Classic Mexican Recipes

Corn, Green Chile, and Cheese Tamales

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

Mexico is a fascinating country where over 65 languages are spoken, and an array of traditions, styles of dress, and local cuisines are enjoyed. While staple ingredients include corn, beans, and chiles, there is incredible diversity in just how each region, city, and even household makes their food. So, while this article is thorough, consider it just a scratch on the surface of all the flavors Mexico has to offer.

  • 01 of 21

    Agua Tamarindo Recipe

    Tamarind beverage recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Teena Agnel 

    In just about every restaurant or food stand in Mexico, you’ll find aguas on the menu. While recipes can vary wildly, an agua is essentially a blend of water and fruit. This recipe for agua tamarindo is commonly seen in the Yucatán and Chiapas states of Mexico, where tamarind easily thrives. 

  • 02 of 21

    Champurrado Recipe

    Champurrado chocolate drink recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

    Champurrado is a thick, chocolatey drink made with corn flour. Think of it as a cousin to Mexican hot chocolate, which tends to have a thinner consistency. For a touch of spice, cinnamon is also frequently added to champurrado.

  • 03 of 21

    Atole Recipe

    Atole basic recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

    Atole can be made with corn, oatmeal, or rice and flavored with spices, chocolate, or fruit. So while it's clear many variations exist, perhaps the most common preparation of atole uses corn flour and is spiked with cinnamon. 

  • 04 of 21

    Tepache Recipe

    Pineapple tepache recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Teena Agnel

    Although it’s evolved over time, tepache has been enjoyed since the pre-Colombian period. Primarily, tepache is made by slightly fermenting pineapple skins and cores before adding piloncillo and optionally, spices.

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  • 05 of 21

    Chilaquiles Recipe

    Chilaquiles recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

    Chilaquiles are typically made by frying pieces of tortillas until crisp, then cooking them in salsa. This chilaquiles recipe takes a shortcut by starting with tortilla chips. Chilaquiles are popular throughout Mexico, and are most often eaten for breakfast.

  • 06 of 21

    Conchas Recipe

    Pan dulce recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Teena Agnel 

    Commonly enjoyed as a light breakfast alongside coffee, pan dulce simply means "sweet bread" in Spanish. Conchas are an especially popular type of pan dulce.

  • 07 of 21

    Slow-Cooked Birria Recipe

    Birria with tortillas and lime wedges

    ALLEKO / Getty Images

    The state of Jalisco is located in Northern Mexico and while it's often recognized for its tequila, birria is another culinary gem. Traditionally made with goat or lamb, it's served in its own broth, and meant to be scooped up in one delicious, messy taco.

  • 08 of 21

    Vegetarian Burrito Recipe

    Vegetarian rice and beans recipe

    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

    The flour tortilla was developed in northern Mexico, where wheat (imported by Spanish colonialists) grows well. The development of many different varieties of burritos soon followed. This vegetarian burrito is more of an American, Mission-style burrito.

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  • 09 of 21

    Tacos al Pastor Recipe

    Sweet and Spicy Tacos al Pastor

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

    Particularly popular in Mexico City, tacos al pastor are traditionally made from meat cooked on a vertically-spinning spit, the trompo. They’re served with a touch of pineapple and salsa for a savory, sweet, and spicy experience.

  • 10 of 21

    Salsa Rojo Pork Tamales Recipe

    Salsa Rojo Pork Tamales

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

    Tamales are a labor-intensive dish, so they’re typically only enjoyed for special occasions or bought from vendors in local markets. They're a delicious and creative dish since you can fill your tamales with just about any ingredient you'd like. Sound inspiring? Try your hand at making these pork tamales or chicken tamales.  

  • 11 of 21

    Homemade Carnitas Recipe

    Homemade Carnitas

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

    Made from pork, carnitas make for a rich, tasty taco. The state of Michoacán is most renowned for its carnitas, and carnitas are traditionally cooked outside in huge copper or stainless steel pots over an open fire. This recipe for carnitas is a much smaller version and made on a regular stove.

  • 12 of 21

    Chilorio Pork Recipe

    Sinaloan Pork in Chile Sauce (Chilorio)

    The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni

    Chilorio pork comes from the state of Sinaloa and can be used for a number of different dishes, including tacos, a stuffing for tamales, and tortas (sandwiches). It’s similar to an American-style pulled pork but uses a heavy dose of chile for smoky heat. 

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  • 13 of 21

    Caldo de Menudo Recipe

    Spicy Tripe Soup (Menudo)

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

    Mexican cuisine rarely leaves a part of the animal behind, and one of the most popular examples of this is caldo de menudo, or tripe soup. Tripe turns tender when cooked low and slow, and it readily soaks up the flavors of what it's cooked with.

  • 14 of 21

    Rajas con Crema Recipe

    Rajas with poblanos and onion recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Nita West

    Rajas con crema are simply strips of poblano chile, onion, and corn cooked in cream. Poblano chiles are very mild in heat, so the resulting flavor of this dish is actually sweet and creamy. Rajas con crema are tasty in tacos, with eggs, or in a tofu scramble.

  • 15 of 21

    Chiles Rellenos Recipe

    Chiles rellenos and mdash Mexican recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

    Chiles rellenos are native to the state of Puebla, but they're popular throughout Mexico. This recipe uses a poblano pepper, which is native to Puebla. 

  • 16 of 21

    Trés Leches Cake Recipe

    Tres Leches Pastel

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

    The trés leches cake is popularly made for birthdays and special occasions in Mexico. A combination of condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream is poured over the cake itself, resulting in a very moist, satisfying treat.

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  • 17 of 21

    Elote Recipe

    Mexican Street Corn (Elote)

    The Spruce Eats / Nyssa Tanner

    In Mexico, elote simply means corn on the cob. Elote is commonly sold as street food, where it's first boiled or grilled and then rolled in a variety of toppings. Similarly, esquites are corn with toppings, but the kernels are shaved off the cob and served in a cup.

  • 18 of 21

    Cemita Sandwich Recipe

    Cemita Mexican pulled pork sandwich recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

    There are many different kinds of sandwiches made in Mexico. One is the cemita sandwich, which is commonly served in Puebla for a quick meal.

  • 19 of 21

    Simple Mole Sauce Recipe

    Flavorful Mexican Mole Sauce

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

    A mole is a type of sauce consisting of toasted chiles, nuts, and numerous other ingredients that are ground and then cooked together. There are countless varieties, many of which are specific to a region. This red mole recipe is an American take on the sauce.

  • 20 of 21

    Pan de Muerto Recipe

    Mexican Day of the Dead Bread (Pan de Muerto)

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Estrada

    Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is actually celebrated over two days, November 1 and 2. People gather to honor their ancestors and departed loved ones. Several foods traditionally accompany the holiday, including pan de muerto.

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  • 21 of 21

    Pozole Recipe

    Mexican pozole recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

    Pozole is a stew made primarily with nixtamalized corn, which causes the corn to swell in size and take on a richer flavor and aroma. Spices, chiles, and pork or chicken are also frequently used, making pozole a full meal, as opposed to a starter.

Article Sources
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  1. O'Neill, Aaron. Mexico: Distribution of Languages in 2005. Statista. 2021, September 14.