As far as culinary trends go, huitlacoche is one that might have some of us a bit weary at first due to the fact that it's a type of fungus that grows on corn. If the idea of eating fungus makes you turn your nose, then read on to find out more about this strange, highly nutritious, and tasty delicacy that has been safely used in Mexican cuisine for centuries.
Huitlacoche is a type of edible fungus that develops on corn, eventually taking over all the corn kernels. Due to its distinctive flavor and potential health advantages, it has become a new fad in healthy eating.
Hiutlacoche also goes by the names of maize or corn smut and Mexican truffle.
Despite some people's initial reservations, huitlacoche is perfectly safe to eat and has been a staple of Mexican cuisine for centuries.
Huitlacoche has a recognizable umami, earthy flavor with touches of sweetness and characteristics resembling mushrooms. It offers a delicious culinary experience and may be utilized in various cuisines.
What is huitlacoche?
Ustilago maydis is the scientific name given to the fungus that causes huitlacoche, which affects corn kernels. Huitlacoche (pronounced "weet-la-KOH-cheh") looks like a grayish-black mass that resembles a wrinkled mushroom and replaces the maize kernels as it takes over. Huitlacoche is sometimes known as maize smut or Mexican truffle and has a flavor that has been compared to a delicious blend of mushrooms, sweet corn, and earthy undertones despite its initially unappealing sound.
The word "huitlacoche" has its origins in the language of the Aztecs and other indigenous Mexican peoples called Nahuatl. It has a highly unappealing meaning that translates to "sleeping excrement" or "raven's excrement." This somewhat undesirable term was most likely used to describe how the fungus looked before its culinary possibilities were discovered and turned into the tasty dishes we now know and love in Mexican food.
Far from what you would expect a fungus to taste like, huitlacoche has a deliciously rich and earthy umami flavor blended with mushroom undertones that enhance many traditional Mexican dishes. As well as the initial depth of its flavor profile, huitlacoche also possesses a hint of sweetness that is often described as the taste of fresh corn kernels.
Is huitlacoche safe to eat?
No known or reported direct health hazards are associated with the consumption of huitlacoche, which has been used for millennia in Mexico. It's used frequently in Mexican foods, both in the home and at restaurants in tacos, quesadillas, and soups, and is regarded as a delicacy. Not only is it safe to consume, but it's also somewhat of a nutritional powerhouse rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and other nutrients.
Benefits and risks of huitlacoche
As well as being a delicious addition to your culinary explorations, huitlacoche has its own set of nutritional benefits, including:
- Nutrient-rich. Huitlacoche is a good source of vital minerals, including high amounts of magnesuim, phosphorus, and calcium, and can be used to support a healthy, well-balanced diet.
- Umami taste. Huitlacoche's umami-rich flavor gives food depth and complexity, increasing taste satisfaction without adding a lot of salt or fat.
- Possible health advantages. According to some research, it's possible that huitlacoche may have antioxidant characteristics and may help maintain immunological health.
Huitlacoche is typically safe to eat; however, there are a few things to take into account:
- Allergies. Huitlacoche can cause allergies in some people, just like any other type of food. If you have any known fungus allergies or have concerns about consuming it, speak with a qualified healthcare practitioner who can advise you.
- Digestive sensitivity. Like certain other mushrooms, huitlacoche can be difficult on the digestive system if ingested in large amounts. To avoid discomfort, starting with smaller portions is best to see how your digestive system deals with it.
Recipe ideas for huitlacoche
You can use huitlacoche in a wide variety of ways — especially in Mexican food — such as tacos, quesadillas, and tamales. It can also be used as a filling for savory pastries and in sauces and soups, but ensure you use other ingredients sparingly to enhance huitlacoche's distinctive flavor without obscuring it with other strong or pungent tastes.
If you want to try out this culinary trend, here are two easy to follow recipes you can try at home today:
Huitlacoche and corn soup
Here's what you will need to make a delicious huitlacoche and corn soup:
- 1 cup huitlacoche, cleaned and chopped
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh cilantro for garnish
As for the recipe, sauté onions and garlic in a medium pot until translucent. Add huitlacoche and corn, and sauté for a few more minutes. Then pour in the vegetable broth and simmer for 20–25 minutes. Use a hand-held blender to purée the soup until smooth. Stir in heavy cream (if using) and season with salt and pepper. Finally, garnish with fresh cilantro before serving.
Here's a list of ingredients you will need to make your own huitlacoche pasta:
- 8 oz pasta of your choice
- 1 cup huitlacoche, cleaned and chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh parsley for garnish
You should start by cooking pasta according to package instructions, and then draining it. In a frying pan, heat olive oil and sauté garlic. Add huitlacoche and sauté for 5–7 minutes. Toss in the cooked pasta with the huitlacoche mixture. Season with salt, pepper, and cheese. Garnish with fresh parsley before serving.
Even though huitlacoche has a less-than-savory meaning to its name, this delicious addition to any kitchen can offer an exciting way to broaden your culinary horizons thanks to its long history in Mexican cuisine. The recent surge in popularity comes as we are more able to study and spread information about the distinctive flavor of huitlacoche and its impressive nutritional benefits. If you are looking to expand your repertoire in the kitchen, then give the recipes provided a try, and you might find that the huitlacoche trend becomes your favorite new go-to ingredient.
Can I eat huitlacoche when pregnant?
You can eat huitlacoche when you are pregnant. But as with many different or unusual food types, moderation is key especially if you are pregnant.
Can huitlacoche make you sick?
When prepared and cooked correctly, huitlacoche is safe to consume and is not known to cause sickness or disease.
Where to buy huitlacoche?
You can pick up huitlacoche from various specialist supermarkets, Mexican markets, or online merchants. Look for huitlacoche in jars or cans, and you can even check with local Mexican restaurants who will be able to point you in the right direction.
- Trends in Food Science and Technology. Nutrition, safety, market status quo appraisal of emerging functional food corn smut (huitlacoche).
- Food Science and Technology. Nutritional value of huitlacoche, maize mushroom caused by Ustilago maydis.
- Molecules. Huitlacoche (Ustilago maydis), an iconic Mexican fungal resource: Biocultural importance, nutritional content, bioactive compounds, and potential biotechnological applications.
- Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Farmaceuticas. Nutraceutic potential of bioactive components present in huitlacoche from the central zone of Mexico.