Beloved by gastronomes the entire world over, Mexican food is one of the country’s biggest exports. Yes, Mexican food ranks alongside the foods of Italy and France as one of the world’s most popular cuisines. Go just about anywhere these days, and it seems like you’ll find a Mexican restaurant selling burritos, tacos, and quesadillas. But what is food like in Mexico itself? When you visit Mexico, how important is foodie culture? Well, in 2010, UNESCO decided to add Mexican food to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Simply put, very few countries offer the culinary diversity and range of taste experiences Mexico does. Exploring Mexican cuisine is a journey in itself! But where do you begin? What are the essential dishes you’ve just got to experience when in Mexico?
Join High Tide Los Cabos as we discuss some of our favorite must-try Mexican foods. And if you finish reading our blog and find yourself inspired to begin planning your next trip to Mexico, check out our full selection of Adventure Tours in Los Cabos.
Coming from the indigenous Nahuatl language, Mole simply means sauce. We begin with Mole as it perhaps captures Mexican cuisine’s mysterious and eclectic nature better than any other dish. Mole can be green (the delicious Mole Verde), red, yellow, black, or brown, and its flavor and ingredients vary wildly from region to region.
We can say with some degree of certainty that mole originated in the states of Puebla and Oaxaca, chili peppers are the central ingredient, and Mole sauces generally feature fruits, nuts, and a blend of spices. Mole is often prepared for celebrations and festive gatherings. It is widely thought of as one of the country’s national dishes (99% of Mexicans attest to having eaten Mole of one kind or another).
When trying Mole for the first time, we recommend Mole Poblano, perhaps the most popular form of the dish. Hailing from the Puebla region, Mole Poblano typically features around 20 ingredients, meaning a sauce that packs a lot of flavors! A core ingredient is cacao, which reduces the heat of the chilis without interfering too much with the overall taste. Mole Poblano is usually served over meats such as turkey.
Conveniently wrapped in dried banana leaves or corn husks, the indigenous people of Mexico first developed Tamales as food that could be carried on a hunt or even into battle. The wrappings surround pockets of corn dough that can be filled with either savory or sweet ingredients. The Tamale is then steamed.
Enjoyed at both breakfast and dinner in Mexico, Tamales are notable for their versatility. Countless tasty fillings can be used, but we recommend delicious chili & cheese or fried pork varieties. Just remember to remove the outer leaf wrap before eating!
Well known worldwide, these handsized, filled tortillas are another versatile dish suitable for any occasion. Although good Tacos can be found internationally, the general quality you’ll find in Mexico is almost always superior.
The origin of the term Taco is shrouded in mystery, though it was almost certainly coined in Mexico. One amusing theory is that silver miners gave the wrap its name.
The theory goes that a Taco was a “plug”, an explosive charge made of a paper wrapper stuffed with gunpowder. The folded tortilla we know and love looked similar to these charges and so they were branded with the name Taco. Whether true or not, the name is a fitting one. For when Tacos are prepared right, with hearty fillings and a lively sauce, they offer an explosion of taste!
If you’re new to the world of Tacos, try Tacos al pastor “shepherd style Tacos” – this classic variation features thin pork steaks seasoned with Adobo, a stock comprising paprika, oregano, salt, garlic, and vinegar.
Or, if you’re in Baja California…
Fish Tacos (Tacos de Pescado – A Baja Specialty)
Made with everything from crab meat to cod or shrimp, Tacos de Pescado are the perfect Mexican food for seaside locations. Built around whatever seafood is freshly available, the fish/shellfish is usually battered and fried, before being dressed in a cilantro ranch dressing and Pico de Gallo (salsa fresca).
The lightness of the fish, color of the lettuce or veggies, and zest of the dressing make this the ideal streetfood for summer days spent by the sea.
Pozole has been prepared in Mesoamerica since the pre-Columbian era. This rich soup is a warming comfort food just bursting with taste. Stewed over several hours, the soup is built around pork, chilis, and hominy (“milled corn”), which adds body to the soup and a starchy flavor.
Once the soup is ready, it is topped richly with vegetables, salsa, herbs, lettuce, and lime. Pozole is traditionally served during important celebrations such as Christmas and New Year’s. The dish’s magnificent taste should really come as no surprise, cooks across Mexico have been preparing Pozole the same way for centuries, afterall.
Pambazos elevate the sandwich to a whole other level! The bread (also called Pambazo) is soaked and fried in a red guajillo pepper sauce. Widely prepared as a street food, Pambazos come in many styles, lending themselves to the creativity of the particular cook (as is the case with many choices on this list).
A classic version is filled with potatoes cooked with chorizo and then served with cheese, cream, and fresh lettuce. Elsewhere, the Pambazos are found filled with pork, pickled peppers, or refried beans.
Chilaquiles are the ideal dish if you’re feeling hungry in the morning. Chilaquiles are made from lightly fried or baked corn tortilla triangles topped with red or green salsa. To this base is then added scrambled eggs or shredded chicken and a topping of crumbled queso fresco and onions. Guacamole and refried beans are often served on the side.
The nature of this indulgent breakfast dish means it’s a perfect way to make use of your leftovers.
Cheese lovers…Quesadillas are the Mexican food for you. Consisting of two whole tortillas with a layer of cheese sandwiched between them, quesadillas are then placed on a stove or griddle until the cheese has completely melted.
The most commonly used cheese for Quesadillas is queso Oaxaca, a stringy, salty cheese made from stretched curd. Quesadillas are then usually served with an accompanient of red and green salsa, or guacamole. However, like so many Mexican dishes, you will find innovations with the Quesadilla wherever you travel, with meats and vegetables often being added.
If you don’t eat cheese at all, dairy free versions of Quesadilla can often be found, with vegetables acting as a substitute for the cheese.
Baja California Wine
Although the wine production of the Baja California Peninsula cannot rival that of the neighboring US state of California, the industry has been continuously growing since the 1980s. In fact, with the success of wineries such as Monte Xanic, Baja California has even become a holiday destination of choice for many oenophiles looking to explore the wine region.
Most vineyards are to be found in the Valle de Guadalupe where many wineries run bed and breakfasts and offer wine tasting experiences.
Mexico’s Best Food: A Never Ending Journey…
Truth be told, we could make this list several times longer. With any recommendations regarding the best of Mexican food, you have to remember you’ll only ever be dipping your toes in the water.
Mexican food culture stretches back thousands of years and every single region has its own specialties and unique local produce. If you’re a foodie planning a holiday in Mexico, you’re making an excellent choice.
And if you’ll be looking for some outdoor fun while in Mexico, check out our Los Cabos adventure tours in Baja California Sur. Begin planning your dream Mexico adventure today! If you have any questions, please get in touch.