The most difficult question I’m asked is my favourite cuisine, it’s like asking a mother to choose her favourite child. But if I had to choose to eat only from one country for the rest of my life I would choose food in Mexico.
And that’s because Mexico is so diverse. You could spend your entire life just eating and only taste a fraction of Mexican food. Mexico is a gigantic country with food that varies drastically from East to West and North to South.
But one thing is for certain, authentic Mexican food doesn’t taste like anything from Taco Bell in the United States. And I recommend people visiting Mexico, if only for the food!
Food in Mexico You Need to Try
These pork rinds are very popular as snacks in Mexico. They can be bought by themselves, usually in a bag. Also, they are sometimes served with sauce. It is common to see them crushed on tacos with avocado, cheese and a hot chili sauce.
A type of antojito, or snack in Mexico, gorditas as small stuffed corn cakes. They are often stuffed with cheese and meat and then deep fried. It’s not the healthiest antojito but it is delicious.
This popular comfort food in Mexico is a great vegetarian option. Simply cut zucchini into small coins and stew along with garlic, tomatoes and cheddar cheese.
Steamed pockets of corn dough that are very popular in Mexico, the range of fillings includes sweet and savory options. The basic tamale is a masa or dough of corn that is steamed in either a corn husk or banana leaf.
It can be eaten plain. But it’s also delicious with chicken or pork in a tomato salsa. These are very inexpensive sides or snacks in Mexico. It is also common to find tamales in Nicaragua, Guatemala and Cuba. Although I think they are the most delicious in Mexico.
These small tacos are most commonly found as street foods in the Yucatan peninsula. They look like flautas or taquitos but have may not may not have a filling. Sometimes they are simply deep fried rolled tortillas topped with a bit of sauce and served free with a beer.
I first ate this in Oaxaca, where it is from. However, you can find it in other places around Mexico, but always referred to as a dish from Oaxaca.
In tourist restaurants they are served like a flour tortilla pizza with meat, cheese and cabbage as toppings.
However, Mexicans eat them folded. Make sure you get them a topping of asiento, a delicious rendered pork fat that makes them truly decadent.
These sandwiches are made with a large crusty white bread roll. They are usually filled with meat, avocado or eggs. Sometimes they are served with sides such as tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and mole sauces.
Although they are typically street food, if you pay a bit more you get better quality. One of my favourite restaurants in Playa del Carmen is a little torta shop, it costs $1 more but the tortas are larger and use higher quality ingredients.
If you’ve had corn on the cob that was dressed with some chile powder, mayonnaise and cheese you can thank Mexico for this.
Elote is corn that can be eaten on the cobb or it’s taken off the cob and served in a cup with toppings but then it’s called esquites. It’s a great vegetarian or vegan option for food in Mexico because you can customize it easily.
Tacos Al Pastor
While there could be a list of 100 tacos to eat in Mexico the king of tacos is Al Pastor. This Mexican street food has international influence.
Al pastor means shepherd style and it’s made differently from other tacos in Mexico. Lebanese immigrants started arriving in Mexico in the late 1800s and they introduced the rotating spit. Al pastor uses this spit to slice off pork and serve on corn tortillas.
Tacos de Carnitas
Carnitas is also one of the most popular tacos in Mexico and found throughout the country. To make it pork is braised several hours until tender. It’s put on a taco and unless you have an allergy, you should say yes to it also being topped with fresh cilantro and onion!
Like many Mexican foods, quesadillas can be stuffed with a range of other ingredients. It’s a perfect snack in Mexico and is rarely stuffed to the brim like we see at home.
The original recipe is a grilled tortilla with Oaxaca cheese and served on the street. But today there are franchises like Las Quekas, which serve everything from pork and beef to zucchini flowers and huitlacoche.
One of the Mexican dishes from the Jalisco state, and is originally made from goat but you can find other meats as well. It’s considered a special celebration food and is quite spicy.
You can also find birria in other countries such as Ecuador. It’s a versatile dish but one that requires a good cook because goat stew isn’t always great.
In Mexican cuisine, mole refers to a sauce. Kind of like how curry just means sauce in Indian food.
In the UNESCO Gastronomy city of Oaxaca they have 7 officially recognized types of mole. Outside the city you usually find two types of mole: one with poblano sauce and another with chiles, nuts and chocolate.
Traditionally this food in Mexico was made with a roast suckling pig cooked in banana leaves underground. Today this slow roasted dish can also be made with a variety of different cuts and some people make it with a pork shoulder in the oven or slow cooker.
However, the core of the recipe has not changed in Mexico. Traditional ingredients for cochinita pibil still include bitter orange juice and achiote. A traditional dish from the Yucatan, it’s served on corn tortillas and pickled red onions.
In the Maya Riviera there are some street food vendors which serve it in the mornings. You have to get there before it runs out at lunch time. Locals love it with a bit of Coca Cola as they think the sweetness balances out the flavour.
The poblano pepper used for this Mexican food is particularly common in Puebla but you can find it all over the country.
A poblano pepper is then stuffed with cheese, meat and vegetables. Then often coated in an egg or corn flour batter and deep fried. It is often served with a tomato based sauce or salsa. It can also be served on a tortilla for chile relleno tacos.
The poblano isn’t a spicy pepper so it’s great for everyone.
Chiles En Nogada
This traditional dish is made by stuffing a pepper with meat, fruits and herbs. The stuffed pepper is covered in a white walnut sauce and red pomegranate seeds.
Along with the green pepper, this Mexican dish gives the appearance of all three colours of the Mexican flag.
These ‘rancher’s eggs’ are a popular breakfast that as been exported beyond Mexico. However, the traditional version is made with fried eggs and a tomato and chile sauce on top of a corn tortilla.
A traditional Mexican soup made with hominy and meat (usually pork). It is served with a tower of toppings from radish to fried tortillas, which makes it incredibly customizable.
Pozole is typically red or white, meaning its absent of chile peppers. However, food in Mexico changes from region to region. In the west, the city of Colima has pozole seco or dry pozole that is more of a hominy mash than a soup.
This spicy soup is made by creating a broth with red chili peppers, cilantro, lime, onions and beef tripe.
Mexican families will often make a large batch which can be chilled and reheated so that it can make several meals. But it is usually a late night (after work or drinking) or Sunday afternoon food in Mexico.
Some swear it is the perfect hangover cure. There are some menudo restaurants that actually open at midnight and serve menudo until noon.
Sopa De Lima
Commonly found in the Yucatan peninsula, this soup is made with lime, avocado, crunchy corn tortillas and chicken. Sopa de lima is a tasty meal which gets a great zing from the limes in the recipe.
Another great dish from Oaxaca, chapulines are a type of fried grasshopper.
They were originally eaten by the indigenous population and are still common today as a snack. Often they are flavoured in chile and lime, or garlic. You can find them in the market in some cities or in tourist areas touts will walk around selling them to foreigners.
Often described to visitors to Mexico as one of the iconic foods, escamoles are not for the squeamish.
They are the edible larvae and pupae of a large species of giant black ant that is found around the Mexico City area. They are usually cooked in butter and onions.
This marinated fish dish is found throughout Latin America. There are several versions found in Mexico, with the most unusual being found around Veracruz, where the sauce used to marinate the fish is drained, to make a ‘dry’ ceviche.
These corn tortillas are available throughout the country and are stuffed with seafood, vegetables or meat. It’s very much a regional food in Mexico, depending on what is available locally. But it’s almost smothered in a delicious chile pepper sauce.
This sponge cake is soaked in three types of milk to give it a very moist texture. This is what makes it amazing. Cream, condensed milk and evaporated milk makes it a very tasty dessert that is lighter than many people expect.
The name of these sweet breads come from the shell-like appearance. They are a type of pastry that is often eaten at breakfast or as a late supper, along with hot chocolate or coffee.
These strips of sweet choux pastry are often eaten as a breakfast food. They are a cross over from Spanish food, and can be found throughout Latin America.
Often they can be sprinkled with sugar and a chocolate sauce. There are also filled options, where the pastry is stuffed with dulce de leche, cajeta or chocolate.
Perhaps one of the most iconic desserts that also came from Spain, flan is a an egg custard dessert. It’s very common to see everywhere in Mexico from small local restaurants to Michelin star as it is so adaptable.
In Mexico, these sweet treats are made with fried dough. It becomes light and fluffy during cooking, creating small hollow pillows. These can be used to hold honey or other sweet liquids, which make for a wonderful tasty dessert.
Drinks in Mexico
Another hangover cure in Mexico, it is similar in theory to the bloody mary in America or the caesar drink in Canada.
It combines a light beer with tomato or Clamato juice (only typically found in Canada and Mexico), lime juice and soy sauce.
It is common in Mexican restaurants to offer the Michelada as an add-on price to any beer you choose. Like the caesar and bloody mary, some people like it to be spicy so hot sauce is optional.
If you don’t like tomato juice have no fear, there’s always the equally delicious chelada beer cocktail.
This white drink in Mexico varies depending on where you go, although the flavour profile usually stays the same.
The traditional recipe for horchata uses rice, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. But some restaurants have their own twist and will add coconut milk or nutmeg.
It’s also common to find horchata in other countries in Latin America.
A fruit drink found throughout Mexico. The most common flavours are jamaica, which is a red drink made from the hibiscus flower, and tamarindo made from tamarind.
Agua fresca is almost always included for free when you order a set meal for lunch in Mexico. It can be quite sugary depending on local tastes.
A distilled alcohol made from agave, mezcal actually has the worm not tequila.
Mezcal is primarily produced in the regions in and around Oaxaca. Like all spirits, you get what you pay for and cheap mezcal will leave you with a headache. Go to a reputable mezcal shop to try different varieties.
An alcoholic beverage from the Mayans, xtabentun is basically ancient mead, or fermented honey, flavoured with anise. While it is very common in the Yucatan, you can find it elsewhere in Mexico. It can be drank straight or mixed into a coffee as it’s so sweet.
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