The secret to my success is this spicy Mexican green juice

When I returned from Mexico in 2016 and lived in Highland Park, a place on York Boulevard, amidst a landscape of newer settlements, became a lifeline. I would often stop at Jugos Azteca, a few doors down from El Huarache Azteca, and order a classic jugo verde, or Mexican green juice.

With this simple concoction of orange juice and a selection of fruits or greens – traditionally the base has to include celery, parsley and cactus – I could immediately be transported to my old home.

In Mexico City, where I worked as a journalist between 2007 and 2015, jugo verde is an abundant presence. I got used to constant access to stalls around the corner selling freshly squeezed fruit juices – mostly pure orange juice, made with the typically fatty and sweet domestic oranges of Mexico. These stalls are most crowded in the morning, when everyday chilangos scurry for a cup of fresh orange juice to take out before heading to the office. I’ve learned that such stalls also make killer blended juices like vampiro (“vampire”) – a blood red mixture of beet, orange, and carrot – or the tangy, refreshing verde.

The shock of the antioxidant-rich ingredients would hit my brain like a mallet. I would marvel, moved, at the dexterity of my local juicers, usually a lady or an older man accompanied by a young apprentice, resuming the practice. Jugo verde not only helped relieve a hangover or fight a cold, but also seemed to help balance my digestive system, fight inflammation, and generally keep me alert and bouncy until. at lunch time.

Cold green juices made in the United States seem somehow joyless.

After a while, I noticed that the vendors were offering variations of the basic recipe. A few added loads of sugar (not ideal), or cucumber or pieces of yellow guava or pineapple. Others, I noticed, tossed in fresh mint, who offered my first aha! moment once I started trying to make the jugo verde at home. I found that mint in green juice greatly increased the flavor quotient.

With a little practice, I developed a personalized version of Mexican jugo verde that emphasizes spice and acidity: using ingredients fresh from the market, I broadened the base to include pineapple, green apple and fresh Mexican mint. Freshness was key, and it was easy to practice since I literally lived 10 steps from the entrance of a traditional market in the Colonia Juárez neighborhood (a convenience that may be one of the purest luxuries in any civilized setting). In Los Angeles, finding that most supermarket chains or Latin supermarkets were carrying my ingredients, I further refined the recipe.

Only green or yellow ingredients are allowed for this spicy jugo verde.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

The final evolution of my jugo verde came at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns. As the rainy months of Spring 2020 wore on, one morning I doubled down on spices. I started adding a little green serrano pepper, then a few chunks of ginger, and – wow. The power of ginger and chili peppers made my nose sweat – in a good way. I came to believe that my consumption of green juices helped me keep my defenses strong and my digestive system happy while I would otherwise be stress-eating.

Now my green juice owes nothing to the cold-pressed green juice trend that has taken off here in the United States in recent years. In fact, my gut tells me the reverse could be true. Cold green juices made in the United States – the kind sold in those extremely inaccessible stores and juice markets – tend to be high in veggies that you might call tasty, like kale or broccoli. To me, these products seem somehow joyless, like green juice homework. And, as is characteristic of such trends, American cold-pressed green juices have suffered a backlash.

Yet their appeal continues. In “The Green Smoothie Bible,” Kristine Miles writes, “People who have introduced green smoothies into their diets report many health benefits, such as clearer skin, better digestion, weight loss, and weight loss. better mood. “

I agree, with the one caveat that a jugo verde contains a lot of natural sugars, so be aware of that if you are watching your sugar intake. Despite this, over the past couple of years my jugo verde has morphed into a full scale, hot as hell, grass green beauty that I swear has helped keep me fit. healthy and focused on the future on a daily basis. Now, with the New Year coming up and resolutions galore, it’s a great time to join me.

The preparation process is laborious: cutting, shaving, trimming and stripping the ingredients is messy and produces a lot of compost waste. In order to avoid missing a day, I can prepare my ingredients the day before, and I can finish, if I’m feeling particularly lazy, storing the chopped and sliced ​​components in the blender container directly in my refrigerator, retaining the OJ. until morning, when I can easily press “mix” when I get up.

About twice a week I pass a blender’s worth of my jugo verde mixture and canned up to three glasses, covered with foil or plastic wrap. This allows me to make a jackpot that lasts at least three or four days. When decanting, the mixed cactus will separate the liquid down from the lumps and fruit mass on top, which become gooey. Don’t worry: you can remix a stored glass of jugo verde by simply pouring it between two tall glasses, or giving it a fresh dose of orange juice and a quick whisk with a spoon or fork. It keeps very well.

I also learned to be flexible and creative. Depending on what’s in season or available in my Latin supermarket or in my neighborhood farmers market, I’ll add chunks of other things – as long as the fruit concerned is green or yellow, tangy or sweet, and not lettuce. . A little pear? A sprig of dill? A kiwi peeled and cut in half? Sure. The main focus here is for my sour taste receptors to really light up the moment that spicy jugo verde comes to my mind.

If you're watching your intake of natural sugars, opt for green juices from health food stores - these are high in vegetables.

Nopal or cactus paddle, a key ingredient, is sold in supermarket chains like Northgate or Numero Uno in Southern California.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Daniel’s Spicy Jugo Verde (Mexican green juice):

Time: 10-15 minutes of preparation for chopping and cutting. Less than 1 minute of mixing. Makes 4-5 servings.

To note: It is a sweet and sour and spicy ginger juice. If you don’t like the intensity of its flavor, you can ditch the serrano pepper and ginger. If in season or on hand, you can also add a small bunch of parsley or dill without stems; a yellow guava or guayaba (strain the juice afterwards to remove the seeds); a white, yellow or green pear; or the green fruit of prickly pear. Avoid herbs like rosemary or cilantro, lettuce, or anything else that is neither green nor yellow.


3 fresh cups Orange juice, Where mandarin Where grapefruit juice
1½ cups thinly sliced, cleaned mexican nopal (cactus; about 3/4 of a paddle)
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves (avoid purple leaves and stems)
1 cup loosely packed baby spinach sheets
¾ cup coarsely chopped celery
¾ cup thinly sliced cucumber (remove half of the skin into strips before slicing)
¾ cup coarsely chopped pineapple (avoid the brown parts)
of a green apple
½ cup coarsely chopped, peeled fresh Ginger
of one Serrano chili (remove the seeds for a milder juice)
Juice of 1 or 2 freshly squeezed limes, or a dash of lime juice, lime or lemon juice
ice (optional)

1. In a powerful blender, combine the orange juice, nopal, mint, spinach, celery, cucumber, pineapple, green apple, ginger and chili. Add lime juice to taste and a handful of ice cubes, if using.

2. Combine ingredients over high heat until smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour into serving glasses or divide into glass jars, cover and refrigerate for up to four days.

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