Quick and Delicious Mexican Recipes - Diversivore.com

Easy Mexican Meals

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In this feature we’re going to look at Fast and Amazing Mexican Meals – and specifically, two great techniques for putting together incredible and diverse Mexican meals quickly and painlessly. Keep coming back for updates and recipes related to this theme, or subscribe to make sure you don’t miss out on anything new.

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It’s been a long time since I announced a new feature on Diversivore. You can chalk that up to a lot of time spent behind the scenes dealing with growth and the complexities of running a site like this. I’m not complaining of course – it’s good to be busy, and it’s even better to be growing and working with new people (not to mention new foods), but it’s really nice to launch into another feature. I always enjoy doing this, as it gives me the opportunity to explore a topic more fully than I’d get to in a single recipe or article.

I’m returning to form a little bit here by running a feature on Mexican food, but I’m putting a different spin on things this time by taking time into account. This is all about about good Mexican meals that can genuinely be made quickly – in some cases, astonishingly quickly. It’s a topic that’s especially popular at this time of the year thanks to the transition from summer to fall. Life becomes that much more hectic as the kids go back to school and schedules begin to bloat wildly. But the season is also graced by some pretty spectacular produce, and I for one find myself trying desperately to enjoy some great, seasonal, scratch-made meals before the ingredients (and opportunities) pass me by.

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room. To date, quick and easy Mexican meals in the English-language food/blogging world have generally been… let’s say uninspired. A lot of corners tend to get cut when you’re talking about getting a meal on the table in a short period of time, and very few of them offer any favours in terms of taste or quality. Scratch-cooking often takes a backseat to pre-packaged and processed combinations, which is especially egregious given how ingredient-focused good Mexican cooking tends to be. There’s also a tendency to cut ingredients and hybridize recipes in order to make Mexican-ish variations on simple weeknight friendly meals. That’s not the worst thing in and of itself (though the resulting recipes shouldn’t really be called Mexican cooking), but it’s very limiting. If you can’t use sauces, spice blends, and slow-cooked, complex flavours, you’re generally stuck with some variation on the old protein+cheese+lettuce/tomato situation. And sometimes those meals are great – but they’re missing out on a big, beautiful world of food. Because of all this, I looked at two wonderful but very different factors that can help you make delicious and diverse Mexican food in a short period of time without feeling limited by your options. You’ll find both of these points popping up again and again in the recipes to come, so let’s explore them both now.

No. 1: Under Pressure

Let me just say (and nobody’s paying me to do this) – I LOVE my Instant Pot. I’m not going to launch into a whole sale’s pitch here (though all bets are off if you ask me about this thing in person), but I’ll let anyone unfamiliar with the Instant Pot know that it’s an electric pressure cooker with a very wide range of functions and capabilities that also happens to be ridiculously easy to operate. I know that many people have never used a pressure cooker before because of the perceived complexity or danger – thankfully issues that are completely resolved by the Instant Pot and other next-generation electric pressure cookers. And because many people have never used an electric pressure cooker, they don’t know the amazing (and FAST) things you can do with one.
Several of the meals I’m going to be presenting over the coming weeks were made with my pressure cooker. Many of the one-pot style meals that are typical of beloved Mexican cooking traditionally involve very long cooking times, but incredible results can be achieved with a pressure cooker. I’m really eager to share this type of cooking (and these recipes) because they allow home cooks to compromise on time without compromising on flavour or quality. Rather than relying on processed short cuts or over-simplified (and underwhelming) recipes, high-pressure cooking allows you to use the same authentic and incredible ingredients that are the hallmarks of traditional Mexican cooking while only investing a fraction of the time. And while you may find me ranting and raving a few more times about just how much I recommend an electric pressure cooker, I’ve done my best to provide options and alternatives and other cooking methods as well.

No. 2: Tiny Recipes FTW

Clearly, I love a good one-pot meal; after all, pressure cooking is itself a great way to make that kind of recipe. But really, we all love the charm and simplicity of one-pot meals. There’s often less to prepare, less to clean up, and a diversity of culinary options from food cultures around the globe. But one-pot meals can’t do it all – and they don’t have to, even when you’re looking to put a meal together quickly. Plenty of wonderful Mexican recipe rely on a different approach that, while it may require a bit of advance planning, can get a delectable meal with complex flavours on your table in record time. The method in question involves building a meal from many smaller components and recipes. Where the one-pot meal combines flavours into one end product, this method layers many flavours together while leaving them distinct. This not only lets a lot broader set of flavours really pop, but also lets individual diners (e.g. picky 5-year olds who balk at the very notion that an onion might be touching their food) tweak and adjust their meal to their specific tastes.

It probably helps if I illustrate this style of cooking with an example, so I’m going to go with something beloved and ubiquitous: the taco. You can really make a taco with anything, but it’s safe to say that not all tacos are created equal. We’re already fairly comfortable with the idea of layering flavours and components into a taco, often in the form of a cooked protein/filling and a series of uncooked produce toppings (e.g. cheese, tomato, cabbage, lettuce, etc.). And yet you won’t see a whole lot of tacos that follow this model in traditional Mexican cooking. True, those raw veggies do still make an apppearance (white onion, cabbage, chilies, cilantro, and cheeses still play a big roll), but so too do salsas, pickles, and other more complex, often cooked ingredients.

“BUT,” I can hear you thinking, “how can I make a meal quickly if I have to make a filling, AND a salsa AND some pickled onions?” Well, it’s actually surprisingly manageable as long as we address two key factors. First of all – yes, you need to plan ahead a little. In many cases, things like salsas, sauces, and pickles can easily be made in advance and then used over the course of multiple meals and multiple days (or even weeks). Secondly, many of these add-ons are almost laughably quick to put together, with recipes that are almost shocking in their simplicity. Mexican pickled onions, for example, are so ridiculously quick and easy to make that you’ll wonder why you haven’t been making them for years. Take these two factors together and incorporate them into your cooking and something wonderful happens: you go to put together dinner and find that a small and spread-out time investment suddenly means that your meal not only comes together in a snap, but delivers on flavour in a big way.

There are LOTS of great new recipes coming your way soon. In the mean time, I hope you’ll keep scrolling and check out some of the quick Mexican recipes that are already up on the site.

Instant Pot Brisket with Pasilla-Morita Adobo

Instant Pot Brisket with Pasilla-Morita Adobo, served in a tortilla with a spoonful of salsa verde

Brisket in a hurry. It’s a dream come true. You’d never know just how easy this delightful meal is to make – well, unless you go and make it that is. And you should, because it’s got an amazing, scratch-made adobo sauce that you’re going to love.

Instant Pot Carnitas con Queso

Instant pot pressure cooker Carnitas con Queso (tender beef bites with crispy melted cheese)oker Carnitas con Queso (tender beef bites with crispy melted cheese)

All the goodness of slow-cooked pork in WAY less time, finished to crispy perfection in a skillet. This one is definitely for those of you who, like me, seek out the crispiest bits of melted cheese in a recipe. Serve it with the smoky dried chili salsa below for a perfect pairing.

Mexican Pickled Red Onions

Yucatan-style pickled red onions, made with bitter (Seville) orange juice

These Yucatecan onions might be the easiest way to make a huge impact on your tacos (or any other Mexican meal really). There’s no cooking involved, and while they normally call for Seville (bitter) orange juice, there’s an easy substitute that can be made from more common citrus fruits too.

Smoky Dried Chili Salsa

Smoky K'uut Bi Ik (Yucatecan dried chili salsa) in a yellow bowl with a patterned cloth

This salsa is something of a hybrid between Yucatecan k’uut bi ik and chile tamulado, and it’s all KINDS of good. Made with charred garlic, dried morita chipotles and árbol chilies, and Seville orange juice (or a citrus substitute), it’s fiery, flavourful, complex, and wonderfully easy.

Chiles en Escabeche

Chiles en escabeche - Mexican pickled jalapeños with carrots and onions

Tangy, tasty, fiery pickles make so many recipes better. You’ll want these kicking around the fridge pretty much every time you make tacos. Chiles en escabeche are easy to make, requiring only simple ingredients and no hot water bath canning, making them perfect for cooks and preservers at any skill level.

Instant Pot Mexican Stewing Hen

A diptych of tacos and soup made with Instant Pot Mexican Stewing Hen

Soup and tacos together! It’s two recipes for the price of one, and an easy way to use a sustainable and affordable protein source. Most importantly of all, it’s ridiculously tasty.

Puerco Pibil

Puerco Pibil (aka cochinita pibil) served with pickled onions and guacamole in tortilla shells

A classic from the Yucatan made with home-made achiote and delicious pork, my recipe uses the Instant Pot to deliver big on flavour in a very short time.

Pambazos con Huevos

Four pambazos con huevos (Mexican sandwiches made with guajillo sauce-soaked buns and filled with eggs, crispy potatoes, and a creamy egg salsa verde).

Messy sandwich goodness with lots of little recipes thrown together. Bread dipped in guajillo chili sauce, fried, and filled with spiced potatoes, refried beans, and a creamy egg salsa verde.

Carne Entomatada

Four pambazos con huevos (Mexican sandwiches made with guajillo sauce-soaked buns and filled with eggs, crispy potatoes, and a creamy egg salsa verde).

Delicious pressure-cooked beef (you can make it in a slow cooker too) in a spiced tomato sauce, made with simple, easy-to-find pantry staples.

Pico de Gallo

Pico de gallo salsa in a hexagonal jar on a wood surface

Possibly the quintessential quick and easy Mexican recipe, Pico de Gallo is a cinch to make (no cooking involved) AND it’s a great ingredient to have on hand for all kinds of other recipes. Make a batch and use it on EVERYTHING.

Shakshouka Rancheros

Shakshouka rancheros - eggs cooked in a tomato sauce with vegetables and Mexican ingredients

Not only is this awesome egg-lovin’ breakfast quick and easy to make, but the scratch-made spiced tomato and tomatillo sauce used in it is deliciously adaptable to other meals. This recipe’s all about the power of good ingredients.

Huevos Divorciados

Huevos divorciados - Mexican 'Divorced' Eggs with two salsas

Perfect for breakfast – or any time really – this is about as simple as Mexican cooking can get. Starting with two good salsas (roja and verde), all you need are a couple of fried eggs, tortillas and (optional) refried beans to finish things off.

Arroz Verde

(Green Rice)

Arroz verde (Mexican Green Rice) topped with a fried egg and ancho chile powder

Mexican rice is seriously underrated. The grains are fried in a bit of oil before liquid is added, adding depth and a nutty, toasted flavour that’s just awesome. This green rice recipe adds even more flavour with poblano and cilantro, and it’s a snap to make. Even better, it freezes well, so make a big batch and keep some for sides or filling burritos.

Chicken Tinga

Tree tacos filled with chicken tinga, avocado, and radishes, all served on a patterned blue and white plate

Chicken tinga – a Mexican classic that I somehow hadn’t heard about until I was in my 30s. Go figure. Anyway, it’s all about that perfectly savoury tomato and chipotle sauce, and it’s delightfully easy to make from scratch. Buy a rotisserie chicken from a grocery store and you can have huge family style meal ready in no time (or a week worth of leftovers just for you).

Halibut Escabeche

Halibut escabeche steaks with fresh jalapenos on a large beige plate with a fork and knife

This is a great example of a meal that requires a bit of advance planning but very little hands-on time. The fish is cooked, then marinated after the fact. Amazingly, the finished escabeche can be stored (safely, I promise) for a week in the fridge. It also makes GREAT tacos (seriously, follow the link and go see them).

Carne Asada Borracha

Carne Asada Borracha on a white plate with Mexican crema and cooked peppers & onions

Carne Asada Borracha means drunken grilled beef – a reference to the use of beer in the marinade. The total hands-on time for this meal is only about 25 minutes, including prep. You do have to marinate it for between 3-8 hours – and waiting is, as they say, the hardest part. Use the excess marinade to cook some veggies and throw everything into some tortillas, and you’ll be rewarded with a ridiculously good and amazingly quick meal.

Smoky Mexican Oyster Mushroom Soup

Smoky Vegan Mexican Oyster Mushroom Soup beside a spoon, bay leaves, garlic, and chipotle meco peppers.

Vegans rejoice, you’re covered here too! This soup uses chipotle peppers to great effect, and it highlights one of the best things about Mexican chilies – their ability to create tons of depth and complexity in a recipe in no time at all.

Mezcalita del Ocaso

With Hibiscus Agua Fresca

Mezcalita Del Ocaso - A Sunset Mezcal cocktail made with hibiscus agua fresca and grilled pineapple, served in martini glasses

Alright, to be fair, this isn’t terribly quick all together (you have to roast pineapple) BUT – one of the ingredients is hibiscus agua fresca, which IS quick and easy to make! It’s also wonderfully refreshing, and makes for a great drink in its own right.

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