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What Is a Mixiote?

Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke

Mixiote is a type of tough outer membrane that is removed from the leaves of young Agave americana plants. The term also refers to a dish made by wrapping the membranes, which often come in sheets, around meat and then steaming the bundles until the meat is cooked through. Using mixiotes for cooking was more prevalent in historical traditional Mexican cuisine, but more modern versions typically use substitutions for the leaf membranes because the practice of removing the membranes has been deemed illegal in many areas due to the potential for damaging or killing the young plants.

One of the most common substitutions for mixiote when preparing dishes is banana leaves. Banana leaves are large, flat green leaves that grow on the banana plant and are thought by many to have a similar sturdy texture to mixiotes. If fresh banana leaves are not available, packaged leaves are often sold in flat sheets at Hispanic grocery stores. Other cooks may opt for parchment paper or aluminum foil as a substitution to wrap and bundle ingredients. Even if traditional mixiotes membranes are not be used, the dish itself is generally still referred to as a mixiote.

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Woman baking cookies

Meats tend to be the most commonly used main ingredient when making mixiote recipes. Beef, lamb, chicken, or pork is usually marinated in a mixture containing chopped peppers, such as red or green chiles, for a spicy taste. Other seasonings, such as cumin, garlic, or citrus juice, are also often recommended to be added into the marinade for extra flavor.

A mixiote is typically prepared by first chopping the preferred meat into bite sized pieces or other desired size. It is then mixed with the chopped peppers and other marinade seasonings, and marinated in the refrigerator for at least one hour to flavor the meat. Many recipes recommend marinating the meat as long as possible, up to overnight, for the most flavorful results. To make mixiotes, the individual chunks of meat are each wrapped tightly with a banana leaf or other preferred covering to form a bundle, which traps heat and allows it to circulate and lightly steam the meat during the cooking process. The bundles may be tied with twine to secure the meat filling and prevent it from falling out of the leaves while it cooks.

Mixiotes may be slow cooked in a variety of ways, including steaming, oven roasting, or slow grilling over a fire pit. The exact cooking time may vary depending on the type of meat that is used, but will commonly take approximately three hours to cook the meat through and make it tender. Mixiote is traditionally served by cutting open each bundle and either eating the meat straight from the leaves or other covering, or by wrapping the meat in a warmed tortilla.

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