ORGULLO LATINOReading time: 3 minutes
Ask any Mexican, anywhere, and they will tell you: Tajín goes with everything.
The tale unfolds, starting – as every good Mexican food story does – with an abuela. To tell the truth, Mama Necha’s recipe was simple. She dehydrated chile peppers (a combination of árbol, guajillo and pasilla), ground them together, and added sea salt and lime, grinding once again to form a fine powder.
It didn’t take long for word to spread. Neighbors soon flocked to her doorstep, asking her to prepare huge batches: enough to last them the whole year!
As demand grew, she decided to start selling small jars of the spice. The rest, as they say, is culinary history.
Grandma’s Recipe to Global Success Story
Tajín first appeared on the market in the 1980s. It was launched by Horacio Fernández, Mama Necha's grandson.
Fernández had seen the potential of his abuela's spice mix and started a company dedicated to it in 1985. He named it Tajín, after an archaeological site in Veracruz.
It took a mere 8 years for demand to grow from overseas and Fernández started exporting Tajín Clásico (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.
In a genius move, Fernández began to sell it in easy-use shakers in the early 2000s, earning Tajín a place alongside your average salt and pepper pots on tables throughout the nation. 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. Incredibly, more than 22 million lbs of Tajín was sold in 2018 alone.
The Unique Flavor of Tajín
Yes, the recipe is simple. But, as anyone who’s tried it will tell you, the flavor profile is not. It’s sharp, tangy, savory and spicy all at once. For many, it’s become quite the 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 start to taste the sourness, which will linger, then the saltiness and finally the chile."
And if that’s not got your taste buds going, I don’t know what will!
A Zesty Twist: Best Pairings for Tajín
The sharp, citrus and mildly spicy flavor of Tajín makes it perfect for everything from micheladas, margaritas, crudités and fruteros to meat, seafood, and even popcorn. For first timers, sprinkle some on a sweet, ripe mango – you’ll never look back.
Tajín also ‘shot’ to fame recently on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars when queen Jaida Essence Hall hilariously revealed that doing shots of the Mexican seasoning serves as her "energy booster" of choice.
At New York-based La Newyorkina, an ice-cream and sweet shop, Tajín is also 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.
Tajín’s Global Popularity
And, as with many Latino brands that have enjoyed global success, Tajín has maintained its authenticity and unwavering commitment to showcasing its Mexican roots. This has been endlessly beneficial, driving international interest in Mexican gastronomy as a whole.
The brand is often featured in cooking shows such as MasterChef and is prolific on Instagram where influencers and celebrities can be seen gushing over it.
It’s fair to say that Tajín has transcended its role as a mere chile-lime seasoning, it has evolved into a lifestyle, as one of our great food historians and authors, Gustavo Arellano notes. It has become an institution, intertwining itself so seamlessly into our culinary fabric that imagining a time before its flavorful reign seems unimaginable.