Celebrity Chef Aarón Sánchez Shares His #1 Mexican Pantry Staple
Whether serving as a judge on competitive cooking series like MasterChef and Chopped or guiding aspiring young chefs on the shows' Junior spin-offs, Aarón Sánchez has dedicated himself to helping others reach their full potential in the culinary world.
In his latest venture, the award-winning Mexican-American chef and restaurateur distills his expertise to optimize and empower six Los Angeles-based Latino restaurants in his television series, El Toque de Aarón. Check out the show en español on Discovery Familia and Hogar de HGTV. In each 30-minute episode, Sánchez mentors the restaurants' chefs, whose dishes showcase a variety of cultures, including Mexican, Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Argentinian, and Venezuelan.
"This is a celebration of the Latino community," Sánchez tells Eat This, Not That! in an exclusive interview. "It's about neighborhood restaurants. It's about helping them get to that next level, and I think that's so important in what we're doing here."
While Sánchez has a breadth of knowledge on different Latin American cuisines thanks to his extensive travels, the one he undeniably holds closest to his heart is Mexican. For those looking to elevate their own Mexican cooking, the culinary star has several tips, one of which is having a "beautiful pantry or larder" stocked with essential ingredients.
One pantry item the chef is especially fond of is a canned product that can be used in countless dishes.
"Always have chipotles in adobo in the can, which I love–super versatile," Sánchez says. This canned item consists of dried and smoked jalapeños that are rehydrated in a tangy tomato sauce known as adobo. A seven-ounce can usually costs around $3 or less at your local supermarket.
Among Sánchez's favorite recipes starring the peppers is his signature Chipotle Love, which is made with just a handful of ingredients: garlic, canned chipotles, lime, cilantro, canola oil, and salt. Described on his website as a recipe that "really does feel like adding some love with a kick to a dish," this creamy, smoky sauce can be used on anything from chicken and fish to meat and roasted vegetables.
Here's a look at the chef preparing his Chipotle Love—and transforming it into a chipotle mayo—back in 2018:
Sánchez's other go-to recipes with canned chipotles include his Tequila Battered Cauliflower Tacos with Chimichurri and Chipotle Mayonnaise and Mexican Chorizo and Panela Arepas. The latter is featured on the last episode of El Toque de Aarón and is what Sánchez refers to as "a perfect example of marrying two different Latin cuisines"—Mexican and Venezuelan.
Beyond having canned chipotles on hand, Sánchez recommends keeping flour and corn tortillas in the refrigerator, having both a good-quality sea salt and good-quality kosher salt, and designating a separate olive oil for cooking. He notes that avocados and tomatoes should be kept outside of the refrigerator, as well.
"All those little things really make a difference," Sánchez says.
While the celebrity chef says he doesn't rely on any particular grocery brand for his Mexican staples—though the El Paso native is partial to local Texas-based supermarket chain H-E-B—he highlights how ingredients used in Latino cooking are becoming more readily available in grocery stores nationwide.
"I can just tell you that I've seen how all these different retail supermarkets are catering so much more to the Latin community," he says. "You're seeing a whole aisle dedicated to Latin cuisine, and that's a huge indication of how popular the cuisine is and how it's going to continue to grow."