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Tajín: A sensory addiction

Tajín: A sensory addiction

It works on everything.

Mama Necha’s recipe was simple. First, she dehydrated chile peppers (a combination of chiles de árbol, guajillo and pasilla). Then she smashed them and added sea salt and lime, turning it into a powder.

This simple seasoning quickly ended up being popular with her neighbors. Many of them asked her to prepare large batches so they had enough to last them throughout the year.

As demand grew, she eventually started selling small jars of the spice. The rest, as they say, is culinary history.

Tajín first appeared on the market in the 1980s. It was launched by Horacio Fernández, Mama Necha's grandson. 

We all know that the sharp, citrusy flavor of Tajín makes it perfect for everything from micheladas and fruteros to meat, seafood, and even popcorn. It's become popular all around the world in recent years. If you've never tried it before, we highly recommend that you sprinkle some on a sweet, ripe mango.

At New York-based La Newyorkina, an ice-cream and sweet shop, Tajín is even a favorite ice-cream topping.

"We use it to sprinkle on all our fruit-based paletas and for chamoyadas," Fany Gerson, the chef and founder, explained in an interview with foodie mag Thrillist.


Spice revolution

Horacio saw the potential of his abuela's spice mix and decided to start a company dedicated to it in late 1985. He named it Tajín, after an archaeological site in Veracruz.

In 1993, Horacio started exporting Tajín Clasico (the original flavor) to the US as "the authentic chile lime seasoning for Latinos and other communities", according to the company's website.

It was the beginning of a spice revolution.

Tajín became more popular after Horacio put it in easy-use shakers and a rebrand in the 2000s. It was about this time that Mama Necha's recipe started to spread across the world, beyond our communities in the US and Latin America to other international markets.

Today, the spice is available in 65 countries. Over 22 million pounds of Tajín was sold in 2018 alone.

So what makes this sharp, tangy, salty spice sell so nice? For many, it's become a sensory addiction.

As food scientist Nancy Flores said in an interview: "Sweetness and saltiness are carriers that open up the taste buds, allowing you to taste more of other flavors.

"So when chiles are combined with something sweet, salty and sour, the first payoff is the sugar because your tongue detects it first. It also triggers your brain into releasing dopamine (the feel-good hormone). Then you might start to taste the sourness, which will linger, then the saltiness and finally the chile."

This explains why we love Tajín sprinkled over fresh fruit and other sweet things.

Tajin on corn

Spice of life

Today, Tajín is another well-known Latino food product, and it shows up everywhere. The brand is often featured in cooking shows such as MasterChef and on Instagram where influencers and celebrities can be heard gushing over it.

It's not just in the US, either. Tajín has even built up a cult following in countries where spicy food is already popular, like India and Pakistan.

This speaks volumes about its uniqueness and authenticity, despite its simple recipe.

Like many of our products that go global, Tajín has put its roots at the center of its brand. For almost 40 years, it's proudly showcased its origins.

By doing this, it has not only introduced a unique flavor to the international market, it also driven a greater interest in our food and flavors. 

This has made Tajín much more than just a chile-lime salt. Today, it is a lifestyle, as one of our great food historians and authors, Gustavo Arellano notes.

In fact, some of us can't even imagine a time before it. Many will never be caught without it.

Sebastián Fuentes

Sebastián was born in Mexico City and enjoys traveling to meet family and friends in the US. He has written for Orgullo Latino since 2022.

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