52 Authentic Mexican Foods That Have Influenced Global Cuisine
Delicious, colorful, and unique, Mexican foods have been noted as “intangible cultural heritage” by the United Nations since 2010.
Gastronomy in Mexico is a mix of multiple tastes, influences and geographic luck, and six incredible culinary regions exist in this beautiful country.
The variety of these Mexican foods have influenced cuisine everywhere, especially the United States’ in the case of chimichangas, tacos and burritos.
Tamales are eaten not only in Mexico and the U.S. but also in Central America and parts of South America. Enchiladas are widely known in Guatemala and the US.
Keep reading to discover 52 Mexican foods from every state and region!
Noroeste – Northwest
The Northwest region of Mexico includes the states of Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa, and Durango. Seafood is common since these states are coastal (or near the coast). Nonetheless, red meat is the jewel crown of the northern Mexican foods.
1. Ensalada césar – Caesar salad
This salad is found nearly everywhere but its origin is Tijuana, Baja California. It was created and patented by hotel owner César Cardini in the 1940s.
It’s made of roman lettuce, croutons, jugo de limón (lime juice), olive oil, egg, sauce, garlic, anchovies, dijon mustard, parmesan cheese and black pepper. Although today’s Caesar salads often come with pollo (chicken), that was not part of the original recipe.
Throughout Mexico, including in Durango, you’ll find a wide variety of tamales. Steamed and wrapped in hojas de maíz (corn leaves), they have fillings including pork meat, chicken, olives, or frijoles refritos sazonados con ajo (garlic-seasoned refried beans), orégano, and comino (cumin).
These famous tortillas de harina (flour tortillas) are filled with shredded meat. Chimichangas are fried in butter and served with cilantro, chile, chiltepín and jitomates picados (chopped tomatoes). You add frijoles (beans) and queso (cheese) on top.
4. Tacos de pescado de Ensenada
These amazing fish tacos have been a tradition for over 30 years. This dish consists of egg-dipped fried fish with tomato sauce, lime, col picada (chopped cabbage), and cebollín (chives). It is served with aguacate (avocado) and mayonesa (mayo) in almost all of Mexico.
This platillo Maya (Mayan dish) means cocido de vaca (cooked beef) and consists of beef ribs with ejotes (green beans), calabaza (squash), papas (potatoes), repollo (cabbage), elote (corn) and zanahoria (carrot). This is the perfect Sonora meal for special occasions such as weddings and Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead).
6. Burritos chihuahuenses
Legend says that an old man of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua used to sell wrapped tacos during the Revolución Mexicana (Mexican Revolution) and used his burrito (donkey) to do so. They are made of roasted meat, avocado, mayo, and queso Chihuahua.
7. Langosta a la mantequilla – Butter Lobster
One of the golden stars of Baja California Sur. Butter, garlic, sal (salt) and pimienta (pepper) is all you need to cook this delicious gourmet dish.
8. Sonora quelite broths
Quelites are Aztec leaves often used to cook or for medicinal purposes. They provide vitaminas (vitamins), minerales (minerals), ácido fólico (folic acid), and fibra (fiber). There are more than 60 types of quelites. The most famous are
- flor de calabaza (squash blossom) in quesadillas
- epazote in hot stews
- chaya in chaya water in the south
- verdolaga cooked with pork
- huauzontle made with mole
Sweet cookies made in Sinaloa and Baja California with wheat flour. Coyota means hija de india y español or daughter of indian and Spanish.
10. Caldo de oso
Literal translation: bear broth. I know, this is a misleading name. Caldo de oso is a fish broth made in Chihuahua, a state without a coast.
Locals keep fish in presas (water dams), that in the early years only had catfish. The dam workers used to eat that everyday and baptized it caldo odioso (obnoxious broth). After a while they shortened it.
Likewise, chacales have nothing to do with jackals. This broth is made of grains of corn that dry in the sun for at least two months. Afterwards, they’re fried with chile colorado and garlic and served with grated Chihuahuan cheese.
Butter-fried tortillas bathed in salsa de cacahuate y almendra (peanut and almond sauce) or milk, egg, chile mulato and chile ancho sauce are a delicious treat from Durango called enchiladas. They are served with grated cheese and lettuce.
13. Tacos gobernador
These tacos were made for Sinaloa governor Francisco Labastida, who named the dish. These tacos contain shrimp, onion, Oaxacan or asadero cheese, lemon juice, chile serrano, cilantro, machaca, orégano, celery, and green pepper.
14. Lengua de res en pipián
One of the typical dishes of Chihuahua is the beef tongue in pipián. Pipián is a red sauce made of squash seeds, chili, and corn. It was the favorite of Aztec emperor Tlatoani Moctezuma. That’s why it is called king’s food.
Noreste – Northeast
Coahuila, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas form the Northeast gastronomic region. Mexican foods here also mix seafood and red meat.
15. Tacos envenenados
Zacatecans’ favorite tacos are “poisoned”! tacos envenenados (poison tacos) can be soft or crispy and consist of refried beans with potato and sometimes bistec, cheese, onion, and chiles toreados.
16. Carne asada
The carne asada (grilled meat) from Coahuila is considered the best in the country. Roasts vary since they can be of res (beef), cerdo (pork), borrego (lamb), or cabro (goat).
If you ever get your hands on a Gloria, you’re be in for a treat. They’re a sweet dessert made of goat milk and nuts. These little balls of happiness saben a Gloria (taste like glory). They come wrapped in red cellophane.
18. Enchiladas potosinas
The most popular dish from San Luis Potosí, these enchiladas are filled with queso (cheese) and the tortilla is dipped in adobo made of chile guajillo and served with pork feet. Some variants are with papa (potato) or huevo (egg) instead of cheese.
This dish was the result of an accident when Cristina Jalomo took her dough to the town’s molino (grinder) where they were grinding chili and they mixed.
Nopales are an edible cactus enjoyed throughout Mexico, but jacubes or jacubos are only from Tamaulipas.
20. Coahuila asado de puerco
Pork roast is made with pork leg or shoulder in a sauce of three chilis: chile ancho, cascabel y pasilla. It is served with frijoles charros (charro beans) and freshly made flour tortillas and seasoned with laurel, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and clove.
According to legend, this dish is from Zacatecas and revolutionary hero Pancho Villa loved to eat it to celebrate battle victories. It’s often called Asado de boda (wedding roast).
Oh boy, machitos aren’t for everyone. This tasty delicacy is famous in the north of Mexico especially in Nuevo Leon. It’s beef or pork entrails wrapped in a stomach bag.
This 5-meter tamale made of spices, salt, chiles (chilis), butter, and corn is filled with pork or turkey (called pavo in Spanish and guajolote or guajolotl in náhuatl) and wrapped in hojas de plátano (banana leaves).
It is later put in a clay oven over the fire. It is made for weddings and baptisms, and it takes 12 hours to fully cook. Zacahuil means big bite.
This featured dish of Tamaulipas consists of roasted meat with enchiladas or entomatadas with guacamole, butter fried beans, rajas con elote (chili slices and corn), as well as ranch cheese with totopos (triangular nachos) and piquín sauce. It is praised across Mexico.
This representative dish from Coahuila is boiled and broiled before being dipped in chile ancho sauce. According to a folk tale, a baby goat died and a shepherd ate it after cooking it directly over the fire.
This snack is known worldwide, but in most places it has a circular shape instead of a triangular one like in Mexico. It is served with chile and guacamole.
26. Tostada de Jerez
A toasted tortilla with tanned fat or pig’s trunk. It is served with chile de árbol sauce (tree chili, one of the spiciest chiles known to Mexicans) and chile serrano with a tomato base.
Centro – Central
Mexico’s central region includes the states of Aguascalientes, Querétaro, Guanajuato, México, Hidalgo, Morelos, and Tlaxcala. The fusion of Mexican foods here combines colonial and indigenous cuisine.
27. Aguascalientes lechón al horno
Baked piglet is steamed and topped with green chile sauce in a torta (bread roll) or cooked with chile de árbol (tree chili), parsley, oregano, lime, garlic, salt, pepper, vinegar, potatoes, and peppers.
28. Tlaxcaltecan escamoles
This Mexican delicacy contains an “ant stew” prepared with garlic, butter, epazote, and onion in a taco. This ant larvae can be served with mole, barbacoa, or egg as well. They build their anthills underneath the agave.
Did you know Mexico is the number one insect-eating country? Mexicans eat a variety of 300 kinds of insects!
“Macaw” is a colorful typical dish from Guanajuato. It’s a torta (bread roll) filled with chicharrón (pork crackling) and pico de gallo (literal translation: rooster beak; it’s a side dish made of chopped tomato, onion, and chili), bathed in a super spicy sauce. This is a street food tradition from the 50s you can’t miss!
In Hidalgo, barbacoa preparation is a sacred process. It’s of prehispanic heritage and the res (beef), venado (deer) o conejo (rabbit) has to be cooked in an earth oven. The meat is wrapped in maguey leaves and then dropped in a three-foot hole.
Barbacoa is traditionally eaten with tortillas azules (blue tortillas) and a soup made of the juices of the animal after spices, rice, and chickpea are added. It is cooked over low fire overnight.
31. Sopa de Querétaro
Sopa de Querétaro (Queretaro soup) is normally eaten on Sundays ior to celebrate traditional fiestas. Stir-fried corn grains are added to a chicken broth with tomato, onion, and chile serrano sauce.
In a different cooking pot, the same chicken broth is boiled only with spices such as the quelite epazote. Everything is incorporated at the end.
32. Cecina de Yecapixtla
Cecina has prehispanic roots. When meat wasn’t easy to preserve, indigenous people used to heavily salt it and to sun dry it so it would last longer.
Today, it is eaten in tacos or sopes with sour cream and avocado. Nowadays, beef and pork are the only meats used but people used rabbit, deer, and jabalí (wild pig) before.
Agave skin is used to wrap meats like rabbit, chicken, pork, tlacuache (opossum), and squirrel. It has chile ancho and chile guajillo, adobo, spices, avocado leaves and vinegar and is served with potatoes and nopales (cacti).
These long corn tortillas are filled with beans and peas bathed in red or green sauce with cilantro, cheese, and nopales (cacti). This is a street food must in Hidalgo.
35. Nopal de Penca
This otomí indigenous dish entails filling a nopal stalk with beef meat, nopal, chile (chili) and tomato. It is closed with wire and it roasts on a heated comal (flat clay or metal griddle). This is a delight you can try in downtown Querétaro.
This viscous, milky, alcoholic beverage is made of fermented agave. It has been produced in Mexico for a thousand years and can be flavored with different fruits or left natural. People in small villages drink it to pass the time or celebrate at weddings.
37. Tacos acorazados
Anywhere you go in Morelos you can find tacos acorazados (armored tacos). This typical dish has two tortillas, red rice, an egg, stew, chile relleno (filled chili), tortas de ejote (green beans in bread roll), and pretty much anything you can imagine. They were invented during the Mexican Revolution and took the name from the armored ships from WWI.
38. Pancita or menudo
This soup was created during the Revolution to feed the troops. It consists of chopped animal entrails spiced with chiles and orégano.
39. Tacos al Pastor
Going on a street food tour is mandatory if you visit Ciudad de México (Mexico City). Tacos al pastor are a must. This Arab-Mexican invention is available all over the capital.
40. Quesadillas de chicharrón prensado
My personal favorite dish of all Mexican foods? Quesadillas de chicharrón prensado. Ask for your chopped pork chicharrón, spiced and adobado. Go to Doña Clarita in Tlalpan to eat the best ones; you won’t regret it!
Pacífico – Pacific Coast
This culinary region contains the states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacán, and Guerrero.
41. Pescado zarandeado
The original recipe is from the island of Mexcatitlán. Huachinango (red snapper) is smoked over wooden sticks. This fish is heavy and can feed a whole family.
42. Torta ahogada
As the legend goes, a hungry laborer combined a piece of bread, beans, meat, and his wife’s tomato sauce, and that’s how tortas ahogadas were born. This torta is “drowned” in red sauce; ask for one that is half drowned if you don’t want it to be very wet.
This typical dish of Michoacán is a triangular tamal wrapped in corn leaves and eaten with cheese, sour cream, rajas (sliced chili) and salsa (sauce).
Purépecha emperor Caltzontzin loved to eat these on special occasions. That’s why it is called palace dinner rolls or panecillos de palacio.
Chilayo from Colima is a broth made from the part of the meat that’s close to the bone. It uses the espinazo (spine) to give it more taste. It’s served with arroz (rice), green tomato, cumin, and black pepper.
45. Guerrero pozole verde
This indigenous heritage dish is eaten almost everywhere in Mexico. It’s made of pork or chicken with corn grains, onion, oregano, and other spices.
Sur – South
Foodie experts claim Oaxaca to be in a category of its own since its Mexican foods are so varied. The south of Mexico also contains the states of Puebla, Veracruz, and Chiapas.
45. Chiles en nogada
Chile (chili) from Puebla is filled with chopped meat, fruits, and covered with crema de nuez (nut cream), parsley, and pomegranate. So it is a green, white, and red dish—the colors of Mexico’s flag.
46. Pescado a la Veracruzana
Huachinango (red snapper) is cooked with Veracruz sauce: tomato, onion, garlic, olives, parsley, oregano, laurel, olive oil, black pepper, salt, and capers.
47. Oaxacan 7 moles
The highest level of complexity of all Mexican gastronomy is mole. In Oaxaca, there are several kinds: black, red, green, orange, yellow, and chichilo. Some are spicier than others but every single one is delicious.
In Chiapas, chalupas are made of carne deshebrada de puerco (shredded pork meat) with carrot, spices, pico de gallo, cheese, and beets.
Sureste – Southeast
Lastly, Mexican foods from Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo are famous for their Mayan influence.
49. Pejelagarto asado
From Tabasco, this alligator from the dinosaur era hasn’t evolved for the last 100 million years. It is roasted with chives, chilis, lime juice, salt, and black pepper.
50. Poc Chuc
From Campeche, this platillo Maya (Mayan dish) is made with marinated pork in orange juice and can be roasted or grilled. It’s eaten with cilantro and purple onion.
Panuchos are deep fried corn tortillas filled with beans. They’re served with turkey or chicken with carrot, tomato, avocado, and onion with salt and orange juice.
52. Cochinita Pibil
This dish was served on the Day of the Dead in ancient Mayan times. Pheasant, deer, or wild pig meat was used. After the Spanish conquista (conquest), it changed to pork.
What are your favorite Mexican foods?
Now that you’ve learned so many dishes from across Mexico, tell us: is there anything that made your mouth water? Have you tried any of these Mexican foods before? What is your favorite? Leave a comment below and let’s start a conversation!
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