Have you ever tasted the delicacy, huitlacoche or Mexican corn truffle?
Huitlacoche (pronounced similar to this, whee-tla-ko-cheh) is a mushroom (fungus) that grows around the corn kernels of a ears of corn. This is technically a disease and often destroyed by corn farmers around the World — but not in Mexico, here it’s consider a delicacy.
This mushroom, or truffle or fungus or even sometimes called “corn smut”, has been a food enjoyed by the native people since before the arrival of the Spanish. For the native people huitlacoche was prized for its taste and medicinal qualities. As it is today, back in earlier history, this “truffle” is sold at a higher price than regular corn. Huitlacoche has been a culinary gem for the native people and continues to be so including in the foodie world — in fact, in recent years chefs have tried to introduce it to fine dinning establishments around the World. It has been met with mixed results.
In Mexico it’s easy to find fresh, raw huitlacoche during the rainy season. In the rest of the World you may find it at farmer’s markets and in Mexican grocery stores. Just like in Mexico during the off-season, you can always find corn truffle either jarred or canned (sometimes even frozen) at the grocery store — sometimes you may find it called cuitlacoche instead of huitlacoche, it’s the same thing. In my opinion, all corn truffles taste delicious, but I much prefer the fresh kernels when available. If you’re lucky enough to find it fresh you will either come across it like in the picture above, already removed from the ears of corn, or you’ll find the whole ears of corn with the truffle still on it. Of course I prefer the small containers of huitlacoche since it’s less work and ready to go.
In Mexico huitlacoche is used in soups, sauces, and prepared for using as a filling in dishes like quesadillas and tacos. I’ve personally only ever eaten the quesadillas and tacos, and it’s one of my most favourite seasonal foods during the rainy months. I’m going to be honest with you: huitlacoche is an acquired taste. Now this doesn’t mean it’s not delicious, it’s just that like other mushrooms, some people will either love it straightaway or will grow to love…and some will just never enjoy the taste of this delicacy.
So you’re probably are wondering what this strange-looking “truffle” taste like, right? Well, it’s tender and kind of melts in your mouth. Some describe the taste as “truffle-like”, hence the corn truffle name. To me the taste is a little earthy, like mild mushrooms, and has sweet tones just like corn kernels. There isn’t much smell to it when raw and when cooked it absorbs the other flavours perfectly. The very strange thing about huitlacoche after it’s cooked is that it turns a dark, black colour. We humans are programmed to stay away from foods this colour, but believe me you really don’t want to pass up a taste of huitlacoche.
I really hope you can give huitlacoche a try, and these super easy quesadillas are THE perfect way to introduce your tastebuds to this delicacy. Do watch the video below to see just how easy it is to cook and you can get the printable recipe right below the video.
(If you don’t see the video right below this text, view it on our YouTube channel by clicking here.)
- 350 grams or ¾ lb. of fresh huitlacoche (alternatively you can use canned or jar if not available)
- half a small white onion, sliced into thin slivers
- fresh finely chopped serrano or jalapeño peppers, amount it to taste & you can even use a mix of both
- 2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
- sea salt to taste (I used around 1.5 teaspoons)
- couple of tablespoons of fresh chopped epazote or half to one teaspoon of dried epazote
- corn tortillas
- Oaxaca cheese (or substitue with either mozzarella or Chihuahua or Mexican manchego-style cheese)
- salsa for topping (use the one picturedhere)
- If using fresh huitlacoche, the package will instruct wether it needs to be rinsed or not. For the canned simply open and use, the canned huitlacoche comes ready to use. If using the jarred version only if it comes in brine then you can drain otherwise do read the instructions on the jar but you should just be able to use as desired. If you'd like you can remove any corn silk from any of the huitlacoche you use.
- Heat the oil, once hot add the onion and sauté until tender, sprinkle a little salt over the onion. Next add the garlic and the chopped chilie(s) and sauté until soft, then add the huitlacoche to the pan and season with a little salt and fresh or dried epazote. For fresh huitlacoche, cook just for a few minutes until the small pieces become soft and just start to break down easily. Make sure to stir often. Also watch the video for a visual of when the huitlacoche is cooked perfectly. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Warm up a comal or a griddle or pan,until hot then turn the flame to medium-low. Then place a corn tortilla on it and allow to warm up for a minute, flip it over then on one half of the tortilla place the cheese. Spoon in some of the huitlacoche filling on top of the cheese, carefully fold the empty tortilla half over the filling to form a half-moon shape. Cook for a few minutes before flipping over and cooking a couple of more minutes -- all you want to achieve is melted cheese. Remove the quesadilla from the heat and set aside to continue until of the filling is used up.
- Serve the quesadillas with your favourite salsa (or even hot sauce), I love pairing this quesadillas with my tomato & serrano pepper salsa. You can get that recipe here.
Buen provecho amigos! Please do let me know if you’ve ever eaten huitlacoche or if you make these quesadillas tag me in your pictures.