Authentic Mexican cuisine is heavily rooted in tradition. Mexican food dishes are homemade delights made from fresh and locally sourced ingredients, richly seasoned with fragrant, zesty, and piquant spices. Think poblano peppers, banana leaves, and freshly squeezed lime juice (careful, you're drooling).
Here’s our look at the top fifteen popular Mexican food dishes to enjoy while you're visiting beautiful Mexico. And if you just can't wait, we've included recipes to try while you're packing. Just don't ruin your appetite!
As hearty as a grand slam but with none of the grease, Chilaquiles is a traditional breakfast dish whipped together from leftover dinner tortilla and salsa. Take one stack of fried tortilla chips, simmered with either red or green salsa in a pan, and then served with layers of shredded chicken strips, avocado slices, radishes, chopped onions and sprinkles of queso fresco. Finish off with a drizzle of crema, and you have yourself the most important meal of the day.
How to Make Chilaquiles
For variety, it’s sometimes served with eggs or rice, making it the perfect companion to a lazy Sunday morning brunch.
You know you are celebrating when you see a bowl of this classic stew on the table. Made with pork and hominy, pozole is normally eaten on special occasions, fiestas, or holidays like the Mexican Independence Day. The broth comes mixed with a base made from chilli and earthy spices and garnished with oregano, shredded cabbage, sautéed garlic, lime, salsa, and radishes. A spoonful of this soup brims with warmth, spicy aroma, and a robust but satisfying flavour.
How to Make Pozole
Almost every state in Mexico has its own version of this beloved stew, and it comes in either red, green or clear soup stock.
Long before it was the go-to comfort food of every Mexican household, tamale fed armies of ancient Aztec warriors. Tamales are made from masa, a corn-based dough, stuff with meat, vegetable, chillies, and cheese before wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves like packets and steamed until firm.
How to Make Tamales
Sold on every street corner and roadside stand in the Riviera Maya, Tamales come in savoury or sweet fillings and can be eaten with salsa or mole sauce toppings.
4. Chiles en Nogada
Made with all the colours of the Mexican flag, chiles en nogada is as much a party on the eyes as it is on the palate. At first glance, everything jumps off the plate like fireworks: a large roasted poblano chilli pepper stuffed with picadillo and bathed in nogada, a milky, walnut cream sauce, and sprinkled with ruby-red pomegranate seeds.
How to Make Chiles en Nogada
A popular summer dish served around Mexican Independence Day, chiles en nogada is unabashedly patriotic, and each bite is as playful and savoury as the next.
5. Cochinita Pibil
This slow-roasted pull pork dish from the Yucatan Peninsula is usually made from braised shoulders or loins of suckling pigs. Traditionally barbecued in underground pit ovens, pibil spends hours marinating with orange juice, lime juice, and achiote seeds paste until the meat turns vividly red. The finished product imparts a tangy, smoky, and sweet flavour that seeps out from its banana leaf wrappings.
How to Make Cochinita Pibil
When fresh out of the oven, cochinita pibil oozes the scent of bold spices, honey-sweet citrus zest, and warm, piquant notes of roasted chilis. Simply perfect with a side of rice or corn tortillas.
6. Mole Poblano
Although Cinco de Mayo isn't a widely celebrated holiday throughout Mexico, the city of Puebla is an exception. In commemoration of the Battle of Puebla against French troops on May 5, 1862, parades, musicians, and the aroma of mole poblano fill the streets.
How to Make Mole Poblano
Making mole the Puebla way requires attention to detail and a lot of patience. The rich, aromatic sauce features chocolate and a delicate mix of flavours. Serve it piping hot and smothered over chicken and rice.
Tasty tostadas aren’t a particular dish, but the crunchy, toasted tortillas feature as a base in all kinds of staple recipes. Try tostadas topped with refried beans, carnitas, pico de gallo, and feta cheese.
How to Make Tostadas
Whether you’re food truck hopping in Mexico City or looking for a sizzling beachside snack along the riviera, elotes are always a solid choice. Fresh corn on the cob is grilled to perfect, then seasoned with chili powder, cotija cheese, and mayo. Top it off with a squeeze of lime and some cilantro for the perfect balance of flavours.
How to Make Elote
What makes the best comfort food ever? The cheese. The sauce. The whole enchilada. Now that you’re finished rolling your eyes, get ready to roll up your sleeves! Enchiladas are best served messy. Handmade corn tortillas give a big hug to your choice of savoury ingredients (think pork, chicken, beef, or beans). Then the whole dish is sauced up and sent to the oven to bring all the flavours to life.
How to Make Enchiladas
If the word concha sounds familiar, we’ll give you a hint: she does sell seashells by the seashore. These shell-shaped sweet breads (or pan dulce) are a go-to choice for a fresh-baked breakfast or a simple snack that hits the spot. Try them topped with a sweet sugary icing or chocolate and cinnamon.
How to Make Conchas
Slow and steady tastes the best. While this slow-cooked dish doesn’t originally hail from Mexico (it comes from barbaca, a barbeque dish made by the Taino peoples of Dominican Republic), it’s definitely a popular addition to traditional Mexican cuisine. Try it with tacos with heaps of onions, cilantro and zesty salsa. Or enjoy it served simply over rice with roasted vegetables.
How to Make Barbacoa
What do you get when you combine rice, cinnamon, milk, cinnamon, and sometimes almonds? A drink you’ll always crave once you’ve had it. Horchata’s richness cools down spicy dishes, and it goes great with a hot summer day, too.
How to Make Horchata
13. Huevos Rancheros
With protein packed almost as much as flavour, huevos rancheros is a hearty start to your day. The handmade corn tortillas, eggs, tomatoes, and refried beans come standard, but the dish is ideal for experimenting with. Try your huevos rancheros with carnitas, chicken, or cheese for an extra pop.
How to Make Huevos Rancheros
14. Tres Leches Cake
Lactose intolerant travellers, we’re so sorry you’re missing out on this one. This sweet treat is made by soaking a fluffy sponge cake with evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. It’s irresistible with some sliced fruit on top.
How to Make Tres Leches Cake
These rolled and deep-fried flour tortillas are a popular snack for kids and grown-ups alike. Try them stuffed with shredded beef, chicken, or roasted veggies for the perfect afternoon pick me up.