What’s the Difference between Fajitas and Arracheras?

What’s the Difference between Fajitas and Arracheras?
Pan America

Fajitas are sizzling hot in the culinary world. Chicken, beef, shrimp and even tempeh fajitas can be found on menus across the nation, but it is rather confusing as to what exactly a “fajita” is. On top of that, some of the more authentic Mexican restaurants occasionally offer “arracheras” on the menu, which seem suspiciously identical to the fajita. What gives?

Whether the sizzling steak on the plate is called a fajita or an arrachera, you should know that both names refer to the same cut of beef, known in English as the skirt steak.

In Spanish, the word “fajita” is the diminutive for “faja” which means a belt-like sash or girdle. The fajita on a cow is the diaphragm muscle, which is a long band, which resembles a sash. And just so you know, chicken, fish, and shrimp anatomically do not have “fajitas.” And tempeh is a soy protein, so definitely no fajita there at all.


What does Arrachera mean?

So how does the word arrachera correspond to the fajita? I found that there is no word relating to arrachera in the Spanish language, but in French, there is a word “arracher,” which means to grab or pull up. When I have saddled a horse, the cinch must be pulled upwards in order to secure the saddle.


Where did the word Arrachera come from?

I believe that the word arrachera was used to refer to using the cinch that holds the saddle on a horse, which is a wide, belt-like sash.   I would bet that the word arrachera developed in Northern Mexico where French troops were stationed, and that Spanish speaking soldiers re-purposed the French word “arracher” to mean the same thing as a faja, or belt by simply adding an –a to the end, making it a Spanish word.

In short, a fajita and an arrachera refer to the same cut of meat. Different names, but just as savory and delicious, no matter what it is called.

Chile Rellenos con Pollo Recipe

Chile Rellenos con Pollo Recipe


Believe it or not, this recipe evolved out a bunch of random leftover I had in the fridge. Yes folks, this is what leftovers look like in our house.

At least once a week, we roast a chicken for dinner, meaning leftover chicken for lunch or dinner in the foreseeable future. I make classic chiles rellenos on occasion, but the battering and frying required for that recipe can be a bit much after a day at the office. And well, you know, a girl has to think of her hair-do. Frying always hangs over me like a greasy halo until I wash my hair (Too much info? Probably. Moving on…)

Spicy or Mild?

It seems to me that chile poblano, the classic fresh chile used in making chile relleno, has become milder in recent years.  Maybe in an effort to make them more marketable to the masses, the veggie scientist folks hybridized a lower heat level into them.

If chile poblano is still too hot for you, bell peppers are always a good substitute, although bell peppers are not roasted the way chile poblano are. Simply coat the bell pepper with a bit of vegetable oil, then roast for 3-4 minutes under a heated broiler, until it browns a bit. Wrap in towels and sweat as directed for the chile poblano. After 15 minutes, the skins should slip off easily.

And for those hot and spicy lovers out there, I added some chile piquin to the chicken stew. Tiny but fiery hot, chile piquin puts more spice in every bit. Of course, you could leave them out for a milder chile piquin, or just add one if you want spice, but not too much.

Remember this One

Fresh, spicy and different, you might want to remember this recipe next time you get home from work with out a clue what is for dinner, and find yourself staring down the business end of a leftover chicken.

Chile Rellenos con Pollo

  • 4 fresh chile poblano, washed
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2-3 dried chile piquin
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tomato, cut into chunks
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 cups sliced onions
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. blanched almonds, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. golden raisins (optional)
  • ½ cup Mexican crema
  • ½ cup queso fresco or feta cheese, crumbled

In order to roast and peel the chile poblano, place the whole chile on a gas flame, or under an electric broiler in the oven. Roast the chiles until they are completely blackened, but not burnt and ashy, about 5 minutes. Remove the chiles from the heat. Wrap the chiles in a clean kitchen towel, and then place in a paper bag. Allow the chiles to sweat for about 15 minutes.

Remove the chiles from the bundle. Scrape the blackened skin away completely,  then pierce with a knife, opening the chile lengthwise. Carefully remove the seed core, and then rinse to wash away blackened bits and seeds. Pat the chile dry with a clean towel.

Meanwhile, place the tomato, water, chile piquin and garlic in the container of a blender, and puree until smooth. Set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a 10” skillet. Add the onions, and brown well over medium heat, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken, and heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add the fresh tomato puree, and season with salt and pepper. Allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes. Stir in the almonds and raisins, and then remove the skillet from the heat.

Divide the chicken mixture into 4 equal portions, and stuff each of the chile poblano. Place on a serving tray, and garnish with the Mexican crema and queso fresco.

Serves 2-4

Honey Oat Granola Bars with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Recipe

Honey Oat Granola Bars with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Recipe

Let’s Hear it for The Boy

My youngest son is a high school junior, which is the year every kid starts panicking about college. SAT prep, school projects, competitions, college counselors… this guy can’t miss a beat. It’s a critical year.

And since we live 30 miles from his school, he has a pretty tight schedule for homework, projects and meetings. So my job is to make sure he has the proper fuel to get through his grueling, activity packed days.

Sometimes he will hit the road early – so early that he isn’t hungry yet. School breakfast isn’t an option, and I do believe the Texas Department of Public Safety would frown on his gobbling down a bowl of cereal while behind the wheel. And you know me, obsessively anti-packaged food. I just can’t send him out the door with an energy bar from a cardboard box. Never. Ever.

Homemade Granola Bars are Easy to Make

Enter homemade granola bars. Peanut butter and pureed dates provide a sticky base that gives the bars a dense texture.  These are not difficult to make, and can include your favorite ingredients. My son requested chocolate chips, but you could add coconut, dried fruit, or a variety of your favorite nuts. These granola bars are also dairy free, gluten free and can be vegan if you switch out the honey for maple or agave syrup.

The only drawback to this recipe is that it requires using both a food processor and a stand mixer. The thick dough is rather difficult to stir with a spoon, and hand kneading can be messy. The good news is that you can easily double the recipe, so you can make a heap of them that should last you awhile. A single batch lasts us about a week.

Give Them a Break

It’s not easy for teenagers who are transitioning to an adult life and adult workloads. I can see those worried forehead wrinkles, but you just can’t hug them 24 hours a day. That would be weird. But you can bake a little something for them to throw in their backpack for later, when they need a nutritious start or that little break in their busy day.

Honey Oat Granola Bars with Peanut Butter and Chocolate

  • 1 cup pitted dates (either deglet nour or medjool varieties)
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • ½ cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 cup unsalted almonds, chopped
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup chocolate chips or ½ cup dried fruit or coconut or ½ cup nuts
  • 1 tsp vanilla or ground cinnamon (optional)

Heat your oven to 350°. Place the dates, honey and peanut butter in the bowl of a food processor, and process until you have a smooth paste, about 2 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, scrape the paste into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the almonds, oats, chocolate chips, fruit or nuts, and optional vanilla or cinnamon. Mix on low speed in the mixer until well combined, about 3 minutes.

Spray a 9”x 9” baking pan with vegetable spray (use a 9”x 13” pan if you opt for a double batch.) Scrape the dough into the baking pan. Using your hands, press the dough into the baking pan in an even layer (Spraying your hands with vegetable spray prevents the dough from clinging to your hands.) Place the baking pan in the heated oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the bars are brown and firm.

Remove the pan from the oven. Cut into 9 equal squares, then allow to cool for about 5 minutes in the pan. Use a spatula to remove the bars from the pan, and then cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 9 servings