3 Must-Make Recipes – National Tequila Day Edition

Let’s just say it up-front: while very large numbers of Americans are more than happy to consume copious quantities of tequila in their margaritas and palomas, relatively few home cooks spend much time using the fabulous product of the agave plant as an ingredient in meal preparation. And that’s a great shame, because tequila adds a very flavorful complement to many different types of meals, though it does need to be handled carefully if a cook wants to exploit its full potential.

So here, on National Tequila Day, I thought it only appropriate to share a few thoughts on using tequila in cooking – prior to suggest three must-make tequila-enhanced meals. First, to state what is obvious to folks who have had a shot or two, tequila has a relatively subtle flavor profile. So if it is incorporated in dishes where it must compete with other bold flavors, tequila has a tendency to fade into the background.  That means it is not a great accompaniment to most heavy beef, pork or lamb dishes, nor is it great in dishes with overpowering onion, garlic or tomato tastes. However, tequila is wonderfully suitable for dishes where its flavor-tones accent fish, shrimp, chicken, pasta or fresh vegetables.

Second, and a bit sadly, inexpensive tequilas generally don’t work well in cooking. Many inexpensive tequilas include what is referred to as a “mixto,” which is basically a combination of additives like caramel, wood essence, almond or smoke which are thrown into non-premium tequilas to kick up the flavor.  Unfortunately, when exposed to heat, these additives can convert into a slightly burnt aftertaste that make meals seem ‘off’ to diners.  So it generally pays to use more expensive, 100% agave premium tequilas. These are much more likely to add a cleaner, sweeter taste to dishes.

Third, it also generally pays to go with so called “blanco” tequilas. Again, these tend to be a little more expensive. But their brighter, robusto flavors better handle the heat and maintain their tones through the cooking process and on to the plate.

But, if cooks observe these simple but important guidelines, tequila-enhanced meals can be a revelation. So to encourage readers to experiment with tequila in their cooking, I’ve selected three special recipes that are tremendous showcases for the nuanced flavorings that tequila can bring to meals. I hope you try one or two – all three make great summer meals.

1. Drunken Shrimp Tequila Ceviche

Tequila Ceviche

2. Tequila Lime Shrimp and Quinoa Salad

3. Tequila Chicken with Avocado Black Bean Salad

These really are delicious – light, crisp, and colorful with complex flavors. And that’s why they are our 3 Must-Make Recipes for National Tequila Day!

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