Aztec food included a rich variety of ingredients that were high in nutritional value. It was also common to use foods flavoured with chili peppers and spicy sauces. Further, Aztec food included vegetables as well as various kinds of animal meat which were obtained through hunting.
The Aztec people also made use of various beverages of varying qualities in addition to dairy products. Other than the normal food habits, Aztecs also practised ritualistic cannibalism.
Aztec food types can broadly be categorised as meat, vegetables, drinks, and dairy products. In vegetables, the most important ingredient of Aztec food was maize which was considered sacred by the Aztecs. Other than maize, they made rich use of beans and squash. In meats, Aztec food included the meat of various animals such as geese, ducks, deer, and rabbits. Finally, they used various kinds of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, including chocolate which they introduced to the rest of the world.
The staple food of the Aztecs was maize which was abundantly grown throughout the empire. It was ground into flour and used to make a special kind of flat bread called tortillas. Maize was so important for the Aztecs that they considered it sacred. Two other popular vegetables were beans and squash which were grown along with maize. Among other popular Aztec food ingredients, we can include tomatoes, chillies, limes, cashews, potatoes, and peanuts etc.
The nobility and the emperors used most of the food ingredients that were also used by the common people. However, they also used food that was mainly preferred only by them. For instance, cacao was one of the most important ingredients of the food of emperors, the nobility, and the warriors. It was used with a variety of spices and herbs. In drinks too, the emperors and the nobility preferred better quality beverages.
A variety of food preparation methods and recipes existed among the Aztecs. The most common food ingredient, maize, was ground into flour and the bread was used by all social classes. Beans and squash were cooked with potatoes and tomatoes and a variety of spices added. The favourite drink of the nobility and the warriors, cacao, could be prepared in a variety of ways. Most of these methods included mixing of hot or tepid water with toasted and ground cacao beans mixed with a wide range of spices and herbs.
It was very common for Aztec food to have a variety of spices and herbs as ingredients. Almost all major dishes of Aztec food included some sort of spices in them. This was because many kinds of spices were available to the Aztecs as seasoning for food. Different varieties of chilli peppers, mild as well as piquant, were most commonly used. Some of the most common chilli flavours included sweet, fruity, smoky, fiery hot, and others. Another popular spice was cilantro or Mexican coriander. Other important kinds of spices included Mexican oregano, Mexican anise, the bark of canella, Knuth’s onion, garlic vine, and others.
Aztec food ingredients included various kinds of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Different kinds of alcoholic drinks were made from fermented maize, pineapple, honey, and other plants. “Octli” was the name of the most commonly used alcoholic beverage and it was made form maguey sap. This was the most popular alcoholic drink among the Aztecs, although the nobles rarely used it since it was considered the drink of the common people. In non-alcoholic drinks, “atolli” was the most common beverage whose ingredients include eight parts water, size parts maize, and lime. This drink was used in various verities making use of such ingredients as chilli, salt, tomato, beans, baked corn tortillas, chia, honey, and others. Finally, the drink highly preferred by the nobility and the warriors was cacao which was drunk as “xocolatl” meaning bitter water.
Aztecs started their feasts with fragrant tobacco tubes and flowers which were rubbed by the guests on their heads, hands, and neck. Aztec food during feasts included various kinds of sausages, corn tortillas, chocolate, and a variety of drinks. Chocolate was consumed mainly by the men while women used another drink called “pozolli” which was made using finely ground maize. Festivities mostly began at the midnight and continued until the morning. Use of hallucinogenic mushrooms was also common in Aztec feasts and celebrations. A certain part of Aztec food during the feasts was reserved as offering to gods and it was burned and buried in the courtyard around dawn.
Just like every other domain of life, various kinds of rituals and offerings to gods were also part of Aztec food. During the feasts, for instance, a certain amount of food was burned and buried as an offering to the gods. But perhaps the most important aspect of Aztec gods in relation to rituals was ritualistic cannibalism. This happened during religious ceremonies when the victims, mostly war captives, were sacrificed at the top of the pyramids and their bodies thrown to the ground where they were dismembered and eaten mainly by the priests and the warriors.
Aztecs had their own concept of fasting in which in it was necessary to abstain from salt and chillies. Almost all the members of the Aztec society fasted but it was the priests who indulged regularly in fasting, with some of them fasting throughout the year before the New Fire ceremony which occurred every 52 years. Even the rulers were expected to fast during which they led a simple lifestyle and abstained from luxuries and sex. During fasting, chocolate was not used and was replaced with water mixed from parched bean powder.
Aztec food included a variety of vegetables, meet, drinks, and dairy products. In vegetables, the most important ingredients of Aztec food included maize, beans, and squash. In drinks, they used both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Besides, the upper class also consumed cacao which was used with a variety of herbs and spices. Meat of different animals was consumed, including deer, rabbits, geese, and ducks etc. During the feasts, a certain portion of the food was burned and buried as an offering to the gods.