How To Pronounce Foods at Phoenix Mexican Restaurants

Habanero peppers
Judy Hedding

When you come to Phoenix, you absolutely have to eat Mexican food, but there are certain words that are tough to pronounce. If you say these correctly, everyone will surely think you're a native Arizonan, or at least that you eat like one!


A jalapeño is a hot pepper. Pronounced: holl-uh-pehn-yo. Common pronunciation error: many people say the last two syllables like vino. Remember that the 'n' with the tilde (ñ) adds that "y" sound. It is called an enye (en-yah).


Albondigas is a meatball soup. Pronounced: al-bon-dee-gus. Common pronunciation error: putting the accent on the wrong syllable. 

Pico De Gallo

This is a chunky salsa. Pronounced: peek-oh duh-guy-oh. Common pronunciation error: pronouncing two Ls as in the word ball.


Pollo is the Spanish word for chicken. Pronounced: poy-oh. Common pronunciation error: pronouncing two Ls as in the word ball.


A tortilla is a very thin, flat Mexican pancake-type bread. Pronounced: tor-tee-ya. Common pronunciation error: pronouncing two Ls as in the word ball.


Common in Mexican restaurants, picante is a red spicy sauce. Pronounced: pee-con-tay. Common pronunciation error: emphasizing the wrong syllable and forgetting the last E.


If you want a beer, ask for a cerveza. Pronounced: serv-ay-suh. Common pronunciation error: those last two syllables often have unusual pronunciations! Don't go too heavy on the Z.


Guacamole is a condiment made from avocados. It is usually served with salsa. Pronounced: gwahk-a-mole-ay. Common pronunciation error: saying the last syllable as if it rhymes with bee. Tip: If you just order "guac" (gwahk) your server will know what you want.


Fajitas is a hot dish made with sautéed onions, peppers, and meats and usually presented with cheese, beans, salsa, guacamole, and tortillas. Pronounced: fuh-heet-uhs. Common pronunciation error: pronouncing the J as if it was like Judy.


Beans are called frijoles in Spanish. Pronounced: free-ho-lays. Common pronunciation error: pronouncing the J as if it was like Judy.


Quesadillas have very thin crusts with cheese melted on top and sometimes other items—think of it as a Mexican pizza. Pronounced: cay-suh-dee-yuh. Common pronunciation error: pronouncing two Ls as in the word ball.


Habaneros are hot peppers. Pronounced: ah-bahn-air-oh. Common pronunciation error: pronouncing the N like it has a tilde on it. It doesn't.


Tomatillos are small, green tomatoes. Pronounced: toh-mah-tee-yoh. Common pronunciation error: pronouncing two Ls as in the word ball.


Mole is a traditional Mexican sauce. In the U.S it usually has some unsweetened chocolate in it, along with chiles and other ingredients. Pronounced: mole-ay. Common pronunciation error: saying the last syllable as if it rhymes with bee, or not pronouncing the last syllable at all. It's not a furry animal!


  • If the words have Spanish influence, as many do in Arizona, a "J" or a "G" is usually pronounced like an "H". An "LL" is usually pronounced like a "Y".
  • Pointing to the menu item is often easier than pronouncing it.
  • The words 'jalapeño', 'habanero', 'Ay! Ay! Hot!' or a graphic of a red pepper means your meal is bound to be spicy. Have water or milk handy!
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