Low Carb Mexican Cooking


Eat Like An Aztec

The Aztecs steamed many foods including tamales, meats and fish. Today we are featuring "mixiotes" which are little bundles of seasoned meats.


Mixiotes are the rather tough outer membranes of young of Maguey (century) plant leaves. The membranes are removed in sheets and used to wrap little bundles of marinated meats and chiles which were then steamed as you would a tamale. Today you can use banana leaves, or parchment paper.  If you grown any squash, the large squash leaves may also be used as a wrap.  In Mexico the use of the Maguey was stopped by law because stripping the young leaves killed the plant and it was decimating the plant population.

Josephina Howard of Rosa Mexicano restaurant in New York includes several Mixiotes recipes on her menu. This offering is for a version made with chicken. Don't let the number of ingredients alarm you the recipe is quite simple. In order to get the best flavor let the chicken marinate overnight.

Featured Recipe - Lamb Mixiotes

Recipe is a specialty of Restaurant Rosa Mexicana

  • 6 pasilla chiles
  • 8 guajillo chiles
  • 8 ancho chiles
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 lamb shanks
  • 1 12oz bottle of beer
  • 6 12" squares of parchment paper
  • 6 15" pieces of string
  • 12 white corn tortillas
  1. Toast the chiles in a dry hot pan, turning until the chiles are evenly toasted and pliable.  Seed and devein the chiles then soak them in enough hot water to cover for 1/2 hour.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the chile soaking water.
  2. Combine the rehydrated chiles, garlic, cumin, oregano, thyme, cloves, bay leaf, peppercorns, vinegar, salt and reserved soaking water in a blender jar.  Puree into a thick paste, add more water if needed.
  1. Place each shank in the center of a parchment square.  Gather the corners of the parchment paper, making a loose package, and tie with kitchen string.
  2. Bring the beer and 2 cups of water to boil in a large steamer over medium heat.  Place the shanks on a rack about the liquid.  Cover and steam for 2 hours until the meat falls off the bone (open one to check.0
  3. To serve, present the shanks in their packages and unfold the parchment at the table.  Serve with hot fresh corn tortillas.  Each guest can fill the tortilla to make a taco.

Note:  If you don't care for lamb you can use the same recipe for chicken legs or rabbit.  Check after 1 hour, adjust cooking time as needed.

Healthful Cooking Tips

Toasting chiles and spices brings out the flavor. Place the ingredient on a hot, dry comal or cast iron skillet and toast just until you can smell the aroma of the spice or chile. Do not allow herbs or dried chiles to burn.

Roast Fresh Chiles and Tomatoes

Fresh flavorful salsas benefit from dry roasting. Unlike toasting, you do want to char the outside of the fresh chiles. Read more about roasting chiles and tomatoes.


Meats, chicken and fish really helps to provide you with maximum flavor when preparing dishes that don't otherwise require long cooking times. In most cases it is best to marinate the meats overnight. Otherwise, place meats in the marinade early in the morning.


Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.