Mexican Food Guide

Mexico overall is considered to be a street food heaven, great quality and variety for extremely cheap price. Also good to know, that it’s very easy to eat there meat-free, so for vegetarians as well you can find many options, with tasty avocado, corn, frijoles (beans) and spicy salsas. Not to mention the seafood variants of these dishes. Let’s review now the basics of Mexican Gastronomy in this super detailed and yummy food guide.

About the Mexican street food

Mexico has one of the most extensive street food cultures in Latin America, and Forbes named Mexico City as one of the foremost cities on the world in which to eat on the street.

In Mexican Spanish, the fast foods prepared on the streets and in market stalls are called antojitos (literally “little cravings”) because they are typically foods not eaten at a formal meal, especially not the main meal of the day, comida, which is served in the mid-afternoon. However, there are exceptions. Street foods are easiest to find in the early morning and then the evening and late into the night. They are less available, especially outside of Mexico City, in the mid-afternoon. The majority of this food is based on corn products. The best street food is often found in and around markets and at public transportation stops.

Mexican street foods include – try to remember and taste all: tacos, tamales, gorditas, quesadillas, empalmes, tostadas, chalupa, elote, tlayudas, cemita, pambazo, empanada, nachos, chilaquiles, fajita and tortas, and soups such as menudo, pozole and pancita.

Read our complete Mexico City Bucket list here!

Dishes to definitely try in Mexico

In Mexican gastronomy there are 3 ever-present ingredients: chiles, corn and beans. They can all be prepared into a great variety of forms, but what doesn’t change is their importance in the deep history of Mexican cuisine.

Tacos

We can say that Tacos are the most popular street food all around Mexico. Though they’ve become heavily globalised, an authentic Mexican taco is simple: it features carne asada in a fresh, soft corn tortilla topped with minced white onions and fresh cilantro.

This popular, utensil-free Mexican dish now-days comes though in many varieties, made up of a corn or wheat tortilla that is folded or rolled around a filling that can include beef, chicken, cheese, pork, seafood and vegetables and topped with avocado, chili pepper, cilantro, guacamole, lettuce, onions, salsa and more.

Quesadillas

Quesadillas are derived from the Spanish word for cheese, queso, and refer to a tortilla folded in half and filled with cheese and possibly other ingredients such as spicy meat, mushrooms, chili pepper strips and more. The type of cheese used generally varies by region and in some areas, cheese is not even used unless requested.

Quesadillas can also contain mushrooms or squash blossoms, or other vegetables added. You can occasionally find huitlacoche quesadillas, which are made with a corn fungus sometimes called corn truffle in English. Deep fried quesadillas may come topped with guacamole or bean paste, and the salsa is usually put on the outside of the tortilla whereas for quesadillas toasted on the comal, it’s more common to open it up and add salsa before eating.

Gorditas

Meaning “the small fatty ones”. It is filled sandwich, very similar to Venezuelan Arepas, the only difference is the bread / tortilla they use to fill. Based on your desire it can be filled with many great and delicious things and in the end they grill or fry the Gordita and add a lot of salsa.

This Mexican delight features a light corn pastry that features a hollow center for stuffing. Inside ingredients include chorizo and eggs, papas con chile, picadillo, refried beans, cheese, barbacoa beef, and Chile Verde. Of course, fillings and topping vary based on personal choice and vendor preference.

Chilaquiles

The ultimate Mexican breakfast. Made with fried tortilla, on the top of it: eggs, frijoles (beans), cheese and meat (but this can be skipped), and a lot of spicy salsa on top. By the way, did you know that many people in Mexico is having breakfast two times? First a sweet pastry only with coffee, second a bigger salty breakfast with eggs, but the order can be changed, the only rule is to separate sweet from salty.

Ceviche

Mexican ceviche is a very simple but outstanding recipe. It is usually done with shrimp, lime juice, avocado, jalapeño, cilantro and finish it off with some hot sauce if that is your style. Instead of shrimp, fresh fish versions as well are very popular.

Shrimp ceviche is originally coming from Veracruz, Mexico. Veracruz is a port city located on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, there is plenty of fresh seafood for anyone who likes it.

Read our complete Veracruz article here!

Aguachile

Aguachile (aka Camarones en Aguachile),  is a flavorful Mexican appetizer, similar to ceviche, where shrimp is marinated in a lime juice, but with the addition of chiles and cilantro. A simple, spicy and delicious appetizer that is low-carb and keto friendly!

Sopa azteca or Sopa de tortilla

Tortilla soup is a traditional Mexican soup made of fried corn tortilla pieces, submerged into a broth of tomato, garlic, onion, and chile de árbol and epazote. It is served with pieces of pasilla chiles, chicharrón, avocado, fresh cheese cubes and sour cream. Although the exact origin of tortilla soup is unknown, it is known that it comes from the Mexico City area in Mexico. Traditional tortilla soup is made with chicken broth combined with roasted tomatoes, onion, garlic, chiles and tortillas, cut into strips and fried. There are some variations, for example the broth being made with a thickened tomato base and ground tortillas or a bean soup enriched with crunchy strips of fried tortillas. 

Frijoles or Olla de frijoles

The Mexican bean dish. Once believed the beans to have originated in Peru, the common bean is now thought to have been first cultivated in what today is called Central Mexico. From there it spread throughout Central and South America before making its way to Europe via the Spanish. There are many recipes for Frijoles, with different spices and different beans. You cannot go wrong with any of them. Ask as side dish, on the top of your Taco or simply on a toast.

Scrambled eggs a la Mexicana

Huevo a la Mexicana is an egg dish served throughout Mexico for breakfast in homes and restaurants. Any dish in Mexico that has “a la Mexicana” in the name will always be prepared with tomato, onion, and serrano chile just as this one is. The name of this dish roughly translates as “Mexican style egg.” It is delicious, inexpensive, healthy, and simple to prepare. By the way it is super similar to a Hungarian style “tojásos lecsó”.

Fishes

All around the coasts, including the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico or even the Pacific, you can find outstanding fish dishes, amazing seafood selection. It is always worth to give a try to the daily local fresh fish offer, it will never disappoint you.

Marquesitas

Marquesitas are a dessert native to the state of Yucatán. They consist of a crepe, rolled like a taco, filled with cajeta or dulce de leche, condensed milk, jam, chocolate or edam cheese, also known as queso de bola. They are sold in squares, parks and streets and always freshly done ina special crepe maker pan. Be aware that only with cheese – as we tried for the first time – is a bit too dry. But be careful with the sweet sauces, better to choose only one on top of it, otherwise you end up with a super sweet version. No matter what, don’t miss it & enjoy!

Read our complete Yucatán review here!

Carlota de limón

This Mexican lime cake, known as Carlota de Limon, is the easiest no-bake cake. It needs only 5 ingredients and there’s minimal cleaning up to do. It’s a perfect Mexican dessert that you can serve all year long and uses pantry staple ingredients. It’s so easy! All you do is blend the liquid ingredients (condensed milk & fresh limes). Then layer the mix with cookies, sprinkle some lime zest, refrigerate and ready to eat.

Churros

Deep fried sweet dough that is sprinkled with sugar—what could be a better sweet treat? Churros were brought from Spain but Mexicans took to them readily, and you probably will too. Just make sure they’re fresh: stale churros can be rubbery and disappointing as opposed to the glory that is a fresh churro.

Mexican drinks & cocktails

Aguas frescas

Aguas frescas are relatively healthy, it’s made by blending fresh fruit with lime juice, a little sweetener, and water. It’s an unfiltered drink, so all the antioxidants from the fruit aren’t removed. Fruit used includes cucumber, strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, honeydew melon, and sometimes it features cereals, seeds, or flowers.

Cocktails

There’s more to Mexican cocktails than the margarita! Of course, the Classic Margarita is a thing of beauty (as are its endless variations). But if you’re looking for other options for Mexican drinks: there are so many to try! Make sure to have a big bottle of tequila at your hand though.

Margarita

Of course, the margarita is the best known of all Mexican cocktails! Did you know the classic recipe has no added syrup? Here’s the classic way to make it, with three ingredients: Tequila, Cointreau and lime juice. Usually it comes with salty glasses, and at most of the places they add a bit of sweetener just in case.

Cantarito

It was one of the best cocktail that we have tried in Mexico. Cantarito is highly popular in Puebla, but you can find it all over the country. It combines tequila, grapefruit juice, orange juice, lime juice in a cocktail shaker. It’s served with a lot of ice and tajín spice on the top! Excellent!

Chelada & Michelada

The Michelada is a spicy Mexican beer cocktail made with beer, tomato juice, lime juice and Maggi sauce. It is a very weird combination for our European taste. So we highly preferred the simple Cheladas, that excluded the tomato and the Maggi sauce as well.

Paloma

This easy cocktail combines tequila with grapefruit to make a simple sour that’s sweet tart and refreshing. It’s perfect for happy hour drinks, or water it down and it could be a brunch drink too. The Paloma is traditionally made with grapefruit soda, but many recipes use grapefruit juice and soda water together. 

Coconut water

You can find coconuts all around the tropical territories. The most famous coconut water and milk brands are coming from Mexico too, undoubtedly. Which means, that if you are in love with this natural, super delicious and nutritious drink, you are at the right place in Mexico to enjoy it every day!

Tequila & Mezcal

Tequila

This is a distilled beverage made from the blue agave plant. Primarily, in the area surrounding the city of Tequila 65 km northwest of Guadalajara, and in the Jaliscan Highlands (Los Altos de Jalisco) of the central western Mexican state of Jalisco. The red volcanic soils in the region of Tequila are well suited for growing the blue agave, and more than 300 million of the plants are harvested there each year. Agave grows differently depending on the region. Blue agaves grown in the highlands Los Altos region are larger and sweeter in aroma and taste. Agaves harvested in the valley region have a more herbaceous fragrance and flavour. Due to its historical and cultural importance, the region near Tequila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006, the Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila.

Tequila is commonly served neat in Mexico and as a shot with salt and lime around the world. It must have between 35 and 55 percent alcohol content. 

Mexican laws state that tequila can only be produced in the state of Jalisco and limited municipalities in the states of GuanajuatoMichoacánNayarit, and Tamaulipas. Tequila is recognized as a Mexican designation of origin product in more than 40 countries.

Mezcal

Aside from its geographical distinction, tequila is differentiated from mezcal in that it is made only from blue agave and the beverages are prepared in different ways. 

Whether distilled drinks were produced in Mexico before the Spanish Conquest is unknown. The Spaniards were introduced to native fermented drinks such as pulque, made from the maguey plant. Soon, the conquistadors began experimenting with the agave plant to find a way to make a distillable fermented mash. The result was mezcal. Today, mezcal is still made from the heart of the agave plant, called the piña, in much the same way as it was 200 years ago. In Mexico, mezcal is generally consumed straight and has a strong smoky flavour. Though other types of mezcal are not as popular as tequila (made specifically from the blue agave in selected regions of the country).

Mexican fun facts

  • In Mexico almost no one uses the yellow lemon, even though it is on the market, majority of the people only use lime (the green one), not only to pair your Corona, but for cooking too.
  • Don’t miss out on the local avocado selections. Sadly, once you are back from Mexico – especially to Europe, you will realise quickly that what you knew as avocado before is nothing to do with the real, thick, super delicious variants that our Mexican brothers have access to.
  • Don’t be afraid of the variety of the paprikas, and spicy sauces, you will get used to them with time, and addicted surprisingly quickly to the spicy food.

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