Curious about what to eat in Mexico? There are a vast number of options when it comes to deciding what to eat here.
Most people think about tacos, burritos, and nachos when they think about Mexican food. But the country’s cuisine goes way beyond that. You can spend months/years living in Mexico and still constantly be finding new favorite Mexican dishes.
What to Eat in Mexico: 32 Scrummy Suggestions
Mexican food is loved across the globe. However, nothing ever comes close to the dishes that you will find when traveling around the country itself.
A lot of the different Mexican foods that you will find are also very regional. For instance, the food in one part of Mexico is completely different from what is eaten in another.
Mexican food is also UNESCO-protected. It was recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.
Only a select number of cuisines around the globe have been given this accolade. It is no mean feat.
Mexican foods range from wonderful street tacos (of which there are literally hundreds of different varieties), hearty soups and stews, sumptuous marinated meats, cheap street food eats, and flavourful veggie dishes. Some of the most notable Mexican foods are discussed here, to help you decide what to eat in Mexico.
The Torta ahogada is a regional specialty sandwich from Jalisco, in western Mexico. It can be found across the state, but in particular, the sandwich is popular in the capital of Guadalajara and nearby Tlaquepaque.
To create it, a crusty roll of bed is stuffed with pork carnitas before being drenched in warm, spicy tomato salsa. You are usually served onions and lime on the side to pile on the top and if you want to make it even spicier, you can add some extra habanero sauce.
The torta ahogada, also known locally as the ¨drowned sandwich¨ will probably mark the first time in your life that you have to eat a sandwich with a spoon! It is said to have been invented in Guadalajara in the 1900s when a local ordered a sandwich from a street vendor, and the vendor accidentally dropped the entire thing in a container of salsa!
Fortunately, the customer loved it! Today, they are a popular lunchtime choice or a light snack. Torta ahogadas are great when washed down with an ice-cold Mexican beer.
Entomatadas are a delicious yet ultra-simple Mexican dish that is often prepared in the home for lunch, dinner, or as a light snack. To make them, corn tortillas are lightly fried in oil and then transferred to a separate pan where they are fried in tomato passata.
When the tortillas are slightly crispy to the touch and suitably drenched in tomato sauce, they are removed from the pan and placed on a plate. Grated ranchero queso fresco is sprinkled inside the entomatadas, which are then rolled into cigar shapes.
Ranchero queso fresco is a soft cheese with a mild, buttery flavor. It is somewhat similar to panela cheese with a slightly stronger taste.
A little more grated cheese is sprinkled on top of the entomatadas, along with some chopped raw red onion and some media crema (cream). Entomatadas are enjoyed all over Mexico.
Quesadillas are one of the best-known Mexican foods and one of the easiest to make. To create them, corn or flour tortillas are lightly heated in a pan, with a thin slice of cheese in the center.
Mexican manchego cheese is often used for this. (It is different from Spanish manchego cheese despite sharing the same name).
As far as most Mexicans are concerned, a couple of quesadillas are the perfect accompaniment to almost everything. Preparing a steak? Shove a couple of quesadillas on the side!
Preparing Mexican breakfast dishes like huevos Mexicanos? Make a couple of quesadillas too. That way, you can pick up the eggs and enjoy them inside the cheesy goodness of the quesadilla.
Another nice simple way to enjoy a quesadilla is with fresh avocado and a light serving of media crema. It is believed that quesadillas were invented in south and central Mexico during the 16th-century colonial period.
Prior to that though, the Aztecs would stuff tortillas with vegetables and squashes like pumpkin. You can of course, add fried meat and other fillings to the inside of your quesadilla.
Chilaquiles are an extraordinarily popular choice for breakfast in Mexico. As far as most Mexicans are concerned, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
A lot of people will have multiple dishes to start their morning. For instance, they will have a main course such as an egg dish or chilaquiles, a small platter of Mexican fruit, and a Mexican sweet bread pastry.
This is all then washed down with some freshly squeezed juice and a strong Mexican Chiapas coffee. Chilaquiles are made by lightly frying corn tortillas, and then covering them in salsa.
Two variations of the dish exist. Chilaquiles rojo are made by preparing red sauce (salsa rojo).
This sauce is made with ripe, fresh tomatoes, garlic, onion, guajillo chiles, chiles de arbol, and vegetable stock. It is then seasoned with oregano, salt, and pepper.
Alternatively, chilaquiles verde are made with green sauce (salsa verde). The two different salsas transform the flavor of the dish completely.
(Chilaquiles rojo are perhaps better for a western palate, while chilaquiles verde are a little spicier). To prepare the green sauce, tomatillos, onion, cilantro, garlic, and green chilis are used.
Chilaquiles are typically topped with media crema, grated cheese, and strips of chicken breast or an egg. Some restaurants may serve them with pieces of steak, beef, or other meat.
Chile En Nogada
Chile En Nogada is a special celebratory dish that is eaten throughout Mexico in the lead-up to Mexican independence day. During this period, you will find the dish served virtually everywhere.
It graces the menus of greasy spoons, coffee shops, hacienda restaurants, and chains like VIPs during this time. Almost everywhere has chile en nogada menu deals during the month of September.
The dish consists of poblano chilies stuffed with picadillo and then topped with a creamy walnut sauce known as nogada. Then, pomegranate seeds and parsley are served on top.
The colors of the dish – green, white and red, represent the Mexican flag. Chile En Nogada is typically served at room temperature.
It was invented by Augustinian nuns at the Convent of Santa Mónica on August 28, 1821. This was immediately after the Treaty of Cordoba was signed, granting Mexico independence from Spain.
Birria is a slow-cooked Mexican meat soup that originates from the state of Jalisco and is commonly prepared and served on ranches. It is usually made using sheep or goat meat but it is occasionally made with beef in other parts of Mexico.
To create the dish, the meat is marinated with guajillo, ancho, and chipotle peppers, as well as a blend of spices including garlic, cumin, cloves, thyme, oregano, and marjoram. It is then slow-cooked until tender and juicy.
When served, you will be given a portion of onions and cilantro to sprinkle on the dish, as well as a range of hot sauces and limes for squeezing. Wash it all down with an ice-cold horchata.
Caldo de Pollo
Caldo de Pollo is a Mexican chicken and vegetable soup that is a staple in any Mexican household. If you have any Mexican friends or acquaintances, chances are, if you ask them about Caldo de Pollo, they will wax lyrical about the great batches of Caldo de Pollo their mom made growing up.
Other Latin countries like neighboring Guatemala, and even Colombia and Brazil, have their own versions of the dish. To prepare Caldo de Pollo, chicken breasts are chopped into pieces and then boiled in water along with garlic and onion.
Once the chicken has started to cook through, you add in a few Caldo de Pollo stock cubes and a selection of different chopped vegetables. (This can basically be whatever you fancy).
Zucchini, potatoes, carrots, and celery are popular choices. Once ready, the soup is served with rice, a squirt of fresh lime, and some hot sauce.
People will often make giant batches of Caldo de Pollo to last them for several days at a time. It is also a popular thing to prepare and eat when you are sick in Mexico as it is so nourishing.
Frijoles charro is essentially ¨Mexican cowboy beans¨. (¨Frijoles¨ is Spanish for beans, while a ¨charro¨ is a Mexican cowboy).
This is because centuries ago, Mexican cowboys and those working on ranches would often prepare beans to sustain their strength for long days of cattle herding. The beans were inexpensive, tasty, and nutritious.
Frijoles Charro is commonly eaten alongside carne asada, or steaks, particularly in Northern Mexico. However, they can also be enjoyed alone, perhaps with bread or tortillas for dipping, if you want a light meal.
The soup is prepared using pinto beans, and a broth consisting of stock, onions, garlic, and chili peppers. Different types of meat are usually cut up and served within the soup – commonly pork sausages and pieces of bacon. A generous dollop of Oaxaca cheese is then added to the top, and it melts delightfully into the soup.
The food culture differs substantially from one part of Mexico to another. In the Yucatan peninsula, the locals eat Yucatecan food.
This is markedly different from most Mexican food. A lot of Yucatan dishes were invented by the Ancient Maya and use herbs and ingredients that are native to Southern Mexico.
Today, these dishes are prepared using the same cooking methods that the Maya used all those centuries ago. This makes Yucatecan cuisine one of the oldest cuisines in the world, predating even certain European cuisines!
Arguably cochinita pibil is the most famous Yucatecan dish. It is made by slow-cooking pork marinated with achiote in an underground oven known as a pib.
Once the meat is ready, it has a tender texture where it seemingly falls apart in your mouth. Think of the dish as the Ancient Mayan version of pulled pork.
The meat is usually served with tortillas and onions. Most people like to roll the cochinita up into a taco and eat it that way with a bit of hot sauce.
Tacos papas con chorizo
Breakfast tacos are a thing in Mexico. Not only can you enjoy any type of taco at any time of day, but you can also find special breakfast variations.
Scrambled egg tacos are popular. The eggs are often served with spinach, green beans, or chorizo. Another favorite is Mexican papas con chorizo tacos.
To prepare them, red potatoes are prepared with chorizo and then topped with lettuce, queso cotija, salsa, and avocado. Frijoles (beans) are also occasionally added, along with a dash of habanero sauce.
In places in the Yucatan, this dish is often prepared with longaniza – a specific type of chorizo from Valladolid. Individual breakfast tacos at taquerias are often as little as 17-20 pesos each.
Sopa con puree de tomate
Sopa con puree de tomate is a tasty dish that Mexicans will often rustle up when they find themselves at home and not knowing what to cook. It is very simple and is made with ingredients that you probably have in your fridge anyway.
This is a tasty, tomatoey dish that is nonspicy and extremely palatable to those that are not super accustomed to Mexican food. To make it, chop tomatoes and onions and fry them with a little olive oil in a pan.
Then, pour in some tomato puree, tear up some corn tortillas and fry them in the man. When the tortillas are a little crunchy and suitably tomatoey, add in some grated manchego cheese and cook it until the cheese melts.
Sopa con puree de tomate is nice when served with a slab of Mexican panela cheese on the side. (Of course, this dish is far from being the healthiest of Mexican foods).
You can also add garlic (at the same stage at which you fry the onions) to give it a little more taste. Some people also like to add noodles or rice.
While a lot of westerners like to eat roast turkey or roast chicken on Christmas day, a Mexican Christmas tradition is to eat pozole. Pozole is a rich, brothy soup that dates back to the pre-Colombian days of Mexico.
Centuries ago, the Aztecs and the Mayans would use pozole in their rituals. Back then though, it was made with human flesh!
Thankfully things have changed a lot over the years and today, pork is the meat of choice. Onion, shredded lettuce, radish, hot sauce, lime, and avocado are also added for flavor. Pozole is often served alongside tostadas and crema.
Sopa de Lima
Sopa de lima is one of the most classic Mexican foods that is eaten all over the country. It originates from the Yucatan peninsula, and arguably some of the best sopa de limas are found in Merida restaurants.
Fresh lime is used generously as a topping for a lot of Mexican foods and locals love its flavor. Sopa de lima is essentially lime soup prepared with strips of chicken and served with tortillas.
Garlic, peppers, and onion are also often added for taste. Before the Spanish colonization of Mexico, the dish was prepared with wild turkeys rather than chicken. Today, sopa de lima is commonly enjoyed as a starter.
Huevos Motuleños is a breakfast egg dish that originates from the city of Motul, in the center of the Yucatan. (The city makes a great day trip from Merida, and you can sample the dish at Doña Evelia Huevos Motuleños, one of the best huevos motuleños restaurants in the country).
You will only really find huevos motuleños around the Yucatan peninsula and in the states of Quintana Roo, the Yucatan, and Campeche. Since its invention, it has taken the area by storm!
Huevos motuleños are made by serving fried eggs on top of tortillas, refried beans, and cheese. Then, homemade tomato sauce, peas, and ham are poured over the top.
People usually add a dash of hot sauce to the top of the eggs, and plantains are served on the side. Variations of the dish exist and no two places make them the same way.
A Huevos Motuleños festival is hosted between the 14th and the 16th of July each year in Motul. Visitors gather by the San Juan Bautista church to eat eggs, listen to the Yucatan philharmonic orchestra and watch traditional folk dancing.
Pollo pibil is a delicious dish from Mexicos Yucatan peninsula that is comparable to cochinita pibil. To make it, chicken is marinated with achiote, sour orange juices, and spices.
The meat is then slowcooked underground in a traditional oven known as a ¨pib¨. Although cochinita pibil is arguably the more famous of the two Mexican foods, pollo pibil is a nice alternative if you dont eat pork.
The meat is usually served with a side of seasoned rice and tortillas. Pollo pibil is great when wrapped in a fresh tortilla and topped with onion.
If you head out to a bar or a casual restaurant in Mexico, you will find a lot of light bites on the menu. Tacos, burros, fajitas, hamburgers and nachos are all popular options.
Loaded nachos are great for sharing. Nachos are often topped with cuts of beef such as sirloin or arrachera.
They are then loaded up with mountains of refried beans, cheese, guacamole, and sour cream. Lime, chilies, and salsas. They are great when washed down with Mexican drinks such as horchata or agua frescas (fruit juices prepared with water and sugar).
Relleno negro is a traditional turkey dish that originates from the Yucatan peninsula. Centuries ago, the Mayans would prepare it with wild boar and other meat that they were able to hunt.
Today, it is made with turkey. The meat is seasoned with a spice blend made from charred chilies and herbs. This marinade gives the meat a blackish color – hence the name Relleno Negro.
This is one of the oldest, most traditional recipes in Southern Mexico. The dish is often served at weddings and celebrations but you will also find it on the menus of traditional Yucatan cuisine restaurants.
Papadzules are a delicious Yucatecan breakfast dish that is enjoyed in Southern Mexico. Fresh, warm tortillas are filled with eggs and then drenched in a sauce made with pumpkin seeds and epazote.
Then, tomato salsa is poured over the top. The pumpkin sauce has something of a rich nutty flavor.
You usually get 3-4 papadzules per serving. So, you can enjoy an entire plate for yourself, or you can order them for the table and share a couple with your dinner companions, along with another main breakfast dish. This is a must-try during any Yucatan itinerary.
Machaca is a dried, dehydrated beef delicacy that originates from the North of Mexico. It was created as a way to preserve meat before refrigeration was a thing.
Machaca became such an integral part of Northern Mexico’s food culture that it is still used and enjoyed a lot today. To create it, a cut of meat is chosen, rubbed with salt, and left out in the sun to dry.
Then, it is pounded and beaten with a stone hammer. The name ¨machaca¨ comes from this act of pounding the meat.
A lot of people in Northern Mexico will prepare their own machaca at home. Today, it is most commonly associated with rancheros, vaqueros (Mexican cowboys), and people living in rural areas. You will see it frequently in the states of Sonora, Sinaloa, Nuevo Leon, Monterrey, and Chihuahua.
To cook with machaca, the meat needs to be rehydrated. It is often fried with oil and then cooked with onion and tomatoes before being wrapped in a flour tortilla and eaten.
There are also specialty breakfast dishes that are prepared with machaca in the north of Mexico. For instance, machaca con huevos, which is said to have been created in 1920s Nuevo Leon by a woman named Fidencia Quiroga.
Carne Asada is essentially the Mexican answer to barbeque. The literal translation of the term is ¨grilled beef¨ and it is usually used to refer to grilled cuts of steak that are marinated with lime juice and various seasonings.
Carne asada is more common in the northern parts of Mexico but it can be found all over the country in specialist grillhouse restaurants. The steaks are often served with grilled onion, tortillas, frijoles charro, and salsichas – bright red hot dog sausages that are likely unlikely anything you have tried before.
Mexican enchiladas are believed to have been invented in the city of Puebla in the 19th century. However, the practice of rolling up tortillas and either stuffing them with something or filling them with something dates back further to Aztec times.
This is one of the most popular Mexican foods that is enjoyed around the world. However, a true enchilada served up in Mexico is nothing like the imitations you will find elsewhere.
Enchiladas are typically filled with chicken and vegetables (although variations exist) and then topped with salsa roja or salsa verde and some chopped red onions. Despite being quite a heavy, savory dish, it may come as a surprise to hear that enchiladas are enjoyed at breakfast time, rather than at lunch or dinner.
Sopa Azteca is a classic Mexican soup dish that is found all over the country. Every household has their own family recipe for the dish, and you will find it served a lot in home-style restaurants and chains (e.g. La Casa de Los Abuelos).
It is also known as ¨tortilla soup¨ and as the name suggests, is made with torn, fried pieces of corn tortillas, and a tomato and chili broth.
Chiccharon (fried pork belly/pork rinds) are added to the soup along with chili pieces and chunks of cheese. Fresh avocado is sliced and placed on the top before the soup is served.
The name of the dish is misleading and seems to indicate that sopa Azteca is of Aztec origin. However, it is believed that the Tarascan people near Michoacán invented the dish.
Mole (pronounced mo-lay) is a Mexican sauce that is made using chocolate and chilies. (Fun fact about Mexico: chocolate was invented here!)
It has a smooth, pureed consistency and a rich, nutty flavor. (Although there are many different varieties of moles and the taste can vary substantially). The sauce is said to have been invented by a nun at the Santa Rosa convent in Puebla in the 17th century.
There are several different ways you can enjoy mole in Mexico today. A simple and easy way to eat it is to eat it served with rice, fresh avocado, and tortillas. If you find yourself in Puebla, you can even take classes to learn how to make your own mole!
Huevos a la Mexicana
Huevos a la Mexicana is a simple breakfast egg dish that you can find in cafes, restaurants, and hotels all over Mexico. It is a good choice when you want a filling meal to start your day but you are apprehensive about experimenting with unknown foods.
To prepare Huevos a la Mexicana, eggs are scrambled with tomatoes, onions, and green chili peppers. Cilantro and salt are then sprinkled on top to taste.
Churros are sweet deep-fried pastries that are similar to donuts in terms of their taste and consistency. They actually originated in Spain, but they were brought over to Mexico during the colonization and are a local delicacy here today.
The pastries are prepared in a long stick shape, which gives them a soft, spongy interior and crispy outer ridges. They are usually flavored with sugar or cinnamon and then served with a pot of sauce for dipping. (Commonly chocolate sauce).
In Mexico City, you can try churros at Churrería El Moro which is said to be one of the best churro dessert spots in the country. Otherwise, you can find street food vendors serving cups filled with churros all over the country – from El Cuyo to San Cristobal de las Casas.
Flan is arguably the most popular traditional dessert in Mexico. If you are dining out at a restaurant and they only serve one dessert, it will be flan.
The creamy custardy pudding is made using eggs, milk and sweetener. It has a jello-like texture that isn’t for everyone, and in some ways, it could be compared to Italian panna cotta.
You will find different versions of flan around the country – e.g. sometimes you will see a coffee flavored flan. Interestingly, the dish has been traced back to Ancient Rome. After the Spaniards tried it and fell in love with it, they took it over to the Americas with them when they colonized Mexico.
Pollo asado is grilled or barbecued chicken that is marinated and cooked to perfection until it has something of a charred flavor. Virtually any cut of chicken can be cooked pollo asado – be it the breast, thigh, etc.
The meat is usually marinated in a mixture of lime juice, oregano, cumin, paprika, and achiote. The achiote gives the outer layer of the meat its signature orange coloring.
There are several pollo asado chain restaurants around Mexico, including Pollo Feliz, which is the most popular chicken chain restaurant in the country. (Despite being a chain, the quality of the food is pretty good).
Pollo Brujo (whose name translates to mean ¨witch chicken¨) is also pretty good. Still, arguably some of the best pollo asado is to be found from the people cooking the dish on grills at the side of the roadside in rural, off-the-beaten-path parts of Mexico.
Pollo asado is usually served with a delicious tomato salsa that is slightly spicy. Salads, fries, guacamole, and nachos are often eaten on the side.
Conchas and pan dulces
Pan dulces are sweet breads that were brought to Mexico by the Spanish colonizers centuries ago. In the 16th century, people in Mexico would enjoy sweetbreads with a hot beverage as a breakfast or an early afternoon snack known as a merienda.
Today, people will often have a pan dulce for breakfast along with an egg dish or some chilaquiles, and a platter of fresh fruit. Conchas are one of the most popular varieties.
These shell-shaped sweet breads are made in vanilla and chocolate flavors and are usually topped with a layer of icing sugar. Many Mexican bakeries and patisseries sell rows upon rows of different pastries and sweet breads
Some are very similar to croissants, pain au chocolats, and pastries that you would expect to find in France. This is because the French occupation during the 18th century heavily influenced the local cuisine.
Flautas are rolled, deep-fried tacos that are filled with potato, chicken, or beef. They have a crispy fried texture that is similar to entomatadas, and they are rolled up to look like flutes (as per the name).
Flautas are then topped with guacamole, cheese, and sour cream.
Mexican Street Food Eats
Street food is a huge part of Mexican food culture. As you travel around the country, you will often find that the main parks, promenades, and plazas of most towns and cities are filled with street food trucks selling everything from tacos and burritos to elotes and esquites.
You can easily find a filling snack for less than 20 pesos/around $1 USD. Mexican street food can be a light dinner substitute or something to tide you over until meal time.
Elotes and esquites
Elotes are one of the best-loved Mexican street foods. This is quite simple, sweetcorn piled up with a variety of different toppings.
The most ¨traditional¨ way to enjoy Mexican elotes is to enjoy the corn grilled on the cob, slather it with a layer of mayonnaise, and then sprinkle chili powder and fresh lime on the top. You will often find a lot of vendors preparing the dish with canned sweetcorn too.
Sometimes they will take a bag of Tostitos potato chips, top them with the tinned sweetcorn, and then pour fresh cream, chili powder, cheese, carrots and jalapenos over the top. Some people really take this to the extreme.
For instance, you will find street vendors selling crazy elotes topped with 3-4 different types of cheese, mountains of potato chips, etc. A huge portion of elotes topped with almost every type of potato chip and topping under the sun shouldn’t cost you more than around 30-40 pesos ($1.80-$2).
Elotes are the official name for the dish when it is served on the cob. They are called esquites when they are served in a cup. But generally, Mexicans refer to all of these things as elotes.
Tamales are a delicious Mexican dish made from masa, a type of corn dough. The dough is usually filled with different stuffings (e.g. beans, cheese, pork or beef).
Then, the tamale is wrapped in a banana leaf and steam cooked. When you buy tamales, they are usually wrapped and tied up in a banana leaf like a little Christmas present. You can also get sweet versions.
Marquesitas are a beloved street food dessert in Southern Mexico. You will see stalls selling this treat on virtually every street corner in places like Merida, Izamal and Mahahual.
Marquesitas are quite simply, Yucatan-style crepes. To make them, batter mix is poured onto a huge skillet.
The thin pastry is then slathered with a topping of your choosing. Queso de bola (Dutch Edam cheese), Nutella and cajeta (Mexican caramel sauce) are popular choices.
The crepe is then rolled up into a cigar shape and eaten. You can ask for a little extra sauce or toppings on the side for dipping if you like.
Final thoughts on what to eat in Mexico
As you can see in this list of dishes, you will never be in a position where you don’t know what to eat in Mexico. There are so many delicious dishes and regional specialties here that you could even spend months traveling around Mexico and still feel as though you have barely scratched the surface.
What do you think about this list of Mexican foods? Are there any that you have tried?
Which Mexican dishes appeal to you the most? If you are visiting Mexico for the first time, you may enjoy reading these Mexico travel tips.
Have a wonderful time exploring Mexico! Buen Viaje! xo