Mexico is known for its beautiful beaches, innovative mixology, and incredible history, but foodies travel from all over to come to Mexico to eat. While tacos are a mainstay among tourists when it comes to gastronomy, the country features a variety of authentic Mexican food that dates back hundreds and even thousands of years with varying flavors and styles.
On your next trip to Mexico, branch out and try some of these top authentic Mexican foods. We promise they won’t disappoint!
Chilaquiles is an authentic Mexican food that consists of fried corn tortilla chips covered in either a traditional verde or rojo sauce topped with cheese. While this dish has a mouthwatering appeal, many add to it with items such as a fried egg, shredded chicken, roasted vegetables, or a side of beans.
The word chilaquiles means chilis and greens, and it stems from the Nahuatl language. The crispness of the chip and the color of the sauce will vary depending on which region you’re in, but the heart-warming feel you’ll get after eating transcends place and time. While the dish is traditionally served as a breakfast staple, many eat it as a late-night snack or whip it up to clear leftovers from the fridge. Chilaquiles is the ultimate Mexican comfort food!
Pozole is a pork-based stew that contains pork, hominy, onions, garlic, lettuce or cabbage, chili peppers, salsa, avocado, and radishes. However, garnishes may vary depending on region and chef. The traditional version is known for having a white broth, but some add red or green sauces into the literal mixture.
The word pozole also stems from the Nahuatl language and translates to a variety of maize or corn. The dish has been around since the pre-Colombian era and was a common meal among the Pueblo Indians. Today, you can find many versions of the recipe throughout Mexico and Central America. While the dish was originally used for a celebratory meal, many cook the stew year-round as a dinner staple in the home. No trip to Mexico is complete without trying this delicious soup!
Tostadas offer many of the same ingredients as tacos, but the signature difference is the large, toasted tortilla that lies flat on the bottom of the dish. Traditionally, this round and crunchy circle of deliciousness is topped with a variety of meats or fish, cheeses, beans, and garnishes that make this treat so popular. You can make them as simple or as complex as you’d like!
The word tostada literally translates to toasted, and the dish itself can be traced back over 2,000 years to Oaxaca and the Monte Alban ruins. It’s believed the creation was a way to use tortillas that were losing their freshness, while also using up whatever meats or garnishes were leftover from the nights and days before. Get in the traditional spirit on your next trip to Mexico and order a variety of tostadas to see which flavors you like best!
Tacos al pastor
Tacos al pastor is a popular Mexican dish, but did you know there was a mixing of cultures that occurred to create this favorite? When Lebanese immigrants came to Mexico, they brought shawarma with them, which led the way for the current tacos al pastor.
This dish uses al pastor or “shepherd style” cooking which features meat roasting vertically on a spit, the same as you’d find with shawarma, the Turkish kabob, or Greek gyro meat. Traditionally, these tacos are made with pork, and the spice adobada is used to create that mouthwatering flavor. You’ll typically find al pastor tacos served on corn tortillas with onions, cilantro, pineapple, and a lime wedge, but the variation will differ depending on region and chef. While this dish has become a popular street food item throughout the US, you have to try the real deal here in Mexico on your next trip!
Chiles en nogada
Chiles en nogada is an authentic Mexican food that consists of poblano chiles stuffed with shredded meats (typically pork or beef), along with herbs, fruits, and spices. The stuffed chiles are topped with a walnut-based sauce (nogada) and garnished with pomegranate seeds and parsley.
This unique dish is said to have its roots in Puebla, as it was prepared for the emperor by Augustinian nuns when the Treaty of Cordoba was signed, granting Mexico its independence from Spain. This classic staple is deeply tied to Mexico’s Independence Day and is eaten in part as a celebration of this integral moment in history. The peak season for this dish’s natural ingredients is found between August and October, but you’ll see this meal on menus year-round in various parts of the country. Eat a little bit of history with this must-try fare!
Elote, aka corn, has its roots in Central America but plays a role in Mexico’s history as far back as the Aztec civilization. While the majority of foods on this list feature Mexican staples dating back hundreds of years, street corn as seen today is a newer favorite that originated in Mexico City. Like many other popular Mexican foods, elote has made its way to the US, acting as a quick snack and a late-night treat.
This dish is prepared by grilling full or half ears of corn and covering them with delicious goodness, such as butter, mayonnaise, cotija or chihuahua cheese, chili powder, and cilantro. This quick fix is a must-eat on any trip to Mexico!
Within your foodie travels, you’ve probably heard of enchiladas, which is the exact base for this next authentic Mexican food. Enchiladas are a traditional dish comprised of rolled and fried tortillas filled with various meats, cheeses, and sometimes vegetables. The most common version you’ll find is chicken and cheese, but with enmoladas, the twist comes on top. These delicious rolled treats are covered in a dark, rich mole, a traditional sauce that’s made from chilies. However, some variations feature chocolate, nuts, and spices, too.
What was once considered simple street food can now be found at restaurants all over Mexico and the US. Discover the various types of moles throughout the country and decide which is your favorite.
The last authentic Mexican food on our list is menudo, and no, we don’t mean the boy band. Menudo, sometimes known as mole de panza or pancita, is a traditional soup that’s made with beef tripe (cow’s stomach). The broth is comprised of a red chili pepper base and is accompanied by hominy, onions, oregano, and lime.
Many regions of Mexico try to claim this dish as their own, but it can be found all over the farmlands, the inner city, and everywhere in between. There are also two versions based on the broth: menudo rojo and menudo blanco. Menudo rojo, or the red broth, is popular in northern Mexico, while the white broth, menudo blanco, is popular in central Mexico. This last option is for the truly adventurous, but if you’re a travel foodie, this dish is a must!
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