Menudo Mix, Hibiscus, Cumin Seed… tiny clear, cellophane packets of these spices hang on racks in supermarkets and Latin markets throughout the southwest, and wherever large Latin communities shop.
Sealed with a paper label noting their contents, usually printed in Spanish and English, the packets are more affordable than those in the traditional spice aisle.
More importantly, these spices can be a paintbox of seasonings for the artistic cook. I’ve picked up such exotic flavorings as tamarind paste, achiote seed, dried smoked jalapeño peppers, and even poppy seed, without having to send away to Penzey’s Spices or drive long distances.
One of my favorites is Menudo Mix, a blend of herbs and spices used to flavor the traditional tripe stew of Mexico, menudo.
Menudo is a Puerto Rican boy band formed back in the 1970s. Some of its most popular alumni members are Marc Anthony and Ricky Martin. But menudo is also a traditional Mexican beef tripe stew. These days, the southwestern part of the US and the Philippines have their own versions of the dish with a thick and spicy soup.
There are a few things that make cooking menudo intimidating for many:
- It can take anywhere from 3 to 4 hours or even longer for menudo to cook. Requiring long boiling and simmering times in order to obtain its signature taste, consistency and texture, people who are always in a time crunch or refuse to get their patience tested should steer clear of making menudo from scratch.
- Tripe is the star ingredient, which is cow’s stomach. One look and it’s plain to see that it’s not a pretty internal organ. Other than that, there’s also the fact that cooking tripe until tender enough can stink up the kitchen. But fret not — the smell has nothing to do with just how good menudo tastes.
- Many different herbs and spices are required. Oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, coriander seeds, cinnamon, mustard, chili powder, onion flakes — the list can go on and on. It’s no wonder why, traditionally, menudo is often prepared by the entire family and only during special occasions where many can lend a hand.
But there’s no need to feel disheartened if you are planning on making menudo in your kitchen. That’s because, as always, there are workarounds the most creative cooks abide by.
Reaching for a pressure cooker, for instance, can help cut the lengthy cooking time. And, instead of cow’s tripe, you can simply opt for beef and even pork parts you are more familiar and on good terms with. The long list of spices, on the other hand, can easily be solved with a packet or container of menudo mix.
Also referred to as menudo spice mix, it’s the one we’re going to talk about in this post.
Continue reading until you get to the very end — I will let you in on the secret to making menudo, traditional or a more modern version alike, without much trouble.
What is in Menudo Mix?
Simply put, menudo mix is a mixture of various herbs and spices, which can be used in flavoring menudo. It can also be added to various kinds of stews and soups to give them a deep and complex aroma and taste. Some menudo mix brands or variants can have a few ingredients only, while others can have many.
Different menudo spice mix brands or blends have different ingredients.
But whether simple or complex, most of them share the same herbs and spices. Some of the most commonly shared ones include oregano, onion and cumin. One of the most important ingredients in any menudo mix is red chili flakes — some options use red chili powder instead.
Because menudo mix is basically a combination of some of the most commonly used culinary herbs and spices, it can be used for flavoring various dishes this side of the planet.
You can, for instance, add a little or a lot of menudo mix to the following:
- Baked beans
- Barbecue sauce
- Beef stew
- Chicken stew
- Chili con carne
- Classic steak or barbecue marinade
- Ground beef taco
- Pork or beef burger patties
- Pork stew
- Sloppy joes
- Taco soup
Especially if you’re a health-conscious individual, always check the list of ingredients before you put a package or container of menudo mix in your cart. That’s because some of them can contain lots and lots of sodium!
And then there are also those that have MSG in them in order to improve the flavor.
How Do You Make Menudo Spice Mix?
Instead of buying packaged menudo mix, one can make it from scratch. Homemade menudo mix can be simple, which can consist of around 5 ingredients. It can also be complex, which can consist of more than 10 ingredients. The recipe, budget and availability of ingredients are the main determining factors.
Menudo mix can be easily procured from local grocery stores. Many are also available on the internet, including those that are manufactured outside of the US, including countries that have their own versions of menudo.
For those who like DIY undertakings, making menudo spice mix at home is possible.
Here are the most common ingredients for a simple menudo mix:
- 2 parts of crushed oregano leaves
- 2 parts of onion flakes
- 1 part of red chili flakes
- 1 part of cumin powder
- 1 part coriander seeds
If you want menudo or any other dish that could use some menudo mix to have a more complex flavor, there are a handful of other herbs and spices you may include.
The following are ingredients typically found in a complex menudo mix:
- 4 parts of chili powder
- 4 parts of red chili flakes
- 4 parts of onion flakes
- 4 parts of garlic powder
- 2 parts of crushed oregano leaves
- 2 parts of dried basil
- 2 parts of dried thyme
- 2 parts of dried rosemary
- 2 parts coriander seeds
- 2 parts of cumin powder
- 2 parts of mustard powder
- 1 part of cinnamon powder
- 1 part of nutmeg powder
- 1 part of cumin seeds
- 1 part ground black pepper
How Do You Use Menudo Spice Mix?
Different menudo spice mix products are used differently. Some of them can be added to the dish before boiling. Others should be added only when it’s time to simmer the dish. But then there are also menudo spice mix variants that need to be dissolved in hot water first before stirring into the pot.
When cooking menudo, it’s of utmost importance to follow the recipe to a T. But don’t forget to also consider the directions for use printed on the packaging of the menudo mix on hand.
This is especially true if the recipe does not say which brand to use or the recommended brand isn’t available.
But the good news is that the vast majority of menudo mix variants on the market, at grocery stores and in cyberspace alike, can be added directly to the dish — for the most part, all you have to do is measure the right amount as specified by the recipe and stir it into what’s boiling or simmering on the stovetop.
As mentioned earlier, some menudo mix options have to be dissolved in water, usually hot, first. Failure to follow the instructions can result in menudo soup with clumps with an overpowering taste.
How Do You Make Menudo With Menudo Mix?
The use of menudo mix eliminates the need to gather an assortment of herbs and spices necessary for making menudo and carefully measure each one of them. Online, there are many menudo recipes that call for the use of menudo mix that can give the stew the right flavor without much trouble in the kitchen.
Besides menudo mix brands and blends, menudo recipes also come aplenty on the internet.
Some of them are simply easier than the rest, especially those that require the use of menudo mix. While nothing can beat traditional menudo from Mexico, a lot of its delicious variants are so much easier to cook.
And that is why I have decided to share a pork menudo recipe that’s hassle-free to make — the yuckiest ingredient you will have to get your hands on is pork liver, which you can cross off the list if you are not comfortable eating it. Of course, another reason why it’s easy to make is that it requires the use of menudo mix.
Oh, and it will take only about 45 minutes to make instead of the usual 3 to 4 hours or more!
- 400 grams of pork meat (diced)
- 100 grams of pork liver (diced)
- 8 to 10 tablespoons of menudo mix
- 1 medium potato (peeled and diced)
- 1 medium carrot (peeled and diced)
- 1 medium red bell pepper (chopped)
- 1/4 cup of raisins
- 1 cup of water
- Over medium heat, saute diced pork in a little oil until the edges are already golden brown.
- Add 1 cup of water and menudo mix.
- Cover the pot and simmer until pork meat is tender.
- Stir the rest of the ingredients into the pot and continue cooking over medium heat.
- If the soup is too thick for your liking, add some more water.
- Allow to simmer.
- Switch off the stove once potatoes and carrots are already tender.
Just Before You Cook Menudo
Traditional Menudo can be challenging to make. Besides the need to use tripe, which is something that some people wouldn’t dare touch or eat, it requires hours and hours to cook to perfection. And then there’s also the fact that there are lots and lots of herbs and spices you will have to add to the pot.
But thanks to menudo mix, the task can easily turn from grueling to easygoing!
When shopping at the local supermarket or online, opt for menudo spice mix that contains a blend of ingredients that suits your liking. Also, steer clear of those with unnecessary ingredients, many of which can wreak havoc on the health.
What food can I serve with menudo?
Traditionally, menudo is served with rice. But it may also be enjoyed with cornbread or tortilla chips with guacamole. Green or bean salad also makes for an excellent menudo side dish.
Which wines pair very well with menudo?
Since menudo is spicy like the vast majority of Mexican dishes, the best wines that go with the tripe stew are those that are low in tannins and alcohol, such as Beaujolais.
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