Mexico Food Guide: Most Traditional, Regional, and Popular Food in Mexico

There are so many compelling reasons to visit Mexico — the warm and friendly people, vibrant culture, ruins of lost civilizations to explore, some of the world’s most beautiful beaches… but for foodies, the popular food in Mexico is worth the trip alone.

Food is a big deal in Mexico — a source of great pride for Mexican people, and significant enough to earn UNESCO World Heritage designation. Just. For. Food!

Traditional Mexican cuisine is a vital part of its culture, but if you’ve never been to Mexico nor eaten Mexican food in Mexico, you may be a bit confused as to why. Authentic, local food in Mexico, in our humble opinion, is one of the most misunderstood and under-appreciated cuisines around the world.

The food of Mexico is rich and diverse yet is often mistaken for Tex Mex food — the same tortillas, beans, rice, and cheese, served up a hundred different ways, and all of it stewed together in a gluey mess topped with bits of charred mystery meat.

Sadly, many Tex Mex places in the US pass that off as Mexican food, and nothing could be further from the truth.

Mexico food and drink can be light and refreshing, with dishes bursting with flavor and made with fresh, whole, and healthy ingredients. Then region by region, the various local specialties emerge — carnitas in Michoacan, Zarandeado in Sayulita, molé in Oaxaca, ceviche in Tulum, and many others.

If you’re contemplating a trip to Mexico and wonder what to eat in Mexico, what do Mexicans eat, or where to try the most iconic foods, our Mexico food guide can help.

The truth is, food in Mexico is complex, unique and diverse, influenced by thousands of years of history, conquering armies, changing food sources and boundary lines. And it’s one of our favorite cuisines.


So where do you begin to explore the food of Mexico?

An array of popular food in Mexico

An array of popular food in Mexico

Traditional Mexican Food History





Let’s roll back in time a bit for a quick history lesson.

The earliest traditional Mexican food history shows that indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America were hunter gatherers. They hunted wild game and cultivated plants like chile peppers and agave.

Corn (maize) found its way from the Old World to Mexico roughly 10,000 years ago (you’ll see corn referenced everywhere in Mexico from local textiles to stellae at Mayan and Aztec ruins), though it wasn’t until another 5,000 years had passed that it really became domesticated for the people of Mexico.


It was through a process called nixtamalization, or treating corn with lye, that revolutionized corn in Mexico. It was able to be ground soft enough to be made into a dough, and that’s when things really took off.

This important process also helped retain the corn’s nutritional value and allowed the first creation of tortillas and other kinds of flat breads that still dominate the cuisine of Mexico.

Fiery hot chiles in Mexico

Fiery hot chiles in Mexico


Throughout our travels to Mexico, we continue to be inspired by the Mexico food culture and surprised at its complexity. And in an age when many of us are seeking whole, natural foods that are sustainably grown, the popular foods of Mexico are a perfect choice for a nutritious diet with many dishes created using mostly native ingredients and some brought over by Spanish conquistadors.

Of course, some foods have been influenced by the proximity to the US-Mexican border and modifications done to make them cheaper and more convenient. For example, burritos were thought to have been invented for easier transportation of beans to field laborers by wrapping them in tortillas.

But when it comes to equating authentic food from Mexico to Tex-Mex food, trust us when we say the two are worlds apart.

Let’s dive in to the different food producing regions of Mexico.


Mexico Food Guide

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Mexico Food Guide: Most Traditional, Regional, and Popular Food in Mexico — Pin for later!

Mexico Food Guide: Most Traditional, Regional, and Popular Food in Mexico — Pin for later!

Regional Cuisine of Mexico



As in any country, cuisine is always regional, but that much geography means there are more than several distinct gastronomic regions in Mexico for slow travelers to explore. For that reason alone dear foodies… Mexico is a dream!

In fact, the influence of food on Mexico’s culture and everyday life led UNESCO to declare traditional Mexican cuisine to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010. That’s saying a lot about food!


And if you think just one or two dishes define this country’s cuisine as in spaghetti in Italy or strudel in Austria, think again. It would be impossible to think of Mexican cuisine in such simple terms.

In fact, Mexico is one country where you’re not likely to find much crossover among regional dishes, except maybe for the ubiquitous tortilla used throughout the country. Certain foods can only be found in certain places.

For instance, Mexico City street food is renowned but you won’t find huaraches (the food) — grilled open-faced tortillas that resemble huarache sandals (the shoes) — or machetes (the food) — long flat stuffed tortillas that resemble bush machetes (the knife) — anywhere but in Mexico City.

Likewise, the foods and flavorings of Oaxaca food may share some similarities to Mexico City, but overall the treats, dishes and street food in Oaxaca will be unique to that region.

Just one look at the geography alone reveals why: at over 761,600 square miles, Mexico is the world's 13th-largest country by area. Over 126 million people call it home!


Mexico is huge! The country is bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea in the east. Add in several mountain ranges and you’ll find that the climate varies from region to region with the geography. These factors determine what crops are grown, what animals can be raised, and what spices are used to create the distinct regional foods of Mexico.



North Mexico and the Baja


The northern region of Mexico, also the largest, extends from the Pacific Coast to the Gulf of Mexico. The climate and geography of this region are ideal for ranching, and that means beef, a staple in northern Mexico food. And the preferred way of preparing beef is by grilling it over hot coals and making fajitas, burritos, and a shredded dried beef dish known as Machaca.


Lots of cows produce lots of milk making the region also known for its excellent cheeses including Queso Fresco, or fresh farmer’s cheese. Wheat is also grown extensively here and Sonora is widely known for the flour tortilla burrito.

Stretching south from California between the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez is the Baja peninsula. Baja food is rich with seafood and especially popular for their fish tacos, to the delight of any lover of good Mexico street food.


Strawberries have also become an important cash crop in the northern Baja, and unbeknownst to many, around 80 wineries in the valleys around Ensenada are home to Mexico’s burgeoning wine production.

And that’s just the condiment tray!

And that’s just the condiment tray!

South Pacific Coast

Some of the best food in Mexico can be found on Mexico’s southern Pacific coast. Oaxaca and other towns farm grains, agave, and goats here. Staples foods include corn, chicken, pork, and black beans, and the region ranks third in the production of peanuts, mangos, and sugar cane as well.

Also produced here is Oaxaca cheese, which is a lot like fresh bufala mozzarella in the Campania region of Italy. And Oaxaca street food is some of the best in the country — you could seriously build an entire Mexico itinerary just around that!


Maybe the most distinct product of the South Pacific region is molé — the National Dish of Mexico! There are over 40 different molé sauces using locally grown spices, herbs, chile peppers, and often chocolate. The Chiapas area, is best known for the very fiery chile de siete caldos peppers. If you try this one, buckle up — you’re in for one hot ride!


South Mexico (Yucatan)

The food of the Yucatán Peninsula is truly unique from that of much of Mexico thanks to the strong Mayan influence and tradition. The two most popular spice flavorings here are achiote paste made from annatto seeds, used in making recado and season meats, and chimole paste made from charred habanero peppers, also used to flavor meats and stews.

Tamarind, avocados, tomatoes, jicama, sweet potatoes, beans, squash, and habeneros all grow extensively on the peninsula. One of the Yucatan’s most distinct flavorings are bitter oranges, also called sour oranges, which grow wild on the Yucatán and are used as a marinade for conchinita pibil, a favorite roasted pork dish.

cochinita-pibil-yucatan-mexico.jpg


Gulf Coast


The climate of the Veracruz area of the Gulf Coast is perfect for producing many tropical fruits including bananas, coconuts, papaya, and sapote, a soft sweet tropical fruit. The vanilla bean orchid is also native to the area and has made the production of Mexican vanilla very important economically as is Tabasco sauce. As you would expect in this coastal area, seafood is abundant.


The Veracruz area is also one of the country's leading cattle producers. Local cuisine is influenced by parsley and cilantro from Europe, and yucca, sweet potatoes, and plantains from Africa.


North Pacific Coast

The region stretches along Mexico’s Pacific coast farming grains, fruits and vegetables, a broad selection of cheeses, and chilis. Much meat is farmed in the region, but it’s fresh fish that rules.


And let’s not forget the state of Jalisco where tequila is produced. World renowned and important to the region’s economy, blue agave is carefully farmed and processed to produce one of the most popular spirits in the world.


Bajio

The Bajio Region is a huge plateau that’s surrounded by mountains. Because of early Spanish settlers the region’s cuisine shows a distinct Spanish influence using pork and rice. The region is famous for sweet desserts such as cajeta, a goat’s milk caramel and arroz con leche, rice pudding.


Central Mexico

Mexico City dominates the region. The capital city of Mexico has some of the best restaurants in the country, but it’s the amazing street food that rules here. Taco stands and sandwich shops serving hoagie-like tortas can be found everywhere. Stands serving up barbacoa, barbecued goat meat, and carnitas are equally as popular.


Traditional Mexican Staple Foods




In addition to traditional Mexican staples such as corn, chili peppers, and native produce like tomatoes, squash, and avocados, you’ll find other interesting ingredients unique to Mexico.


Mexican vanilla and chocolate first come to mind. Chocolate originated in Mexico and was prized by the Aztecs, and remains an important ingredient in Mexican cooking today. Bet you never thought of that as Mexican food right?


Making fresh corn tortillas

Making fresh corn tortillas



Vegetables also play an important role in Mexican cuisine. Common vegetables include zucchini, cauliflower, potatoes, spinach, Swiss chard, mushrooms, jitomate (red tomato), and green tomato all play a role.

Other traditional vegetable ingredients you may not be as familiar with include huitlacoche (corn fungus), huauzontle, nopal (cactus pads), and papaloquelite (small criollo avocados with an edible peel) to name a few.


Tropical fruits, many of which are indigenous to Mexico and the Americas, such as guava, prickly pear, sapote, jicama, mangoes, bananas, pineapple and cherimoya (custard apple) are popular, especially in the center and south of the country.


And for the truly adventurous eaters, edible insects have been enjoyed in Mexico for millennia. Entemophagy, or insect-eating, is becoming increasingly popular outside of poor and rural areas for its unique flavors, sustainability, and connection to pre-Hispanic heritage.

Popular species include chapulines (small grasshoppers), escamoles (ant larvae), cumiles (stink bugs) and ahuatle (water bug eggs). Eek!





There is so much popular food in Mexico, just one trip will start your head spinning — sometimes it’s hard to tell your tortas from your flautas, a burrito from Birria, or molé from pozole.

The foods listed here are traditional and popular, but highly regional as well. If you travel just for the food, these dishes will make you book your flight. They’re the what Mexicans eat, and we suggest you try them too!


Cochinita Pibil


Perhaps the most traditional and defining dish of the Yucatan is the slow-roasted pork dish known as Cochinita Pibil. Pork is first marinated in the juice of bitter oranges that grow wild on the Yucatán. If bitter oranges are unavailable, sweet orange juice will be combined with lemon or lime juice to achieve the tenderizing effect of the marinade.


Annatto seeds are added giving the dish it’s hallmark burnt orange color. The acid of the marinade and then the slow roasting both act to tenderize the meat. Spices are added and the meat is slow-roasted in a banana leaf. Cochinita pibil means baby pig, and for a true feast a whole suckling pig is roasted.



Traditional Cochinita Pibil is slow-roasted in the ground for hours

Traditional Cochinita Pibil is slow-roasted in the ground for hours


Birria

This regional favorite, especially popular in Guadalajara, the capital of the state of Jalisco, is a meat stew usually made with goat meat but sometimes with beef or mutton along with chilis and spices.

To make birria, barbacoa (pit roasted meat) is placed into a pot of sauce and placed into the hot pit. The pot is then sealed with corn dough, covered over and cooked for at least 4 hours until the meat is tender. Roasted tomato sauce is added to the sauce in the pot. Add chopped onions and oregano along with tortillas and you’re ready to enjoy.

The dish is often served on religious holidays like Christmas and Easter, and at celebrations like weddings and baptisms. Good news, birria is also reputed to help with hangovers after a night of excess.

Sopa de Lima

Sopa de Lima is a refreshing spicy soup which is a speciality of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It can be likened to chicken soup with a kick to it. We are great fans of Mexican Food in the Yucatan Peninsula having spent over a month travelling around the region. Sopa de Lima which translates as Lime Soup was a favourite of ours.

Sopa de Lima dates back to early Mayan times where it is believed to have been made from maize and wild turkey. Today the recipe is based on chicken or turkey, limes, avocado, garlic, onions, chilli, oregano and fried tortilla chips.

Most restaurants around the Yucatan Peninsula have Sopa de Lima on their menu. Some may add a secret ingredient to the local dish. We have had the soup cooked with tomatoes and another restaurant in a local market added cinnamon.

We enjoyed Sopa de Lima all over the Yucatan but the one dish that stood apart from the others was at La Chaya Maya in Merida. La Chaya Maya is a local restaurant and a favourite of locals and travellers alike. We are not sure what was added to make it special but we can highly recommend you pay a visit when you are next in Merida.

By Jane at To Travel Too

Traditional Spoa de lima

Traditional Spoa de lima



Salpicón de Res

One of the most popular chilled salads of Mexico, Salpicón de Res (shredded beef salad) features flank steak or brisket in a refreshing lime-vinegar dressing.

The history of salpicón dates to Spain and France, where it refers to a method where several foods are diced finely and bound together in a sauce. So, throughout Latin and South America, you can find variations of salpicón featuring chicken, seafood or beef mixed with a variety of vegetables including tomatoes, radish, peas, carrots or cabbage. In Mexico, the beef version is the most widely available.

While every cook has their own favorite ingredients to add, most recipes for Salpicón de Res generally contain shredded beef brisket mixed with chopped tomatoes, fresh herbs such as cilantro, mint or oregano and onions in a vinaigrette of fresh lime juice, vinegar and olive oil.

Many versions also contain naranja agria, the bitter orange juice that hails from Spain. The meat and vegetable mixture is then tossed together lightly, chilled and served at room temperature on top of tostadas or rolled into a soft corn tortilla.

Easy to make and prepare in advance, salpicon is a delicious way to use leftover beef and serve a crowd. It’s a hearty but refreshing salad that’s especially popular in hot summer weather.

 

Michele Peterson of A Taste for Travel 

Salpicón de Res

Salpicón de Res



Tacos

A favorite street food, tacos can be found throughout Mexico, usually served with 2 or 3 corn tacos that are stuffed with shredded or diced meat. There are a variety of condiments, but you’ll almost always find pico de gallo (gay-yo), a salsa of chopped onions, cilantro, and tomatoes, and sometimes avocado, as toppings, along with a slice of lime to squeeze on the meat.

What are some of the popular taco fillings?

Meat lovers — Carnivores will enjoy include pork, beef, chicken, goat, chorizo, fish, or if you’re feeling adventurous there is tongue (lengua), deep fried pork rinds, and tacos with insects like grasshoppers and ant larvae. In the Baja, fish and shrimp tacos are most popular.

Vegan — But there are Vegan options as well: squash flower tacos known as flor de calabaza are a yummy veggie option. Cooked cactus, or nopales, makes another tasty option especially if fresh cactus is used.


Cemitas Poblanas

Las Cemitas (plural) in Puebla are like giant burgers and one of the most savory and cheap eats among Puebla’s iconic dishes.

Bear in mind though, it’s not for the healthy-conscious, let alone vegans, as it includes all sorts of meat and cheese, plus avocados and some pickled veggies on the side. The bread used is also unique: it’s crunchy round and sprinkled with sesame seeds on top. The traditional “cemita” can weigh up to 1 kg.

Though it’s more about the stuffing than the bread itself, it still must be a particular kind of bread that you can only find in Puebla. 

The name “cemita” seems to be related to the Jewish bread Semita made in Spain without yeast by the Sephardic population (Jewish-Spanish) since the Roman Empire. It seems that Puebla was taxing Madrid with tons of bread six times a year, to provide for its sea crews in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

It was in the mid-19th century that the consumption of Cemitas became popular among workers and artisans working in the Talavera pottery workshops, the textile industry, and the artisanal production of glass in the Puebla Valley — all activities that were flourishing at that time. For them, the cemita was the perfect food as it was cheap, filling, and practical, since it could be eaten cold, and it was easy to store and carry.

To taste the best cemitas today, go to the Mercado del Carmen at Cemitas Las Poblanitas in Puebla. It’s the most famous place and you’ll always see a long line (but they’re super fast to serve and it’s worth the wait). They’ve been in the business for more than 30 years and have the best cemitas in town. 


By Isabella at Let’s Travel to Mexico

Cemitas Poblana is a hearty sandwich

Cemitas Poblana is a hearty sandwich



Pozole

The origins of this maize soup have been traced to the Aztecs living in central Mexico during pre-Columbian times. They believed humans were created by the corn gods and thus corn was considered sacred. 

During that time, pozole was only cooked for celebrations. And according to research by Mexico’s Institute of Anthropology and History, human flesh was sometimes used by the Aztecs for their ritual sacrifices. When the Spanish arrived, that practice was banned and pork was used instead.

Today pozole is eaten throughout Mexico, including Valladolid, a small town in the Yucatan where you can find lots of traditional Mexican foods. The main ingredient in pozole is hominy, which is dried corn that puffs up when soaked in water with lime. 

The result is a slightly chewy texture that has a similar flavor to a corn tortilla. The brothy soup is served with different side items to add such as radish, cabbage, oregano, lime, tostadas, and of course, salsa.

There are three main types of pozole — red (rojo), green (verde), and white (blanco). White pozole is plain, without the addition of salsas. Red pozole includes salsas that use chiles such as ancho, guajillo, and piquin. Green pozole uses a salsa made from tomatillos and cilantro.

With its ancient roots and controversial past, pozole is one of the most traditional dishes in Mexico and one you should definitely try during your travels.

By Julien at Cultures Traveled

Pozole is one of the most traditional and popular foods in Mexico

Pozole is one of the most traditional and popular foods in Mexico






Caesar Salad



Tijuana in Baja California, the "Sin City" of Mexico, may have a less-than-pristine reputation, but the tastiest claim to fame that Tijuana has is the invention of the Caesar salad. Who knew?

Contrary to popular belief, the internationally recognizable salad wasn't created in Rome, and it wasn't named after Julius Caesar either. The origins of the recipe go back to a single restaurant in Tijuana, Caesar's Restaurant and Bar, named after the owner Cesare Cardini, where in the 1920s when American tourists flocked to Tijuana during America's Prohibition, the town became a hotspot and well-known party scene.


Late one night, two drunk party-goers stumbled upon Caesar's Restaurant after hours, and begged for food — even scraps. The ovens were already off and cleaned, but the chefs whipped up a salad of romaine lettuce with a sauce of lemon juice and anchovy paste, topping it with shredding cheese and toasted bread. It was a hit!


If you visit Tijuana today, you will find that the dish has not changed much from its original recipe. In fact, one of the best things to do in Tijuana is to eat at all the incredible restaurants, but you can’t leave the city without having an authentic Caesar salad. You can even have a Caesar salad served table side at the original Caesar's Restaurant, or for a less expensive option, head to Telefonica Gastro Park for the best Caesar salad food cart in town.

By Kay at The Awkward Traveller

Who knew Mexico could claim the ever-popular Caesar Salad?

Who knew Mexico could claim the ever-popular Caesar Salad?



Molé

Oaxaca is famed as being the land of the seven molés, but truth be told there are so many more than just the seven classics to be discovered, and Oaxaca is the best place in the world to work your way through them!

A molé (pronounced moh-lay) is a Mexican sauce originating from the Oaxaca and Puebla regions. Each mole at its heart begins with at least one type of chili pepper, then is built upon with 25 or more other ingredients. Fruits, nuts, seeds, toasted breads, chocolate, spices, onions and garlic are all ground together and cooked slowly — sometimes over many days, until they achieve a thick, fragrant paste.

Families pass down their carefully guarded recipes, and there are special moles used for different celebrations — this is a dish eaten widely across Mexico during weddings, quiñceaneras, and throughout the Día de Muertos.

But it's not only celebrations that warrant devouring some delicious mole! You can find a mole at every meal of the day.

Breakfast in Oaxaca often includes tamales de mole or enmoladas, you can enjoy mole coloradito smothered over enchiladas for lunch, or tuck into a mole negro con pollo for comida. If you find your way to the tucked away Xhuladii Chocolate shop, you can taste mole inside of a chocolate; or get yourself to any one of Oaxaca's numerous Mayordomo to try their famed chocolate mole sauce.

Wherever you go in Oaxaca, there is a delicious mole waiting for you around every corner.



By Anna of Anna Meanders



Mexican Desserts and Drinks




Jericalla


Jericalla is a traditional and celebrated dessert from Guadalajara, Mexico — best described as a cross between flan and crème brûlée. Jericalla has a custard-like texture similar to flan and a burned top like creme brulee. The consistency is light in the mouth and the burned top gives it a very pleasant flavor.


In Guadalajara, you’ll find jericalla on every menu. At restaurants, street carts, and taco stands, this tempting dessert is always available for a sweet finish.


It’s also extremely easy to make and calls for only five ingredients. Simply combine milk, sugar, eggs, cinnamon, and vanilla together for a taste of Guadalajara’s iconic dessert.


The origins of this legendary dessert are uncertain. It is most commonly attributed to a nun who worked in an orphanage in Guadalajara. As the story goes, the children she looked after suffered from malnutrition. To increase the children’s protein and calcium intake, the nun blended milk eggs and sugar to form a custard. Unfortunately, she forgot the custard in the oven and burned the top. Nonetheless, she went ahead and served it to the children who really liked it. 


Jericalla dessert went on to become popular throughout Guadalajara and Mexico in general.


For a sweet taste from Mexico’s second-largest city, this jericalla recipe offers the perfect notes. Creamy and lightly textured with a caramelized top, round off your meal with a truly delicious dessert.


By Rosemary & Claire of Authentic Food Quest


Traditional Jericalla dessert in Guadalajara

Traditional Jericalla dessert in Guadalajara


Horchata


Made in just about all Latin countries, horchata (hor-CHA-ta) is a favorite drink in Mexico. This creamy delicious rice-based drink is flavored with cinnamon and sugar to create a cooling drink — like an adult glass of milk. Other ingredients can be added to your taste, then it’s whirled in a blender until creamy and smooth.


After a spicy Mexican meal, a chilled glass of horchata neutralizes any residual heat and makes a great finish.



Churros


One of Mexico’s most beloved street foods is also a favorite Latin American sweet treat, so we’re listing this favorite under Mexican desserts! Churros can actually be found throughout the Latin world and even beyond in parts of Asia, but that doesn’t detract from their popularity in Mexico.


These fried dough sticks are easily recognizable from the ridges running the length of the stick. They can be filled with soft caramel inside or left plain, but no matter which kind you prefer, you should always have a glass of horchata or even better, hot chocolate, to dip them in!


Fried churros tossed with cinnamon sugar

Fried churros tossed with cinnamon sugar



Agua Fresca


It’s amazing what a few drops of fruit flavoring can do for a cool glass of water! But that’s exactly what an Aqua Fresca is, and it’s super refreshing. Spanish for “fresh water”, this drink simply combines water with fruit, sugar to taste and a few drops of lime.

Our favorite combo is watermelon, but you’ll find strawberry, tamarind, and even hibiscus. There’s nothing like it on a hot day.


Hot Chocolate


You’ve certainly had a cup of hot chocolate, but since chocolate has its roots in Mexico, it’s safe to say you need to try it here. Mexican hot chocolate is a unique taste sensation. Rather than just milk chocolate and sugar with milk or water, the Mexican version is made with dark or semi-sweet chocolate along with sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla — maybe even a touch of fresh ground chili powder for a kick — all combined together until it’s hot. Then it’s frothed using a molinillo, a wooden Mexican version of a whisk.


The addition of cinnamon makes it unique, and if you’re a fan of dark or natural chocolate, this drink is heavenly bliss!



Mexican Street Foods





It’s impossible to talk about the food culture in Mexico without an in-depth look at Mexico’s street food — it’s as culturally significant as just about any aspect of Mexican life. Street food around the world is generally fresh, quick and convenient. At one time they were the perfect solution for lack of refrigeration and the need for foods that transported well or could be eaten on the go.

But even with a higher standard of living today in Mexico, the fact that street food is some of the best food in Mexico makes it a must-try for any traveler. Here are our favorites!

Tejate


Tejate (pronounced tay-ha-tay) is a beloved Mexican street food — well, street drink! It is popular in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, known as the foodie capital of the country.


This ancient chocolate/corn drink, admittedly, doesn’t sound like an appetizing flavor combination. However, this pre-Hispanic beverage has stood the taste test of time. In fact, tejate is so loved that most refer to it by its nickname, "La Bebida de Los Dioses" or, the drink of the gods.


Tejate is handmade by liquifying a mixture of toasted maize (corn), fermented cacao beans, flor de cacao (cacao flower), and toasted pits of the mamey fruit. In the liquefaction process, a thick foam forms on top, and some say the thickness of the foam determines the quality of the tejate.


When served, the foam is cleared and the liquid tejate is poured into a cup. It is served cold, and quite refreshing on a hot Oaxaca day.


Since tejate has been made for centuries, each region, city, and family has their own individual way of combining the ingredients. However, even with variations, tejate generally tastes like a nutty chocolate milk, similar to what a chocolate milk made with almond or hazelnut milk would taste like.


When in Oaxaca City, head to the popular Flor de Huayapam food stall in Mercado Benito Juarez to sample authentic tejate. It is also available from street vendors state-wide.

by Shelley of Travel Mexico Solo



Making tejate, the popular Mexican cacao drink

Making tejate, the popular Mexican cacao drink




Marquesitas

If you love crepes, one of the first street foods you should try in Merida in the Yucatan is a Marquesita. One might assume this little cone of happiness would be pretty straightforward but not so in Merida — it was served with lashings of Nutella and the surprise ingredient, cheese.

Marquesitas are something you find made all over the Yucatan, although you won’t find them very often outside of the area. At every festival, market or special occasion there will be a marquesita stand and you will even find them daily outside the Costco and Walmart in Merida.

These crepes came to Mexico via the French and the Mexican population improved upon them. The crepes are more waffle like in texture and created by pouring a thin amount of batter onto a press which is cooked on one side over flames and then turned to cook on the other side. The result a crunchy but moist crepe like pancake that can be rolled around various fillings.

Fillings include Nutella, caramel (cajeta), sweetened condensed milk (lechera), Jam, queso do bola which is Edam cheese and banana. The most popular of these is Nutella with cheese.

Legend has it that the Marquesita was invented by an ice cream vendor who needed to create a product for sale in the winter months. These treats became so popular that they were the favorite of the young daughters of a Marquise living in Merida at the time and so became named after them.

By Faith at The Worlds Kitchens

Marquesitas are one of the Yucatan’s most popular street foods

Marquesitas are one of the Yucatan’s most popular street foods



Tacos al Pastor


Most people have heard of tacos whether they’re travelled to Mexico or not. However, not everyone will have heard of tacos al pastor and only those who have been to Mexico City will have sampled the very best!

Tacos al pastor is a meaty and delicious dish made from pork grilled on a trompo which you may know as a shawarma or kebab rotisserie. This dish has a unique history and, despite what many people think, didn’t actually originate in Mexico. This cooking style came to Mexico City with Lebanese immigrants in the 1900s. By combining their Middle Eastern dining concepts with Mexican flavors, al pastor was born.

The flavorsome meat is sliced straight from the trompo onto soft, corn tortillas and topped with pineapple, onion and cilantro. Salsas will be served at your table so it’s up to you how picante (spicy) you want your food to be.

There are places all over Mexico City to try tacos as pastor but you may wish to sample the dish in any of the restaurants in Condesa and Roma, two of the most trendy and exciting neighborhoods in the capital. A restaurant named El Tizoncito claims to have invented the dish and, while some people are skeptical, you can’t deny they serve some of the best tacos al pastor in the city.

By Rose of Where Goes Rose


Tacos are good, but tacos al pastor are next level!

Tacos are good, but tacos al pastor are next level!



Elote

This popular street food is what Americans call corn on the cob. Ears of sweet corn are boiled, then coated with a generous portion of mayonnaise, and sprinkled with chili powder, sometimes cilantro, or a squeeze of fresh lime juice. It can be served either on a stick, with the husk pulled down to give something to hold onto while you walk around, or even cut off the cob and combined with ingredients in a cup.

However you enjoy it, one thing’s for certain — once you’ve tried elote, you’ll be going back for more.


Elote — killer corn on the cob!

Elote — killer corn on the cob!


Tamales

Mexican tamales are another very popular food in the home and on the street and one many Americans may already be familiar with. A corn dough (masa) is filled with beef, pork, chicken or sometimes a mixture of beans and cheese, and steamed in a corn husk. To eat the tamales, just peel back the corn husk wrapper, add your favorite salsa or pico de gallo (chopped onions, cilantro, and diced tomato), a little sour cream, and dig right in.




Chapulines

If you’re a foodie, no doubt you’ve seen where snacking on crickets and grasshoppers is a popular thing. Found around the Oaxaca region where they’re sold as snacks at local markets and sporting events, chapulines are small grasshoppers that are not only nutty-tasting but highly nutritious too.

Chapulines are collected only at certain times of year (they hatch in early May through the late summer/early autumn). The small critters are toasted on a comal, and seasoned with garlic, lime juice and salt.

Local chefs are reviving this nutritious treat and even sprinkling them on gourmet pizza for a crunchy twist.

Would you try chapulines?

Would you try chapulines?





Raspados

The favorite hot-weather street food for the kid in all of us, this Mexican equivalent of the snow cone is popular throughout the country. The word raspados means "shaved", and the huge mounds of ice scooped into a cup are then topped with drizzles of neon-colored flavored syrups.

Lime, mango, tamarind (the brown one you might not think looks appetizing but is delicious and uniquely Mexican), strawberry, grapefruit, chamoy, and rompope (Mexican eggnog) are some of your flavor choices.

One of the most unique versions of a Mexican raspado is the Chamoylada, a sweet, sour, and spicy slushy drink of mango granita flavored with chamoy and tajin spice. Sometimes called a or Mangonata since the typical flavor is mango, you’ll sometimes find other flavors like strawberry or lime. But the chile-crusted straw will usually give away that it’s a Chamoylada.

A refreshing Chamoylada on a hot day

A refreshing Chamoylada on a hot day





Mexican Breakfast



When it comes to having breakfast (desayuno) in Mexico, you have a ton of great options, from hearty dishes of beans, eggs, tortillas and meat to light and healthy options with fresh fruits and agua frescas. One of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had — in my life, not just in Mexico — was in the Yucatan. A lovely local woman named Aurora made us platters of beautiful fresh local fruit and endless glasses of papaya aqua fresca during our stay at Hacienda Yaxcopoil. It was healthy, colorful, and oh so delicious.

Chilaquiles

 

Chilaquiles are a traditional breakfast dish enjoyed all over Mexico. It’s known as a poor man’s dish because it was originally created as a way to use up leftovers. It is believed that the word chilaquiles comes from the native Náhuatl language, meaning submerged chile.


Chilaquiles had been around for centuries, but eventually became known in America when Encarnacion Pinedo wrote the cookbook “The Spanish Cook” in 1898.

 

Chilaquiles can vary greatly, depending on which region of Mexico they are from. What they all have in common, however, is totopos in a kind of salsa. Totopos are slices of fried corn tortilla, that can be crispy or soggy. The salsa is usually “verde” but can sometimes be red. Some parts of Mexico even make chilaquiles with a mole sauce.


Then there are all kinds of toppings you can add, like a fried egg or shredded chicken.

 

What we love about chilaquiles is the variety of combinations. It’s also a hearty and tasty way to start the day. One of our favorite restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, Fredy’s Tucan, had some amazing chilaquiles that were drenched in salsa verde, cheese, and crema. It was one of the best meals of our trip!



By Vicky of Buddy The Traveling Monkey


Chilaquiles — it’s what’s for breakfast in Mexico

Chilaquiles — it’s what’s for breakfast in Mexico




Huevos Divorciados


“Divorced eggs” are a favorite breakfast dish all over Mexico. Apart from making the required salsas from scratch, it’s a fairly simple dish to make with both red and green salsas on top of fried tortillas. Refried beans are first spread on the tortillas then covered with green salsa on one side and red salsa on the other.


Once assembled, two fried eggs, sunny side up or over easy, are placed one on top of each of the two salsas. Garnishes vary with sour cream and lime being very popular.

It’s just a trial separation!

It’s just a trial separation!



Mexican Lunch and Snacks




Tlacoyos


One of the best ways to dive into Mexican cuisine is to toss aside any preconceptions you may have and go on a Mexico City market tour with a local and prepare to be surprised. 


Tlacoyos are one of the most traditional Mexican foods dating back to Pre-Hispanic days. With a tlacoyo you’re going back in history beyond the Spanish colonization and tasting remnants of the original Olmecs, the first major civilization in Mexico whose traditions carried down to the Aztecs. 


Masa (cornmeal) -based snacks and antojitos like the tlacoyo and haurache (similar to the tlacoyo but much larger) can all trace their lineage back to these original inhabitants. They are pure Mexican history. 


To make tlacoyos, dough is rolled into shape and cooked on top of a comal and portable grill. You can see it in action in the country’s markets. As the tlacoyos come off the comal, they’re kept warm in a basket and tea towel, and kept moist by their own steam. 


Tlacoyos come in three colors but you’ll see the blue corn is the most common. In any market, like the Mercado Merced in Mexico City, order it with traditional toppings like nopales (cooked prickly pear) and crumbled queso fresco. It’s basic, traditional, and you can’t go wrong. 


By Erin at Sol Salute


Tlacoyos in Mexico City

Tlacoyos in Mexico City



Chicharrones Preparados

When on the lookout for traditional food dishes in Mexico you cannot ignore the sight of Chicharrones preparados. This is a street food snack that can be found in most parks and outside schools and universities, especially in Mexico City.

But, what is Chicharron you may well be asking? Get ready to be blown away by the audacity of this next-level street food snack.

Chicharrones preparados look like a square of Pizza and the base is made from Chicharron de harina which is a dense, dried, flour-based snack, that in this case, has been formed into a flatbed-style rectangular-shape. Once all the toppings are added the flatbed is used as a vessel to transport the host of Mexican goodness directly to your tastebuds.

Some popular toppings you’ll get loaded on top are shredded cabbage, sliced avocado, tomatoes, a generous serving of cream cheese, and some Valentina hot sauce just to top it all off. Eating this with your hands is a mess and working out how to make sure every last bite gets deposited into your mouth, without dropping it on the floor, will be your main concern.

So if you find yourself in Mexico City and in need of a snack during the midday hour, lookout for one of the many stands on the street that offers this delightful food.


By Daniel at Layer Culture


Chicharrones Preparados takes Mexico City street food to new heights

Chicharrones Preparados takes Mexico City street food to new heights




Mexico Foods for Christmas and Holidays



Chile en Nogada (Chilies in Walnut Sauce)


Traditionally served during August and September when two of its main ingredients are available, pomegranates and walnuts. September is also the time when Mexican Independence Day is celebrated. In commemoration the colors of the dish represent the colors of the Mexican flag — red pomegranate seeds, green poblano peppers, and a creamy white walnut sauce, or nogada.

Roasted poblanos are skinned and stuffed with a picadillo of ground pork, beef, or ground turkey. The stuffed peppers are covered in the walnut salsa that’s been prepared using milk, queso fresco or cream cheese. The dish is finished with a sprinkling of juicy pomegranate seeds and a bit of chopped cilantro. This is a very delicious traditional dish.



Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead)


This sweet bread is made for celebrating the Dia de Muertos, Day of the Dead, on the Roman Catholic All Souls Day that falls on November 2nd. The bread begins to appear in bakeries and markets around mid-October.

Pan de Muerto is a yeasty bread sprinkled with sugar, sesame seeds, or a simple egg wash. Once baked, the bread is brushed with butter and sprinkled with sugar, and is typically eaten by family members at an altar dedicated to deceased relatives or at a relative’s graveside. It’s thought that the dough decorating the bread is meant to symbolize the bones of the dead.


Bunuelos


Stroll through any Mexican market around Christmastime, and you’ll see stacks of fried dough balls piled high. Bunuelos, another dish believed to have originated with Spanish settlers, is a simple pastry is easy to make and beloved at the holidays.


The simple dough consists of flour, baking powder, a pinch of salt, a drizzle of oil, and water. Once rested, the dough is shaped into balls with each ball rolled out to form a circle. The circles are then deep fried until golden and sprinkled with a sugar/cinnamon mixture while still hot.


Bunuelos are a Christmastime favorite food in Mexico

Bunuelos are a Christmastime favorite food in Mexico


Bacalao Navideño (Christmas Salted Cod)

The Spaniards brought many food items to the New World, and one that became a holiday tradition is bacalao. The salted codfish can be found in just about every market during the Christmas season. The codfish has to be soaked in water, usually for a couple of days, with water changes about every 12 hours to remove the salt. It’s then placed in a pan of water and heated just to the boil.

After cooking it’s rinsed and broken up or shredded into small pieces. The Christmas cod dish is prepared by combining the fish with onion, garlic, peppers, green olives, sometimes pepperoncini peppers, potato pieces, and diced or crushed tomatoes. The fish stew is served with a white corn bread or a baguette to soak up the juices.

Rosca de Reyes: "Three Kings Bread"

There’s a good bit of variation in this traditional holiday bread in Mexico, both in shape (usually oval) and ingredients. In Mexico it is traditionally enjoyed on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany — also known as Three Kings Day or Tres Reyes. The cake is believed to originate from Roman times where a bean was hidden in the cake. Whoever was lucky enough to get the bean was named “King for the day”.

The bread, made with eggs, butter, and orange flavoring is soft and sweet with nuts, candied fruits, and raisins, then decorated with cherries, figs, and dried fruit.

Today, the tradition celebrates the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus. In the contemporary bread, the bean has been replaced by a small baby Jesus figurine, and finding the figurine wins a prize or receives blessings in the New Year.

No Baby Jesus in there, but it was still delish!

No Baby Jesus in there, but it was still delish!

Ponche Navideño

To wash down all these holiday treats, Latin families often brew up a batch of homemade ponche, a warm spiced Christmas drink made of sugar cane, prunes, apples and the fruit of the tejocotes. Adults sometimes add a bit or tequila or rum mixed in.

That last ingredient of tejocotes may make it hard to find so you can make your own — which we think is the best reason to head to Mexico for the holidays!

Thanks for reading our Guide to Mexico Food!

Whether you’re searching for traditional, cultural, regional, or the most popular food in Mexico — or all of the above — you can see just how rich and complex the food of Mexico really is. And like anywhere, the more you find, the more there is to explore.

Just when you think you’ve got it down, new flavors will emerge and tempt your palate in a new direction, to go deeper in your culinary quest, and new heights in your food exploration.


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