Mexican food is enjoyed all over the world for its liberal use of spices and fresh vegetables alongside heavy meats and fried dough. That juxtaposition is somewhat that could have only come from the natural plants and rich culture of Mexico, but you don’t need to visit this Latin American country to get a taste.
Many Mexican meals are simple and can be put together in well under a half hour. Provided you have the ingredients and the know-how to assemble them, you can have a complex and rich meal for your friends and family as quickly as this very evening.
Not sure it can be done? Here are just four of the many Mexican dinners that can be made in less than 30 minutes.
1. Grilled Chicken Quesadillas
Quesadillas are one of those dishes that is simple to create, but far more difficult to master. The difference between a good and a great quesadilla all comes down to spices and temperature.
Start off with some fresh grilled chicken, cut small enough to enjoy but large enough to give a bit of structure to the inside of the quesadilla. Toss into a small bowl alongside beans of your choice, sliced jalapeños, and cheese. You’ll want to mash these ingredients together slightly, but just enough so that they stick together as opposed to crumbling apart.
Cook your quesadillas over medium heat, and on a wedged pan if possible. You’re going for a melted consistency on the inside and a golden to just-slightly-brown texture on the outside. The key once it’s finished, however, is not to set on a plate.
Keep a cooked quesadilla in an oven at about 200 degrees to keep things fresh. Don’t cut or slice the quesadilla until moments before serving. This will keep your tortilla crispy and the quesadilla warm throughout.
Serve with chips, rice, and dip of choice, and enjoy!
Despite the popularity of Mexican food stateside, empanadas are often neglected as a dish.
Also referred to as pastelitos or turnovers in some countries, this fried pastry dish is a fan favorite in several communities for its versatile nature and crunchy texture. With the proper planning, making empanadas won’t take you thirty minutes, but less than five.
To make an empanada, you’ll have to start with an empanada disk. In America, these can be easily found in the international aisle of a grocery store. After securing your empanada discs, you’ll need whatever you’d like to fill it with. Beef and cheese are the common fillings, but chicken and shrimp are also great options. Just remember to pre-cook any meat.
Roll out your empanada disk to the desired size using a rolling pin and some flour. Then, place a good amount of meat filling in the center of the disk and fold in half. Using a fork, press several indentions into the dough to seal the filling inside the fold. You’ll need to run the perimeter of the folded edge of the empanada on both sides.
After this, all you’ll need to do is cook them! A deep fryer works best, but you don’t own one, fill as much oil into a pan as possible and heat on low. Drop in your empanada and cook until golden brown—flipping on each side when necessary. Be careful not to overheat the oil, as your empanada can burn quickly!
After cooking, serve with rice, beans, or just by itself for a filling meal in a crispy package.
3. Pollo Rojo
Pollo Rojo, as the name implies, is chicken spiced with red peppers. This concoction is about as simple as it gets and great for anyone with little to no experience with making Mexican dishes.
To make Pollo Rojo, coat raw chicken with your favorite spices and grill. Place on a plate and coat with red pepper sauce. Serve with beans and watch your friends and family clear their sinuses with your easy dish.
Don’t have red pepper sauce? You can easily make it at home with roasted red peppers, heavy cream, butter, garlic, and spices. Blend your red peppers to make a smooth and deadly sauce, then use the butter to sauté some garlic. Pour in the red pepper mixture, season with spices, dilute with cream, and stir until thick.
Pollo Rojo will put some skin on your bones—especially if you go easy on the heavy cream. However, it’s a meal with enough of an impact to keep your dinner party wondering exactly how you managed to pull it off so quickly.
4. Nachos Supreme
Finally, it wouldn’t be a list of traditional Mexican dinners without nachos. Nachos can easily blend into the background beside more showy dishes, but some strong nachos supreme will stand on its own without the need for sides and distractions.
For nacho supreme, chop, dice, and mince as many fresh ingredients as you have time for, including tomatoes, jalapeños, olives, and green onions. Where you can save time on this recipe is utilizing a meaty cheese sauce.
Using queso Blanco as a base, stir in browned ground beef and taco seasoning into your cheese. You may need to add a few seasonings, jalapeños, and a little extra salt to taste. This quick assembly will be the basis of flavor.
Set a bed of tortilla chips, add on some pinto beans, douse liberally in the meaty cheese sauce, and use the fresh ingredients on top. If you find the flavors too overwhelming, skip the chopped veggies and cover with grilled corn.
This meal won’t win any awards in a diet, but if you balanced your hearty cheese cause with enough of a crunch, these nachos supreme should be good enough to forgive the added caloric intake. Your local Henderson Mexican Restaurant has a unique take on nachos supreme that may or may not utilize many of these same techniques.
Mexican food is rich in history, filled with flavor, but luckily for the procrastinating chef, quick to prepare.