What To Eat in Mexico: 36 Best Mexican Foods

Mexico food guide

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Where to even start with the best Mexican food? After six months living in Mexico, I’m obsessed. If you’re wondering what and where to eat in Mexico, pull up a chair because you’re in the right place with my Mexico food guide.

I never thought I could love another cuisine as much as Thai, Indian or Vietnamese but it turns out, I was wrong. And Mexican food is so, so right.

Like food around the world? Don’t miss my Taiwan food guide & my Korean food guide!

I never tire of Mexican food. I never crave a burger or in fact, anything that isn’t Mexican cuisine. There’s so much variety and absolutely none of it is nachos or fajitas. When I first moved here, I was surprised to learn these things didn’t really exist. Sometimes touristic places will serve nachos and you see burritos very occasionally but they’re mainly served close to the American border.

Overall, most of the globally-known Mexican foods are Tex-Mex rather than Mex. But that’s nothing to be disappointed about because the best Mexican foods are way better anyway!

Mexico food guide

The first thing you need to know about Mexican food: corn.

I’ve noticed during my travels that many countries have one staple ingredient used in almost all their dishes. In most Asian countries, it’s rice and in Eastern Europe, it’s potato.

All the best food in Mexico revolves around corn. When ground and mixed with limestone, it becomes masa (dough) which can also be used to make tamales. Importantly, it also makes tortillas, without which we wouldn’t have tacos, enchiladas or quesadillas. Tortillas can be fried to make other Mexican dishes like chilaquiles.

Basically, corn is life or as the Mexicans would say ‘no pais sin maiz’ (literally: there’s no country without corn). This is especially true when you consider that, according to pre-Hispanic religion, the first man and woman were crafted from corn.

Visiting Mexico? Check out my food posts:

Best Mexican food

So, what to eat in Mexico? I hope you never need to ask this question again after reading my guide. The list below includes the best Mexican foods to try, as well as popular Mexican drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

The list is currently at 36 but no doubt I’ll add to it when I try even more of the best food in Mexico…

1. Tacos

Tacos what to eat in Mexico!
What to eat in Mexico? Tacos, duh

What would a Mexico food guide be without tacos? I can’t believe I used to think tacos were hard, crispy shells. Maybe they are in the West but not here in Mexico City (or anywhere else in Mexico for that matter). These soft tortilla circles are made fresh from fresh corn mixed with limestone.

Tacos come in a variety of sizes. Al pastor tacos are typically small and you’ll want at least three of these to make a meal, while larger tacos can be eaten solo for a small meal.

Popular taco fillings include:

  • Al pastor – essentially kebab-style meat that came to Mexico with Middle Eastern immigrants. Taco restaurants serve it straight from the trompo with onions, pineapple and cilantro.
  • Flor de calabaza – squash flowers are a tasty and healthy veggie taco filling.
  • Fish tacos – if you’re a fan of seafood, you’re going to love freshly-battered pescado (fish) tacos served with coleslaw and a squirt of lime. Camaron (shrimp) and Marlin tacos are also excellent.
  • Chorizo – quite self-explanatory, I love a chorizo taco.
  • Nopales – another veggie option, cooked cactus makes for a tasty taco.
  • Guisado – these stew-style tacos come in a variety of flavours. Guisado taco restaurants serve scoops of meat or veg in a sauce into your tacos. They’re usually eaten for breakfast or lunch.
  • Carnitas – translating as ‘small meats’, carnitas are rich, meat-filled tacos. Whole pigs are used so beware it could be any part of the animal.
Tacos what to eat in Mexico!
No Mexico food guide can miss tacos al pastor

Taco variations

When you go to a taco restaurant, you’ll see a few other things on the menu which you might not recognise. They’re not hugely different to tacos but have different names. These include:

  • Gringas – two large wheat tacos are folded over with fillings inside as well as pineapple and cheese. Al pastor is a popular filling.
  • Volcanes – crispy fried tacos with cheese drizzled over the top. Tasty, although I personally prefer eating a soft, warm tortilla than a crispy one.
Gringa with avocado best Mexican food to try
Gringa with al pastor, cheese and avocado

2. Tortas

The only good thing that came from colonialism: the spread of bread around the globe. Tortas are essentially giant sandwiches packed full of meat, cheese, vegetables and sauce.

Cochinita pibil torta best food in Mexico
Cochinita pibil (pulled pork) torta

Tortas are usually enormous and oozing multiple fillings, leaving you full for hours. The ultimate torta is a Cubano which tends to include a bit of everything: ham, milanesa (a breaded meat fillet), multiple types of cheese, avocado, salad, chipotle. Only order one if you’re very, very hungry!

Alternatively, pick a torta with 1-3 fillings for a slightly lighter meal (although still not very light). My favourite combination is milanesa, cheese and pineapple. Another mouth-watering torta filling is a cochinita pibil, a type of slow-cooked pork originating from the Yucatan Peninsula. At local markets and street food stands, you can expect to pay between 30 and 60 pesos for a torta.

3. Tostadas

Tostadas

Tostadas are crispy, fried tortillas topped with ingredients. I love a seafood tostada served with fresh prawns (camaron) and avocado, seasoned with a dash of lime.

If you’re in Mexico City, head to Coyocan neighbourhood for some of the best tostadas of your life at Tostadas Coyoacan inside Coyoacan Market. Here you can get all kinds of fish and meat tostadas. I’d recommend the chicken (pollo) and mole sauce or the octopus (pulpo).

4. Enchiladas / enmoladas

Enchiladas Mexican food to try
Enchilada eclipsed by sauce

We’ve all heard of enchiladas before, right? Unlike fajitas and other Tex-mex dishes, enchiladas are ‘real’ Mexican food. These large tortillas are folded over and topped with sauce.

I’ve included enmoladas in the same entry because they’re so similar. Like much of the best food in Mexico, both dishes are smothered in sauce. Enchiladas are usually topped with tomato-based sauce while enmoladas are made with mole. Given my love of mole, I’d take enmoladas over enchiladas any day, although let’s face it: I’d never say no to either.

5. Mole

Mole enchilada best Mexican food to try
The best food in Mexico!

Mole is a Mexican sauce combining chillis and other ingredients. Mole poblano is my favourite, made with chocolate. If you don’t know, chocolate actually originated in Mexico as a bitter drink before the Spaniards took it back to Europe and mixed it with milk and sugar.

Mole is one of the most complex Mexican dishes to make, as any Mexican chef or abuela (grandma) will tell you. Making it from scratch can take hours and involves blending all kinds of ingredients like pine nuts, golden raisins, garlic, chilli, then frying the paste, adding stock and stirring the sauce for hours.

An easier option is to buy the readymade paste or powder from a market and mix it with chicken stock. Alternatively, just eat chicken mole enmoladas at any Mexican restaurant.

Other variations include white mole which I made during a cooking class with Aura Cocina and pink rose mole (made with rose petals and sesame seeds) which I tried while visiting Taxco.

6. Pozole

Pozole soup Mexican food

I’m not usually a huge soup fan but I crave tasty Mexican soups. Pozole is one of the top Mexican foods to try, known for its rich flavour. While a tomato soup filled with corn kernels might sound veggie-friendly, pozole is usually made with chicken broth. However, many vegetarian restaurants in Mexico City will make it without. Ask before ordering.

Like most Mexican foods, pozole is only as spicy as you make it. Mexican restaurants tend to serve dishes non-spicy and let you add chilli sauces set at the table. On a cold day in Mexico City (they do exist!), there’s nothing more warming than a spicy, steaming bowl of pozole.

7. Flautas

Flautas with cheese Mexican food

Thought there might be a dish without corn coming soon? No chance. For this Mexican dish, corn tortillas are rolled up into flute shapes (flauta means flute in Spanish) and stuffed with ingredients such as potato, beans, cheese and meat.

Sometimes you can combine the flavours and have beans and cheese in the same flauta. Usually they’ll come topped with cheese, lettuce and cream: the ultimate Mexican combo.

Flautas aren’t my all-time favourite Mexican food because they can be oily. Potato flautas are bland, but a pork flauta dipped in salsa is rich and moreish.

8. Quesadillas

Cheese quesadilla what to eat in Mexico

Another Mexican food that’s made it global is the quesadilla. Since queso is the Spanish word for cheese, quesadilla basically means cheese tortilla.

However, quesadillas can also come with other fillings. If you’re veggie, you can order fillings like flor de calabaza (in English, squash flower).

Born corn quesadilla

Look out for blue corn quesadillas (or in fact, blue corn anything). For some reason, these taste so much better than regular quesadillas.

You can’t do much better than a blue corn breakfast quesadilla stuffed with Oaxaca cheese, preferably eaten perched on a plastic street stall. Mexican food heaven!

9. Huitlacoche

Huitlachoce Mexican food

Wondering what to eat in Mexico for vegetarians? Huitlacoche isn’t a dish by itself but it’s still one of the best Mexican foods to try, in my opinion. Also known as corn smut, it sounds a little odd but is actually very tasty. You could also call it a truffle which sounds much more appetizing.

Whatever you call huitlacoche, it’s essentially a type of fungus that grows on corn. It has a very earthy, mushroom-like flavour which is an acquired taste but one I’m partial to. Served inside a quesadilla with cheese, huitlacoche is one of my favourite veggie Mexcian foods.

10. Churros

What to eat in Mexico churros

The first sweet entry in this Mexican food guide is something you’ve probably heard of before. Churros originated in Spain but are now incredibly popular in Mexico. The locals will (of course) tell you that theirs are the better version, served with cinnamon sugar and a dip of either chocolate, cajata (Mexican caramel sauce) or condensed milk.

If you’re in Mexico City, you can eat delicious churros at Churros El Moro. The Condesa branch is located beside leafy Parque Mexico, the perfect place for people-watching while dunking churros in hot chocolate. The original Churros El Moro in the Zocalo (city centre) is hectic and local with table service and a diner feel. Expect a queue outside the door to get inside.

Visiting Mexico City? Check out my complete Roma & Condesa food guide

11. Soup azteca

Soup azteca Mexican food

Even better than pozole is Sopa Azteca, otherwise known as tortilla soup. As the name might suggest, this tomato-based soup is full of tortilla chips, as well as cheese and avocado.

Sopa Azteca comes from the state of Tlaxcala, to the east of Mexico City. For that reason, you’ll find it served in the capital and nearby locations like Puebla. I adore this flavoursome soup which makes a great starter before a main meal.

12. Sopes

Sopes Mexican food

Don’t get these confused with soup!

Sopa = soup

Sopes = corn-based morsels made with the same ingredients as tacos.

These are usually thicker than tacos and served as Mexican street food with meat or veggie toppings. This one pictured is served with flor de calabaza (squash flower) and cheese, an unbeatable combination. Sopes are traditionally served as an appetizer but, if you order a couple, they make a decent main meal.

13. Gorditas

Gorditas what to eat in Mexico
Gordita with cactus and mushroom

Proving that the best food in Mexico is usually cheap and cheerful, enter gorditas. These pocket-shaped patties are largely made with the same ingredients as sopes and tacos. I like them with mushroom and nopales (cactus) but there are usually plenty more options available.

Gordita means chubby in Spanish but don’t let this stop you – gorditas aren’t bad for you. Like tacos and other Mexican foods, the only ingredients are corn and limestone, plus whatever ingredients you choose to order.

14. Chilaquiles

Chilaquiles Mexican dish
Mexican brunch

The fact that chilaquiles are listed as number 14 in this Mexico food blog is merely coincidental. If it were in order, chilaquiles would be number one or two, probably only topped by mole.

If you’re wondering what to eat in Mexico for breakfast, this is your answer. Fried tortilla chips are topped with salsa verde (green salsa) or salsa roja (red salsa), cheese, cream and onion. You can usually opt to add huevo (egg) or pollo (chicken). Order them sencilla (simple) if you don’t want either.

I eat chilaquiles most weekends. Toss out the smashed avo – these are a brunch classic, served with a flat white in many a trendy Condesa cafe. While touristic places will serve them for 100+ pesos, you can also find chilaquiles at local restaurants and street stands for as little as 35 pesos.

15. Elotes

Elote Mexican food

Corn in its pure form is called maiz but when it’s cooked, it’s called elote. When served with mayonnaise, chilli and cheese, it’s called elotes y esquites. I love this Mexican street food snack. Who knew that corn could be so tasty and moreish when simply slathered in sauce and cheese?

You’ll usually pick up a serving for 20 pesos or less. I can’t imagine it has any nutritional value but who’s complaining?

16. Dorilocos

Dorilocos Mexican snack food
NOT the best Mexican food

Dorilocos are the only listing in this Mexico food guide that I didn’t like. Since they’re an iconic local snack that many Mexicans seem to love, I decided to include them so you can make your own mind up.

Dorilocos are packets of Doritos cut open and filled with other types of chips, Cheetos, hot sauce, cream, peanuts, corn, veggies, lettuce, and whatever else is lying around. It was just too many flavours and too enormous. Along with two friends, we only made it through half a packet and eventually threw them away. Sorry, Dorilocos, you are not the best food in Mexico!

17. Enfrijoladas

Enfrijoladas Mexican dish with beans and egg

Ready for another take on the enchilada? Enfrijoladas are folded corn tortillas topped with frijoles (mashed black bean paste). They’re often topped with cheese and fried eggs, too.

They’re a typical breakfast dish originating from the Oaxaca region of Southern Mexico. After having these for breakfast, you’ll definitely only want a light lunch.

18. Tamales

Tamales best Mexican food

Tamales are a staple and one of the most important Mexican foods. Unsurprisingly, their base ingredient is corn but they couldn’t be more different to tacos or quesadillas.

Tamales are made with steamed corn dough (masa), stuffed inside a corn husk with other ingredients inside such as chicken, mole, salsa verde or roja. You can also get sweet tamales which are bright pink and flavoured with guava.

These are one of the oldest Mexican foods, served for almost 5,000 years. Tamales are commonly served at food stands or by vendors on bikes announcing their availability via loudspeaker. Grab them while hot.

19. Chile rellano (stuffed chilli)

Chile rellano typical Mexican dish

Another typical Mexican food to try is chile relleno, translating as stuffed chilli. Large green (non-spicy) chillis are stuffed with cheese or meat, coated in a light batter and bathed in a sauce, usually tomato.

I’d say they’re healthy because chillis grow from plants but I’d probably only be fooling myself. When served with beans, rice and salad, they’re a hearty main meal.

20. Chile en nogada (chilli in walnut)

Chile en nogada Mexican dish

A variation on chile relleno is chile en nogada, translating as chilli in walnut. While I frequently change my answer on my favourite Mexican food, I’d put these in my top three with mole and chilaquiles.

For this dish, a giant chilli is stuffed with a picadillo (hash) of steamed fruits such as peach and pear and served in a creamy walnut sauce, topped with pomegranate seeds and green garnish.

Chile en nogada originates from the city of Puebla, just two hours from Mexico City. Rumour has it they were invented by nuns of the convent when an important general came to town. The red, white and green colours are meant to represent the Mexican flag. P

Personally, I’m planning a second trip to Puebla just to eat them again (you’ll find them in other cities but not as frequently).

21. Huaraches

Huaraches what to eat in Mexico

Huaraches are oblong-shaped delicacies (translating as ‘shoe’) served with bean paste and a variety of toppings. A veggie one with nopales and cheese is delicious. They’re similar to sopes and gorditas but larger and thinner.

Huaraches are mainly found around Mexico City as that’s their birthplace but I’ve also eaten them in cities including Guadalajara and San Miguel de Allende.

For everything to do and eat in the capital, read my CDMX travel itinerary.

22. Tlacoyos

Tlacoyos what to eat in Mexico
Tlacoyos stuffed with bean paste
Tlacoyos Mexican street food

Tlacoyos are another of the best Mexican foods to try: thick corn dough oblongs not dissimilar to huaraches. However, instead of having bean paste on top like huaraches or sopes, they have ingredients stuffed inside. They’re almost like a sandwich but with toppings, too.

I’ve tried three types of stuffed tlacoyos: black bean, cheese, and potato. The cheese ones were best because cheese is best.

23. Tlayudas

Tlayudas Mexican pizza

Tlayudas are also called Mexican pizza because they’re often served flat and topped with ingredients like a pizza. I’ve tried them served like this, as well as these ones below which were folded over with ingredients inside.

Filling options include beans, cheese, salsa, lettuce and avocado. I opted for cheese and frijoles (black bean paste). Veggies should note that pork fat is sometimes included in the recipe.

Tlayudas ordinate from foodie capital, Oaxaca, so I’d recommend trying them in their birthplace. But if you’re in Mexico City, you can try them at Casa de la Tlayuda restaurant.

24. Machetes

Machetes Mexican street food
What to eat in Mexico if you’re really hungry!

Machetes aren’t widespread across Mexico but I wanted to mention them in my Mexican food guide in case you find yourself in Guerrero, a suburb of Mexico City not far from Instagrammable library, Biblioteca Vasconcelos.

These enormous tortilla wraps are almost half a metre long and stuffed with fillings of your choice. I opted for huitlacoche (very rich in a serving that size) but you can ask for them cut in two with a different filling in either end. Try these at Los Machetes de Amparito on Calle Heroes.

25. Papas con Valentina (spicy chips)

Spicy chips Mexican snack food

The final entry is this Mexico food guide might be the simplest yet most addictive. These potato chips (or crisps as us Brits would call them) are named papas which means potato. You’ll find them in every Mexican city and I couldn’t be happier because I love them drizzled with spicy Valentina sauce.

You can ask the vendor ‘un poco mas’ (a little more) if you want them spicier.

Best Mexican drinks

Now we’re done with the best food in Mexico, let’s move onto drinks. Aside from tequila, these are highly underrated. I’d never heard of mezcal, horchata or agua frescas before coming to Mexico but now they’re firm favourites.

Agua frescas typical Mexican drink

These are some of the best Mexican drinks to try….

26. Mezcal

Mezcal is beginning to get popular around the world. Most Americans seem to have heard of it but the trend hasn’t reached the UK yet (is there a reason we’re always last with these things?). Mezcal is a Mexican spirit made from agave, the same plant that makes tequila.

As experts will tell you, all tequilas are mezcals but not all mezcals are tequilas. Mezcal originates from the state of Oaxaca and if you go there (spoiler: you should), you can visit the plantations, learn how it made and, most importantly, sample it. Mezcal has a very smoky flavour which I don’t love, personally.

27. Tequila

Durr. The best place to try tequila is of course, the town of Tequila in Guadalajara state where it’s produced. There are a couple of ways to do this including the iconic Tequila train that travels from Guadalajara to Tequila, taking you through scenic fields of agave plants and plying with you unlimited tequila en route!

28. Oaxaca hot chocolate

Oaxaca hot chocolate Mexican drink

I’m actually sipping Mexican hot chocolate while writing this blog. As the birthplace of the beverage, where would be better for drinking it?

While Oaxaca is the most iconic place to drink hot chocolate, you’ll find it all over Mexico. If you’re in Mexico City, visit cafe chain Tierra Garat and order the chilli hot chocolate.

Mexcian hot chocolate is traditionally made with water rather than milk. In fact, mixing chocolate with milk was a Spanish invention. However, the drink doesn’t lose any flavour by making it with water (and usually you can ask for milk instead nowadays) because it’s so rich already.

29. Agua frescas

Translating as fresh water, these refreshing non-alcoholic drinks are served at almost every restaurant, cafe and street stand. My favourite flavours are lemon and chia seed, tamarind, jamaica (hibiscus flower) and guayaba (guava).

Cafes usually serve an agua fresca of the day which you can add to your meal package for a couple of pesos extra.

30. Horchata

Technically an agua fresca, this is one of the best Mexican drinks to try. Horchata is a plant milk flavoured with cinnamon. It’s incredibly sweet so I couldn’t drink it every day, but it’s refreshing on a hot day. Horchata is one of the oldest Mexican drinks, dating back to the 13th century.

31. Tejate

Tejate is what I’d describe as a cold hot chocolate. Do we just call that chocolate? Drinking chocolate?

Made with cocoa and corn, tejate is a rich and creamy non-alcoholic Mexican drink. It’s originally from Oaxaca but I’ve found it in Mexico City, too.

32. Tapache

Tapache is a Mexican drink made from fermented pineapple peel; practically a pre-Hispanic kombucha. It’s flavoured with cinnamon and brown sugar making it sweet and sticky. Due to being fermented, it’s slightly alcoholic.

33. Pulque

Pulque Mexican drink

Pulque is an alcoholic Mexican drink made from the sap of the maguey plant. It’s milky, slightly lumpy and can’t be bottled as it will explode.

Despite these strange characteristics, I like pulque. Try it at a pulqueria in Mexico City to sample different flavours like chocolate and marzipan. If the creamy version turns you off, try fruit pulque instead. Flavours like berry are tangy and refreshing.

34. Aguamiel (unfermented pulque)

One of the most delicious and refreshing Mexican drinks I’ve tried is aguamiel, in other words unfermented pulque straight from the sap of the agave plant.

I sipped this fresh at a local market in the Xochimilco neighbourhood of Mexico City and fell in love with the naturally sweet, refreshing flavour. I’ve yet to find it again but I hope I do soon.

35. Atole

Atole Mexican drink

In the winter months or early mornings when it’s still cold, the most warming and satisfying Mexican drinks is atole. This hot drink is made from corn, giving it a thick, smooth texture.

Atole comes in different flavours such as chocolate and guava. It’s often paired with tamales as a typical Mexican breakfast. Corn heaven!

36. Ponche

The final item in my Mexican food and drink guide is ponche, a Mexican drink served at Christmas. Ponche is a bit like an iced mulled wine and translates as ‘punch’. Stewed fruit and cinnamon sticks give ponche its flavour.

Grab a cup if you’re travelling Mexico in December.

Mexico street food essentials

These are the items that came with me to Mexico and I would recommend using during your eating adventures.

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Thanks for reading my Mexico food guide!

I can’t believe I’ve written over 4,000 words all about the best food in Mexico but what can I say, it may be the love of my life. I hope you have a better idea of what to eat in Mexico and where to find it.

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See you next time for more adventures,

Rose

Ps. Liked these best Mexican foods to try? Pin my Mexico food guide for later!

What to eat in mexico food guide

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