Top 30 Most Popular Mexican Foods- Best Mexican Dishes - Chef's Pencil (2024)

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by Griselda Muñoz Perez

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Top 30 Most Popular Mexican Foods- Best Mexican Dishes - Chef's Pencil (1)

México has one of the richest gastronomies in the world and Mexican food is one of the most beloved cuisines worldwide!

It is the product of a set of ancient techniques, that are followed even today, and a sort of mix between pre-Hispanic local products and European ingredients such as cinnamon, wheat, beef, milk, or cheese, while four of the main pre-Hispanic Mexican ingredients are chocolate (yes, chocolate), chile (chili), guajolote (wild turkey), and maíz (corn).

Because of its ritual practices, ancient knowledge, culinary techniques, customs and ancestral community cultures, in 2010, Mexican gastronomy was recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Mexico is known for its street markets, where you can find all sorts of magical stuff—things you couldn’t even imagine to exist. Every street market has its own food area and is a great representation of local cooking. If you ever visit this country, you must not miss out on eating at a street market; if you do, you will definitely regret it!

Now, let´s take a look at the top 30 most popular Mexican foods of all time:

1. Chilaquiles

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Chilaquiles is definitely the most popular breakfast food in the country. Made of triangular pieces of fried or toasted corn tortilla, called totopos, soaked in a red or green hot sauce, they are topped with either shredded chicken, chorizo, shredded beef, and scrambled eggs or a sunny side-up egg.

Chilaquiles are decorated with fresh Mexican cheese, coriander, and sliced onions and are served with fried beans on the side.

2. Huevos Rancheros (Ranch Eggs)

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Huevos Rancheros is a delicious Mexican dish and the dish represents the hats of two ranchmen. It´s made with two fried corn tortillas, topped with fried beans, and two sunny side up eggs all bathed in red hot sauce and decorated with coriander and freshly ground black pepper.Simply delicious!

3. Machaca (Shredded Dried Beef or Pork)

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This is one of the most popular dishes of the northern part of México. It is traditionally made with dried red meat such as beef or pork mixed with spicy peppers, tomato and onion.

Machaca is very versatile: you can either eat it in a taco, a stuffed burrito, flautas, or just as a stew with some tortillas, beans, or rice on the side. Definitely worth a try!

4. Discada (Plow Disc BBQ)

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Discada is popular northern Mexican dish that is a carnival for carnivores: sausages, chorizo, ground meat, ham, bacon, and lard – all these go in a good discada. Add jalapeño peppers and onions to the mix.

And it is all seasoned with thyme, cilantro, cumin, oregano, bay leaf, black pepper, salt and sometimes with black sauces (i.e. salsa negra), rosemary, or a bit of dark beer.

This dish is cooked on a plow disc previously cured over some wood. It is a popular dish served for family reunions and other events.

5. Tacos

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Recognized as the most popular Mexican dish internationally, the taco has become an art. Some say is the “art of eating with tortilla” and, of course, Mexicans would never deny a taco to anybody.

Hundreds of different fillings can be put on a corn tortilla! The most common local taco fillings are beef steak, flank steak, chorizo, offal, “al pastor”, as well as hot and sweet marinated pork.

But beyond your regular taco fillings, locals also enjoy a few exotic variants that you can only try in Mexico. Some of the most unusual tacos are filled with fried pork brains, beef´s eyes, liver cooked with onions, scorpions, bull testicl*s, escamoles (i.e. insect caviar), and a bunch of fillings you could never imagine.

Talking about escamoles, these are ant larvae found in central and southern México. The larvae are only harvested once a year and this is quite a delicate operation, making this a very expensive dish — a bit like caviar.

6. Burritos

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Burritos are very popular in the north part of México, especially the states bordering the United States, and have become an icon of Mexican food internationally.

A burrito is a cylindrically rolled flour tortilla stuffed with different ingredients of choice, often a stew. The most popular burritos in Mexico are the fried bean burrito with cheese and the machaca burrito.

7. Pozole de Pollo (Chicken or Wild Turkey Stew)

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There is a myth in Mexican culture that before the conquest, pozole was made out of human flesh. In reality, the dish was first made with the meat of a Xoloitzcuintle or Xolos, a Mexican dog bread.

Along with turkeys, xolos were one of the very few domesticated animals eaten by ancient Mesoamericans. When the Spanish conquered Mexico, they loved their meat so much that they nearly ate them to extinction.

Nowadays, thankfully, pozole is cooked with chicken or wild turkey. There are many different pozole recipes, such as green, red, or white pozole, camagua, seafood, elopozole, but the most popular remain the green and red pozole.

8. Menudo (Pancita; Mexican Tripe Soup)

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History tells us that the origins of this beloved Mexican dish are Spanish – Madrid, Spain’s capital is still known for its delicious, traditional beef tripe soup.

But the original Spanish recipe was adapted and nowadays, menudo is a seasoned soup made with hominy (dried corn kernels), onions, oregano and chilies, and of course, beef tripe.

Locally it is also known as Pancita and a must-try when visiting Mexico.

9. Cochinita Pibil (Pibil Pork Stew)

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A southern delight, Cochinita Pibil is a slow cooked shredded pork stew, typical of the Yucatan Peninsula.

The pork meat is marinated in achiote, orange juice, onion, and vinegar, then cooked wrapped in banana leaves. Cochinita pibil is served with marinated onion and fresh habanero and it is a great filling for tacos, burritos, or tortillas.

10. Tamales

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Tamales are an icon of Mexican food. You can eat these all day every day, but they are a must on the Day of The Candelaria, when family meals with tamales are a big Mexican tradition.

The tamales recipe comes from pre-Hispanic America, and it means wrapped (i.e. náhuatl) in the indigenous language. Tamales can be wrapped in both corn leaves or banana leaves and stuffed with any stew of your choice.

The most common Mexican tamales fillings are mole, shredded chicken or pork with green or red salsa, pepper with cheese, and yellow corn kernels.

11. Quesadilla

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Quesadilla (Cheese-adilla) are corn or flour tortillas folded in half, usually stuffed with cheese and sometimes with other ingredients, which can be either deep fried or grilled. They are enjoyed hot and make a great breakfast or lunch.

The picture shows a blue corn quesadilla, filled with Cochinita Pibil and, of course, cheese.

12. Frijoles Puercos (Fried Beans with Pork)

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Frijoles Puercos is a very popular Mexican food. They are a mixture of beans cooked with lard, chorizo, bacon, cheese, serrano peppers and some other secret ingredients, making this a rich, delicious dish.

13. Enchiladas

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This is the Mexican version of fast food and they are made from corn tortilla dipped in hot sauce, filled with various stews, vegetables or proteins, depending on taste.

Enchilada comes from en-chili-ada—so always expect a spicy touch. They are served with sour cream, fresh cheese, onion, and celery.

14. Chile en Nogada (Nogada Pepper)

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This dish is an old tradition in Mexico: poblano peppers are stuffed with picadillo (a mixture of grounded meat, fruits, and spices), topped with a walnut-based cream sauce, and decorated with pomegranate seeds and parsley.

It was invented in the city of Puebla and the dish colors resemble the Mexican flag.

15. Esquites (Corn Stew)

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Esquites, also known as elote en vaso, are a delicious corn-based Mexican street food.

This street food comes in many different varieties depending on where you are in the country. Northern states put cream, mayonnaise, chili powder, lemon, butter, and cheese on it and you can either eat it in a cup or with the whole corn pierced on a stick.

The central-southern states prefer them with cream and cheese or with lemon chili powder, but not a mix of these, while some people cook them with epazote, a Central American herb, and bone marrow. Extremely delicious!

16. Alegria de Amaranto (Amaranth Candy)

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This candy is made from amaranth seeds, which are popular in Mexico, mixed with honey. It is originally from México City, and, since the 16th century, it has been known by the name Alegría, which means joy.

Mexican popped amaranth candy comes as a bar with various toppings, for example, dried fruit, chocolate, raisins, nuts, etc.

Check out our list of the most popular 25 Mexican desserts.

17. Mole

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This is one of México´s most representative foods. Mole is a sauce made from a mixture of dried chilies, tomatoes, chocolate, seeds, and spices.

Its origin is unclear and there are several disputed accounts. One of them says that the original recipe of Poblano Mole, which included about 100 ingredients, was created by a nun from the the city of Puebla, a city known for its fantastic culinary tradition.

Another version says that the Spanish Archbishop Juan de Palafox came to visit the city of Puebla. One of the cooks that was in charge of cooking for the Archbishop got so nervous that he stumbled into the casserole where guajolotes (wild turkeys) were cooking. Chilies, almonds, chocolate, and other spices fell in the casserole and the resulting dish was so delicious that the mole was born.

Regardless of its true recipe origin, mole has become a quintessential Mexican food. There are seven different types of mole – all incredibly tasty and you should try each one.

18. Pipián

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Pipián originated in pre-Hispanic times and was one of Emperor Moctezuma´s favorite foods. Coming from the central-southern states, it is obligatory on any sauce menu.

The sauce is made from toasted and ground pumpkin seeds and usually poultry, although it is sometimes accompanied by pork, beef, or rabbit.

19. Aguachile (Chili Water)

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This is a popular Mexican seafood dish, popular on of the western coast region of México, particularly the state of Sinaloa.

It is said that pre-Hispanic cultures used to mix dry, uncooked meat with water and chilies (chiltepín chili). In 1970, they replaced the meat with raw shrimp and added other ingredients: lime juice, cucumber, coriander, red onion, avocado, salt, and pepper.This is how aguachile was born.

20. Ceviche

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Originating in Peru, ceviche is part of South and Central American gastronomic culture. The basics always include raw fish or seafood, onion, tomato, chilies, coriander, and lemon.

Besides fish, shrimp, clam, octopus, crab, or sea snails are other popular ingredients for Mexican ceviche.

21. Pescado Zarandeado (Stirred Fish)

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Pescado zarandeado is a very popular seafood dish on the Mexican coasts.The fish was originally roasted on a mangrove wood grill calledZaranda, but now a metal grill is used.

It is typically made with red snapper marinated in an aromatic blend of chili and spices. The fish is slowly smoked on a grill while being continually basted with the marinade. It’s often served alongside a side ofgreen riceand beans or sometimes on a simple salad drizzled with lime dressing.

22. Camarones a la Diabla (Deviled Shrimp)

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One of the most ingrained traditions in Mexico is Lent, a period of fasting when seafood is usually eaten instead of meat.

Camarones a la Diabla is an iconic dish during the Lent season. It is cooked with a combination of chilies—guajillo, chipotle and chile de árbol (small and potent Mexican chili pepper)—which makes the dish extremely spicy.

23. Birria de Chivo (Goat Stew)

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This Mexican goat stew comes from the State of Jalisco, and it is seasoned with a preparation based on some varieties of chili, seasonings, and salt. A tomato-based sauce is prepared with the juices from the cooking, called consomé.

While birria was originally made with goat meat, nowadays you can find it with pretty much any type of meat from lamb, to pork, chicken, veal, beef, or even fish. Originally, the goat meat was wrapped in maguey (i.e. agave) leaves, but this tradition has almost disappeared.

Birrias are now cooked over the heat in covered pots, with the lid sometimes sealed with corn dough, but some birrias are baked and called tatemadas.

Regardless of the cooking technique and protein used in making it, this traditional Mexican dish is worth to be discovered.

24. Tlayuda

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This is the most famous dish in Oaxaca, a state in southern México famous for its local cuisine. It’s also known as the Mexican pizza and you’ll soon understand why.

The cooking process starts with the making of a large corn tortilla, about 30cm (12 inch) in diameter made of white corn. The tortilla is first put on the griddle and then placed on the embers to get it dry and crispy.

On top of the tortilla, lard, black beans, tasajo (dried pork meat), chorizo, and cheese are traditionally used. Tlayuda is accompanied by water chili, sliced tomato, avocado, and, of course, you can´t leave out the mezcal with worm salt!

Mexican street vendors use a heated stone similar to a pizza stone to cook the tlayuda, until the ingredients soften and the cheese bubbles. You can recreate this in a hot oven at home, with a pizza stone.

25. Guacamole con Chapulines (Guacamole with Grasshoppers)

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Chapulines (i.e. grasshoppers) are delicacies originating from the state of Oaxaca. During the chapulines season, they aresold in markets and street stallsand you can find them fresh or dried. They are eaten as a snack, with a taco, or with guacamole and tortillas.

Marinated with salt and garlic, then sautéed on the griddle until they turn reddish and crispy, they are a surprising treat, very nutritious and with a high protein content.Probably one of the most exotic dishes you can try in Mexico.

26. Flautas (Flutes)

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The flutes are traditional Mexican tacos made with rolled corn tortilla and filled with mashed potatoes, cheese, chicken, etc.

The difference between tacos and flautas as that the latter are fried in oil. They´re usually served with coriander, tomato, fresh cheese, and sour cream on top.

27. Torta Ahogada (Drowned Baguette)

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This is the most popular street food in the state of Jalisco. It’s a sandwich made with a local bread called birote and stuffed with pork confit immersed in a hot sauce based on dried chilies, vinegar, tomato, and spices.

They are simple, spicy and tasty! The original torta ahogada is eaten out of a plastic bag.

28. Carnitas (Confit Pork Meat)

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This is different parts of pork fried in lard, cooked in huge copper pots for hours. The secret tasty flavor comes from the various, surprising ingredients used in the cooking process, one of them being orange juice or soda!

You can enjoy carnitas wrapped in a taco or a sandwich.

29. Caldo Azteca (Aztec Soup)

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Here´s a great classic of Mexican cuisine, made with strips of fried tortillas topped with chicken broth, tomato, pepper, garlic, and onion, scented with epazote and coriander, and topped with cheese, avocado, and sour cream.

In Tlaxcala city, Aztec soup was born as a hybrid, combining Mexican corn tortilla with the Spanish tradition of soup making.

30. Gorditas de Nata (Mini Cream Pancakes)

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This is a fluffy dessert served outside churches as an after-mass treat, especially on Sundays. They are made from wheat flour, cream, sugar, and cinnamon and can be eaten plain or filled.

If you love Mexican cuisine, check out our next article on the: Top 20 Mexican Christmas Foods.

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Related: Most Popular Mexican Desserts

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Griselda Muñoz Perez

Born in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico in 1989, Griselda is a Chef and writer. She has a degree in gastronomy from the ECI University of Gastronomy, Guadalajara, and she is a passionate cook.

Top 30 Most Popular Mexican Foods- Best Mexican Dishes - Chef's Pencil (2024)
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