Food from Mexico is enjoyed across the world. Popular Mexican food dishes smell and taste amazing. A colorful array of fresh ingredients combine to provide just the right amount of freshness, sourness and heat.
Our list of 21 popular Mexican food dishes is based on our experience of eating in Mexico and will give you confidence when travelling in Mexico. It is always helpful to recognise basic Mexican food names and to know a little about the ingredients when ordering food in a new country.
Even if you are not travelling to Mexico, our list of 21 popular Mexican food dishes can also help you decide which popular Mexican food dishes to choose in a local restaurant or to cook at home.
21 Popular Mexican Food Dishes
Burritos are large flour tortillas which are generously filled with various ingredients. These could include beans, fish, meat, cheese, cooked rice, guacamole and salsas.
The tortilla is rolled and the ends folded to contain the filling. They can be picked up to eat but a knife and fork may be required!
Ceviche is a really fresh seafood dish which is refreshing to eat in the heat. Fresh raw fish is cured in citrus juices (lemon or lime). Spice is then added. For example, aji sauce (tomatoes, cilantro, hot peppers and onions), chilli peppers, chopped onions, salt and coriander.
This dish must be eaten fresh. Prawn ceviche is my favourite. Tortillas are often served to accompany this popular Mexican dish.
Chilaquiles are a popular breakfast dish. On the bottom, you will find quarters of lightly fried corn tortillas. Green or red salsa is then poured over them (red salsa is spicier). On top of the salsa, scrambled or fried eggs are added along with chicken, cheese and cream!
A serving of frijoles (refried beans) may also accompany this Mexican dish.
Churros are a Mexican food most popular as a dessert. They can also be a delicious snack often sold by Mexican street food vendors.
Churros are made of a fried pastry dough. They are usually coated in a cinnamon and sugar mixture. You can eat them plain or with a variety of sweet extras (chocolate, caramel or perhaps whipped cream).
Elote is another popular food in Mexico. This Mexican dish is corn on the cob which is boiled, then served on a stick. Different ingredients are then added like salt, butter, chilli powder, lime, cheese, mayonnaise or soured cream.
Similar to Churros, Elote are another popular Mexican street food snack.
Enchiladas date back to Mayan times. This Mexican food name literally means ‘in chilli’.
Corn or flour tortillas are filled with a combination of different ingredients. For example, meat, seafood, cheese, beans or vegetables. The tortillas are then rolled or folded around the filling.
The stuffed Enchiladas are then covered in a chilli sauce (red or green salsa). Crumbled or grated cheese, soured cream and coriander may also be added to the top.
Of course, guacamole is a very famous Mexican food. This verdant green mixture actually dates back to the Aztecs.
Guacamole is made from mashing together a combination of avocados, tomatoes, onions, chilli peppers, lemon juice and coriander.
8. Huevas Divorciados
Huevas Divorciados means ‘divorced eggs’ in Spanish. We first ate this traditional Mexican dish whilst backpacking around the Yucatan peninsula. It is typically served at breakfast.
Huevas Divorciados starts with two fried eggs each on a separate tortilla. One friend egg is covered with green salsa and the other by a red salsa. The idea is that the sauces are separate (divorced!).
A wall of refried beans is put between them. Coriander and crumbled cheese is sometimes added.
If you are interested in our experience of travelling around the Yucatan peninsula, we definitely recommend that you click on the link to read our post which is full of useful information.
9. Huevas Motulenas
Huevas Motulenas is another popular Mexican food tradition, particularly in the Yucatan peninsula.
For breakfast, two crispy tortillas are topped with black beans. Fried eggs are then added. Finally, this Mexican dish is topped with tomato sauce, ham, peas and cheese. It is often served with fried plantain (banana).
10. Huevas Rancheros
Huevas Rancheros is a more simple version of Huevas Motulenas. Two crispy tortillas are topped with fried eggs and a mildly spicy tomato based sauce. This Mexican dish is sometimes served with refried beans or slices of avocado.
Although this is a list of the most popular Mexican food, you can’t visit Mexico without drinking a Margarita. This cocktail is a popular Mexican drink. It’s made with tequila, orange liqueur and lime juice.
Margaritas are traditionally served with salt around the rim of a cocktail glass. You can drink them straight up (without ice), on the rocks (with ice) or frozen (blended with ice).
Mezcal is also not a Mexican dish. However, it is the national spirit of Mexico.
Mezcal is a smoky liquor which is similar to Tequila. In fact, Tequila is a type of Mezcal. Mezcal is made from over 30 different types of agave or maguey plant. These plants are native to Mexico and other parts of South America.
We first tasted Mezcal on the idyllic Holbox Island. If you are planning a trip to Mexico, read our post before you plan your itinerary as you won’t want to miss Holbox Island!
Mole is a rich sauce made from sautéed onions and garlic. It is then combined with spices, herbs, nuts and chillies, then simmered with dark chocolate.
Pozole is one of the oldest Mexican food traditions. It is a traditional soup or stew. In the past, pozole was reserved for special occasions as the corn plant was considered sacred.
Pozole is made from hominy (dried corn kernels) and can be red, white or green. Traditionally, it is made with shredded pork but chicken and other meats/seafood can be used. Pozole is sometimes garnished with slices of lettuce, onion, radish, lime and coriander.
The Mexican food name ‘quesadilla’ derives from the Spanish word for cheese which is ‘queso’. Quesadillas are like tacos but much bigger and folded in half. They are fried with melted cheese inside and a range of other optional fillings.
A taco is a filled corn or flour tortilla. They are small, folded tortillas with a choice of filling. There are plenty of different fillings to choose from.
Most stalls have a speciality filling such as ‘pastor’ (pork marinated in mild chilli pepper, onions and pineapple juice which is deliciously juicy) or ‘asada’ (steak grilled over charcoal). Additionally, you can choose from chorizo, carnitas (diced pork flavoured with orange rind) or shrimps.
Tacos are then topped with diced onion and coriander. Additional toppings can be added like spicy salsa, guacamole and lime.
17. Taco al pastor
Taco al pastor dates back to the 1920s. The Mexican food name ‘al pastor’ means ‘in the style of the shepherd’. Delicious thin strips of pork sliced off a spit are served on a corn tortilla. These tacos are served with onions, coriander leaves and pineapple.
Tamales are pockets of corn dough which are filled with something sweet or savoury. They are then wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks and steamed. Fillings can include meats, cheeses, vegetables, chillies, mole and fruit. Remove the outside before you start eating!
Tortas are basically rolls which are cut in half to make thick sandwiches. You will be offered a range of fillings similar to Tacos.
Teleras are the base bread for the torta. Teleras are flat rolls with a soft texture inside and crispy crust on the outside. They are the staple bread for Mexican sandwiches.
We found that Tortas were very good for breakfast as they set you up for the day. This was our choice of Mexican street food whilst waiting in Valladolid for our bus to Chequila.
Tortillas are a versatile food in Mexico used in many Mexican dishes. They are flatbreads made from corn or flour dough. Corn tortillas are a distinctive yellow colour.
Tortillas can be used for many popular Mexican dishes including burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas and tacos.
Tostadas are corn tortillas which are deep-fried or baked until crispy. They can be served alone or with different toppings. Popular choices of garnishes are refried beans, cooked meat, seafood, cheese and ceviche.
Why is Mexican Street Food Popular?
Mexican street food is popular because it is cheap, tasty and widely available. In Mexico 58% of the population eat street food at least once a week regardless of their economic standing.
It is said that ‘food is the ingredient that binds us together’. Food in Mexico is a social affair. Mexicans enjoy coming together to eat street food.
Basically, Mexican street food is the original ‘fast food’. There is no waiting around, Your fresh food is cooked quickly in front of your eyes. This kind of popular Mexican food is found on many Mexico streets.
How can I Experience Authentic Mexican Food?
When we travel, we enjoy tasting different dishes in each country we visit. We prefer to eat with the locals and taste authentic, tasty and cheap food.
To experience authentic Mexican food in Mexico, look for Mexican street vendors or small cantinas. These vendors preserve ‘food culture’ (the food from Mexico) by passing original recipes from generation to generation.
Mexico street food varies slightly from region to region but the basics remain the same wherever you are. Whilst backpacking around the Yucatan peninsula, we enjoyed trying out traditional Yucatan food and learning about Mexican food traditions.
In general, Mexican street food is good quality and has plenty of flavour. Fresh corn wrapped Mexican food tastes completely different to the tortillas we can find in English supermarkets.
Is It Safe to Eat Mexican Street Food?
The simple answer is, yes, Mexican street food is safe to eat! If you want to eat like a local and have an authentic experience, then you should try the most popular Mexican food.
Of course, use your common sense. Ask yourself these questions as you look at the food stand:
- Does the cooking area look clean?
- Is the food being cooked fresh in front of you?
Don’t forget that the food is being cooked at high temperatures, so any harmful bacteria should be killed.
Another good sign is a queue of locals. If the locals are eating from the stall, then it is probably for a good reason. Often the queues contain people from local offices and shoppers, so the food should be tasty, quick and of a high quality.
Remember to ask the sellers about what they recommend. Ask them for their list of popular Mexican food. In our experience, locals love to share their knowledge and passion for what they are selling. This is a great way of finding out about the most popular Mexican food.
If you are planning on visiting Mexico, click here for our informative post about safety in Mexico.
What is the Best Mexican Street Food?
Some of the best Mexican street snacks are tacos, quesadillas, burritos and tortas.
Mexican street food is called ‘antojitos’ which means ‘little cravings’. It is prepared by independent vendors and sold from small stands on the street. Mexico street food varies from stall to stall, so take a good look at what is on offer as stalls are often clustered together.
Mexican street food is not a formal meal and is usually based on corn products. You may think you’ve eaten these Mexican dishes in popular Mexican restaurant chains around the word, but nothing can compare to the flavours of authentic street food prepared by locals.
How Much Does Mexican Street Food Cost?
Mexican street food is extremely cheap. For around 20 Mexican Pesos (70p), you can eat small tacos. Order several and you will be full!
If you intend to spend time exploring Mexican cities and eating street food, check our our Travel Resources page for accessories to keep your money safe.
Where Can You Find a Mexican Street Food Vendor?
You can find Mexican street food vendors easily in the streets around markets and public transport depots. Another way to find them is by taking your time and wandering around a town or city.
In Cancun, we stumbled across a great street food stand with a team of welcoming people. This place is at the corner of Punta Nicchehabi and Avenue Yaxchilan between Mercado 23 and Mercado 28.
The stall was clean and the food was tasty. Also, the owner was happy to make recommendations. There were places to sit and the staff offered us more and cleared away. It was one of our cheapest, but tastiest meals!
Are you usually anxious about trying out new foods? We hope that we’ve inspired you to try some popular Mexican dishes whilst you travel around Mexico.
If so, share your experience of eating famous Mexican foods by commenting below. We’d love to hear about your favourites!
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