Traditional Mexican Dishes

Mexican cuisine, worldwide famous and recently declared Intangible World Heritage by UNESCO, has indigenous and European influences. Some of the most important are of Spanish, African, Asian and Middle Eastern origins. These have shaped the meals served at the Mexican families’ tables. Given the country’s large size and its different regions, there are significant differences between the typical dishes of northern, central and southern Mexico. The north is characterized by its use of meat and seafood, the center and south by their very spicy dishes and the use of vegetables and corn. The Southeast incorporates Mayan influences where pork plays an important role.

Despite these regional variations, the two almost always present ingredients, at least since 3000 BC are the hot pepper (chile) and corn, followed by eggs, tomatoes, pumpkins, avocados, cocoa and vanilla. There are also exotic ingredients such as grasshoppers, lizards and frogs that are popular in regions that have retained their indigenous influences. Gourmet Mexican and pre-hispanic restaurants use those ingredients for their newest creations, usually at prices out of reach to the average Mexican.

With the arrival of the colony, several ingredients joined the local ones: pork, beef and goat, and cereals such as rice and wheat. With the latter, different types of bread started to appear in each region. However, the usual side of traditional dishes are the tortillas, preferably freshly made and in large quantities.

As for drinks, breakfast is usually served with atole, a corn drink made with water and sugar and café de olla (pot coffee), flavored with cinnamon and brown sugar. During lunch and dinner, we drink lemonade, horchata (made with rice flour, sugar and cinnamon) and various local beer varieties. Soft drinks are also common in the local street restaurants where “antojitos mexicanos” are served, which are delicious dishes of simple preparation.

Dinner and lunchtime usually are an opportunity for family gatherings and a meeting place to talk about everyday experiences. On weekends, lunch usually grows to include close family members that enjoy outdoor barbecues or gala dishes like Mole Poblano, which are by themselves a reason to get together.

Traditional dishes are also important from a cultural standpoint, being preserved by government agencies, through the publication of cookbooks, culinary competitions, and the public recognition of culinary related individuals.

Here are some of the most representative dishes of traditional Mexican cuisine:


A rich side dish or snack, guacamole is prepared with avocado, tomato, hot pepper, onion, cilantro and garlic. This dish has become popular in several countries for its delicious taste and easy preparation. It is common to serve it along in barbecues.

Beef Tampiqueña

This dish, which was originated in the 50's in Tampico, Tamaulipas, is prepared by marinating a beef steak in orange juice and onions; then it’s charcoal grilled. Once it is ready, it’s served with enchiladas or entomatadas, cheese, guacamole and refried beans. You can try this dish in most of Mexico, with small variations in its preparation.

Huevos Rancheros

A very common dish for breakfast is based on a cooked tomato sauce with onion, garlic, hot pepper and cilantro. In a bowl, place two fried but soft corn tortillas, spread them with refried beans and place two fried eggs on top. Sauce is poured over them while still hot. It is served with coffee, orange juice, bread or tortillas. The sauce is usually quite spicy, but you can omit the hot pepper for children.

Machacado with Eggs

Still on the subject of breakfast, this dish is original from the state of Nuevo León, but is also popular in Sonora, Sinaloa and Chihuahua. It is prepared with shredded dried beef, cooked with lard and eggs and hot sauce. It is served with flour or corn tortillas.

With the above examples, we have taken a quick look at the delicious variety of dishes that Mexican cuisine offers. There are dishes for all tastes, from light and simple meals to the most complex and spicy ones. We invite you to find a good Mexican restaurant in your area, or better yet, venture out to prepare some of the dishes. You will surely find a recipe to your liking on the Internet. We guarantee you will become in love with the taste!

Article produced by the Editorial Team of "Explorando Mexico".
Copyright Explorando México, All rights reserved.
Photo: ClosetCooking.blogspot