The 8 Best Mexican Cookbooks to Read in 2020

Learn to cook more than just tacos with these well-crafted recipe collections

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Our Top Picks

Best for Beginners: "The Art of Mexican Cooking" at Amazon

"Features more than 200 classic recipes sourced from traditional Mexican cooks, plus in-depth descriptions on cornerstone techniques."

Best for Oaxacan Recipes: "Oaxaca Home Cooking From the Heart of Mexico" at Amazon

"Oaxacan cooking is complex, but in López’s familiar voice, everything sounds doable."

Best for L.A.-Style: "L.A. Mexicano" at Amazon

"Includes both recipes and insightful stories about the people who’ve built L.A.’s thriving, historic Mexican food scene."

Best Fusion: "Chicano Eats" at Amazon

"Pulls from memories of his favorite Mexican candies to create dishes like Duvalín Jello and Alitas de Gusano."

Best for Regional Texas-Style: "Truly Texas Mexican" at Amazon

"Medrano’s 100 recipes are regional Texas specialties, handed down by generations of Mexican families in Texas."

Best for Entertaining: "Casa Marcela" at Amazon

"What carries each of the recipes is an emphasis on freshness and a desire to be playful and brainstorm in the kitchen."

Best for Desserts: "My Sweet Mexico" at Amazon

"For this book, author Fany Gerson scoured Mexico’s bakeries, candy shops, and ice cream parlors for the most traditional and unique sweets."

Best Plant-Based: "La Vida Verde" at Amazon

"In this book, author Jocelyn Ramirez reconstructs traditional Mexican favorites as entirely plant-based dishes."

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"

The Art of Mexican Cooking
Courtesy of Amazon 

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: "Oaxaca, Home Cooking From the Heart of Mexico"

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"

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"

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"

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"

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"

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"

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.

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.

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