We all know tacos and quesadillas as prime examples of Mexico food, but there’s so much more to Mexican cuisine than that – including various other traditional tortilla dishes that most of us probably are still fairly unfamiliar with! This Mexican food bucket list can serve as an excellent guide to you for when you are in Mexico and wanting to explore the best of the local food scene; or even when entering your nearby Mexican restaurant and hoping to try out more authentic dishes besides your usual go-to taco.
The Best Food of Mexico List: Traditional Mexican Cuisine & Names of Popular Dishes
The main ingredient for this dish is raw shrimp, which has been topped with a liquid consisting of a seasoning mix that includes chili peppers, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and slices of cucumber and onion. It’s a dish originating from Mexico’s west region, coast of Sinaloa to be specific, typically prepared in a molcajete, which is the Mexican version of a traditional mortar and pestle.
With its main ingredients consisting of amaranth seeds, honey, and sugar, Alegrias are a popular Mexican type of candy. The origins of this candy date back to the 16th century at the very least, with alegrias being made mainly in Santiago Tulyehualco, a town in Mexico City’s Xochimilco borough.
3. Arroz con leche
All around the world there are rice porridges being made in each culture’s own way, and Arroz con leche is Mexico’s way of a rice porridge – or a rice pudding. This Mexico food is considered a dessert, made of rice, milk, butter, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. It can be served either warm or cold. You can easily make it at home with the Food Networks recipe.
Made of masa harina, the same kind of corn flour that corn tortillas are made of, Atole is a traditional Mexican beverage, perfect for winter mornings. It’s traditionally drunk during celebrations on Dia de los Muertos and its roots date back all the way to the Aztecs’ and Mayans’ time.
Originating in the street food carts in Guadalajara, Bionicos are fruit bowls, in which it’s okay to use any seasonal fruit. It’s topped with crema, which is a mix of yogurt, Mexican crema, and sweetened condensed milk. In addition, shredded coconut, granola, and raisins are also added on top of the fruit and crema.
This is a popular dish from the region of Jalisco. It’s most often made with goat’s or lamb’s meat, in addition to which there will be dried peppers, herbs, and vinegar added into the dish, which is then served in a bowl like a soup, with chopped onion and cilantro on top. In restaurants specializing in Birria, the meat used may be a combination of various meats, whereas in the homemade version of the dish, beef is also commonly used.
Bolillos is made in small loaves of plain white bread, with a soft interior and a crusty outside. It’s an everyday side dish that may be accompanied with most Mexican dishes that you eat.
8. Caldo de Res
Caldo de Res is a Mexican style beef and vegetable soup. It’s made with beef bones, seasonings, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cilantro, potatoes, corn, chayote, and cabbage.
Seen as a specialty dessert coming from the city of Celaya, Cajeta is made by first simmering the milk of a goat, until it becomes caramelized. The end result is a delicious milk candy.
10. Carne Asada
Carne Asada refers to beef that’s grilled and sliced, most typically rib, sirloin, skirt, or tenderloin. It can be served as a main dish, in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and so on. It’s considered a staple Mexico food especially in the northern region, though this is a dish that can be found all around Latin America.
One of the most popular main ingredients to put into your burrito, quesadilla, taco, you name it, is this dish, Mexican cuisine’s answer to pulled pork. It’s first seasoned and then slow cooked, until it becomes just the right type of crispy and juicy.
Originating from Puebla, Cemitas refers to a sesame seed covered bread roll (looking similar to a hamburger bun), which is made without egg. However, cemitas are also a Mexican style sandwich, made using this particular bread. The other ingredients used to make the sandwich are avocado, cheese, meat, chipotle in adobo sauce (or jalapeño), and pápalo leaves.
Chalupas are boat shaped shallow corn cups, made with masa dough. Traditionally, as made in Cholula, it’s only toppings are salsa, cheese, and lettuce. However, other popular toppings are carnitas, shredded chicken, onion, chipotle, as well as chorizo, and refried beans.
Chapulines are grasshoppers, toasted on a comal (a flat griddle on which tortillas are also toasted), and in a lot of cases seasoned with garlic, lime juice, and salt. They are especially popular in Oaxaca, but eaten in some other areas near Mexico City as well. They can be eaten as snacks or as fillings in Mexican dishes such as tlayuda (which will be introduced in more detail further down this list).
If you want to be even more adventures with bug eating, you might like our Edible Bugs and Insects Bucket List that includes chapulines.
Typically this dish is made of fried pork belly or fried pork skin. In North Mexico especially, it’s made with pork belly. It’s popular to eat as a snack or an appetizer, but is also used for main dishes like gorditas.
A traditional breakfast dish in Mexico, in Chilaquiles corn tortillas are cut into quarters, fried lightly, and then salsa is poured over the tortillas, and simmered, until the tortillas begin softening. Crema, crumbled white cheese, avocado slices, and chopped onion are used to garnish the dish, in addition to which pulled chicken is sometimes included. Common side dishes served with chilaquiles are refried beans, eggs, and guacamole, on top of which.
17. Chile Relleno
Originating from Puebla, in this dish a green chili pepper is stuffed with diced pork, nuts, and raisins, or melted cheese, and then coated with egg white or masa flour batter. It’s normally served with tomato sauce, but there are variations to which sauce the dish is served with.
18. Chiles en Nogada
Traditionally, Chiles en Nogada is a dish from Puebla. In it, poblano chiles are stuffed with picadillo (shredded meat, fruits, spices, and aromatics mixed together), and the chili is topped with nogada, a walnut-based cream sauce, as well as pomegranate seeds and parsley. This dish is eaten especially from August to beginning of September, when national independence festivities are held and pomegranate is in season.
Originating from Michoacán, Churipo is a spicy stew made with beef, vegetables, and spicy chili. Specifically it is the staple food of Michoacán region’s indigenous Purepecha people. It’s similar to Caldo de Res but spicier.
While the specific origins of churros remain unclear, it ended up in Latin America from Spain and Portugal. In Mexico, the shape of the churros remain straight, and are typically filled with dulce de leche, a sauce-like caramel, or cajeta, or alternatively chocolate and vanilla.
A popular and traditional coconut candy, Cocadas in Mexico are not only sold in artisan shops, but also by street vendors, and even on the beach. It’s an oven baked treat, its main ingredients being coconut, eggs, food coloring, sugar, coconut milk, condensed milk, and fruit syrup.
22. Cochinita Pibil
Cochinita Pibil is a traditional, Yucatán born, slow-roasted pork dish made of a suckling pig. Traditionally it is made using a whole pig, but it can also be made solely of pork shoulder or pork loin. Bitter oranges are typically used for marinating the pig, and achiote is another important ingredient used to add flavor to the dish.
This is a dish that is similar to tamales, wrapped and folded in a triangular shape using a long corn plant leaf. They may not have any filling, but occasionally you’ll find it filled with salsa. Corundas are steamed until golden, and are served with cream and red salsa.
A newer introduction to Mexican cuisine, Dorilocos are a popular street snack, combining Doritos, pickled pig skin, vegetables, and gummies into an intriguing and tasty treat. You’re likely to find peanuts in the mix as well! Especially in Mexico City you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a street vendor offering this snack.
Another street snack, Elote is a grilled corn on the cob. It’ll have mayo cream sauce all over it, with chili powder, cheese, and lime as garnish. Especially in Puebla, it’ll be sold by street vendors nearly everywhere.
Enchiladas are corn tortillas which are rolled around a filling, such as meats, beans, cheese, vegetables, or a combination of them, and covered in a chili-based sauce, or alternatively a cheese-based sauce. It’ll then be oven baked into a gratin-like dish.
Entomatadas are similar to enchiladas, as they are also rolled around a filling – which are fairly similar as to ones used in enchiladas – with sauce and cheese poured on top of the tortillas. However, a big difference between the two is the fact that, while enchiladas use a chili-based sauce, in entomatadas a tomato-based sauce is used.
A type of Mexican caviar, Escamoles are edible larvae and pupae of ants. Mexico City and its surrounding areas are the most common places for consuming this dish, although escamoles have been around as a type of Mexican food since the time of the Aztecs.
Also known as crème caramel, flan is a custard dessert of sweet and creamy consistency, essentially drowned in a caramel sauce. The Mexican style flan is made with cream cheese, which gives it a richer consistency in comparison to other flans.
Flautas are essentially rolled tacos, which are fried until they look golden and taste crispy. They’re incredibly similar to taquitos in how they’re prepared and filled, but flautas are made using flour tortillas specifically.
31. Frijoles Charros
In English this dish would translate to cowboy beans, which makes sense as this was named after the traditional Mexican cowboys, charros. It’s sort of like a stew or a soup, with the main ingredients being pinto beans, bacon, garlic, and onion. A whole variety of other ingredients may also be included in the dish, most notably chili peppers, cilantro, ham, chorizo, pork, sausage, and tomatoes.
Gordita are savory pastries, made of masa dough and stuffed with cheese or meat, although other possible fillings exist as well. The most common filling for a gordita, however, is chicharron, a pork dish that was introduced above. Two main variations of how to cook the dish exist, depending on the region where the gorditas are being made.
Gringas are seen as a variation of a taco, made using flour tortillas instead of corn. They’re filled with cheese, meat, and pineapple, and they’re grilled in the same fashion as a quesadilla.
Next to tacos, guacamole is quite possibly the best known Mexican food. Used as a dip for various dishes, from tortilla chips to quesadillas, Guacamole is made first and foremost from avocados. Other main ingredients used are sea salt and lime juice, and some non-traditional variations include tomatoes, sour cream, and basil.
Horchata is a plant milk beverage, with using white rice as the base being the Mexican and Latin American way of making it. In addition to rice, cinnamon, milk, and vanilla go into making this drink.
Having originated in Mexico City in the 1930s, in this dish masa dough is mixed with pinto beans, made into an oblong shape, and topped with various ingredients such as salsa, cilantro, meat, onions, and potatoes, with white cheese on top of everything. The name of the dish was in part inspired by a type of sandals carrying the same name which were popular at the time.
37. Huevos Motuleños
Huevos Motuleños are a Yucatán style egg dish, where a fried tortilla is topped with sunny side eggs, black beans, cheese, fried plantains, and red sauce. It’s typically served and eaten during breakfast time.
38. Huevos Rancheros
Another delicious Mexican breakfast dish, in Huevos Rancheros corn tortillas are topped with sunny side eggs and warm salsa. It’s a typical breakfast to eat especially at Mexican farms.
Spanish for ‘tongue’, Lengua in Mexico is typically as a taco filling, with beef tongue specifically being used. Lengua can also be served with roasted salsa. The tongue itself is typically cooked in a slow cooker, although it is possible to cook it on the stove as well.
Made from spiced beef or pork, Machaca is traditionally dried meat which has been rehydrated before usage. It is used as an ingredient in various dishes like tacos and flautas. Machaca with eggs is also popular to eat for breakfast.
Marquesitas are a local treat and street snack in Yucatán. It is a crepe, fried until crispy, that has been filled with melted shredded cheese and a sweet filling, such as Nutella, cajeta, chocolate sauce, jam, or peanut butter. It tastes like the best combination of savory and sweet!
Also running under the names of pancita and mole de panza, Menudo is a traditional Mexican soup made with cow’s stomach in a broth that has a red chili pepper base. Onion, oregano, and lime are commonly used as seasonings. The preparation process for menudo is lengthy, and often it’s made by the entire family together, and served during social interactions such as a wedding reception.
43. Mexican Hot Chocolate
Mexican hot chocolate, in its earliest form, has been drunk since the time of Aztecs and Mayans, with its original recipe only containing cacao and water, with the occasional addition of corn. Today sugar and Ceylon cinnamon are commonly added, whereas corn no longer is. It is also popular to consume in some other Latin American countries, such as Colombia, whereas not common to drink in others, like Brazil.
This is a classic Mexican cocktail, made with light beer (like Corona) and tomato juice, or clamato juice, mixed together. Lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, hot sauce, and chili powder are the other main ingredients used to create this unique cocktail. It’s become more and more common to enjoy with brunch.
Mole sauce is a traditional Mexican marinade and sauce, although the term ‘mole’ has since become used to refer to a variety of sauces. Normally the actual mole sauce includes some type of a fruit, chili pepper, nuts, and various spices. The classic version of mole is served over meat.
Named after the pambazo bread, a traditional Mexican style white bread, Pambazos are sandwiches where the bread has been filled with chorizo and potatoes, before being dipped and fried in a chili pepper sauce. Lettuce, salsa, crema, and cheese are used to garnish the sandwich, which is ready once the bread has become crispy on both sides from the frying process.
In Panucho, a refried tortilla is stuffed with refried black beans. This combination is then topped with various vegetables, as well as pulled chicken or pulled turkey. They’re typically served at fast food restaurants called panucherias, and are nearly exclusively sold in evenings.
48. Pan Tres Leches
Classified as both a sponge cake and a butter cake, depending on which recipe you use, Pan Tres Leches is a cake that has been soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated, condensed, and heavy cream. Recipes for soaked cakes similar to pan tres leches have been around as a delicious food of Mexico since the 19th century.
With a similar look as enchiladas, Papadzules are another dish originating from Yucatán Peninsula. In it, corn tortillas are dipped into a pepita sauce (a pumpkin seed sauce), filled with chopped hard-boiled eggs, and topped with a tomato-habanero sauce.
50. Pico de Gallo
Consisting of tomato, onion, serrano peppers, salt, cilantro, and lime juice, pico de gallo is a type of salsa, popular and common to use in Mexican cuisine. It can be used largely in similar ways as the Mexican salsas of more liquid consistencies, and because of its lack of liquid it is popular to use as filling for tacos and fajitas.
Made with using simply flour, sugar, and milk as ingredients, with powdered sugar dusted on top, polvorones are shortbread cookies typically enjoyed during the holidays, specifically on Christmas. They were given their name due to the fact they are so frail they could easily be turned into powder.
Pozole is another meaty soup or stew that is traditional to Mexican cuisine. Besides meat, its other main ingredient is hominy, a food made from dried corn kennels. The stew is garnished and seasoned with various ingredients, such as cabbage, chili peppers, garlic, onion, avocado, lime, salsa, and radishes. It is eaten as a day to day meal, but is also popular to serve during festive occasions.
Made from the fermented sap of agave, Pulque is an alcoholic drink of a milky white appearance. It has a bit of a sour yeast-like taste to it. The drink reached its peak in popularity in the 19th century, although it has its origins dating all the way back to the Mesoamerican period.
Quesadillas are tortillas that are primarily filled with cheese before cooked on a griddle or a stove. Various meats, like carnitas, are also common to find as a filling in addition to cheese. The origins of the dish date back to Mexico’s colonial period, although it has undergone many changes through the centuries due to people having experimented with different variations of the dish.
Also called a quesadilla sincronizada due to its similarities with a quesadilla, Sincronizadas are a type of sandwich, made with using tortilla as “bread”. In it, ham, as well as possibly refried beans and chorizo, plus cheese, is placed between two flour tortillas. The whole dish is then grilled or fried lightly, until the cheese has melted, before being served with pico de gallo, salsa, or guacamole on top.
56. Sopa Azteca
Known also as sopa de tortilla, Sopa Azteca is a Mexican tortilla soup. It consists of pieces of fried tortilla in chicken broth, with tomatoes, garlic, onions, chili pepper, and cilantro included in the dish as well, with freshly squeezed lime juice used to finish off the dish. The origins of the dish are unknown, but it’s a popular everyday meal, not only due to its affordability but also because it is a great way to use up some leftover tortillas.
Looking similar to a thick tortilla, sopes consist of a fried masa base, topped with refried beans, crumbled cheese, lettuce, onions, sauce, and sour cream. It is fairly common to add chicken or beef on the sope, and in some northern regions of Mexico, the vegetables are swapped out for chorizo or longaniza, a type of sausage.
58. Tacos al Pastor
Tacos al Pastor refers specifically to tacos made with rotisserie pork which has been cut similarly to Middle Eastern cuisine’s shawarma. For flavoring of the pork, a mixture of Middle Eastern spices and central Mexican spices are used. It’s a popular street dish that runs under several names today, depending on the region.
A traditional Mesoamerican dish, tamales in Mexico are made using masa dough, wrapped into plantain leaves in which they will be steamed. For fillings, meat, cheese, or vegetables, especially chili peppers, are used. Tamales are seen as comfort food in Mexico, eaten both at breakfast and dinner time.
Typically made with corn tortillas – as opposed to flautas which are a similar dish on this list but made with flour tortillas and are also larger in size– taquitos are a rolled taco, using beef, chicken, or cheese as fillings, and served fried. Often taquitos are topped and eaten together with sour cream and guacamole.
61. Torta Ahogada
Originating from Jalisco, specifically Guadalajara, Torta Ahogada are a sandwich made using birote salado bread, filled with fried pork or chicken or beans, and at least partially submerged in a sauce made primarily of dried chili pepper. Because of the consistency of the bread, it does not crumble or dissolve when submerged into the sauce, which is why this particular type of bread is used for this dish. It can be found both at restaurants and street vendors.
Similar to Dorilocos, Tostilocos are a popular street snack in Mexico. It consists of Tostitos tortilla chips as base, topped with cucumber, pig skin, lime juice, jicama, chamoy, hot sauce, chili powder, salt, and cracker nuts. Originally this dish was created in Tijuana.
Traditional specifically in Oaxaca, where it’s considered an iconic dish of sorts, tlayuda is a handmade dish consisting of a partially toasted or fried tortilla, topped with a spread mix of refried beans, unrefined pork lard, cabbage or lettuce, avocado, meat, Oaxaca cheese, and salsa. As there is no singular rule for which toppings to use, several variations exist, including chapulines.
I don’t know about you but after going through this bucket list for Mexico food, I’m absolutely starving and need a sampling of all of these dishes right away! Although tacos and quesadillas are incredibly tasty, Mexican cuisine is filled with various delicious and intriguing dishes, each region having their own best signature dishes. Of course, it comes as no surprise that tortillas are a staple food of Mexico, but it’s been rather interesting to find out how a dish can change its name simply based on what type of a tortilla was used. After reading this Mexican food bucket list, which dish – besides the usual suspects – are you most looking forward to trying out?
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