Spice It Up!
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.
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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