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The 18 Best Dishes of Mexican Cuisine

Mexico is a gastronomic mosaic that’s rich in culture. Among its treasures are extraordinary dishes that are known for their variety of ingredients and magical flavors. This guide introduces a selection of 18 Mexican dishes that will grab the attention of even the most refined palates.

Huevos rancheros

Huevos rancheros are a traditional Mexican recipe that’s usually served for breakfast. They’re also popular for brunch or, really, at any time of day. It’s almost always paired with refried or homemade beans.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 corn tortillas 
  • ¼ cup of oil
  • 2 tomatoes
  • ¼ of an onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 serrano chiles

Directions:

  1. Blend the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and chiles with salt and pepper to taste
  2. Bring this sauce to a boil
  3. Heat oil in a pan, fry the tortillas, and set them aside on a plate
  4. In a separate pan, fry the eggs sunny side up
  5. Place the eggs over the tortillas and cover them in sauce

Guacamole

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Guacamole is a Mexican salsa that dates back to Olmec culture. It’s well-known for its high nutritional value, its delicious flavor, and its versatility.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • ¼ of an onion, chopped
  • chopped cilantro
  • chopped green chile (optional)
  • lime juice

Directions: 

  1. Mash the pulp of the avocados
  2. Mix in the onion and cilantro
  3. Add salt and lime juice to taste

Birria

Created in the state of Jalisco, birria is prepared with goat meat or lamb. If you have preference or dietary restrictions, you can also prepare this traditional recipe with beef or pork.

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds of lean beef
  • 2 pounds of rib 
  • 8 guajillo chiles
  • 8 pasilla chiles 
  • 1 small garlic head
  • 1 white onion
  • 10 medium red tomatoes
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 avocado tree leaves
  • 1/4 cup of vinegar
  • 1 beer,
  • 4 cubes of beef rib or chicken broth
  • cilantro
  • cumin
  • oregano

Directions: 

  1. The night before, place the piece of meat in a casserole dish and add a blended mixture of garlic, onion, vinegar, pepper, cumin, clove and salt to taste. Marinade overnight.
  2. To start, remove the veins and seeds from the chiles, and then boil them for five minutes. Let them sit until softened.
  3. Using the blender, mix the chiles with broth cubes, water, beer, red tomatoes, and oregano
  4. Empty the mixture into the casserole with the meat and cover with the avocado tree leaves
  5. Put a lid over it and place in the preheated oven at 400 ºF for 2 ½  to 3 hours
  6. Serve with fresh onion, cilantro and lime juice

Michoacan-style carnitas

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Michoacan-style carnitas are among the best-known Mexican dishes. This plate is used to make carnitas tacos, which are very popular all around the world. Serve your carnitas with lime, green salsa, and tortillas for a mouthwatering delicacy.

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds of pork pulp
  • 2 pounds of pork lard
  • 2 pounds of pork ribs
  • 1 garlic head

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, bring water to boil and add the meat with garlic and salt to taste
  2. Let it boil over low heat for 45 minutes or until tender
  3. Uncover the pot and bring the heat to high to allow excess water to evaporate
  4. Transfer onto a pan and fry until golden

Quesadillas

Quesadillas are among the most versatile dishes of Mexican cuisine. They’re traditionally prepared with cheese but you can also make them with pumpkin flowers, potatoes, corn, pork rinds, and even beef brains. The key to a good quesadilla is a good tortilla.
And you can’t have a quesadilla without a delicious salsa! 

Ingredients:

  • Tortilla
  • Shredded Oaxacan cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat both sides of your tortilla in a pan
  2. Add cheese to half of the tortilla and fold the other half over the cheese
  3. Flip the quesadilla to allow the cheese to melt well, until the tortilla is lightly toasted on both sides
  4. Enjoy with your favorite salsa

Tacos al pastor

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Did you know that the experiential travel guide, Taste Atlas, named tacos al pastor the world’s best dish in 2019? With this recipe, you’ll be able to prepare these delicious tacos in the comfort of your own home using the tools you already have in your kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds of pork tenderloin
  • 2 ounces of achiote paste
  • 2 chipotle chiles
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion
  • ½ cup of apple cider vinegar
  • ½ glass of water
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 ounce of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 large pineapple cut up in cubes

Directions:

  1. Blend the achiote, chiles, onion, garlic, bay leaves, tomatoes, 4 ounces of fresh pineapple, apple cider vinegar, water, oregano, 2 teaspoons of salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper until you have a uniform sauce 
  2. Rub the sauce all over the meat and let it marinate for 24 hours in a closed container, in the fridge
  3. Remove the meat from the refrigerator and let it sit for half an hour before putting it in the oven.
  4. Bake for two hours at 360ºF in a container with a lid
  5. Serve over warm tortillas and garnish with pineapple, onion, cilantro, limes and salsa

Stuffed chiles

Chiles stuffed with cheese are a popular lent dish that helps avoid meat. But the options are endless with this recipe when you do include proteins such as chopped beef, shredded pork, shrimp, sardines, eggs, and chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 6 poblano chiles
  • 1 pound of shredded Oaxaca cheese
  • 5 beaten eggs
  • ¼ cup of flour
  • ¼ cup of frying oil

Directions:

  1. To prep the chiles, you must first grill and peel them.
  2. Then, open them and remove the veins and seeds.
  3. Stuff the chiles with cheese and secure them with a wooden toothpick
  4. Dip the chiles in the beaten eggs and flour, then fry them in hot oil until golden
  5. Transfer the chiles to paper towels to absorb excess oil

Tampiqueña steak

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Created by siblings José Inés y Fidel Loredo, owners of the restaurant “Tampico Club” in Mexico City, tampiqueña steak is a dish that’s filled with symbolism. The long strip of steak represents the Pánuco river, while the beans symbolize the oil in that area. It’s served in an oblong plate to signify the huasteca region, with white cheese to communicate the purity of its inhabitants and guacamole as a symbol of their fruits.

Ingredients:

  • 6 thin strips of steak
  • 1 piece of onion
  • 2 ancho chiles
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 pound of asadero cheese
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 garlic clove
  • frying oil

Directions:

  1. Toast the chiles, remove the seeds and the veins. Then, soak them in water.
  2. Grind the chiles with the tomato, garlic, and onion. 
  3. Add salt to taste and fry this salsa in a pan with a bit of oil.
  4. In a separate pan, season the steaks and grill them.
  5. At the same time, grill the cheese.
  6. Serve the meat stretched out across an oval plate with cheese, refried beans, guacamole, and chile with cream.

Pozole

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Pozole is a traditional dish typically made in September, but it’s also popular during the Christmas season and as a New Year’s dish. It’s a delicacy which got its name from the nahuatl word pozoli which means “boiled” or “foamy.”

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of fried hominy kernels
  • 1 garlic head
  • 4 pounds of pork tenderloin or leg
  • 1 pound of cleaned pork feet
  • 1 onion, cut in half
  • 6 ancho chiles deveined, with the seeds removed, and soaked in hot water
  • 1 tablespoon of oregano
  • The stock from the boiled meat
  • 2 medium romaine lettuce, thinly sliced
  • 1 handful of sliced radish
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 16 tostadas,
  • Spicy sauce:
  • 20 grilled árbol chiles with the seeds removed
  • ½ cup of vinegar
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Boil the hominy kernels until soft
  2. Rinse it and boil it for several hours until the kernels burst open
  3. In a separate pot, boil the meat with onion and salt until tender
  4. Cut the meat in chunks
  5. Remove the bones from the pork feet and cut them into pieces
  6. Mix the meats with the herbs and let them boil for 15 minutes
  7. Remove the garlic head
  8. Serve while still hot in a large clay bowl

Mole

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There are more than fifty types of mole. The most popular among them are black, green, pipian, mole de olla, and oaxacan mole. In any of its varieties, mole is a meticulous dish whose combination of flavors and textures will challenge your culinary skills and delight the palate.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of mulato chiles
  • 1 ½ pound of pasilla chile
  • 1 ½ pound of ancho chile
  • 1 pound of pork lard
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 hardened tortillas cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 fried roll
  • 4 ounces of raisins
  • 8 ounces of almonds
  • Pepper flakes to taste
  • 5 ounces of sesame seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of anise
  • 1 teaspoon of powdered clove
  • 1 ounce of cinnamon in pieces
  • 1 teaspoon of powdered black pepper
  • 4 tablets of metate chocolate
  • 1 cup of peeled and diced tomatoes
  • sugar
  • 1 large turkey cut into pieces and boiled with carrots, leek, onion, celery, parsley, and garlic

Directions: 

  1. Fry the chiles lightly in hot lard and let them rest in hot water
  2. Using the same lard, fry the garlic and onion. Then add the tortilla, bread, raisins, almonds, pepper flakes, half the sesame seeds, anise, clove, cinnamon, peppers, chocolate, and tomato and fry everything well. 
  3. Drain and add the chiles and fry a little longer
  4. Blend everything with the turkey broth
  5. Using a clay mole pan, heat the rest of the lard and pour the salsa with salt and sugar to taste
  6. Add the pieces of turkey and let them boil for another 25 minutes 
  7. Serve on a large plate sprinkled with sesame seeds and paired with tortillas

Cochinita pibil

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Created in the state of Yucatán, cochinita pibil was originally cooked in a “pib” which means “mud oven” in a Mayan dialect. Historians also know that, in the beginning, it was cooked with deer, pheasant, and wild pig.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of pork meat (rib or skirt)
  • 4 ounces of achiote paste
  • 2/3 cup of orange juice
  • ⅓ cup of lime juice
  • ½ cup of white vinegar
  • ½ cup of white wine
  • Cumin and oregano to taste
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 ounce of pork lard

Directions:

  1. Blend the achiote paste with orange juice, lime juice, a dash of vinegar, the white wine, a pinch of cumin, a pinch of oregano, cinnamon, black pepper, garlic cloves, salt, and pepper to taste
  2. Cut the pork meat in chunks and marinade it in the achiote mixture for at least twelve hours
  3. Preheat the oven at 400 ºF and bake the pork in an oven safe container, covered with aluminum foil for two hours or until the meat is tender
  4. Remove from the oven and shred with a fork
  5. Serve with tortillas, habanero sauce, and red onions

Chiles in nogada sauce

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This recipe was prepared by the nuns at the Santa Monica convent in Puebla, as a special dish to welcome emperor Agustin de Iturbide after signing the Treaty of Córdoba, ensuring Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821.

Ingredients:

  • 8 green chiles
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • ½ cup of oil
  • 1 diced onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 pound of ground pork
  • 1 yellow apple, cut up into cubes
  • 1 Anjou pear, cut up into cubes
  • ¼ cup of golden raisins
  • ¼ cup of pine nuts
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Cumin to taste
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 pepper grains, ground
  • Powdered clove (just the tip of a teaspoon)
  • 1 cup of pureed tomatoes
  • 1 cup of water
  • Nogada:
    • 1 pound of skinless English walnuts
    • ¼ cup of sugar
    • ½ tablespoon of nutmeg
    • 1 quart of heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the garlic and onion
  2. Add the meat and stir regularly until it has a uniform color
  3. Add the fruit and let it cook for several minutes
  4. Season with the spices, stir, and let it rest until it thickens
  5. To prepare the nogada sauce, toast the nuts in a pan for a couple of minutes. Blend the nuts with cream, sugar, and nutmeg until you have a thick sauce
  6. Heat the green chiles in a griddle for a few minutes and set them aside inside a plastic bag until the steam causes the skin to peel off easily. Cut the chiles lengthwise on one side to remove the seeds and veins and stuff them with the meat.
  7. After covering them in abundant nogada sauce, sprinkle the chiles with pomegranate seeds and parsley to decorate with the characteristic green, white, and red.

Enchiladas

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    Enchiladas are one of Mexico’s best known meals. Depending on the type of chile that you use and how you pair it, this diverse dish comes in a variety of presentations: green, red, Potosí and Swiss style.

    Ingredients:

    • 12 corn tortillas
    • 1 chicken breast
    • 1 small onion
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 4 red tomatoes
    • 2 red chiles
    • 1 basil leaf
    • 1 romaine lettuce
    • ½ cup of sour cream
    • Mexican cheese
    • Oil

    Directions:

    1. Cook the chicken breast in boiling water until the meat around the bone turns white
    2. Remove the chicken from the water, let it cool off, and shred it
    3. Grill the chiles, tomatoes, garlic, and onion
    4. Blend them with two tablespoons of sour cream and a pinch of salt. You can also add a bit of chicken stock.
    5. Cook the sauce in a pan, on low heat
    6. Dip the tortillas in the sauce and then fry them in a pan with oil
    7. Stuff each tortilla with chicken and roll them
    8. Serve three enchiladas on your plate, add sauce to taste; and decorate with lettuce, sour cream, and Mexican cheese

    Tortilla Chips

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    These small pieces of toasted tortilla are a worldwide favorite snack. For centuries, Mexican cuisine has paired them with guacamole, refried beans, mole, and many other dishes.

    Ingredients:

    • 6 corn tortillas
    • ⅓ cup of oil

    Directions:

    1. Cut the tortillas into six triangles that are equal in size
    2. Spread the pieces in an oven safe container and let them dry for two hours
    3. Place a single layer of tortillas in oil over medium heat and fry them for 30 seconds on each side. Remove when slightly golden.
    4. Add salt to taste

    Aguachile

    This traditional dish comes from the state of Sinaloa. As you enjoy this dish, let its fresh and spicy flavors transport you to Mexico's beautiful Pacific coast.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 pound of fresh shrimp, cleaned and butterflied
    • 4 limes
    • 2 chiltepin chiles
    • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
    • ½ cup of onion slices
    • 1 cup of cilantro
    • 1 cucumber

    Directions:

    1. Blend the lime juice with the chiles, cilantro, and salt until they have a uniform consistency
    2. Place the shrimp in a large bowl and pour enough sauce to cover the shrimp
    3. Cover and let them rest for 20 minutes
    4. Peel the cucumber, cut it lengthwise, slice it, and add it to the shrimp
    5. Serve in tostadas and cover with onion slices

    Chilaquiles

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    Chilaquiles are Mexico’s most popular breakfast. Although they are a simple dish, chilaquiles are famous for their delicious flavors that everyone loves.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 large bag of white tortilla chips
    • 1 28-ounce can of green salsa
    • 1 pound of Mexican or shredded cheese

    Directions:

    1. Place the chips in an oven-safe container
    2. Pour enough sauce to almost cover all of the chips
    3. Pour cheese all over the top of the chips
    4. Bake at 400 ºF for 20 minutes
    5. Serve with onions on top and refried beans on the side

    Tamales

    Tamales varieties can bring the spicy with shrimp and the sweet with pineapple, it’s said that there are more than 500 types of tamales. With such a variety, we decided to share the recipe for zacahuil, the largest tamal in the world. The ingredient quantities depend on the number of diners.

    Ingredients:

    • lime-treated corn dough
    • red salsa
    • pork lard
    • salt
    • grilled plantain leaves
    • papatla leaves
    • cooked turkey in chunks

    Directions:

    1. Mix the sauce with the dough, and then add the pork lard and salt
    2. When the dough is spicy, let it rest
    3. Use a table to prepare the zacahuil. Place four sticks in the corners and rope crossing horizontally with papatla leaves and grilled plantain leaves over the rope.
    4. Pour the dough over the leaves and add the pieces of meat
    5. Wrap the zacahuil by pushing the sticks toward the middle. As you tie the rope, the layers of leaves will keep the dough in place
    6. Cook in a mud oven for 14 hours

    Zacahuil is traditionally eaten in Xantolo, which is the Day of the Dead in Potosí. It’s served in small portions and paired with pickled chiles.

    Ice pops

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    Mexican ice pops come in a variety of flavors and fruity combinations. Here we’ve provided the recipe for lime ice pops, a popular option for those warmer days.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup of lime juice
    • 1 tablespoon of lime peel
    • 2 thinly sliced limes, without seeds
    • 1 ½ cups of limeade

    Directions:

    1. Stir the limeade gently with the lime juice and peels
    2. Place the lime slices in the ice pop molds
    3. Pour the liquids in and freeze for four hours

    Savor The Flavors!

    We hope these 18 traditional Mexican dishes inspire you to try new recipes and surprise everyone at your next gathering. Mexican food is a great option for no matter the occasion!

    If you have any questions about these recipes or need more information, don’t hesitate to reach out to the SABEResPODER team.