Which dishes are authentic Mexican versus TexMex
Mexican food: try 10 typical dishes in Mexico
Every child knows Mexican food. But do you know typical Mexican dishes how to eat them in Mexico?
Mexican food here is not like in Mexico
Mexican food is world famous. Tacos, enchiladas and Chile are on par with pizza and pasta in many countries.
From the country of origin of Chillies, tomatoes, chocolate and corn, some super tasty dishes come out.
Even if you're a regular at your Mexican, this will be you Surprise food in Mexico.
burritos, Nachos, Fajitas and chili con carne you will look for a long time in Mexico. Tacos are only available with a soft corn dough.
Lots of dishes that we know as "Mexican" are Tex-Mex from the Southwest of the USA.
If you go to Mexico or eat authentic mexican food read on for typical Mexican dishes.
Here are my favorite dishes from 2 months in Mexico, half a year in New Mexico and three months in California.
The 10 best dishes in Mexico
In my opinion, the 10 best dishes in Mexico that you should definitely try are:
- Chile's Relleno
- Tacos al pastor
- Chiles en Nogada
- Enchiladas Suizas
- Tamales con Cerdo
- Pollo con Mole Poblano
- Chicharrón con Salsa Verde
- Pastel Azteca
- Ceviche cocktail
Read on for these and other typical Mexican dishes.
Mexican cuisine means tortillas, beans & chiles
Hardly any Mexican dish can do without three ingredients: corn, beans and chiles (not chilies)
- Beans are used as a filling or as a “Frijoles Refritos” bean paste as a side dish.
- Chiles can be mild like peppers. As a habanero or jalapeño, they are a hot spice.
- Corn is mostly eaten in the form of tortillas, the Mexican bread flatbreads.
The simplest and most popular Mexican dish is a taco. You roll 1-2 tortillas around a type of meat with a salsa, onions and coriander. The taco is ready. Tacos are typical street food.
According to an old joke, all Mexican dishes are basically tacos, just folded differently. That's true for tortilla dishes and there are tons of tortilla dishes out there!
Wraps: Taco dishes from quesadilas to enchiladas
Many Mexican dishes, like tacos, are made from a tortilla-like wrap:
- Quesadillas / Gorditas / Tlacoyos / Gringas
Tortillas filled with meat or cheese and fried. Order “Quesadillas con Queso” in Mexico, otherwise you will probably get quesadillas filled with meat without cheese. Names and sizes vary from region to region.
- Tostadas / Sopes / Huaraches / Memelas / Chalupas
Crispy fried tortillas with a topping of meat, vegetables or cheese. Names, shapes and sizes vary from region to region
Folded tortillas filled with meat, vegetables or cheese are doused with a sauce and served with rice and beans. Enchiladas Suiza are a cheese casserole.
Similar to enchiladas, with small triangular tortillas and often drowned in red tomatillo sauce. Partly served with cheese like Enchiladas Suiza.
- Flautas / Taquitos
Fried rolled tortillas are filled with cheese or meat.
- Pastel Azteca
Tortillas will be like at lasagne layered with cheese and other ingredients and baked in the oven
Tortas and lonches are topped in a similar way to tacos, with a sandwich bun instead of a tortilla.
There are also plenty of local tortilla varieties, e.g. Panuchos in Yucatan or Tlayudas in Oaxaca.
Mexican dishes without tortillas
The most famous Mexican dishes are tortilla-based, but there are enough alternatives:
Corn dough steamed in the corn leaf. Tamales are mostly filled and can be meaty, cheesy, spicy, or even sweet. In South America they are known as humitas.
- Chile Relleno
All kinds of stuffed peppers are baked and served with rice and beans.
- Choriqueso / Queso flameado / Queso Fundido
Sausage pieces in warm cheese become a kind of Mexican fondue, but much thicker. Queso Fundido has more ingredients, including the Nopales cacti.
- Huevos a la mexicana
Scrambled eggs with onions, chiles and tomatoes are eaten with rice and beans. A variant with a fried egg on a tortilla is called Huevos Rancheros.
- Elotes / Esquites
Elotes are corn on the cob with mayo, chili powder, and cheese. Esquites are individually prepared corn kernels in a mug.
Peru is known for ceviche, but Mexico on the coast also has the dish made from raw fish, marinated in lime juice.
- Carne a la tampiqueña
Rich Mexican steak with guacamole, beans and rice
Pork skin is fried until crispy and dipped in salsa like chips as a snack. Is addicting!
Mexican meatballs are eaten with beans and rice
- Barbacoa / Cochinita Pibil (Yucatan)
Chopped pork is slowly braised in banana leaves in an earth oven and served with an orange and achiote sauce in the Mayan style. Particularly popular in the Yucatan as Cochinita Pibil.
Mexican national dish Chile en Nogada
If there is a national dish in Mexico, it is Chile en Nogada. The dish has the colors of the mexican flag:
- green are the stuffed peppers and the coriander
- White is the walnut cream sauce
- red are the pomegranates
Chile en Nogada is patriotic and delicious. The peppers are rather unusually filled with nuts and minced meat for Mexico.
The big poblano chiles are not spicy. On the contrary, Chile en Nogada is a very mild dish.
Unfortunately, Chile en Nogada is difficult to find because of the rather unusual ingredients. Sometimes the dish is only available on weekends.
Soups as a main course in Mexico
These Mexican soups and stews make a delicious main course:
- Menudo / pancita
A spicy red chile soup with tripe. Menudo has cult status among Mexicans, but for us it takes getting used to because of the chewing gum-like pieces of intestine.
More or less spicy stew with thick corn kernels, radishes, a type of meat and salad on top.
- Caldo de Res / Mole de olla
Soup made from cactus vegetables nopales, green beans, pumpkin, corn, potatoes and beef
Spicy stew made from goat, lamb or beef from the state of Jalisco
Menudo and Birria are often only on the menu at weekends because of the long preparation.
There are many more Mexican soups. Most of them are just a starter, as is the case with us.
Types of meat in Mexican cuisine
Meat and fish are very important in Mexican cuisine. Meat predominates in mountainous regions and northern Mexico, fish and seafood in the coastal regions.
For tacos and many other dishes, you have to choose the type of meat and preparation:
- al pastor
Tacos al Pastor are Mexican shawarma kebabs, but with pork. Probably the most popular type of meat in Mexico is an import from Lebanon.
Slow fried pork
Crispy fried pork skin, reminiscent of pork knuckles
- Carne asada / Bistec / a la Plancha
Grilled steak pieces, mostly made from beef
Hot Mexican sausage pieces
Muscle meat from the beef tongue
Beef head, often from the cheek
Bovine brain for those keen to experiment
Grilled goat meat
Seafood, mostly camaron (shrimp)
Mexican ricotta cheese for vegetarians
As you can see, almost every piece of the animal is eaten in Mexico.
Salsas & Moles for dipping or seasoning
Mexican salsas are notorious for their spiciness, but there are also mild sauces and dips:
- Salsa Fresca / Pico de Gallo
Mild and firm "sauce" made from tomatoes, onions, coriander and possibly Chile
- Salsa Rojo
Tomato based rather mild red sauce
- Salsa Verde
Hot green sauce with tomatillos and chiles
- Salsa Picante
Particularly hot sauce made from jalapeño or habanero Chile
The thick moles are usually an ingredient in a main course, but are also good as dips:
Well-known sauce made from avocados, tomatoes, onions, garlic and chiles
- Poblano pier
Typical Mexican black spicy chocolate sauce
- Mole Verde
Fresh green sauce made from chiles and pumpkin seeds
- Mole Blanco
Creamy white sauce made from nuts and almonds and fruits
Thick red sauce for meat dishes made from tomatoes and chiles
That was just a small selection, there are a lot more salsas.
Tex-Mex: burritos, fajitas, nachos & chili con carne
You can recognize Tex-Mex immediately by the American word “chili” instead of the Spanish “Chile”. Hard tortillas and tortillas made from wheat flour are also Tex-Mex.
Tex-Mex comes from Texas and has spread all over the United States. Typical Tex-Mex dishes are:
Similar to tacos, but much larger, pre-rolled and closed
Fried burrito, a calorie bomb
- Chili con carne
Well-known spicy stew made from chillies, meat and beans
Meat pan with onions, chillies and rice
Crispy fried tortilla corners that are dipped into a sauce like chips.
- Salsa de queso
Cheese sauce as a dip for nachos
While some dishes, such as burritos, are also found in northern Mexico, they are much more popular in the United States. In central Mexico or the Yucatan, Tex-Mex dishes are rarely known.
New Mexico: Carne Adovada & Chile green / red
New Mexico is one of the southwestern states of the USA, which, like Texas, was part of Mexico before the Mexican-American War.
New Mexico cuisine is influenced by Mexico and Tex-Mex, but also by Pueblo Indians such as Navajo and Apache. Many dishes come with a New Mexican Chile sauce, either red or green.
- Red / Green Chile Sauce
“Red or green?” Is the standard question in a New Mexico restaurant. Red is milder, green is tastier and hotter. Original Green Chile from the town of Hatch is the hottest.
- Green Chile Stew
Stew with green chile, meat, potatoes, tomatoes and onions
- Sopaipilla with honey
A deep fried flatbread that is usually served with honey
- Carne adovada
Slowly cooked pork cubes marinated in red chile sauce
- Breakfast burrito
In New Mexico, burritos are already available for breakfast with a scrambled egg filling
If you don't want to choose red or green, say "Christmas". So you get both sauces and you can feel like an expert;)
8 Mexican types of beer & the "Radler" Michelada
Mexicans drink the agave schnapps tequila and mezcal (the schnapps with the worm).
Mexican beer is even more popular. There are 2 brewery groups that 90% dominate the market:
- Cerveceria Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma (Heineken)
- Dos Equis
- Carta Blanca
- Cerveceria Modelo
If you ask me, the list is sorted from 1-8 according to the best taste, but I'm not a beer connoisseur.
The Mexican Radler Michelada is a mixture of beer, lime juice, tomato juice and sometimes hot spices.
I have never seen this bad habit of sticking a lime in the neck of a beer in Mexico.
Alcoholic & non-alcoholic Mexican drinks
In addition to beer, tequila and mezcal, there are other typical Mexican drinks:
Sweet rice drink with vanilla and cinnamon
Sweet corn drink with vanilla, cinnamon and possibly chocolate
Cold chocolate drink from the home of the cocoa bean
In Mexico and other Latin American countries, Coca Cola is still made with real cane sugar instead of corn syrup.
Alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink made from pineapple
Tequila cocktail usually with salt on the glass
Alcoholic drink, like tequila and mezcal made from agave juice, but not as strong.
Tropical fruit juices "Jugos", fruit milkshakes "Licuados" and sugar water with added fruit "Aguas Frescas" can be found on every corner in Mexico.
FAQ: 5 practical tips for eating in Mexico
1. What does it cost to eat in Mexico?
Eating out in Mexico isn't as cheap as in Asia, but it's still inexpensive. You can get street food tacos for 50 cents, but you have to eat a few to fill yourself up.
The “Comida Corrida” lunch offers in a Fonda or Cocina Económica are inexpensive. This is the Mexican version of the Latin American "Menú del Dia". For 2-3 euros you can get a soup, a main course with meat and a simple drink.
Of course, you can go to a luxurious restaurant in a colonial building and spend more money than at the local Mexican.
2. Do I need to order Spanish with dinner?
Yes is the short answer, "it depends" is the long answer. Outside of the tourist centers, almost no one speaks English in Mexico. A few words in Spanish are accordingly helpful.
You don't have to speak perfect Spanish to eat well in Mexico. If you know the names of some dishes and types of meat, you are on the right track.
You have to go to tourist restaurants without any preparation. They are not authentic either in terms of taste or prices.
3. Where are the best restaurants in Mexico?
Many of the dishes popular across Mexico come from Oaxaca and Puebla in central Mexico, especially the sauces. Jalisco dishes such as birria, tortas ahogadas and seafood dishes are also popular.
The United States of Mexico are sometimes not so united when it comes to eating. On the way between Baja California and Yucatan, the regional specialties change every hundred kilometers. You have to find out for yourself where it tastes best;)
My personal food paradise in Mexico is the large market at the Metro stop Merced in Mexico City.
4. How is Mexican street food?
You can find street food in every major town in Mexico, especially in the market and around the Plaza de Armas.
Tamales, tacos in all variations and other dishes that you can eat by hand are typical street food.
Torterias and taquerias in busy places like bus stations and markets also offer cheap and quick food. The choice is greater here because you sit down and eat with cutlery.
5. Food culture: How do you eat in Mexico?
You eat tacos and other street food with your hands. For other dishes you get normal cutlery.
Unlike Spain, Chile and Argentina, there is no extremely late dinner in Mexico. Dinner is not the main meal either; tacos are often enough.
Lunch with up to four courses is more important. No wonder the afternoon siesta is sacred to Mexicans.
FAQ: 4 questions about cuisine & food in Mexico
1. Do Mexicans eat insects?
Yes, there are insects to eat in central Mexico. Most Mexicans have never eaten insects, however.
Chapulines (grasshoppers) are eaten as a snack and can also end up in a taco or dish. Escamoles (ant larvae) and chahuis (beetles) are used as meat substitutes.
Insects are future food! Read more about this sustainable and healthy source of protein in my wife's insect cookbook.
2. Is Mexican Food Spicy?
Chiles are originally from Mexico. Even so, most Mexican food isn't spicy. The mild peppers are more popular than habanero and jalapeño.
Mexican food in Germany is like Indian food. With us you get it hotter than in Mexico, because that's what is expected.
But I wouldn't challenge a Mexican to a Chile duel. You lose that;)
3. Are there vegetarian dishes?
Mexicans like and often eat meat. Almost nothing is thrown away from the animal.
As a vegetarian you cannot immerse yourself in Mexican cuisine, but have problems finding anything to eat at all. It's best to stick to tourist spots or use Happy Cow's restaurant search.
Chilaquiles are vegetarian and you can find a cheese taco in almost every taqueria. Say: "No como carne, ni pollo, ni jamón, ni pescado".
4. What are Mexican Sweets & Desserts?
The country of origin of chocolate is surprisingly unimaginative when it comes to sweets and desserts.
Pan Dulce is bread with icing and bland. Buñuelos are deep-fried batter in sugar syrup, and churros are a similar take-away snack.
The Spanish caramel crème flan is the standard dessert in Mexican restaurants. Mexicans also like trés-leche cakes and cheesecake.
Mexican recipes: Authentic, Tex-Mex & Vegan
Is your next trip to Mexico still in the distant future? Cook Mexican dishes at home with these cookbooks:
1. Can be re-cooked: Mexican cooking is easy *
January 01, 2011
2.authentic: Cocina mexicana *
January 28, 2014
3. Artful: The Mexico Cookbook *
22nd August 2014
4. Tex-Mex: Tex-Mex cuisine *
August 06, 2018
5. vegan: The Lotus and the Artichoke Mexico *
November 26, 2014
What's your favorite Mexican or Tex-Mex dish?
I'm dying for Chiles Relleno, Tacos al Pastor and Chiles en Nogada.
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