Mexican food is diverse and complex, and there’s more to it than what you’re able to find at your local restaurant or taquería. (Even the good ones!) For home cooks who are just starting their Mexican-cooking journey or those who want a deeper dive, there are certain recipe collections that belong on your shelf. Learn how to make everything from taquitos and tamales to salsas and cocktails with the help of these top-rated Mexican cookbooks.
Best for Beginners: The Art of Mexican Cooking: Traditional Mexican Cooking for Aficionados
Diana Kennedy is one of the English-language authorities on traditional Mexican cooking, having lived in Mexico and studied Mexican cooking for the better part of 50 years. This book is one of nine that she’s written, and it features more than 200 classic recipes that she sourced from traditional Mexican cooks, plus in-depth, multiple-pages-long descriptions of cornerstone techniques—such as making corn tortillas from scratch, how to make diverse styles of tamales, how to stuff and fry chiles rellenos, and how to choose and use Mexican chiles—broken down by each specific chile type. The book also spotlights key Mexican ingredients, such as cactus, beans, corn, and even chorizo, letting readers know the best way to source and cook them.
Best Oaxacan Recipes: The Food of Oaxaca: Recipes and Stories from Mexico's Culinary Capital
Oaxacan cooking is highly prized within Mexico, known for its devotion to local ingredients and recipes that are still passed down from generation to generation. This book, written by Bricia López (López, along with her siblings, owns Guelaguetza, a Oaxacan restaurant in Los Angeles) and journalist Javier Cabral, shares the homestyle bean and egg dishes, moles, and stews that López grew up with, plus typical Oaxacan salsas and snacks. Oaxacan cooking is complex, but in López’s familiar voice, everything sounds doable. The gorgeous photos whisk the reader directly to Oaxaca, showing the dishes, the people, and the overall culture that makes Oaxacan food so memorable. An added bonus is López’s own stories about growing up in an immigrant, restaurant-owning family and how she straddles both sides of the border.
Best for L.A.-Style: L.A. Mexicano: Recipes, People & Places
If you’re even slightly curious about Mexican food in Los Angeles—one of the Mexican food capitals of the United States—it’s worth picking up this book. Author Bill Esparza, who won a James Beard award for his coverage of the L.A. taco scene, includes both recipes and insightful stories about the people who’ve built L.A.’s thriving, historic Mexican food scene. (It’s a side of the city that’s often missing from mainstream depictions of L.A., which is also what makes Esparza’s book so valuable.)
His recipes, sourced from the city’s best-known Mexican restaurants, street-food stalls, and restaurants, include everything from taquitos to tamales to cocktails, plus dishes from the city’s more upscale Alta California-cuisine restaurants. But where the book really shines are in the profiles of local chefs and food personalities and in Esparza’s helpful tips on where to eat and buy ingredients.
Best Fusion: Chicano Eats: Recipes from My Mexican-American Kitchen
Esteban Castillo’s bright, whimsical book has real substance, ushering readers into his life as a queer first-generation Mexican-American, who uses his genre-bending cooking to express his own identity. He pulls from memories of his favorite Mexican candies to create dishes like Duvalín Jello (a three-layer gelatin of chocolate hazelnut, vanilla, and strawberry) and Alitas de Gusano (chicken wings slathered in a tamarind-chile sauce).
He reimagines the simple cheese-and-tomato tortas that his mother made for his father before work as toasted telera rolls piled high with his own chorizo-spiced delicata squash. You’ll find traditional recipes from Castillo’s family roots in Colima, too—the crispy-fried potato tacos piled with lettuce, tomato and cheese look particularly mouth-watering—plus beverages, cocktails, and snacks.
Best for Regional Texas-Style: Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage in Recipes
Author Adán Medrano’s detailed cookbook explains why the term Tex-Mex doesn’t apply here. Medrano’s 100 recipes are regional Texas specialties, handed down by generations of Mexican families in Texas whom, he argues, eat these foods at home, not Tex-Mex combination plates. In a patient tone, he walks readers through foundational Texas-Mexican dishes such as carne guisada (beef stewed with a serrano chile-cumin-peppercorn spiced gravy), flour and corn tortillas, homemade chorizo and eggs, potatoes with roasted poblano strips, and even a simple plate of roasted chiles smeared with cheese, stuffed into a tortilla. There’s also an informative historical section that describes the roots of Texas-Mexican cuisine and how it has evolved.
Best for Entertaining: Casa Marcela: Recipes and Food Stories of My Life in the Californias
Food Network host and cookbook author Marcela Valladolid crafts fun, inventive dishes in this book, which offers readers a peek into her busy home life and the things she serves for family and friends. Her cooking style isn’t traditionally Mexican—Valladolid grew up in Tijuana and San Diego and spent a stint in France.
What carries each of the recipes is an emphasis on freshness (Valladolid’s expansive garden is featured heavily in the book) and a desire to be playful and brainstorm in the kitchen. You’ll find recipes for classic dishes, such as green pozole, traditional salsas, and fish tacos, plus more imaginative dishes such as a huitla waffle (a huitlacoche-infused waffle benedict), salmon with tangy roasted tomatillos, and candied popcorn slathered a chipotle-honey-butter syrup.
Best for Desserts: My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats
For this book, author Fany Gerson scoured Mexico’s bakeries, candy shops, and ice cream parlors for the most traditional and unique sweets. The result—which was nominated for a James Beard Award—is a detailed look, perhaps the only one in English, at the diverse types of treats available in Mexico. The book includes recipes for some of the best-known Mexican-bakery goodies, including conchas, garibaldis, campechanas, and pan de muerto, plus classic Mexican desserts, such as tres leches cake, rice pudding, flan imposible (a layer of chocolate cake topped with a layer of flan), and regular flan.
Gerson also shines a light on Mexico’s centuries-old candy culture, which was created by the nuns during the Spanish colonial era. She shares recipes for iconic candies, including jamoncillo de leche (milk fudge) and camotitos poblanos, a sweet-potato candy sold widely across Puebla.
Best Plant-Based: La Vida Verde: Plant-Based Mexican Cooking with Authentic Flavor
Plenty of Mexican foods, including corn tortillas and salsas, are naturally vegan. In this book, author Jocelyn Ramirez reconstructs traditional Mexican favorites as entirely plant-based dishes, creating ceviche with hearts of palm instead of fish, tacos al pastor with jackfruit instead of pork, and sopes with walnut meat (infused with sun-dried tomatoes and spices) instead of chorizo.
Ramirez has already found success cooking this way—she runs Todo Verde, a plant-based Mexican catering business and pop-up in Los Angeles. With Ramirez’s detailed instructions and gentle encouragement—she warns that she’s not trying to foist vegetable soup and kale salad on everyone—the idea of making potato-carrot-nutritional-yeast cheese for nachos or soaking cashews for cream suddenly seems fun and interesting and a worthy alternative to the more typical way to cook Mexican food.
Best New Release: Provecho: 100 Vegan Mexican Recipes to Celebrate Culture and Community
Short synopsis of each recipe
Includes a few harder to find ingredients
Having been vegan for over a decade, chef and recipe developer Edgar Castrejon has perfected modifying many of the Mexican recipes he grew up eating at home into meatless renditions that still taste authentic. The intro section of the book includes essential spices to have on hand when preparing Mexican cuisine like Hominy and Chiles de árbol, in addition to common vegan ingredients likely to be used often such as aquafaba and canned jackfruit. Once the pantry and fridge have been properly stocked, a few recipes readers rave about are the Pozole Rojo, Quesadilla de Plátanos, and Cashew-based Cremas.
Pages: 252 | Recipes: 100 | Date Published: 2021
Best Keto: Chiquis Keto: The 21-Day Starter Kit for Taco, Tortilla, and Tequila Lovers
Includes helpful keto food lists
Very few photos
Keto dishes sure become weekly staples is the main focus of singer and tv star Chiquis
Rivera’s first cookbook. The first two chapters in particular are well suited for anyone just starting to explore “eating keto.” Rivera breaks down how—and which—proteins, fats, veggies and sweeteners are allowed when following this particular nutritional plan. Then she rolls out sample menus featuring a variety of quick meals, plus even a few cocktails, home cooks will appreciate are as tasty as the text makes them sound. Must try’s include her low-carb margarita, Jalapeño Ham Taquitos, and Chi-Miffins.
Pages: 208 | Recipes: 60 | Date Published: 2020
What to Look for When Buying Mexican Cookbooks
Abarrotes El Primo owners Adriana Amador and Fernando Mora recommend scanning the back (or interior) of cookbooks for the following words before buying:
- Fresh epazote
- Queso fresco
- Poblano peppers
- Pork lard
- Beer (jajaja)
“People should give credit to the people who are traditionally from Mexico. There could be a lot of important Native Mexican figures that they haven’t gone to school to be “chefs,” but they know how to work the land and how to use main ingredients,” Amador states. “In my country recipes have been pass for generations to generations. We know how to work the land and we love with our ancestors, cultures, flavors and traditions.”
Mexico has different food cultures that vary from state to state. “The flavors, ingredients and cuisine vary based on how the weather is in each area. For example states that are closer to the sea, usually have a wider variety of fruits and fish available,” say Amador and Mora. “Whereas in central Mexico, street food and enchiladas are more popular. And in the North, people eat more dry meats and chorizos.”
What spices are typically used in Mexican cooking?
As a Native Mexican business owner and culinary pro Amador insists key spices to keep on hand are salt, ground black pepper, oregano, cumin, white pepper, paprika, and Knorr (chicken flavor bouillon).
What are some essential ingredients to keep on hand for cooking Mexican food?
“I would say that if people love Mexican food, they should try all kind of ingredients and feel adventurous. Sometimes new ingredients look or sound kind of weird. Even for me (as a Mexican) to try new food from another culture in my own country, it can still feel like an adventure,” shares Amador. “The ingredients and flavors may be super different sometimes, but it is still worth trying—especially if one takes the time to learn the history of each recipe.”
Here are her and Mora’s basic pantry list of what you’re likely to use a lot in the beginning:
- Fresh epazote
- Queso fresco
- Poblano peppers
- Pork lard
- Beer (jajaja)
What basic cookware is required for making Mexican food?
Amador thinks these items are basic essentials for any home chef wanting to test out a variety of Mexican recipes:
- Tortillas press
- Potato peeler
- Casserole dishes
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Lesley Téllez is a freelance journalist and recipe developer. Her own bestselling cookbook, "Eat Mexico: Recipes from Mexico City’s Streets, Markets and Fondas," is currently in its third printing. The food tour company she founded, also called Eat Mexico, offers a curated look at Mexico City’s street food and market scene.
Rachel Werner is a culinary writer who has been profiling farmers, chefs, and food-based businesses for nine years. Her food photography and recipes are also featured in content she creates for a variety of regional and national publications such as TOPS News, The Gourmet Insider and Fabulous Wisconsin. See examples of Rachel’s work “behind the camera” capturing shots of plant-based eats on Instagram ‘@trulyplanted.’