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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.
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
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…
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.
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
tortillathan a crispy one.
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.
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
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 (
4. Enchiladas / enmoladas
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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?
Dorilocos are the only listing in this Mexico food guide that I didn’t like. Since t
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!
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.
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
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.
rellano (stuffed chilli)
Another typical Mexican food to try is chile
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)
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,
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).
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
Huaraches are m
For everything to do and eat in the capital, read my CDMX travel itinerary.
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
I’ve tried three types of stuffed tlacoyos: black bean, cheese, and potato. The cheese ones were best because cheese is best.
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.
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
25. Papas con Valentina (spicy chips)
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.
These are some of the best Mexican drinks to try….
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.
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
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.
Technically an agua fresca, this is one of the best Mexican drinks to try. Horchata is
Tejate is what I’d describe as a cold hot chocolate. Do we just call that chocolate? Drinking chocolate?
Made with cocoa and corn,
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
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.
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!
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.
- A stainless steel reusable water bottle with straw lid to reduce the use of plastic bottles
- Alternatively, a filtering water bottle to safely drink tap water
- Metal straw kit with straw cleaner and cloth bag
- Reusable coffee cup (collapsable) for hot takeaway drinks
- Reusable Tupperware box for takeway and leftover food and a reusable bamboo cutlery set
- When travelling in Mexico, check out EatWith. They host food tours, cooking classes and hosted meals with local chefs and foodies.
Need travel insurance? I use World Nomads. Click here to get a quote.
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.
Check out my other Mexico blogs:
- Where to eat in Roma and Condesa, Mexico City
- Best food in Tepoztlan Mexico
- Solo female travel in Mexico
- The ultimate Mexico bucket list
- Things to do in Puebla
- 23 Mexico City travel tips
- Guide to Coyoacan, Mexico City
- Visiting Hierve el Agua
- Best Queretaro wineries to visit
- Visiting Xochimilco Mexico City
- Oaxaca Day of the Dead guide
See you next time for more adventures,
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