Top 10 foods to try in Mexico

If you're visiting Mexico, look out for these traditional dishes to get a real taste of the country's cuisine. Here's our pick of the top 10 must-try meals.

Mexico city panorama

Mexico has long been among the world’s most popular holiday destinations, attracting sun seekers and food lovers alike. If you’re lucky enough to be planning a trip, make sure you sample the best tastes and flavours the country has to offer with our roundup of the top 10 dishes to try while you’re there.

Discover even more foodie getaways, top 10 guides and essential travel info in our travel hub. 

Don’t leave Mexico without trying…

1. Chilaquiles

Chilaquiles in dish
This popular traditional breakfast dish features lightly fried corn tortillas cut into quarters and topped with green or red salsa (the red is slightly spicier). Scrambled or fried eggs and pulled chicken are usually added on top, as well as cheese and cream. Chilaquiles are often served with a healthy dose of frijoles (refried beans).

Try making your own... chilaquiles


2. Pozole

According to anthropologists, this pre-Hispanic soup was once used as part of ritual sacrifices. These days chicken, pork and vegetarian pozole versions are readily available in more everyday surroundings. Made from hominy corn with plenty of herbs and spices, the dish is traditionally stewed for hours, often overnight. Once it's ready to serve, lettuce, radish, onion, lime and chilli are sprinkled on top. 


3. Tacos al pastor

This historic dish is one of the most popular varieties of tacos, with origins dating back to the 1920s and 30s and the arrival of Lebanese and Syrian immigrants to Mexico. To create tacos al pastor (meaning ‘in the style of the shepherd’), thin strips of pork are sliced off a spit, placed on a corn tortilla and served with onions, coriander leaves and pineapple.


4. Tostadas

Tostadas with crab and lime wedges
What should you do with stale tortillas? Why, fry them of course! Literally meaning toasted, tostadas are a simple but delicious dish involving corn tortillas fried in boiling oil until they become crunchy and golden. These are then served alone or piled high with any number of garnishes. Popular toppings include frijoles (refried beans), cheese, cooked meat, seafood and ceviche.

Try making your own... tostadas


5. Chiles en nogada

Boasting the three colours of the Mexican flag, chiles en nogada is one of Mexico’s most patriotic dishes. Poblano chillies filled with picadillo (a mixture of chopped meat, fruits and spices) represent the green on the flag, the walnut-based cream sauce is the white and pomegranate seeds are the red. Originating from Puebla, history relates that the dish was first served to Don Agustin de Iturbide, liberator and subsequent Emperor of Mexico.


6. Elote

Corn on the cobs with toppings
You’ll find someone selling elote, the Mexican name for corn on the cob, on nearly every city street corner in Mexico. The corn is traditionally boiled and served either on a stick (to be eaten like an ice cream) or in cups, the kernels having been cut off the cob. Salt, chilli powder, lime, butter, cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream are then added in abundance.

Try making your own... elote
 

7. Enchiladas

Enchilada on plate with fork
Enchiladas date back to Mayan times, when people in the Valley of Mexico would eat corn tortillas wrapped around small fish. These days both corn and flour tortillas are used and are filled with meat, cheese, seafood, beans, vegetables or all of the above. The stuffed tortillas are then covered in a chilli sauce, making for a perfect Mexican breakfast.

Try making your own... enchiladas


8. Mole

Chicken mole with rice and soured cream
Three states claim to be the original home of mole (pronounced ‘mol-eh’), a rich sauce popular in Mexican cooking. There are myriad types of mole but all contain around 20 or so ingredients, including one or more varieties of chilli peppers, and all require constant stirring over a long period of time. Perhaps the best-known mole is mole poblano, a rusty red sauce typically served over turkey or chicken.

Try making your own... mole


9. Guacamole

Guacamole in bowl with fajitas
Guacamole is undoubtedly one of Mexico’s most popular dishes, but few people know that this traditional sauce dates back to the time of the Aztecs. Made from mashed-up avocadoes, onions, tomatoes, lemon juice and chilli peppers (and sometimes a clove or two of garlic), guacamole is often eaten with tortilla chips or used as a side dish.

Try making your own... guacamole

Watch our video guide on how to make the perfect guacamole:


10. Tamales

Tamales were first developed for the Aztec, Mayan and Inca tribes who needed nourishing food on the go to take into battle. Pockets of corn dough are stuffed with either a sweet or savoury filling, wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks, then steamed. Fillings vary from meats and cheeses to fruits, vegetables, chillies and mole. Remember to discard the wrapping before eating!

Try making your own... tamales


Katja Gaskell is a freelance travel writer living in Mexico City. She has co-authored numerous travel guidebooks for Lonely Planet, scoured boutique hotels for Mr & Mrs Smith and is the co-founder of globetotting.com, a family travel website.

Are you a fan of Mexican cuisine? Do you agree with our selection or have we missed your favourite? Share your must-try dishes below…

Comments, questions and tips

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ERN
22nd Aug, 2018
Hi Very good selection considering that it is hard to choose given the regional difference in Mexican food. I would kindly suggest to change the pictures for Elote (in MX we usually eat white or blue-purple corn) and the Enchiladas. Current images remind the TexMex food (NOT to be confused with Mexican) On the other hand, regarding the video, we usually smash very well the avocados with a folk, add the lime juice and later we add the onion, cilantro/coriander, chili -quite often green chili- and tomatoes, a must, by the way, not mentioned on the video. Salt is most of the times added. Enjoy !
Gatoazul
19th Aug, 2018
Beef lovers should also try Arrechera or Vacío, which is marinated flank steak or skirt steak and very tender. I never encountered it while living in CA or AZ. It’s one of my favorite finds since retiring to Mexico.
Darcia Datshkovsky Sáenz de Lagarón's picture
Darcia Datshkov...
19th Aug, 2018
If you are going to feature Mexican food at least show Mexican food pictures. Firstly no one in Mexico eats yellow corn, our elotes are white never yellow, secondly your enchilada looks like some weird tex mex cheese covered burrito but nothing like the rolled (not folded) corn (not flour) tortilla, covered in salsa (not cheese) an enchilada is supposed to be, and then there is your guacamole picture including some grilled pitas which I am sure make great kebabs but terrible tacos.
golfngsl
6th Aug, 2018
There are so many delicious dishes in Mexico it is really hard to put them all on one list, but CHILE RELLENOS must be included somewhere in my opinion close to the top. BUEN PROVECHO
Oscar Garza Colis's picture
Oscar Garza Colis
18th May, 2018
You forgot tortas and enchiladas
Paola Diaz
21st Jul, 2017
These are all delicious but you forgot MENUDO!!
Oscar Garza Colis's picture
Oscar Garza Colis
18th May, 2018
That's good
matizon
21st Mar, 2016
In the piece about tamales, why would the Incas take Mexican tamales in to battle when they were from Peru?
Pena88
6th Feb, 2016
I am Mexican and there are some things you missed. Tortas, pambazos, sopes, chiles rellenos, tinga, frijoles puercos or charros, and chicharrones, menudo, birria, and chorizo. Those are some of best and most popular dishes in Mexico.
MexCityStreets
22nd Mar, 2014
I live in Mexico and have to say that this list is a sad one without Cochinita Pibil, a bright orange, citrusy pork dish, served with a salsa of pickled onions and jalapenos. This is a classic Yucatan dish whose original recipe includes cooking a whole pig underground for at least 6 hours. It is by far my favorite food in Mexico City and beyond.

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Garcia David Gael's picture
Garcia David Gael
30th May, 2018
why do you put this recipts
goodfoodteam's picture
goodfoodteam
5th Jun, 2018
Thanks for your question. We included the guacamole recipe to give people a chance to try one of the dishes at home.
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