Let’s face it, Mexican food is so ubiquitous, it has become part of the standard diet in countries all over the world. Of course, as with most cuisines, the food is very often altered to suit local tastes. This means that few people have actually tried the real authentic Mexican fare!
In this article we want to give you a glimpse of the most common, traditional dishes that the country has to offer. Before getting started on the list, there are a few things to note about Mexican cuisine.
Most Popular Mexican Dishes
Like many other national cuisines, Mexican food weaves a tale of history and national pride. Even today, Aztec and Mayan dishes continue to be served as regular fare. The Spanish conquest of Mexico added even more diversity to the food.
What’s truly impressive about Mexican cuisine is that most new dishes that sprung from settlements were a result of hard work and imagination. Families, cooks, and even nuns actively worked to infuse the new flavors with the old.
Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at the top dishes locals eat in Mexico.
Chilaquiles is a rather common breakfast in Mexico, probably because it is the perfect way to start your day. Chilaquiles consist of corn tortillas that have been quartered and fried. They are topped off with salsa, either red or green will do.
You will often find that eggs, pulled chicken, cream, cheese, and refried beans (frijoles) are doused on top as well. If you prefer a milder version, adding some Bearded Butcher Blended seasoning could help to add flavor without too much spice.
Our favorite Chilaquiles recipe.
Chiles en Nogada
Chiles en Nogada isn’t just a traditional dish, it is also a rather patriotic one. There are a few different versions of how the dish came to be. As local legend has it, nuns created Chiles en Nogada to celebrate Mexico’s independence.
They say that the colors of the dish; the green of the stuffed poblano peppers, white of the walnut cream, and the red of the pomegranate seeds represent the Mexican flag.
Other historians have a slightly different take on the dish’s origins. Regardless, chiles en Nogada continue to serve as the ultimate symbol of freedom. Although it can be enjoyed at any time of the year, it is particularly popular when Mexican Independence Day rolls around.
Our favorite Chiles en Nogada recipe.
If you’ve ever felt that enchiladas were missing a little something, then Enmoladas are for you. Enmoladas consist of shredded chicken and cotija cheese wrapped in corn tortillas. It is then doused with black mole sauce and topped off with sesame seeds and more cheese. The dark mole sauce consists of Mexican chocolate, adding complexity and depth to the whole dish.
Our favorite Enmolada recipe.
The best way to describe pozole would be to think of it as an intersection between a stew and a soup. This dish has ancient roots, dating back to the Aztecs. One of the hallmarks of pozole is the hominy – hulled corn kernels that are also referred to as maize.
Other ingredients in the dish include pork, tomatoes, red chiles, and other spices. It is typically enjoyed at major events or large family gatherings.
Our favorite Pozole recipe.
Considering the popularity of Torta Ahogada – it is practically a symbol of Guadalajara – it is surprising to learn that its inception was accidental. It was a happy accident, though, that spawned decades of delicious sandwiches.
In essence, Torta Ahogadas are “drowned” sandwiches. Crusty bread is filled with pork marinated in citrus and garlic and then fried. The sandwich is then doused in spicy, flavorful pasta as well as a tomato-based sauce. The result is an explosion of flavors that are perfectly balanced with one another.
Our favorite Torta Ahogada recipe.
Tacos Al Pastor
Now, tacos are about as Mexican as a food can get. Tacos al Pastor, though, has more of an international influence than many people realize. For the most part, they look like regular tacos – however, there is a hitch.
These corn tortillas are filled with pork that has been stacked on a long spit. In fact, in many ways, this is quite similar to shawarma. This is because Tacos al Pastor was introduced by Lebanese and Syrian immigrants that came to Mexico in the 1920s and 30s.
The meat is traditionally topped off with some onions, cilantro, and pineapple. Some modern versions may glob on some salsa on top as well.
Our favorite Tacos Al Pastor recipe.
This is popular street food in Mexico and can be found virtually everywhere. It is corn on the cob, with a whole new take.
Here, the boiled corn can be seasoned with salt, chili powder, butter, lime, cheese, mayonnaise, and sour cream. The corn is typically served on a stick, but the kernels are sometimes sliced off the cob and served in a cup.
Our favorite Elote recipe.
Torta Cubana is one of the meatiest sandwiches you will ever try. While there are variations on the recipe, it is generally accepted that it contains meat, cheeses and vegetables.
Our favorite Torta Cubana recipe.
If you thought tortillas were already amazing and delish, they are about to be upgraded with tostadas. Initially, tostadas were a way of breathing new life into stale tortillas. These days, though, they are common fare.
Here, stale corn tortillas are deep-fried in oil until they turn golden and crispy. The most common toppings for tostadas are refried beans and guacamole. In various regions, however, you may also find meat, veggies, cilantro, salsa, cheese, and cilantro being piled on as well.
Our favorite Tostadas recipe.
Tripas Tacos are made from cow’s intestines (tripe) and are certainly one of the weirder dishes to try in Mexico.
Now you might be a little reluctant to try tacos made with intestines, but trust us they are surprisingly delicious! So convinced are we that we actually have an authentic recipe for tripas tacos that you can make yourself.
This is certainly an eye-catching treat. One of the first things that you will notice about tlacoyo is the bluish tint of its outer pastry. It is made from blue corn masa. These can be filled with pork crackling, cheese, veggies, or meat and are then cooked on open-air griddles. You can add sides like cheese, salsa, and nopales.
Our favorite Tlacoyo recipe.
You could be forgiven for thinking that pambazo is just another sandwich. Take one bite, though, and you will quickly realize how unique it is. This sandwich is made from pambazo bread that has been dipped in Guajillo chili sauce and pan-fried.
The sandwich is usually filled with chorizo, potatoes, crema, and cheese. Of course, variations do exist so it isn’t uncommon to find meats, veggies, and cheese being added as well. Either way, this is an incredible dish.
Our favorite Pambazo recipe.
If you ever find yourself in Mexico City, you will know that camote is nearby when you hear a steam-driven whistle. This is traditional Mexican street food – it’s roasted sweet potato that is often sweetened even more during the cooking process.
Camote is traditionally served with condensed milk, although various other sweet toppings may be added as well.
Our favorite Camote recipe.
Criadillas (Bull Testicle Fries)
Ok so not technically a hugely popular dish in Mexico but Criadillas is in fact very authentic to Mexico and a few other Spanish speaking countries. Criadillas are essentially fries made from the testicles of a bull or a calf.
The reason for their popularity is to do with bullfighting, since successful matadors eat them as a sign of strength and victory.
Our favorite Criadillas Bulls Testicle recipe.
Gorditas can be found on the menus of Western fast food restaurants. Nevertheless, the real-deal can be a bit different. It is a small, Mexican cake made from masa dough. It can be filled with cheese, meat, or vegetables. This causes the cake to puff up, making it look chubby, hence the name.
Our favorite Gorditas recipe.
In case you are in the mood for a sweet treat, try concha – Mexico’s sweet bread. It is essentially sweet bread topped with a crusty, cookie in the shape of a shell. Conchas are available in various flavors, although vanilla and chocolate tend to be the most popular options. These are typically enjoyed by dipping into hot chocolate.
Our favorite Conchas recipe.
Ok so not technically a food but Pulque is far too good to not include! Made from the fermented agave plant, Pulque is an alcoholic drink that the natives have been drinking for over 2,000 years.
Calling it traditional would be underrated due to its deep history with the indigenous Mexican culture. In fact, you can read more about the history of Pulque and even try making it yourself with our favorite Pulque recipe.
Tamales are the answer to eco-friendly wrapping. Here, corn dough is filled with either sweet or savory fillings. This package is then wrapped in either corn husks or banana leaves and steamed. It is the ultimate street food as it comes with its own plate. What’s truly impressive about tamales, though, is that they have been eaten for over 9,000 years!
Our favorite Tamales recipe.
While there are several variations of this dish, it is a breakfast staple. It is technically a sou made from tripe, maize, and spices. Unless you grew up on the dish, though, it can be a bit of an acquired taste – and smell. Unlike many other Mexican dishes, this is certainly not one for the faint of heart.
Our favorite Menudo recipe.
Chongos zamoranos is a cheesy-tasting dessert that is prepared with raw milk, sugar, rennet tablets and cinnamon. Despite being prepared in a similar way to cheese, it actually has quite a sweet taste.
It is typically eaten after the last meal of the day but it can also be bought from food stalls, restaurants or even in cans!
Our favorite Chongos zamoranos recipe.
Garnacha is a bite-sized snack consisting of a crispy tortilla topped with tomato sauce, meat and potatoes. Seasoned with spices to add depth of flavor, garnacha can be quite a versatile dish.
Our favorite Garnacha recipe.
These are the top authentic dishes eaten in Mexico. If you want a taste of what real Mexican cuisine is, these are the dishes you should sample!