Best Mexican food cookbook
January 15, 2021 8:51 AM   Subscribe

What is the best cookbook for Mexican food? I order a lot of take-out from the local taco trucks and I would like to start making some of this stuff at home.

Snowflake details:
-My favorite things: cemitas (especially cemitas!), carne asada, cabeza, tamales
-Generally looking for stuff that effort-wise takes maybe an hour or so of active prep at most (could be spread across a day or two), but I can also handle kitchen projects
-Looking for legit recipes, trying to avoid inauthentic shortcuts or substituting ingredients that are not legit
-An all-purpose cookbook would be best, but if there are regional/technique-specific cookbooks that are unmissable, very much interested in those as well.
posted by miltthetank to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Anything by Rick Bayless
posted by ToddBurson at 9:04 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]

I like both Pati Jinich and Aaron Sanchez.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:09 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]

Diana Kennedy is the doyenne of English Language Mexican Cookbook authors.

Also Enrique Olvera is a super big name in chef world, and his first cookbook was hopelessly chefy and inaccessible - however in '19 he published a book specifically for the home cook that is worth checking out.
posted by JPD at 9:14 AM on January 15

I'm a big fan of Mexico: The Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte. It's less of a traditional cookbook and more an encyclopedia of recipes - it's massive, and beyond the broad categories, the recipes are kind of a jumble - but there's a really solid background on the history of Mexican cuisine, the ingredients used, the different regional specialities/differences, and the recipes themselves are authentic to the point of being a pain in the ass to source ingredients for. Because it's so big and comprehensive, it's quite fun just to open at random and browse for ideas.
posted by parm at 9:35 AM on January 15

i own a lot (too many) cookbooks, and its a problem i dont have a plan to stop any time soon.

Ive seen great reviews of Oaxaca:Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexco despite the fact that it is a restaurant cookbook (which are notoriously prettier than useful) its on my to-buy list.

I also follow Esteban Castillo on instagram, and his book Chicano Eats is not exactly what you asked for as the recipes are a product of the immigrant experience (i would argue they are still "traditional" in the sense that they belong to the ongoing immigrant tradition, but you might disagree). His blog has won some awards and the food always looks terrific.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:43 AM on January 15

I don't own enough cookbooks to be able to claim this is the best option, but you may want to look into Nopalito by Gonzalo Guzmán. The first section gives some useful info on Mexican ingredients/spices as well as basic recipes for things like Cemitas rolls, pickled red onions, etc. As for the recipes you note, it has you covered except cabeza. I'd say it meets your other requirements.
posted by coffeecat at 10:48 AM on January 15

now i just want Nopalito carnitas, dammit.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:54 AM on January 15

Diana Kennedy's Oaxacan Mole is SO MUCH FUN to make. Also super laborious. Grinding the chiles left stains on our ceiling.

It's out of print, but our go-to is Dona Tomas: Discovering Authentic Mexican Cooking. Terrific restaurant in the east bay of San Francisco, and having eaten their food and cooked from the cookbook, I can say this is a book full of well-written, thorough recipes. Everything we've cooked from it has been perfectly delicious.
posted by asavage at 1:02 AM on January 16

Probably too specific for your goals, but if you want a Northern New Mexico cookbook I think the Rancho de Chimayo Cookbook is the best that's published now.

Seconding Rick Bayless for an all purpose Mexican cookbook. His stuff is generally fancier and nicer than you'll find in your local taqueria in California though.
posted by Nelson at 7:22 AM on January 16

I was given Danny Trejo's Taco book for Christmas and we've enjoyed quite a few of the recipes so far.
posted by Crankatator at 7:55 AM on January 16

I found Mexican Culinary Treasures: Recipes From Maria Elena's Kitchen in a used bookstore and it's quite good.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:05 PM on January 16

My wife loves her Rick Bayless Mexican cookbooks and says that the books did a great job of providing context and background for Mexican cuisine, i.e., not just recipies. I think this is one of her favorites (at least, she has it out a lot on the counter). I agree a lot of his stuff is fancier than street food, but he teaches a lot of basics too -- for example, my wife started buying all kinds of dried chilies and also soaking and preparing her own black beans straight from Bayless's advice, and she makes tacos with those beens and chilies!
posted by Mid at 12:08 PM on January 17

Ama is amazing. Seconding Oaxaca as well.
posted by zsh2v1 at 10:36 AM on January 20

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