Guacamole and salsas with chips definitely have a place in the Mexican snack universe and you should definitely have them handy, but we’ll help you with snacks that will add a dash of panache to your party.
This is an old classic and available in most coastal Mexican cities. It’s also a really big deal among taco trucks and seafood restaurants across the US because it’s light, spicy, and fresh. It also has the virtue of being healthy and a great drinking partner which only makes the argument stronger for our purposes.
There are tons of variations so add ingredients that you love. This recipe serves two, but you can easily squeeze 4-5 nibble portions out of it:
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 small tomato diced
¼ red onion diced
your favorite hot sauce
pinch salt freshly ground pepper
½ avocado diced
10 large shrimp; steamed, shelled, and deveined.
1 tablespoon olive oil
handful of cilantro leaves
saltines and tortilla chips
Mix all ingredients except cilantro leaves, saltines, and tortilla chips together in a bowl. You can adjust the heat of the cocktail by how much hot sauce you add. Once well-mixed, portion into serving containers, generally these are fluted glasses but you could just as easily deliver this dish in small bowls or a large bowl if your guests are comfortable dipping saltines and tortilla chips.
Peanuts or cacahuates in Spanish which, as a bartender once told me in Tlaquepaque caca - get it? If you eat too many of them…snacker forewarned. They’re great snacks in moderation, healthy, and you can do a ton of things with them.
One of the classics is Cacahuates Japonaises, Japanese Peanuts, which are individual peanuts in a roasted shell of dough which has been spiked with soy sauce or something approximating that flavor.
Pretty tasty, easy to over eat, so watch it! You can make these at home but it’s infinitely easier to buy a bag at your local Mexican market.
Great recipe to make at home is roasted peanuts with chiles and herbs. The Mexican variation is local spices and chiles.
For homemade crunchy peanuts you'll need: 4 cups unroasted, shelled, peanuts, mixed bouquet of rosemary, thyme, and oregano, ¼ cup brown sugar, ½ cup ground chiles like chipotle or ancho, salt - ideally a large flaked salt, pepper, and olive oil.
Warm oven to 350 Fahrenheit/175 Celsius.
Chop herbs, mix with sugar, and chiles. Liberally salt and pepper. Toss peanuts with the herb and chile mixture.
Add a few dashes of olive oil, pour onto a baking pan and roast until you smell the herbs. Usually this takes 15-20 minutes but it could be slightly quicker, you want a nice brown roast to the peanuts. Once done remove from oven, pour into a serving bowl and let them cool before serving.
Is it a drink, or is it a snack? When Mexicans order shots of Tequila they are presented with the house sangrita, literally “little blood,” in a second shot glass.
Sangrita is a savory and spicy tomato-based juice which provides a great contrast for the Tequila. You can find industrially produced versions but the best are homemade and the better bars and restaurants take great pride in their recipes. As Mezcal has become trendy, sangrita is being served with it as well.
To make a batch start with this basic sangrita recipe and elaborate as you grow more confident:
5 parts tomato juice + 5 parts orange juice + 1 part lime juice + 5 dashes Tabasco (or your favourite hot sauce) + salt and pepper to taste.
Blend, chill and pour in shot glasses to accompany glasses of Tequila or Mezcal. Feel free to upgrade the recipe and add ground chiles, spices mixes like a five spice, cucumber juice, grapefruit juice, lemon juice...and if you want to get really foody, juice your own heirloom tomatoes.
A Michelada is a spicier and crazier sangrita for beer. It’s perfect for hot days and light beers that need a kick to make them interesting. Like sangrita many bars have their own versions and part of the fun of drifting between bars is sampling them.
For 6 servings you’ll need:
1 cup lime juice
32 oz bottle of Clamato or clam juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 teaspoons Tabasco or your favorite hot sauce
½ teaspoon chile powder
fresh ground pepper to taste
your favorite Mexican beer
additional lime slices for garnish
Mix everything except the beer and ice together and taste. It should be very spicy and savory, even a bit overwhelming.
Rim each beer glass with ground pepper by grinding a bunch of it finely on a plate, running a lime slice around the rim of the glass, invert the glass in the pepper and voila! your glass is rimmed with pepper.
Then put a few ice cubes in the bottom of the glass, pour 1/6th of the michelada mix in, and top with a beer. You’ll probably have some beer left in the bottle so just top up your glass as you go.
Warning: When you get to the bottom of the glass the spicy stuff will have settled so beware of that last sip.
Extra out of control credit. Like Bloody Marys you can get positively baroque with micheladas. Some places add shrimp, some add the whole ceviche while others will add a small bouquet of pickled foods all held together by a toothpick.
Jicama Shot Glasses
This takes a bit of work, but it’s a conversation starter, date maker, and show stopper.
You will need at least half a large jicama per shot glass, ¼ lime per shot glass, salt and mixed ground chile pepper mix
Skin the jicama roots then cut them in half. You're going to have to conceptualize the piece like a minor Michelangelo, see the shot glass in the root!
Cut the exterior measure of a shot glass starting with the bottom. Remember, this doesn’t have to be perfect, just functional.
Once you have the shape of a shot glass, you can either use a melon ball tool to slowly hollow it out or use a paring knife to slowly slice out chunks of the interior. Again, the idea is to get something you can use, don’t let perfection be the enemy of a glass that will hold Tequila.
After you have whittled the shot glass into shape you’re ready to go. Mix together your ground chile peppers and a dash of salt per shot glass and pour the mixture out on a plate.
Slice the limes into wedges, then cut a slice across the grain but only cut through the pulp, not the skin! Run that around the edge of your jicama glass, invert the glass rim into your chile salt mixture, poise the lime wedge on the edge and fill it with Tequila.
Sip and nibble as the liquid contents wane. Or don’t nibble and keep it handy until you really need a snack.
With that arsenal ready for your party, you’re guaranteed entertainment. The jicama glasses especially are crowd pleasers, but the nicest thing about Mexican drinking is that it’s all so integrated into a tradition of snacking while drinking.
Have a peanut, sip your beer, try a spoonful of shrimp cocktail and we promise that if you and your guests pace yourselves the party will just keep going without too many headaches. Of course, it also helps to get your groove on so make sure to clear the dance floor and have everyone do the hustle!