Cilantro

We celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, and the easiest way to learn the culture is to immerse yourself in its cusine. 

Fortunately for North Americans, Latin fruits and veggies have become quite accessible, and just about anyone can prepare an authentic meal. 

You’ll also need to keep seven important herbs and spices on hand.

Cilantro 

A staple in Latin cooking, cilantro (above) can be found next to parsley at your local farmers’ market or natural and organic food store. In fact, many shoppers mistake the two, but their flavors are quite different. Fresh cilantro is also known as Chinese parsley or coriander, and it’s a key ingredient in fresh salsas like Tomatillo Salsa.

Jalapeño 

These peppers are moderately hot and are used in many different recipes and sauces, such as Baja Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa. FYI: The smaller the chili pepper, the hotter it is.

Chipotle 

Most people assume chipotle is a distinct type of pepper, but it’s actually a jalapeño pepper that has been smoked and dried to impart a robust flavor. Chipotle can be found in many rubs and sauces, adding some heat to home-cooked dishes like Mango Chiles Rellenos al Carbon.

Cumin 

This spice is used heavily in cooking and is often found in stews and chilis. Cumin can add more potent flavor and heat when used in conjunction with cayenne pepper. Try it in Bobby Flay’s Smoked Chile Cole Slaw.

SaffronSaffron 

Spanish cooking wouldn’t be the same without saffron (right), but the spice may be difficult to find—and it’s expensive. That’s because approximately 150 flowers are required to produce a single gram of saffron. Add a saffron thread to Mashed Sweet Potatoes.

Cinnamon and Cloves 

These aromatic spices are often added to meats and stews to warm up their flavors. You can also add cinnamon to a traditional Coffee Horchata and cloves to an Iced Almond Chai.

Paprika 

Paprika’s sweet or hot varieties are favorites in the Spanish kitchen. Their beautiful red color and bold flavor can make any dish stand out, including a fall favorite: Sweet-Hot Pumpkin Seeds with Autumn Spices

Top photo: Ingrid Taylar