Updated: Jun 19
Welcome to the next installment of my new Meet the Spice Blend series, where I'll be sharing the inspiration for, back stories of, and uses for my ever-expanding collection of small batch, handcrafted spice blends. Next up, Baja Fiesta!
Originally called "Taco Spice Blend," this little powerhouse blend of cumin, coriander, Spanish paprika, garlic, cayenne, Mexican oregano and kosher salt was one of the original 12 flavors in my lineup when I first started A Bite of Good in July 2020. It's great with literally any taco filling or fajita preparation, mixed into guacamole, sprinkled on freshly fried tortilla chips, or mixed into deviled egg filling.
Although I am not personally of Mexican descent, as a Southern California native who grew up in a town with a large Latinx population, Mexican cuisine is and has always been a staple in my life. Indeed, one of the earliest memories I have of being in a kitchen is of helping to make fresh tortillas for some neighborhood gathering my mother and I had been invited to. I remember feeling the masa in my hands, the delicate corn smell lingering on my fingers as I rolled it into little balls to be rolled or pressed into flat rounds ready to get oh-so-slightly charred on the hot comal (essentially a flat metal skillet used for cooking tortillas).
So ingrained in my olfactory senses are the flavors of Mexican food that during my year-long stint studying in Italy during college, the ONE food I missed most was tacos. I mean, I was in the culinary capital of Italy, surrounded by incredible food at every turn, and I was desperate for a good taco. I tried to find a decent Mexican restaurant in Bologna, and when that failed I tried my best to recreate the flavors using the ingredients I could get my hands on. No success. I even resorted to having my parents send me some Tapatío, but even my favorite hot sauce couldn't quite get me there.
Upon returning to California and settling into post-college life (you know, that period in your life where you suddenly realize you're an adult who has to feed themselves three times a day?), I found myself cooking a lot, and (no surprise here) Mexican flavors made a regular appearance in my weekly menus. Beans and rice were easy to make in big batches, Southern California grocery stores basically have whole sections dedicated to tortillas (although none are as good as homemade), and a rotisserie chicken reheated with a mix of spices could make tacos or burritos or quesadillas for DAYS. And that, my friends, is how the little spice blend I now call Baja Fiesta was probably born.
Now, mind you that Mexican cuisine is not a monolith. Like the food of really any place, Mexican food is diverse and varies according to region and traditional ingredients available. And, of course, I am not Mexican, so I do not purport to be the arbiter of what is and is not Mexican food or Mexican flavor. Rather, Baja Fiesta is an ode to some of the key flavors of my childhood. Originally called "Taco Spice Blend," the new name is a nod to Mexico's Baja Peninsula, of which my native Southern California was historically a part. And, of course this blend feels like it's always been there, a staple in my spice rack, ready to make any random Tuesday feel like a party.
The Flavor Profile of Baja Fiesta
Over the past 20+ years, my Baja Fiesta blend has slowly changed, becoming more sophisticated, more harmonious, with less focus on spice and more on depth of flavor, and it certainly shouldn't be relegated to only tacos. But before we get into how to use it, let's explore the ingredients...
Cumin: Renowned for its earthy and nutty undertones, cumin adds depth and richness to the blend. Its warm flavor is a staple in Mexican cuisine.
Coriander: Coriander, the seed of the cilantro plant, adds a bright, almost citrusy note to the blend.
Spanish paprika: This vibrant spice contributes a mild, smoky essence to the blend, enhancing the overall flavor profile.
Garlic: Garlic adds a pungent kick to the blend, infusing your dish with its distinct aroma and savory notes.
Cayenne: Cayenne is what gives the Baja Fiesta its spicy kick. While I always aim for more of a focus on flavor than heat, know that Baja Fiesta is spicy and may not be appropriate for those with a sensitivity to spice.
Mexican oregano: Another staple in Mexican cooking, oregano adds a fragrant, earthy flavor that complements the other spices.
Kosher salt: Salt is an essential ingredient in any good spice blend because it acts to bring out the flavors of everything else. It's not there to make the blend salty. It's there to make it sing. I use Diamond Kosher Salt in most of my blends because its large, flat flakes are actually less "salty" and dissolve more easily.
Versatility in the Kitchen - How to Use Baja Fiesta
The most obvious way to use Baja Fiesta is to season your chosen taco filling with it. Whether it's ground beef, shredded chicken, roasted pork shoulder, grilled fish, or sauteéd veggies, a sprinkle of Baja Fiesta is the perfect way to make Taco Night your favorite night of the week. Of course, the same is true if you prefer fajitas or burritos or quesadillas to tacos.
If you're looking to think even further outside the proverbial taco shell, try mixing a little Baja Fiesta into the liquid when cooking rice or mixing it into guacamole or greek yogurt for an easy dip. Making scrambled eggs for breakfast? Add some diced onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes and a dash of Baja Fiesta for a great veggie scramble (made even greater by some diced avocado and crumbled feta cheese at the end).
A Bite of Good Recipes that use Baja Fiesta
Looking for some more concrete guidance on how to use Baja Fiesta in your own kitchen? Check out these A Bite of Good recipes!
Homemade Salsa Ranchera (Ranchero Sauce) - What do enchiladas, chilaquiles, and huevos rancheros all have in common (other than being delicious classic Mexican cuisine)? Sauce. That's what. Rich, deeply complex, super flavorful sauce. And while it is totally possible to find decent pre-made Mexican sauces, I like making big batches of my own so that I can control the spice level and flavor profile and play with different kinds of chiles.
Cheesy Sweet Potato Fajita Casserole - Whether you're vegetarian or just looking to shake up your Meatless Monday routine, this super satisfying casserole tastes just like your favorite fajitas but is packed with all kinds of nutrient-rich veggies.
In short, whether you're just looking to make Taco Tuesday a little more fun or want to experiment with Mexican flavors elsewhere in your cooking, Baja Fiesta is a perfect choice.
Ready to get yours? Get it here.