10 Traditional Mexican Recipes

Mexico has many different regions, each with its own unique dishes and flavor combinations. The vast amount of ingredients, their freshness, and the centuries-old traditions that make Mexican cuisine what it is today are often lost when "Mexican" food caters to local tastes around the world, losing its true beauty.

In 2010, UNESCO gave Mexican cuisine the status of Intangible Cultural Heritage. This acknowledgment is just a small indication that what happens in Mexico's kitchen is simply worth trying, at its purest.

Our collection explores traditional Mexican recipes that you can recreate at home to enjoy Mexican cuisine unaltered, from pibil chicken to menudo, flan or tres leches.

  • 01 of 10

    Birria

    Mexican Birria Recipe

    The Spruce 

    Birria is a traditional Mexican dish from Jalisco. Perhaps because it is considered a hangover cure, it's often served for brunch the day after a wedding or another big event. It's sold at cafes and street stands in Mexico, where it is often made with goat meat or mutton. A mix of meats is also common, so add pork or beef to your birria.

    The recipe features a cut of meat with the bone in marinated overnight and then cooked for 4 hours to make a soft, flavorful and fragrant shredded meat. Serve with corn tortillas, chopped cilantro, pickled onions, and lime wedges.

  • 02 of 10

    Menudo - Spicy Tripe Soup

    Menudo Mexican Tripe Soup
    DebbiSmirnoff / Getty Images

    Menudo is widely offered as a weekend brunch food at rustic mom-and-pop restaurants in Mexico. This rich soup is thought to help with hangovers, so it's usually served on New Year's Day. Traditionally, this dish's many steps are split amongst members of the family, so its labor-intensive nature goes to show how special it is.

    Our version uses pigs' feet, honeycomb beef trip, and hominy, which cook in water, spices, and herbs. Ready after 13 hours of prep and cooking, this flavorful soup is best when made a couple of days in advance and then reheated because the broth concentrates and intensifies its flavor.

    Serve with a starch (bolillos, tostadas, or tortillas), lime, and any Mexican table sauce.

  • 03 of 10

    Picadillo

    Dish of picadillo
    Melanie Acevedo / Getty Images

    Picadillo, from the Spanish verb picar (to chop), is a mixture of finely chopped beef cooked with vegetables and sometimes fruit. It is enjoyed throughout Latin America in different forms (vegetarian, pork, chicken) and it's either served as a main dish or used to fill empanadas, tamales, tacos, tostadas, and burritos.

    In a pan, cook spices, beef, jalapeños, and veggies. A thick aromatic and fragrant mixture will be ready in 30 minutes after prepping for 15. This beef is good over rice, on a corn tortilla, or in lettuce wraps. Alternatively, you can add fried potatoes into the mixture or serve them on the side for a complete meal.

  • 04 of 10

    Chilorio - Sinaloan Pork in Chile Sauce

    Tamal fried with meat , beans and jalapeño
    alxpina / Getty Images

    Chilorio originated in the state of Sinaloa and is now enjoyed all over northern Mexico. Dried chiles are the base of the sauce and fatty lard is used to enhance the pork flavor. Cumin and oregano give the cubed pork a beautiful flavor and the chile sauce in which it cooks makes this preparation irresistible, and fairly easy to make at home.

    Hispanic stores sell canned chilorio, but by making your own you can adjust the spices to your personal taste. It makes a great filling for tacos, tortas, burritos, or tostadas, or you can serve it as the main course with rice and beans.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Pozole de Pollo

    Chicken Pozole recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

    Pozole is a soup traditionally made with slow-cooked pork, but this chicken version is equally delicious and has earned a lot of devotees. Pozole is a tasty broth that has one meat, corn, and is served with crunchy garnishes, and its festive nature makes it part of special celebrations.

    Our take on pozole is cooked in 1 hour, so it's a fairly easy recipe that you can use for a weeknight meal. Make tostadas as a side dish with Mexican crema and queso fresco. Place chopped onions, cilantro, and lime wedges so each guest can customize their broth.

  • 06 of 10

    Chiles en Nogada

    Chiles en nogada - Mexican food
    agcuesta / Getty Images

    Chiles en nogada is a celebratory dish served on Mexican Independence Day. Nogal is the Spanish name of the nut tree whence come the walnuts used in this dish. The name of the nutty sauce, nogada, derives from the tree.

    It's a favorite national dish that celebrates the Mexican flag: green from the stuffed chiles, white from the walnut sauce, and red from the pomegranate seeds. Green chiles are stuffed with cooked pork with apples and vegetables, they're then dipped in a stiff egg white and yolk batter, and deep-fried until golden brown. A cream-based cold walnut sauce is poured over and some colorful pomegranate seeds top the plate.

    You can enjoy this dish in 1 hour and 30 minutes, and although it seems hard to make, you have to give it a try. You haven't had real Mexican until you've had some chiles en nogada.

  • 07 of 10

    Chile Verde

    Chicken Chile Verde
    sbossert / Getty Images

    Chiles and tomatillos bring a lot of tang and acidity to this famous green stew. Use chicken or pork, and serve the meat in big chunks or shredded. This is usually a main dish, but you can use the meat for tacos or burritos, over rice, or with mashed potatoes.

    This chile is a beloved dish in the American South and all over Mexico, where each cook tweaks and plays with condiments and variations to make it their own. Our recipe is a basic chile verde to which you can add or subtract ingredients to come up with your own take. The stew needs 4 hours to cook, so you'll have plenty of time to prep a Mexican feast making rice and beans to serve on the side.

  • 08 of 10

    Chile Colorado

    Chile Colorado beef
    Rimma_Bondarenko / Getty Images

    The Spanish word colorado (blushed or red) describes the sauce of this tender beef stew. Chile colorado is a favorite comfort food in Sonora and Chihuahua in northern Mexico, usually served with tortillas.

    A beef roast can be cooked on the stove for 3 hours or in a slow cooker, until fork tender. Then red chiles, tomatoes, and lard create the base for the stew, alongside veggies, herbs, and spices. Cook it for an extra 45 minutes, or until the sauce is as thick or thin as you'd like.

    Serve with tortillas or rice, and use the chile sauce to cook other meats like chicken, pork, or fish, or serve on top of eggs.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Flan

    Caramel Flan
    The Spruce

    Flan is served for dessert in Spain and all over Latin America and it comes in many flavors, from cinnamon to chocolate, but caramel flan is, without a doubt, the all-time favorite.

    A creamy and satisfying end of for a heavy meal, this dessert, similar to creme bruleé custard, is easy to make by simply making caramel and mixing eggs with condensed and evaporated milk. A bain-marie is required, and you can enjoy this treat after 1 hour and 20 minutes of prep, cooking and cooling off.

    Garnish with mint leaves, fresh berries, or add whipped cream on top.

  • 10 of 10

    Tres Leches Cake

    Tres leches cake
    Lew Robertson, Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Tres leches cake is made, naturally, with three types of milk. A cake is generously soaked in sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream.

    Easy to make, it takes time for it to be ready, so there's a lot of waiting. But it's worth every minute. Make a cake, similar to pound cake, poke it in many places, and refrigerate for 1 hour covered in sauce. The cake will soak in all the milky goodness. When it's time to serve, decorate with whipped cream and fresh fruit, or a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.