuffed with picadillo, shaped into a ball, and deep-fried.

Remojar — to soak

Remolacha — beet

Repollitos — Brussels sprouts

Repollo — cabbage

Reposar — to rest

Res — meat (beef)

Revoltillo — scrambled eggs

Revolver — to stir

Riñón(es) — kidney(s)

Rociar — to sprinkle

Rodajas — slices (cortar en rodajas: to cut in slices)

Rodillo — rolling pin

Romero — rosemary

Rompope — a Mexican holiday beverage with milk and rum, among other ingredients

Ron — rum

Ropa vieja — "Old Clothes"; shredded beef in creole sauce (Cuban)

Rositas de maíz — popcorn

Rúcula — arugula

Ruibarbo — rhubarb


Sabor — flavor

Sabroso — savory or delicious

Sacar — to remove

Sal — salt

Salado — salted or salty

Salchicha — sausage (Vienna sausage in Puerto Rico or Cuba)

Salchichón — salami-type cured sausage

Sal de mesa/sal molida — table salt (fine-grain salt)

Sal de mar/sal marina/sal en grano — sea salt (large crystal salt)

Salmorejo de jueyes — crabmeat stew (Puerto Rico)

Salmuera — brine

Salpicar — to sprinkle

Salpicón — mixture of finely chopped or shredded ingredients

Salpimentar — to season with salt and pepper

Salsa — sauce

Salsa de tomate — tomato sauce

Saltear — to sauté

Salteña — a Bolivian-style empanada

Salvia — sage

Sancocho — A thick soup made of assorted meats, root vegetables, sofrito, and corn on the cob, and traditionally served with plain white rice.

Sandía — watermelon

Sangre — blood

Sangría — Spanish wine punch traditionally made with red wine and fruit such as oranges and apples

Sapote (or Níspero) — sapodilla fruit or naseberry

Sardina — sardine

Sartén — skillet

Sazón — all purpose seasoning

Sazonar — to season

Secar — to dry

Seco — dry

Semilla — seed

Semillas de amapola — poppy seeds

Semillas de apio — celery seeds

Serenata de Bacalao — salt codfish salad. Made with salt codfish, potatoes, eggs, tomato, and avocado.

Sesos — brains

Servilleta — napkin

Servir — to serve

Sidra — Spanish cider, often enjoyed during the holidays

Sirop — syrup

Sofreír — to sauté

Sofrito recaito — cooked with ham, alcaparrado, and tomato sauce. Sofrito is the base for many Cuban and Puerto Rican stews and sauces.

Solomillo — sirloin or tenderloin steak

Sopa — soup

Sopapillas — Puffy, crisp, deep-fried bread garnished with powdered sugar and served with honey.

Sopa seca — "dry soup"; includes rice and pasta dishes

Sope — A Mexican dish, often served as a snack, with a corn dough base and various toppings.

Sopera — soup bowl

Sopón — another name for asopao

Sorullo de maíz or Sorullito — A fritter made ov cornmeal and shaped like a cigar, stuffed with cheese, and deep-fried.

Soya/Soja — soy

Suave — soft

Suero de leche — buttermilk


Tallarines — noodles 

Tallo — stem

Tamal — tamale; masa dough with sweet or savory filling, wrapped in corn or banana leaf and steamed; plural: tamales.

Tamalera — very large pot for steaming tamales

Tamarindo — tamarind

Tamiz — sieve

Tapa — lid or cover

Tapar — to cover

Tapas — refers to a variety of Spanish-style appetizers/snacks

Tarta — cake or tart

Tasajo — dry cured beef, enjoyed in several countries. In Mexico, "cecina".

Tayote — another name for chayote

Taza — cup or mug

Tazcalate — refreshing drink with chocolate, based on corn, with water or milk (Mexico)

Tazón — bowl

Tazón de servir — serving bowl

Té — tea

Té caliente — hot tea

Té helado — iced tea

Tejocote — A tree which produces a fruit resembling a crab apple. Used in syrups and punches.

Tejolote — The pestle used with a molcajete.

Tembleque — a stirred custard made of coconut milk and sugar (literally "shaky").

Temperatura ambiente — room temperature

Tenedor — fork

Tepache — An alcoholic beverage made from pineapple and sugar, or cane juice and other juices.

Tequeño — A cigar-shaped Venezuelan snack of fried bread dough wrapped around queso blanco (white cheese).

Tequila — distilled liquor made from blue agave

Ternera — veal

Tibio — warm

Tinga de pollo — chunks of chicken meat

Tocineta — bacon

Tocinillo del cielo — a custard dessert related to to flan, but lighter and sweeter

Tocino — fatback or bacon

Tomalito — Steamed corn pudding

Tomate — tomato (also known as jitomate in Mexico)

Tomate verde — the name by which tomatillo is known in Mexico

Tomatillos — small, green tomatoes commonly used in Mexican dishes and salsas; unlike red tomatoes, tomatillos are covered by a papery husk. Also called tomate de milpa, tomate verde and fresadilla.. Photo of tomatillos

Tomillo — thyme

Toronja — grapefruit

Torrejas — Cuban-style French toast

Torta — pie, cake or tart. Also refers to a Mexican style sandwich (torta mexicana) filled with meats or cheeses or even a tamal.

Tortilla (Mexico and Central America) — thin, unleavened bread made of dried, ground corn or wheat

Tortilla Española — thick Spanish omelette; in Spain, it is served at room temperature and often as a snack or appetizer.

Tortuga — turtle

Tostar — to toast

Tostonera — a plantain mashing tool

Tostones — fried green plantains, smashed flat, and refried

Totomoxle — dried corn husk used as tamale wrapper

Totopos — In most of Mexico totopos is the word for fried tortilla chips served as appetizers and snacks.

Trago — alcoholic drink

Trigo — wheat

Trigo integral — whole wheat

Tripa — tripe

Triturar — to grind

Trucha — trout

Trufa — truffle

Tuna — the fruit of the nopal cactus or prickly pear cactus. Also known as nopal.

Turrón — A sweet eaten during the Christmas season. Turrones (plural) can be made with a wide variety of ingredients such as egg yolk, coconut and nuts, though a very popular one is the Jijona turrón, made of almond nougat.

U, V, Y, Z

Untar — to spread

Uva — grape

Uva pasa — raisin

Vaca — cow

Vaca frita — "fried cow"; a Cuban crispy fried flank steak.

Vainas de vainilla — vanilla beans

Vainilla — vanilla

Vasija — vessel or container

Vaso — drinking glass

Venado — venison

Veneras/Vieiras — scallops

Verdolaga — a common weed in the Southwest also known as purslane or pigweed. Can be eaten as a leaf vegetable.

Verduras — green vegetables

Verter — to pour

Viandas — root vegetables

Vieiras — scallops

Vinagre — vinegar

Vinagre de manzana — cider vinegar

Vino — wine

Vino blanco — white wine

Vino de cocinar — cooking wine

Vino de la casa — house or table wine

Vino tinto — red wine

Yautía — taro root (also known as malanga)

Yema de huevo — egg yolk

Yerbabuena — spearmint (also spelled hierbabuena)

Yerba santa — a Mexican heart-shaped herb for seasoning, with anise flavor

Yuca — cassava, a root vegetable with hard white, fibrous flesh and a dark, brown skin. Note: Yucca is a desert plant, not cassava! Yuca root photo.

Zanahoria — carrot

Zapallo — pumpkin

Zarzamoras (or moras) — blackberries

Zumo — juice (Spain)

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Comment by Sonia Mendez Garcia on May 31, 2012 at 8:11am

Thanks for the glossary, hahha....helps me when my cousins from mexico want me to translate a recipe for them in Spanish!

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