mexico foods: chile en nodaga

50+ Mexico Foods You Must Try: The Ultimate Mexican Food Guide

Ready to discover the best traditional Mexican foods?

Mexico food is beloved the world over, and has also been officially recognized as an international treasure! In 2010, UNESCO declared the food of Mexico an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mankind, an honor only shared with one other country, France.

In plain English, that prestigious designation means Mexican food is one of mankind’s culinary achievements! While most people assume the only Mexico foods are tacos, burritos and nachos — authentic Mexican cuisine goes far beyond those three options.

In this article, you’ll discover some of the lesser-known Mexico foods, like tlayudas and aguachile. However, you’ll also learn some facts you probably didn’t know about popular Mexican foods like tacos al pastor (like that they originated in the Middle East 🤯).

Ready to discover all the best Mexico dishes, street foods, desserts — and even seven delicious Mexico drinks? Let’s get to it!

Table of Contents expand ⬇

Tacos in Mexico | Mexico Foods

1. Tacos al Pastor

No Authentic Food From Mexico list is complete without a mention of tacos al pastor. While they are known as a Mexico City food, because it’s said the best ones come from there, you can find tacos al pastor all over Mexico — as these are the most popular of all types of tacos in Mexico.

Tacos al pastor are unique compared to other Mexican street tacos in that they are influenced by Arabic street food. If you see a street vendor making the meat for tacos al pastor, you’ll notice it’s cooked on the same spit you’d see cooking meat in a gyro shop.

Q: Is there Taco Bell in Mexico? A: No! 🌮

This is because Lebanese immigrants to Mexico actually influenced the dish. They combined the technique for making lamb shawarma with a typical Mexican marinade — and pineapple as a side, for good measure. Of course, it being Mexico, the lamb is switched for one of Mexico’s favorite meats, pork.

The dish originated in Puebla State, but now can be found all around Mexico in virtually every city and town, as well as taco trucks all over the world. It is said that to eat the best tacos al pastor in Mexico, you have to try the tacos in Mexico City.

Submitted by Allison of California Crossroads

man cutting meat for a taco
Tacos al pastor are a Lebanese Mexican hybrid food. They are made with Mexican ingredients and cooked on a Middle Eastern-style spit, called a trompo in Mexico. The al pastor tacos of Mexico City are known to be the best!
traditional Mexico Foods

2. Barbacoa Tacos

In English, barbacoa means “barbecue.” While Mexican barbacoa does differ from American BBQ — for example, there is no BBQ sauce or dry spice rub used — it is taken just as seriously as in United States BBQ meccas like Texas, Tennessee and Kansas City.

Most Mexican barbacoa is made with borrego (sheep). However, there are other variations made throughout the country, including barbacoa de res (beef barbacoa) in Chiapas State, and barbacoa de chivo (goat barbacoa) in Puebla State and a few other places.

The place most associated with barbacoa is Hidalgo State, located next to Mexico City, where it’s said you’ll get the best barbacoa in Mexico. Being just a few hours from Mexico City, you can also get it there, as barbacoa chefs make the food in Hidalgo, then drive it over to Mexico City.

Much like BBQ in America, barbacoa in Mexico is a weekend food. This doesn’t just mean barbaco is only eaten on the weekends — it is also often only available on weekends — because traditional barbacoa recipes take nearly all week to make.

Many eat their barbacoa tacos with a side of soup broth called consome (consommé). In Mexico, they are a breakfast or brunch meal, as tacos de barbacoa and consome is a well known hangover cure!

table spread of tacos with limes, salsas, soup
A traditional Mexico barbacoa meal, served with consome (soup broth), blue corn tortillas, and salsa borracha (drunk salsa).
traditional Mexico Foods

3. Birria Tacos

In Mexican slang, birria basically means “something of low value.” In the case of tacos de birria, they definitely aren’t! In fact, these are among the most comforting of all tacos in Mexico, and some of the best tacos in Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara and other places in Jalisco State.

Birria is a stew, traditionally made with goat, though you can sometimes find beef birria. It is served in a bowl with corn tortillas on the side, for you to make your own tacos. Birria stew is slow-cooked and seasoned with quintessential Mexican spices, like adobo, onion and garlic.

It can also come served as a taco, with meat, diced white onion, cilantro and salsa. When you get a birria taco, the tortilla will usually be dipped in the red-colored stew liquid before serving. This turns the tortilla red, and is why you’ll sometimes see birria tacos called “red tacos.”

traditional Mexico Foods

4. Cabrito Tacos

Tacos de cabrito are roasted goat tacos. They are seldom found outside of North Mexico — so make sure to try these if you’re visiting the north, especially the city of Monterrey, Mexico or the nearby Santiago pueblo magico (magic town).

These beloved tacos norteños (North Mexico tacos) can be cooked several ways. The most popular is cabrito al pastor, where the meat is slow cooked with indirect heat over a bed of charcoal.

This is the same method that’s been used for centuries, which produces a juicy, flavorful meat. When served, you’ll get a large plate of cabrito meat with tortillas and condiments on the side to make your own tacos cabritos

Mexican Soups | Mexico Foods

5. Pozole

One of the most traditional foods from Mexico is pozole, a maíz (hominy) soup. Traditional Mexican pozole (pronounced po-zo-lay), is made with hominy from meat, and cooked in broth. Then, plenty of spices are added in, such as garlic, cumin, chili powder, and more.

Pozole has a spicy, rich taste to it, and can even be made vegetarian with beans instead of meat. You can garnish your pozole with different things, including diced white onion, lime juice, avocado, shredded lettuce and radishes are typical. It is often served with tostadas on the side.

There are three different types of pozole: red, green and white. Pozole blanco (white) doesn’t have any added green or red chilis; pozole verde (green) is made by adding tomatillos (green tomatoes) and green chilis to the broth, and pozole rojo (red) has red chilis, like chili ancho and chili piquín, in the broth.

The stew is pre-colonial, and dates all the way back to the 1300s, and has Aztec origins. Today, pozole is popular all throughout Mexico, and is eaten as a regular dish, and also on holidays as a more festive meal! 🎄 Check out these other Mexican Christmas and holiday foods!

Submitted by Haley of Gathering Waves

Pozole rojo (red) is a common variation, but there’s also pozole verde (green) and pozole blanco (white).
traditional Mexico Foods

6. Sopa Azteca (Tortilla Soup)

One of the most popular traditional Mexican meals is sopa azteca, also known as sopa de tortilla or “tortilla soup.” As Mexico City, formerly called Tenochtitlan, was the seat of the Aztec Empire, the dish is said to originate in Mexico City — just one of many Mexico City fun facts!

You can see one of the original Aztec Temples, the Templo Mayor, which is partially buried underground in Downtown Mexico City. 

Sopa azteca soup consists of chicken broth, tomatoes, garlic, onion and chiles. It is served with toppings that include avocado, crema (sour cream), chunks of a soft cheese called panela, or queso oaxaca (Oaxaca cheese), chicharrón (fried pork skin) and strips of fried tortillas.

The end result is a dish not only rich in flavor, but one that also provides a textural experience. In sopa azteca, the gooeyness of the cheese as it melts in the hot broth, juxtaposed with the crunchiness of the tortilla strips, makes for a delicious combo. 

Submitted by Nick Kembel of Fun World Facts

Sopa azteca AKA tortilla soup
traditional Mexico Foods

7. Menudo Soup

Menudo is both the 1980s band Ricky Martin was in, and a beloved Mexican soup! It can go by other names, like pancita (little stomach) or mole de panza (stomach sauce), as the main ingredient is tripe (cow stomach). For those who can get past that, menudo soup is rich and delicious.

Menudo is a celebratory dish, usually reserved for Mexican weddings and other large parties. The reason is that it’s quite time intensive to prepare, and will then still take hours to cook. Among the ingredients in traditional menudo, there’s tripe, maíz (hominy), lime, onion, chilis, oregano and more.

8. Sopa de Lima

One of the best foods to try when traveling in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is a light and flavorful soup called sopa de lima, meaning “lime soup.” This is one of the most classic and traditional Yucatecan foods.

Sopa de lima is a traditional Yucatan soup made with chicken and lima yucateca (a larger-sized lime that’s native to the Yucatan). It also uses local spices, onions, tomatoes, sometimes red and/or yellow peppers, and finally, is topped with crunchy tortilla strips.

An all-season dish, traditional Yucatan sopa de lima makes for a hearty, healthy lunch and dinner option. You can find it in nearly any restaurant or cafe that has tables and chairs so you can sit down and enjoy your lime soup.  

Wherever you’re traveling in Yucatan State, be it the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, the pink lakes of Las Coloradas, or the lesser-known Ek Balam Ruins, you’ll find some traditional sopa de lima at a restaurant nearby.

Submitted by Soumya of Stories by Soumya

Sopa de lima is a must try Yucatan food while visiting Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican Breakfast Foods | Mexico Foods

9. Conchas

There are a lot of variations of sweet breads, or pan dulce in Mexico. Of them all, there is none more popular than the concha, meaning “shell.” This traditional breakfast pastry gets its name from a shell-shaped pattern made with sugar that’s on top of the bread.

🍔 Mexico Food Fun Fact: In 2016, the Concha Burger, made by brothers Bobby and Adrian Cruz, won the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project.

Conchas are one of those Mexico food items that have made their way across the border into the United States. In areas with a large Mexican and Mexican-American population, like LA and Texas, you can often find conchas at panaderías (bakeries) and in restaurants.

Conchas are among the most common foods in Mexico, as you can find them eaten for breakfast all over the country.
traditional Mexico Foods

10. Huevos Rancheros

Huevos rancheros, meaning “ranch eggs,” is one of the traditional Mexican breakfast dishes that has found its way onto U.S. menus. As the word ranch in the name says, this is a rustic dish, commonly eaten on farms. It is hearty, and meant to keep farm workers full until lunchtime.

Though filling, huevos rancheros is a simple dish. A sort of Mexican breakfast lasagne, it consists of a tortilla or two laid flat on a plate, beans on top, and a fried egg. It is then all topped with salsa, often salsa roja (red salsa), and served with more tortillas on the side.

11. Chilaquiles

One of the best traditional Mexican foods you can have is chilaquiles. Chilaquiles are a traditional breakfast dish that originated in Central Mexico hundreds of years ago. What makes this dish so great is that it can be prepared in many ways.

You can order chilaquiles with salsa roja (red salsa), salsa verde (green salsa), or both, and even mole. It is often made with day-old totopos (tortilla chips), so the chips soak up all the salsa; though some places use fresh totopos.

What are totopos in mexico?

Totopos are basically just fried tortilla chips. In Mexico, when you want a basket of chips for the — which isn’t the norm as it is in U.S.-Mexican restaurants — you’d ask for totopos.

Traditional Mexican chilaquiles come with just chips and your choice of salsa. From there, you can add eggs, or a meat of your choice. They are topped with crema (sour cream), crumbled cheese and slices of white onion.

We ate chilaquiles multiple times at La Fondita, one of the best restaurants in San Miguel de Allende. Every time we ate there, the food was fresh and delicious. And the plates were huge so we always walked out stuffed. —Submitted by Vicky of Buddy The Traveling Monkey

Chilaquiles are one of the top breakfast dishes of Mexico.
traditional Mexico Foods

12. Molletes

You’ll find molletes (pronounced moy-yet-tays), on nearly all breakfast menus throughout Mexico. The molletes dish is quite simple, and basically just an open face breakfast sandwich.

A traditional mollete breakfast plate consists of a bread roll cut in half lengthwise. It is smeared with black bean puree and cheese is melted on top. Many places add a garnish on top, like pico de gallo, and some Mexican molletes also come with diced ham or a fried egg.

13. Huevos Divorciados (Divorced Eggs)

For when you just can’t decide, there’s the hilariously-named huevos divorciados, or “divorced eggs.” This, and most Mexican food dishes come with your choice of salsa, often salsa roja (red) or salsa verde (green) — but there’s also divorciado style, for the best of both worlds.

One of the best Mexican food names — huevos divorciados, or “divorced eggs.”

Mexican Street Foods & Snacks | Mexico Foods

14. Elote

Elote is quite simply corn on the cob. However, Mexico brings it up a notch and covers a grilled ear of corn in mayonnaise, cotija cheese, chili powder, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. The street food is so beloved that it has made its way to Mexican restaurants or neighborhoods even in the U.S.

And what’s not to love about traditional Mexican elote!? It’s portable, and has smoky, spicy, and salty flavors that mix well with the sweet corn. You can eat it on a street corner while taking a break from touring and find it in local mercados (markets) — or get this antojito from street stalls for a late-night snack.

Submitted by Bernadette Young of Book Retreats

What are Mexican antojitos?

Antojitos means “little cravings,” and they are basically an appetizer or small snack. A traditional dinner in Mexico will begin with antojitos. Some of the most common include, gorditas, empanadas and sopes, though even tacos and elote can be considered an antojito in Mexico.

Wash your elote down with a Jarritos, one of the most popular Mexican sodas. (Photo: Jarritos Mexican Soda via Unsplash)
traditional Mexico Foods

15. Esquites

You may have noticed this list lacks a lot of vegan and vegetarian options. You’re right — most Mexico foods aren’t known to be vegan- or vegetarian-friendly. However, esquites are one of the few Mexican dishes that can be suitable for both vegans and vegetarians.

What are esquites?

In short, they are the same as elote — but the corn is served in a cup so you can eat it with a spoon. Since it’s in a cup, you can add in even more toppings, like corn nuts and crushed up potato chips. In Mexico City, you can get esquites con tuetano, a rich dish with corn kernels and bone marrow.

The simplest way to eat esquites, and the most healthy, is just the boiled corn kernels with some salt, a squeeze of fresh lime juice and chili powder. However, many opt for the more traditional way, which is adding a layer of mayonnaise and shredded white cheese in with the corn.

🌭 When getting your esquites, be on the lookout for bandeiras, or “Mexican corn cogs” These two make for a great carnival food-style combo!

Esquites is a versatile food, which can be prepared in healthy or not-so-healthy ways. Depending on what you add, it can be a filling meal or a light, vegan Mexican snack. They are one of the most common and best street foods in Mexico!

You will find them in parks, mercados (markets) and on street corners in many cities. They are especially popular in Central Mexico destinations like Mexico City, Queretaro, and Valle de Bravo, where it was basically my dinner every night for a week! —Submitted by Isabella of Let’s Travel to Mexico

A popular street food from Mexico, you’ll find esquites anywhere there’s a lot of foot traffic.
traditional Mexico Foods

16. Huaraches

Huaraches, the food, share their name with Mexican huarache shoes — and they also share their shape. In fact, the huarache that you eat gets its name because of its oval shape, which resembles the huarache shoe.

Traditional Mexican huaraches are made with masa (corn) dough, and formed into an oval. Any combo of ingredients can be placed on top, but you’ll usually find some combo of meat, cheese, refried beans, crema (sour cream) lettuce, tomatoes, diced onions and cilantro. 

17. Tlayuda

Tlayudas (pronounced tuh-lie-you-dahs) are the quintessential and best street food in Oaxaca, a state in Southern Mexico. If you find yourself in Oaxaca City or on the beaches of Oaxaca, you shouldn’t leave without trying one (or three)!

Like many Mexican foods, tlayudas start with a tortilla; in this case, it’s a giant, dinner plate-sized tortilla! As the tortilla gets heated on the cooking comal, a thin layer of pureed beans and stringy Oaxaca cheese are added. After it’s cooked, lettuce, tomato, avocado, onion, and other toppings are added.

You can leave it with just beans, cheese and veggies, or add meat. The most popular options are chorizo (red sausage), tasajo (salted, cured beef), and cecina (salted, cured pork). Though they are a traditional Oaxaca street food, you’ll also find tlayudas at many of the best restaurants in Oaxaca.

Submitted by Julien Casanova of Cultures Traveled

Mexican pizza
Tlayudas are sometimes called Mexican pizza, and usually only found in Oaxaca State.
traditional Mexico Foods

18. Empanadas

Mexican empanadas are a type of handheld pie or turnover, often stuffed with meats, veggies and cheeses. They are a common Oaxaca food, where you can try empanadas de mole amarillo, a local favorite that’s stuffed with shredded chicken in yellow mole sauce.

Empanadas are common throughout Latin America, especially Argentina and Colombia, but many culture have some form of hand pie — ie. Cornish pasty in the UK, piroshki in Russia and Ukraine, and Jamaican beef patties, a favorite dish in traditional Jamaican cuisine.

Mexican Molotes

In Mexico, there are a few types of empanadas. The first type is the half-moon shaped empanada, which is the one you’ll see most often as a grab and go street food. The molote is another type, and it’s more of a cigar shaped food, often served in restaurants as an appetizer.

Freshly-made molotes (on the left) and tacos dorados (rolled tacos, AKA taquitos, on the right).
traditional Mexico Foods

19. Gorditas

The gordita, which translates to “chubby girl” in English, is one of the unsung heroes of authentic Mexican street food. It originated in the north of the country, though is also a popular street food in the state of Queretaro, located in Central Mexico.

Like many Mexican dishes, the gordita is a variation on a tortilla that’s filled with different ingredients. Here, you’ll get a thick tortilla, similar to a pita or an arepa. The small, round bread is split open to create a pocket, and finally, stuffed with your choice of filling.

Traditionally, gorditas are filled with chicharron (fried pork skin), but you can find them with tinga de pollo (chicken stew), carnitas (pork confit), and more. Once packed full of your favorite filling, gorditas can be deep fried, grilled, or baked, depending on the region of Mexico you are in. 

One of the best places to try gorditas is the beautiful Bernal pueblo magico (meaning “magic town”), where they have their own unique take on this popular street food. Made from blakc corn flour, these striking snacks are known as gorditas negritos, and are a regional specialty.

Submitted by Kelli of The Vanabond Tales

Gorditas are a traditional food from Mexico that are especially popular in the Central Mexico state of Querétaro.
traditional Mexico Foods

20. Tlacoyos

Tlacoyos are one of the best foods from Mexico City, and really only something you’ll find sold on the streets. This is a Mexico City street foods staple, which has a history that dates back even before the Aztecs.

Tlacoyos (pronounced tla-coy-yos), are not only one of the best traditional street foods in Mexico City, but one of the oldest Mexican antojitos still enjoyed today! Antojitos, meaning “little cravings,” refers to Mexican street snacks or appetizers.

Made with blue or yellow masa (cornmeal dough), the football-shaped tortilla of the tlacoyos is much thicker than a taco tortilla. Vendors stuff the dough with any combination of pinto or fava beans, potatoes, chicharron (pork rinds), and a creamy Mexican cheese called requesón.

They are then dry-fried on large griddles, so the outside of the crisps, while the inside stays soft and doughy — the key factor to its deliciousness. Toppings most commonly added include nopal (cactus), onions, cilantro, crumbled cheese, and, of course, salsa

Submitted by Denise of Chef Denise

Tlacoyos are among the traditional foods in Mexico City that you’ll only really find there!
traditional Mexico Foods

21. Chicharrón Preparado

With so many pork-based dishes to try in Mexico, chicharrones preparados, or “prepared chicharron,” may seem commonplace, but they aren’t! Once you get to the core of what chicharrones are, you’ll quickly understand why chicharrones preparados are such a genius idea.

So just what are chicharrones preparados?

They are a beloved Mexican City street food that, at first glance, look like a square pizza topped with veggie goodness. However, instead of being pizza dough, it’s a large chicharron de harina, which is a rectangular-shaped flatbed made of fried corn flour that puffs up when cooked.

The cooked chicharron de harina is topped with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, sliced avocado, shredded cheese and crema (sour cream). Many also add a generous serving of Valentina hot sauce and squeeze of fresh lime to top it all off.

Chilangos (Mexico City locals) usually enjoy chicharrones preparados as a midday snack, so you’ll see long lines at street stands during lunchtime. When in Mexico City, be on the lookout for one of the many street vendors offering this delicious Mexican snack food.

Submitted by Dan of Layer Culture

Chicharrónes preparados are among the popular snack dishes in Mexico. (Photo: Victoria Castillero via Flickr)
traditional Mexico Foods

22. Chapulines

If you are strolling the streets of Mexico City or Oaxaca City, you might encounter a peculiar-looking street food — Chapulines, or grasshoppers in English. These bite-sized snacks are toasted on a comal, a type of flat griddle popular in Mexico, and then seasoned with garlic, lime juice, salt and chilies.

Though not the food in Mexico most will gravitate towards, chapulines actually taste like salt and vinegar chips. In terms of texture, they are a bit crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Compared to salt and vinegar chips, chapulines offer a lot more protein so many would consider them a healthier snack.

Though you can find chapuline grasshoppers throughout Mexico (and even some places in Guatemala), they are most popular in Oaxaca State. You’ll find them sold by the kilo from street vendors and in mercados (markets), and you can usually get chapulines at sports events as well.

Submitted by Sean of Living Out Lau

One of the best Oaxaca foods, chapulines are among the most beloved Mexico street snacks.
traditional Mexico Foods

23. Guacamole con Chapulines

If the thought of eating grasshoppers straight up sounds a bit much, you can take baby steps! In many restaurants throughout Central Mexico, you’ll find guacamole with chapulines grasshoppers in it. They add a nice crunchy texture in guacamole, without changing its taste. 

Other Insects Eaten in Mexico

Entomophagy is the technical term for eating insects, and it has been done in Mexico (and much of the world) for thousands of years. As insects provide a low-fat, high-protein food that’s produced in large quantities, the prehispanic diet did include insects, like chapulines, but also these:

  • Gusanos de maguey: Gusano worms, the same ones you’ll see in a tequila bottle
  • Hormigas chicatanas: Large, winged ants
  • Escamoles: Ant larvae, sometimes lovingly called “Mexican caviar” or ant eggs
Chapulines add a crunchy texture to guac, without changing the flavor.

Mexican Sandwiches | Mexico Foods

24. Tortas

One of the most famous Mexicans sayings is about making sure to get your daily dose of Vitamin T — the T of course stands for tacos, but also for tamales and tortas. As far as Mexico street foods go, the torta (sandwich) is just as important as the taco.

While tacos are one of the most common Mexican lunch foods, many eat tortas for breakfast. Different tortas are popular in different parts of Mexico, but they all tend to use the same bolillo bread. This is a soft hoodie roll, and one of the most famous Mexican breads.

In Mexico City, for example, one of the top on-the-go breakfast items is the guajolote, a torta with a tamal inside. The Yucatan Peninsula will have cochinita pibil tortas, because this is the most popular meat in that region. Wherever you are in Mexico, you’re sure to find a torta that’s filled with a local delicacy.

Tortas tie tacos for the title of “Most Popular Food in Mexico” — and this torta ahogada (drowned torta) is a popular variation from Guadalajara, Mexico.
traditional Mexico Foods

25. Tortas Ahogadas (Drowned Sandwiches)

As just mentioned, Mexican food is regional, and you’ll find different tortas in different parts of Mexico. The torta ahogada, which means “drowned torta,” is common in the state of Jalisco, particularly around it’s capital city of Guadalajara.

Similar to a French dip sandwich, tortas ahogadas are “drowned” in salsa, and you may want to eat them with a knife and fork. They consist of a filling, usually fried pork, chicken, cheese or beans, Guadalajara’s birote salado bread, and are lastly covered in salsa roja (red salsa).

26. Cemitas Poblanas

Cemitas are basically gigantic sandwiches that contain pretty much everything! You’ll sometimes see these monster sandwiches referred to as cemitas poblanas — the “poblanas” part indicating they are a culinary specialty from the state of Puebla, Mexico.

Puebla is one of the Foodie Capitals of Mexico, known for tacos arabes, molotes, chalupas, mole poblano, and cemitas. A traditional cemita contains milanesa (breaded chicken or pork filet), queso oaxaca, avocado, cerdo (ham slices), and more, all served on a cemita bread roll, which has sesame seeds.

The cemita sandwich and other Puebla Mexican foods are considered among the best foods of Mexico.

Everyday Mexico Foods

27. Enchiladas & Enmoladas

You don’t need to have visited Mexico to have heard of an enchilada — which are tortillas that are rolled like a cigar, sometimes stuffed with meat, cheese or veggies, and then covered in salsa. However, have you heard of the enchilada’s lesser known Southern Mexico sibling?!

Like enchiladas, the enmolada dish is made with rolled corn tortillas, sometimes stuffed, sometimes not, that are smothered in mole (pronounced moe-lay) sauce, instead of salsa. Traditional Mexican enmoladas are often served with queso fresco (fresh cheese) on top.

Mole is a rich sauce, and one of the most typical Oaxaca Mexican foods, which adds a new depth of flavor you don’t get with enchiladas. There are seven moles of Oaxaca, but enmoladas are usually served with mole negro, mole poblano or mole coloradito.

Enmoladas are one of the staple Oaxaca breakfast foods. They are decidedly savory, with a hint of spice and sweetness from the chilies, cacao (chocolate), fruits and toasted breads in the mole. They often come stuffed with shredded chicken, cheese or vegetables.

Enfrijoladas

Another popular variation is enfrijoladas. As the word frijol (meaning “bean”) in the name might have cued you in on, these enchiladas are covered with a bean puree, instead of salsa or mole. For those who don’t want the sweetness of mole, enfrijoladas work perfectly.

Enmoladas in a mole negro (black mole sauce), which gets much of its color from cacao (chocolate).
traditional Mexico Foods

28. Papadzules

Papadzules (pronounced pa-pawed-zool-es) is a traditional Yucatan food dish that you’ll likely never see on a menu outside of cities like Merida, Mexico in the Yucatan Peninsula. It is an ancient Mayan dish that has been eaten in the Yucatan since pre-hispanic times.

The traditional papadzules recipe consists of warmed corn tortillas, stuffed with hard boiled eggs. They arre then and drenched in a creamy green sauce made from pepita (pumpkin) seeds and a leafy Mexican herb called epazote.

To contrast the richness, a tomato sauce is added on top for a bit of acidity and brightness. The finished product looks something like an enchilada, but the flavors are much more mild and delicate. As far as the best traditional vegetarian foods in Mexico — this is one of them!

Instead of ordering papadzules off a menu, why not try making them yourself? Taking a cooking class is one of the best things to do in Merida as you get to enjoy a delicious meal, tour a local mercado (market), learn about traditional ingredients, and be invited into a local’s home.

Plus, you’ll come away with a recipe you can replicate at home, which is arguably one of the best travel souvenirs you can find. 🧑‍🍳 Want to take a cooking class in Merida? Check out the Merida Cooking Class and Market Tour, which has an impressive 4.97/5 star rating.

Submitted by Katie Diederichs of Two Wandering Soles

You’ll find papadzules on menus in cities like Merida and Valladolid, but not many outside of Yucatán State.
traditional Mexico Foods

29. Tostadas

Tostadas are essentially open-face tacos. Unlike a taco that’s folded up, tostadas are fried flat, with the taco “filling” just placed on top. You can find tostadas in Mexico all over the country, but they tend to be very common in coastal cities where you’ll find fresh seafood tostadas.

In Mexico City’s popular Coyoacan neighborhood— where you’ll find the Frida Kahlo Museum — there is one mercado (market) known specifically for their tostadas. The Coyoacan Market is considered to have the best tostadas in Mexico City, which are a must try on any Mexico City itinerary.

30. Quesadillas

Traditional Mexican quesadillas will vary a bit based on where you’re eating them. However, the  most common way is this: One half of a large tortilla is stuffed with your choice of meat, veggies and cheese (though not always, as you’ll see below), then folded over.

After preparing the quesadilla, it is placed on a cooking comal for a bit longer to give the tortilla a bit of a crunch. This also helps melt the cheese further. Now, about this big debate ragging in on Mexico, over whether or not quesadillas have cheese ⤵

Mexico City Quesadillas Don’t Have Cheese!

In Mexico City, you have to order a quesadilla con queso, meaning “quesadilla with cheese,” if you want cheese. Yes, this seems bizarre, and there’s even memes about this heated debate between chilangos (Mexico City locals) and the rest of the country!

Here, the quesadillas are either fried or cooked on a flat-top cooking comal. You can get them stuffed with everything from tinga de pollo (shredded, BBQ chicken) to huitlacoche (AKA “Mexican truffle”) — but remember to order yours con queso if you want queso in your quesadilla!

Man cooking a taco on a large circular cooking surface

Types of Mexican Cheeses

Quesadillas usually come stuffed with queso oaxaca (Oaxaca cheese, also called quesillo). This is a soft string cheese that comes in a ball, similar to a ball of fresh mozzarella. While this may be the most popular of all authentic Mexican cheese varieties, there are others, like these ⤵

  • Queso Fresco: Meaning “fresh cheese,” queso fresco is soft, moist, and crumbly, making it the perfect cheese for sprinkling over different foods.
  • Queso Panela: Similar in texture to feta cheese, but with a much milder flavor.
  • Queso Chihuahua: A soft, white cheese, similar in taste to manchego, which originates in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
  • Queso de Bola: Similar to edam cheese, queso de bola, or “ball cheese,” is popular in the Yucatan Peninsula, and a common topping for marquesitas.
  • Requeson: Essentially a Mexican cheese version of the Italian ricotta cheese, which are both made with whey.
  • Queso Cotija: Cotija cheese comes from the pueblo of Cotija in Michoacán state. It is an aged cheese with a salty flavor, making it an ideal topping for everything from enchiladas to elote.
Quesillo, or queso oaxaca, is a string cheese that melts well and is used in many authentic Mexican meals.
traditional Mexico Foods

31. Flautas

Flautas, known as taquitos in the U.S., are tacos that have been rolled like cigars, and then fried. They can be filled with anything from meat to cheese and veggies. In Mexico, you might also see flautas called tacos dorados, depending on what part of the country you’re in.

Flautas Ahogadas

There are two kinds of Mexican flautas you’ll find — traditional flautas and flautas ahogadas, or “drowned flautas.” With the standard type, your flautas come topped with crema (sour cream), lettuce and shredded cheese, while flautas ahogadas come “drowned” in salsa.

taquitos on a plate
traditional Mexico Foods

32. Tamales

A tamal, spelled tamale in English, is a traditional Mexican dish that’s often served from street vendors at the side of roads. Early in the morning in Mexico City, you will often find rows of people lining up to grab themselves a tamal before heading out to work. 

Tamales are made from masa, a maize dough also used to make corn tortillas. The masa mixture is then wrapped in a corn or banana leaf, and steamed. The leaf then acts as a plate for eating the tamales.

🍃 Mexican Tamal Fun Fact: Most tamales are made with a corn husk. However, tamales in Oaxaca State are made with a banana leaf, and called tamales hojas (leaf tamales) or tamales oaxaqueños (oaxaca tamales).

Tamales are the ultimate Mexican comfort food and come in a wide variety of flavors and can be filled with meats, cheeses or vegetables. When planning your Mexico City itinerary, make  sure to try a tamale verde, which is covered in a rich, green chili salsa.

Submitted by Ben of Ticket 4 Two Please

Tamales are among the most common Mexican foods, as you can find them all over the country.

Mexico Food Meals

33. Burritos

Besides the taco, burritos are the second most beloved of all Mexico foods. In Spanish, burrito means “little donkey,” an animal you’ll find on farms and ranches throughout Mexico. Burritos are especially popular in Northern Mexico, an area that has a lot of cattle farms.

In fact, the best burritos in Mexico come from the north, in cities like Monterrey and Santiago. When in Northern Mexico, you’ll find burritos norteños, which are made with giant tortillas — often even bigger than the Chipotle tortillas, if you can imagine that!

🌯 Don’t believe me? Check out Netflix’s Taco Chronicles, Season 2, Episode 5, titled Burritos, so you can see the authentic Mexican burritos norteños for yourself.

Popular Burrito Variations

  • Chimichanga: A deep fried burrito, and a Tex-Mex food staple.
  • Dorado Style Burrito: Instead of being fried like the chimichanga, this burrito is placed on a plancha (cook top) after it’s prepared so the tortilla crisps up a bit.
  • Wet Burrito: A burrito served covered in salsa, often eaten with a knife and fork.
  • California Burrito: A burrito with french fries inside, often in place of the beans and rice, but some California burritos have all three.
traditional Mexico Foods

34. Fajitas

Fajitas are a Tex-Mex food classic, which may even be more popular in the U.S. than in Mexico. In Mexico, the word fajita actually refers more to a cut of steak meat in long, thin strips, more so than a dish or preparation. In grocery stores, you’ll often see fajita meat for sale.

When you do see Mexican fajitas as a dish, it is similar to what you’d get in the U.S.; a plate of strips of meat, with sautéed onions and peppers. In Mexico, you’d get a special type of Mexican onion with your fajitascebollita cambray, which means “Welsh onion” — and is similar to a scallion.

Mexican Alambres

If you’re craving fajitas in Mexico and don’t see them on a menu, look for alambre instead. Traditional Mexican alambre is similar to fajitas, and comes served on a plate with sauteed pieces of meat, onions, peppers, melted cheese, and tortillas on the side.

A Mexican alambre plate is similar to fajitas in the U.S., but everything is in chunks instead of strips.
traditional Mexico Foods

35. Cochinita Pibil

Mexican food is a true expression of the local culture and a great source of pride, having earned a UNESCO World Heritage designation. The cuisine is very regional depending on what is available to be sourced locally.

Among the best foods in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, cochinita pibil (suckling pig) is not only typical to the region, but one of the world’s most traditional food dishes. You can get it outside of the peninsula, but this is definitely a Yucatan food, as all the ingredients come from there.

Other must try Yucatan food staples include poc chuc (marinated, grilled pork), frijoles puercos (or frijol con puerco, Mexican pork and beans), papadzules (egg enchiladas), brazo de reina (a type of tamal) and marquesitas (crepes).

What is cochinita pibil?

Cochinita pibil is a slow roasted pork that’s cooked in the juice of the naranja agria (sour orange, also called sour seville orange), which grows wild in Yucatán. It has a more bitter taste than a regular orange, but this makes it perfect for a sour marinade.

The traditional Cochinita pibil recipe also calls for axiote (annatto) powder, which gives the dish its burnt orange color. To cook, the meat is wrapped in banana leaves, then slow-roasted in an underground oven called a pib — hence the “pib” in cochinita pibil.

The traditional way to eat cochinita is topped with some pickled red onions and habanero salsa. The habanero pepper also grows locally, and is very spicy. You can get it in everything, from tacos to tortas, or the more traditional panuchos and salbutes, two variations on the tortilla.

Submitted by Lori of Travlin Mad

three meat tacos on a plate
traditional Mexico Foods

36. Machaca

Machaca is one of the easiest things to get outside of Mexico — and you can buy some here on Amazon! It is a dried meat, usually spiced beef or pork, that gets rehydrated before it’s cooked. The most common preparation is the breakfast dish, machaca con huevo (with egg).

Machaca is popular in Northern Mexico, but you can also find it in U.S. Southwest cuisine. Southwestern food is a culinary fusion similar to Tex-Mex, but with Arizona and New Mexico influences, especially the so-called “three sisters” ingredients: corn, squash and beans.

If machaca sounds good, you’ll also love discada norteña (mixed meat hash), tasajo (dried, salted beef steak) and cecina (dried, salted pork steak).

37. Carnitas (Mexican Pork Confit)

Carnitas meat is essentially fried pork confit — meaning the pork is cooked in its own fat and lard. While no one’s saying this is healthy, it certainly is delicious, and it’s one of the most beloved types of taco meat.

Some call carnitas the traditional Mexican food equivalent of pulled pork, because the meat is fried in large chunks and then shredded after cooking. Pork shoulder is the most used cut, as its high fat content produces the best carnitas.

This pork preparation is most associated with the state of Michoacan, Mexico. There, the meat is cooked in a large cazo de cobre copper pot over an open flame. Copper craftsmen in Michoacan have handmade these pots for centuries, and they are said to enhance the flavor.

pile of meat for carnitas tacos
traditional Mexico Foods

38. Salpicon de Res

Though there are different preparations of traditional Mexican salpicon, it is basically a shredded meat dish that’s often served cold, along with different veggies. You can think of this as a Mexican salad because, often made with tomatoes, avocado, onions, radish and cilantro.

The most common preparation is salpicón de res, meaning “beef salpicon.” In Mexican beach towns on the coast, you might find salpicón de jaiba (crab) and salpicón de pescado (fish) — which are both refreshing dishes on a hot day.

Tzic de Venado

In the Yucatan Peninsula, there’s another version of salpicon, called tzic de venado, which is made with venison (deer). It is sometimes called salpicón yucateco or salpicón estilo yucatan, meaning “Yucatan style salpicon,” because you’ll rarely find it outside of Yucatan cities like Merida, Valladolid and Campeche.

Tzic de venado is a variation on Mexican salpicon, which is made with venison meat.

National Dish of Mexico | Mexico Foods

With such a rich food culture, there wasn’t enough room for just one. That’s right — Mexico has two national dishes! One of available year-round, mole, while the other chile en nogada, is often only made around Mexican Independence Day on September 16.

39. Mole

Without a doubt, one of the best things to eat in Mexico is mole (pronounced moe-lay). Mole is actually both a marinade and a Mexican sauce. It can be eaten on it’s own or with many different types of dishes, like enmoladas, which are enchiladas covered in mole sauce.

Mole is made from various spices, dried fruits, nuts, and even chocolate, so not all Mexican moles are the same. Some moles have up to 30 ingredients, though 12-15 is more common. A rich, flavorful dish, mole can take days to prepare and cook.

Mole is most associated with the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, though as the national dish of Mexico, it’s also made in other states. There are seven moles of Oaxaca: mole negro, mole poblano, mole verde, mole amarillo, mole coloradito, mole manchamantel and mole chichilo

🍽 If you love mole, you’ll also want to try pepián. You can find it in some places in Mexico, namely the state of Puebla, but it’s also popular in Mexico’s neighboring country of Guatemala.

Some types of mole are spicier than others, while some are actually very sweet. Depending on the dish you’re eating and the region you’re in, you can try a variety of mole in Mexico. In fact, if you do one of the popular food tours in Oaxaca, you’ll likely taste several types of mole.

Submitted by Bailey of Destinationless Travel

Mole is one of the best and most filling dinner foods in Mexico.
traditional Mexico Foods

40. Chile en Nogada

Chile en nogada is one of the most unusual and most delicious Mexican foods. It is considered a patriotic dish, as the green, white and red colors mirror those in the Mexican flag, which is why chiles en nogada are usually only available around the Mexican Independence Day holiday.

The dish consists of a giant, non-spicy poblano chili pepper, lightly battered, and stuffed with a meat and fruit picadillo hash. Although the sweetness may sound unusual, the combo works perfectly. The dish is topped with a creamy walnut based cream sauce, parsley and pomegranate seeds.

The origins of chile en nogada are unknown, but some say it was invented by nuns at a Puebla, Mexico convent to impress an important general visiting town. However, José Luis Juárez López of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology & History, says it was made before this.

One thing is certain though, the chile en nogada comes from Puebla — and trying it is one of the best things to do in Puebla. For one of the best traditional Mexican chiles en nogada, head to Fonda Tipicana la Poblana restaurant in Puebla.

Submitted by Rose of Where Goes Rose

Mexico Seafood Dishes | Mexico Foods

41. Aguachile

Aguachile, which means “water chili,” is said to have been created on the West Coast of Mexico. Though it originates in places including the Baja California Peninsula and Sinaloa state (home to the beach town of Mazatlan), you can now find it in most Mexican coastal cities.

Traditional Mexican aguachile is a cousin to ceviche, in that it’s a seafood dish served cold. Like ceviche, the shrimp is “​​denatured” in a mixture of lime juice, chili peppers, salt, cilantro and more. It is served on a plate with slices of cucumber, and sometimes raw onion. 

What is denaturation?

Some incorrectly say ceviche and aguachile are “cooked” in citrus juice, but that isn’t accurate — as to cook something means heat was used. As no heat is applied to aguachile, the denaturation process makes the shrimp not raw, though it’s also not cooked.

traditional Mexico Foods

42. Baja Shrimp Tacos & Baja Fish Tacos

Tacos estilo baja, meaning “Baja style tacos,” are said to have been invented in Ensenada, Mexico, a surf town not far from the U.S. They have been made by locals on beachside taco shops since the 1950s, and are now popular the world over.

🥗 Mexico Food Fun Fact: The Caesar salad was invented in Baja California! It was invented by Caesar Cardini, who first made it in 1924 at Hotel Caesar in Tijuana, Mexico, which he owned.

The standard Baja taco comes with either fried fish (pescado tacos) or fried shrimp (camarón tacos). These are then topped with a cabbage and cilantro slaw, and sometimes avocado, salsa and a squeeze of fresh lime. Baja Mexico tacos are usually wrapped in a flour tortilla.

Additional Mexican Seafood Tacos

  • Sinaloa Fish Tacos: In Sinaloa state, which has the famous Mexico beach town of Mazatlan, Mexico, don’t miss the tacos gobernador (fish covered with melted cheese and bacon).
  • Nayarit Fish Tacos: In Nayarit state, which has the famous Mexico surf town of Sayulita, Mexico, don’t miss the tacos de pescado zarandeado (BBQ fish tacos).
  • Yucatan Peninsula Fish Tacos: In some places throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, you’ll find tacos de pescado tikin xik (fish cooked in an achiote sauce).
Baja shrimp tacos are a traditional Mexico taco preparation on the Baja California Peninsula.
traditional Mexico Foods

43. Mexican Ceviche

Mexico has 5,800 miles of coastline, so fresh seafood is a staple — even though it’s not always known for seafood. Of the most beloved Mexican seafood dishes, there’s ceviche. For those who are wondering, What is ceviche?, here’s your answer ⤵

Mexican ceviche (pronounced seh-vee-chay) is made with fish, shrimp, octopus, or ceviche mixto, with all three. It is cut into bite-sized pieces, put in a bowl and doused in fresh lime juice so it coats everything, then cilantro, diced tomatoes and onion, and sometimes even cucumber are added.

This is where the magic of ceviche happens: the juice from the lime denatures the seafood. As mentioned above, denaturing takes away the raw qualities of the fish, making it more firm just as the cooking process would, but without the use of heat.

The dish is served cold, and makes for such a refreshing meal on a hot day visiting any of these best Mexico beaches. It will come with a basket of totopos, which is what tortilla chips are called in Mexico, and you can add hot sauce to your taste level.

Mexican ceviche served on a tostada.
traditional Mexico Foods

44. Marlin Ahumado (Smoked Marlin)

Marlín ahumado is a dish many have no idea they’d find in Mexico! However, this smoked marlin fish is one of the most popular Mazatlan Mexican foods, and among the best Mexican seafood dishes. It is commonly served as tacos, tostadas, quesadillas or as a smoked fish dip.

Pescado Zarandeado

Love smoked and barbecued fish? Pescado zarandeado (or, “shaken fish”) is one of the best Mexican dishes for seafood lovers. It is especially popular on the Mexico Pacific Coast, in places like Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita and Sinaloa State.

Pescado zarandeado can be made with several types of fish, from snapper to sea bass. The fish is split lengthwise, then slathered in a mixture of mayo, Maggi sauce (a Mexican cooking staple), various chilis, onions, garlic and more, and then either grilled or baked.

pescado zarandeado
Traditional pescado zarandeado, a local delicacy from the Pacific Coast states. (Photo: T. Tseng via Flickr)
traditional Mexico Foods

45. Camarones al Coco (Coconut Shrimp)

Coconut shrimp, known as camarones al coco, have definitely made their way into U.S. restaurants — so this one might be familiar. Though coconut shrimp is actually said to have been invented in Asia, you’ll find it in most Mexican coastal cities, where you can get shrimp right from the sea. 

🥥 Are you a fan of coconut? Be on the lookout for cocadas (sometimes called coconut kisses), a coconut candy Mexicans love!

Coconut palm trees are also found all over Mexico, especially on the coast. Since the ingredients are so easy to get, you’ll see camarones al coco in restaurants and seafood shacks in all the best Mexico beach towns — from Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas to Tulum!

Camarones a la Diabla

For a spicier Mexican shrimp dish, there’s camarones a la diabla, or “devil’s shrimp.” Mexican deviled shrimp is shrimp coated in a thick, red chili sauce. It can be made with whatever Mexican dried chilis you’d like, including chile de arbol, chili ancho and chili guajillo.

Camarones al coco with extra coco — a food Mexico didn’t invent, but have adopted as their own!

Dessert in Mexico | Mexico Foods

46. Churros

When making a list of Mexico famous foods, there’s no way to leave off churros! Interestingly enough, churros actually originated in Spain, but have become one of the quintessential and best Mexican desserts.

The standard version of churros is a crispy fried dough, that has cinnamon and sugar on the outside, and a soft delicious inside. There are also churros rellenos, which means “stuffed churros,” which can be filled with everything from fruit jams to cajeta, a type of dulce de leche caramel sauce.

While in Monterrey, Mexico, I got to see a man make churros. After mixing the dough, he used a pump to make a ring with the dough over a massive pot of hot oil. Then, he took the coiled churro ring out, coated it in sugar and cinnamon, and cut it to serve. Delicious! —Submitted by Venaugh of Venaugh Travel Blog

mexico city churros and a chocolate dipping sauce
Churros are one dessert food Mexican people love just as much as Americans.
traditional Mexico Foods

47. Flan

Flan is consumed in a few European countries, like France, where it’s called ​​crème caramel and Spain. In fact, flan was brought to Mexico by the Spanish. It is a simple dish, with only a few ingredients — egg, milk and sugar — though it requires some technique to perfect.

Essentially a custard dessert topped with caramel sauce, there are a few variations of traditional flan in Mexico. Flan de cajeta replaces the standard caramel with cajeta, a thicker goat’s milk caramel, and flan napolitano uses cream cheese to create a creamier consistency. 

Jericalla

Another popular variation of Mexican flan is jericalla. This is actually known as Mexican creme brulee, though it’s really more of a cross between a flan and traditional crème brûlée. You’ll likely only find jericalla in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, so be sure to try some if you’re there.

When talking about Mexican popular desserts, flan sits high at the top of the list.
traditional Mexico Foods

48. Alegria de Amaranto (Amaranth Candy)

Amaranth (amaranto) is a grain that’s very popular in Mexico. It is found in everything from smoothies and yogurt at breakfast, to candy. Of the most popular Mexican amaranto candies, there’s alegria de amaranto, meaning “joy of amaranth.”

Alegria candy is made with, of course, amaranto, but also Mexican peanuts, walnuts, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), raisins, and other dried fruits. The ingredients are toasted and combined with honey or piloncillo (raw cane sugar), and finally, packaged for sale.

Alegria de amaranto is closely associated with the town of Santiago Tulyehualco in Xochimilco Mexico City, where it has been made since the 16th Century. You can buy it all over Mexico, usually sold in local Mexican mercados (markets), and by street vendors.

The alegría of Santiago Tulyehualco was officially declared a Patrimonio Cultural Intangible de la Ciudad de México — an intangible part of the cultural heritage of Mexico City — in September 2016. (Source: Wikipedia)

You’ll find this sweet yet nutritious food in Mexican mercados (markets) all over the country. (Photo: Mar Castillo, Mexico – Food via Flickr)
traditional Mexico Foods

49. Nieves & Tepoznieves

Nieves means “snow,” and is basically a cross between a shaved ice and a fruit sorbet. They are made with fresh, local fruits, or sweet ingredients, then frozen, shaved and served!

You’ll find nieves in shops and from old school ice cream carts on the streets of many cities, especially on hot days. If nieves sound yummy to you, be on the lookout for raspados (shaved ice, sometimes called granizados) and mangonadas!

Tepoznieves

In the Central Mexico City of Tepoztlan, one of the best day trips from Mexico City, they serve tepoznieves — said to be the best of all traditional Mexican nieves. In fact, tepoznieves were a sweet treat, only reserved for the wealthy, priests and great lords.

Centuries ago, before refrigeration, the ice had to be transported from miles away to make tepoznieves. To get it, they’d have to climb up two volcanes to get it, Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl, which is why it cost so much to buy.

Today, you can enjoy tepoznieves all over the Tepoztlan pueblo magico (magic town), for only a few pesos. Since Central Mexico has a long growing season, there are always interesting flavors to try, like tuna (cactus pear), guanabana (soursop), zapote (mamey) and rose petals.

Tepoznieves ice cream in Mexico
In Mexico, it’s more likely you’ll find nieves than ice cream.
traditional Mexico Foods

50. Arroz con Leche

Arroz con leche is Mexican rice pudding, which is sweetened with cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, and even raisins. Besides flan, it is arguably one of the most common of all traditional Mexican desserts, which you can find all over the country.

51. Gorditas de Nata

Gorditas de nata, meaning “clotted cream biscuits,” are a popular Mexico City street food. This sweet treat looks like a cross between a pancake and a biscuit, though much smaller than both. It is made with crema de nata, which is a sweetened, heavy cream.

Gorditas de nata | Mexico food vendor
Gorditas de nata are a cousin to the beloved Portuguese dessert, pastéis de nata. (Photo: Pat via Flickr)

52. Marquesitas

Marquesitas (pronounced mar-kay-see-tahs) are among the best foods in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It is essentially a crepe, cooked in a press, then slathered with a variety of fillings before being rolled up. Cooking them in the press ensures they will harden as they cool, so they are easier to hold and eat. 

Marquesitas are found in all three Yucatan Peninsula states, Yucatán, Campeche and Quintana Roo. They are sold by street cart vendors — but only after the sun goes down, as an after dinner treat. This unique Mexican dessert has been around since the 1930s, and is a favorite of locals and visitors alike.

Traditional marquesitas are made with Nutella and shredded queso de bola, a local Yucatan cheese similar to Edam cheese. The sweet and savory combination may sound odd at first, but is incredibly addicting after a few bites.

Most street vendors offer marquesitas that can be filled with cajeta (caramel), fruit jams, chocolate syrup and many other ingredients. You could visit a marquesita food cart every day on a one week vacation, and never eat the same thing twice.

Submitted by Brodi of Our Offbeat Life

You’ll find marquesitas throughout Yucatán State, in cities like Merida, Valladolid, and Izamal, and the Yucatan beaches.

BONUS: 7 Delicious Mexico Drinks

1. Cafe de Olla

Cafe de olla literally means “coffee from the pot.” It is a traditional Mexican coffee preparation, common in the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas. It is made in an olla (large clay pot) with cinnamon and piloncillo (raw cane sugar). Fans of sweet coffee will love cafe de olla.

2. Tequila & Mezcal

Both tequila and mezcal are liquors distilled from the agave plant. However, real Mexican tequila must be made from the blue agave plant, and come from the town of Tequila, Jalisco, and a few designated areas located near this Mexico pueblo magico (magic town).

For this reason, it is often said that — All tequilas are mezcals, but not all mezcals are tequilas. Fans of tequila also tend to like mezcal, especially those who like smoky flavors. As a general statement, mezcal is often referred to as “smoky tequila,” though not all have a strong smoky flavor.

3. Horchata

Horchata is also known as Mexican rice milk, and it’s a drink that’s consumed throughout Mexico. As Mexican tacos and so much other Mexican food is on the spicy side, this cool, sweet drink — made with rice and cinnamon — really cuts through a lot of the spiciness.

4. Tejate

Tejate (pronounced tay-ha-tay) is an ancient chocolate and corn drink popular in Oaxaca, Mexico, where it’s known as la bebida de los dioses, or “the drink of the gods.” It is made by hand in large clay bowls, by liquifying a mixture of fermented cacao beans, toasted maize (corn), and a few more ingredients.

As it has been around since prehispanic times, each region, city and family will have their own unique spin on the traditional tejate recipe. However, even within variations, tejate tastes like a very complex chocolate almond milk, and is always served cold — super refreshing on a hot day in Oaxaca City!

5. Mexican Hot Chocolate

Chocolate has been a Mexican staple food since prehispanic times. Traditional Mexican hot chocolate drinks are made with chocolate and water, unlike chocolate and milk in the U.S. It is hand-spun using a wooden whisk called a molinillo, and usually contains cinnamon.

There are several chocolate drinks in Mexico, including tejate, atole, tascalate, chilate, tejuino and champurrado. While these are mostly regional drinks, Chocolate de la Abuela (grandma’s chocolate), is one of the most popular brands consumed all over Mexico.

6. Aguas Frescas

Aguas frescas are “fresh waters,” and one of the drinks Mexican people flock to on hot days to beat the heat! Many things can be classified as an agua frescas, including horchata and jamaica (hibiscus flower tea), though they can also be made with fruits, like guava, tamarindo, or whatever’s in season.

For some interesting Mexican agua fresca variations, be on the lookout for tepache, a fermented pineapple drink, and tuba, made from the fermented coconut tree sap.

7. Ponche Navideno (Mexican Christmas Punch)

Sometimes called “Mexican sangria,” ponche is a bit different, and it’s also served warm. Ponche (pronounced pon-chay) uses fruits including tejocotes (little apples), pears, oranges and guava, as well as jamaica (hibiscus flower), tamarind and piloncillo (raw brown sugar).

On its own, ponche is one of the most popular Mexican non alcoholic drinks. However, you can also spike it with rum or brandy. Some of the other Mexican Christmas drinks you can enjoy during the holidays are rompope (Mexican eggnog) and champurrado, a chocolate drink.

🎄 Head here to discover the Mexico foods for Christmas you’d enjoy with these drinks!

You’ll rarely find a Mexican party at Christmas time that’s not serving ponche.

History of Mexican Food

The history of Mexican food is long and diverse. Historians believe authentic Mexican food as we now know it dates back to the Mayans. Though its ancient roots lie in Mesoamerican cuisine, present day Mexican food is a delicious blend of Old World meets New World.

The Mexico food of today uses many of the same ingredients the Maya ate, but with Spanish, French and even Lebanese cooking techniques and ingredients. You may say it’s the ultimate fusion cuisine — even meshing one step further with U.S. food to form new fusions, like Tex-Mex and Southwestern cuisine.

Mexican staple foods

Some of the staple foods in Mexican cuisine include corn, beans and chili peppers — which were all present before the Spanish arrived. You’ll rarely find a dish that doesn’t incorporate one, or all, of these ingredients. This can even include corn that has been “nixtamalized” to make tortillas or masa dough.

Nixtamalization process

Corn in Mexico was first domesticated and cultivated by the Maya in the Yucatan Peninsula, and also the neighboring country of Guatemala. However, it wasn’t until the discovery of nixtamalization that corn was manipulated so it could be made into masa for tortillas, tamales and more.

Nixtamalization is a process by which maize (corn) is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution like limewater, washed, and hulled… Nixtamalized maize has several benefits: It is easier to grind, has more nutritional value, improved flavor and aroma, and decreased mycotoxins. (Source: Wikipedia)

It is through the ancient nixtamalization process that we can turn maize (corn) into masa (dough).

Seven Regional Cuisines of Mexico

There’s really no such thing as typical Mexican food. As is common with large countries, Mexico is a country with several very distinct regions — each having their own style of dress, different slang or dialects, social customs, local traditions, and of course, traditional foods.

Below you’ll find a brief explanation of the seven culinary regions of Mexico — which are North Mexico, North Pacific Coast, Bajío, Central Mexico, South Pacific Coast, Gulf Coast, and South Mexico (Yucatan Peninsula).

Mexico’s 7 Culinary Regions (Map courtesy of My Neighbor Felix)

Seven regions of mexican Cuisine

1. North Mexico: Baja California Peninsula, Zacatecas, etc.

The vast El Norte region spans about 2,000 miles, from Baja California on the Pacific Coast, to the Gulf of Mexico lowlands. Northern Mexico cuisine is hearty and unpretentious, just like it’s cattle ranch culture. In the North, you’ll enjoy perfectly grilled beef and steak, machaca, arrachera and cabrito

2. North Pacific Coast: Jalisco, Nayarit, Sinaloa, etc.

Stretching along the Pacific Ocean shoreline, there’s great fresh seafood options along the coast, like pescado zarandeado (shaken fish) in Nayarit State. However, Guadalajara and Jalisco State are the true culinary powerhouses, famed for birria and tortas ahogadas, and the tequila from Tequila, Mexico.

3. Bajio: Michoacán, Queretaro, Guanajuato, etc.

The Bajío (pronounced bah-he-yo) is surrounded by rugged mountains, but itself lies in an immense plateau. Here, you’ll find a lot of pork and rice dishes, like morisqueta, one of the best Mexican Bajio foods. There’s also the beloved Mexican carnitas, deep fried pork confit from Michoacan State.

4. Central Mexico: Mexico City, Puebla, Hidalgo, etc.

Being centrally located, the foods you’ll find in Central Mexico come from all around. Mexico City food is a mix of prehispanic foods like tlacoyos and fusion cuisine, like tacos al pastor. The Poblano cuisine of Puebla, Mexico, including cemitas poblanas and tacos arabes, put Central Mexican cuisine on the map.

5. South Pacific Coast: Oaxaca, Chiapas, etc.

Known for having the most indigenous Mexican cuisines of any region, this area has cooking techniques and dishes that date back thousands of years. The food of Oaxaca is so beloved that it’s capital, Oaxaca City, is known as the “Foodie Capital of Mexico,” famed for mole, tlayudas and queso oaxaca cheese.

6. Gulf Coast: Veracrus, Tabasco

Gulf Coast cuisine is seafood heavy, as it sits on the Gulf of Mexico. However, its mountains also have the ideal climate for growing coffee — and it’s said the Coatepec region of Veracruz has the best coffee in Mexico. The cuisine itself is a unique fusion of prehispanic, Spanish, Caribbean and Afro-Cuban.

7. South Mexico (Yucatan Peninsula): Quintana Roo, Yucatan, etc.

In some ways, the Yucatan Peninsula could be its own country! In fact, it used to be known as the Republic of Yucatán in the mid-1800s. It’s cuisine uses local ingredients like axiote (annatto), naranja agria (sour orange), habanero peppers — and you’ll find them all in it’s most popular dish, cochinita pibil.

Traditional Mexican Christmas & Mexico Holiday Foods

Chile en nogada isn’t the only dishes from Mexico that are served for only a short window throughout the year. Check out these other seasonal Mexican foods, and traditional Mexico Christmas dishes.

Pan de Muerto

Literally meaning “bread of the dead,” this Mexican sweet bread is only made around the Day of the Dead holiday. It is usually available in October and early-November. Besides just eating it, many families leave them on ofrendas, the elaborate altars made in honor of the departed.

Traditional Mexican Christmas Foods

Around Christmas in Mexico, you’ll start to see buñulos (similar to a beignet in New Orleans, but circular shaped) being sold by street vendors. On Mexican Christmas dinner tables, families enjoy romeritos con mole, bacalao, tamales, pozole and ensalada navideña.

Rosca de Reyes

After enjoying those foods in Mexico for Christmas, the next holiday is Día de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day), on January 6. On this day, everyone eats rosca de reyes, or “bread of the kings.” It is similar to an Italian panettone in taste, but comes in a ring shape.

There are several muñequitos (little dolls) placed inside each rosca de reyes. If you get one in your slice, you have to buy everyone tamales at the next holiday gathering for Día de la Candelaria, on February 2.

Final Thoughts: Ultimate Mexico Foods Guide

Though this is a long list, it only begins to detail all the best traditional foods of Mexico. With the Seven Culinary Regions in Mexico, the topic of traditional Mexican dishes and snacks could go on forever!

What’s the best food in Mexico?

There are so many opinions regarding the best food in Mexico, but that’s so subjective there can never be an answer. What you can know is your best food in Mexico! Hopefully this list inspired you to try some new dishes, so you’ll find your best authentic Mexican food.

Have questions about Mexico foods?

I’d love to hear from you! If there’s any questions you have about foods in Mexico, please ask away in the comments below. I’ll do my best to get you the info you’re looking for.

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