Mexico: Recipes and Cuisine

Country | Mexican Vendor of Dried Peppers

Long before the arrival of Europeans, Mexico was home to the great Maya, Aztec and Zapotec civilizations. These peoples had a well developed agriculture all their own. Staples included corn, peppers, beans, avocados, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, jicama, chayote and other squashes.

Image Creative Commons by Emma T

Mexican Recipes


Ingredients | Garlic Image

(Latin garlic-pepper-vinegar marinade)

Adobo is a very popular marinade for pork and other meats in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and Central America. The ingredients vary widely, but most have a base of oil, garlic and some type of acidic ingredient. Read more »

Agua Fresca

Beverages | Agua Fresca Image

(Mexican fresh fruit beverage)

Aguas frescas are fresh fruit drinks that are very popular all over Mexico. These refreshing beverages are typically served from large barrel-shaped glass containers. Some of the more traditional varieties are watermelon, cantaloupe and strawberry. Read more »

Arroz a la Mexicana

Grains | Arroz a la Mexicana Image

(Mexican rice with tomatoes)

Also known as Spanish rice, arroz a la mexicana is one of the most popular ways to prepare rice in Mexico and the American Southwest. The tomatoes give it a rich, ruddy hue and a deep, rounded flavor. Read more »


Beverages | Atole Image

(Mexican warm cornmeal beverage)

Atole (ah-TOH-lay) is an ancient Mexican beverage with origins in pre-Columbian times. Similar warm drinks, thickened with cornmeal, are found throughout Central America and are especially popular for breakfast. Mexican atole is traditional at dia de los muertos celebrations, and it's chocolate version, champurrado, is popular at Christmastime. The consistency of atole varies anywhere from almost porridge-like to a thin, pourable drink. Read more »


(Mexican caramel spread; see Dulce de Leche recipe)

Calabacitas y Elotes con Crema

Ingredients | Corn on the Cob Image

(Mexican zucchini and corn simmered in cream)

Two New World vegetables pair up beautifully in this simple yet luxurious side dish. Calabacitas is the word for young zucchini, and elotes means kernel corn. Read more »

Carne Asada

Meats | Carne Asada

(Mexican grilled steak)

Carne asada, or grilled meat, is great backyard grill food. It is enjoyed throughout Central America, but is particularly popular in Mexico. Many recipes get very elaborate with the marinade ingredients, but the original recipe relies on a simple combination of onions and citrus juice to highlight the flavor of the beef. Read more »

Carnitas de Puerco

Meats | Carnitas de Puerco Tacos

(Mexican crispy tender shredded pork)

Slow-simmered pork, with a step at the end to add crispiness, carnitas are an amazing option for stuffing tacos, burritos and tamales. Carnitas are easy to make, but it does take some time. Traditional carnitas are always simmered in lard; it adds flavor and tenderness. See the variations for healthier options if all that fat scares you away. Read more »

Cebollas Encurtidas

Pickles | Cebollas Encurtidas

(Ecuadorian, Mexican pickled red onions)

Pickled red onions are the perfect condiment for all kinds of dishes. In Ecuador, these pickles with the purple hue are at their simplest, tossed with lime juice and a pinch of salt and sprinkled over ceviche. Yucatecan-style cebollas encurtidas are more elaborately seasoned and are an essential topping for cochinita pibil. They're also perfect on top of a burger. Sometimes called cebollas en escabeche. Read more »

Cerdo con Frijoles

Ingredients | Beans, Black Image

(Mexican stewed pork and black beans)

Wild boar, or cerdo, was traditionally used in this typically Mayan dish from southern Mexico. Epazote is an herb that is almost always used to flavor black beans in the Yucatán. You can substitute bay leaf. Read more »


Fish | Ceviche Image

(Latin citrus-marinated seafood)

Ceviche is believed to have originated in Peru or Ecuador in Inca times. The seafood was originally marinated in chicha, a fermented corn beverage. Spanish conquerors brought with them citrus trees and the juice of the lemon, lime and Seville orange was substituted. Over time, ceviche became popular throughout Latin America, and each country, locale and cevichería supplies its own twist on the basic recipe. Read more »


Breakfast | Chilaquiles

(Mexican fried tortillas in sauce)

Chilaquiles are an easy way to use up leftover tortillas. Popular for breakfast all over Mexico, the ingredients vary somewhat by region. But the essentials are the same — fried corn tortillas simmered in a spicy sauce and garnished with cheese. Chilaquiles are great as part of a Mexican brunch and are considered excellenthangover cure by Mexicans. Read more »

Chiles Rellenos

Vegetables | Chiles Rellenos

(Mexican stuffed, fried chile peppers)

In this sublime dish from Puebla state, chile peppers are roasted and peeled, then stuffed, dipped in a batter and fried. The result is full of flavor and interesting textures. A cheese stuffing is probably the most well known, but meat fillings are also popular. During Lent, chiles rellenos are often served with vegetable or even tuna fillings. Read more »

Cochinita Pibil

Meats | Cochinita Pibil

(Mexican citrus-marinated pork slow-roasted in banana leaves)

For an ethereal taste of Yucatecan cuisine, you must try cochinita pibil. This Mayan dish is traditionally made with suckling pig (cochinita) roasted in a pit (pibil). In this simplified recipe, chunks of pork are seasoned with a full-flavored citrus marinade, encased in bananas leaves and slow-roasted in the oven or on the grill. Often called puerco pibil. Read more »


Meats | Empanadas Image

(Latin savory stuffed pastries)

Empanadas are meat pies popular throughout the Latin world. They probably originated in Galicia in the northwest corner of Spain. Spanish settlers introduced empanadas to the New World, and they are a special favorite in Chile and Argentina. The variety of fillings for empanadas is endless and includes stewlike mixtures chicken, beef, ham and cheese, fish and seafood. Other fillings include spinach, peas, potatoes, pumpkin and beans. Read more »

Enchiladas de Pollo y Queso

Poultry | Enchiladas de Pollo y Queso

(Mexican chicken and cheese stuffed tortillas)

Enchiladas are an easy and filling Mexican dish of tortillas dipped in chile sauce and rolled around a wide variety of fillings: chicken, cheese, chorizo, beans, pork, beef, seafood or vegetables. The main difference between enchiladas, aside from their filling, is the sauce used to top them. Read more »

Flan de Leche

Desserts | Flan de Leche Image

(Latin caramel custard)

Flan, or crème caramel, is one of the most common dessert dishes in the Latin world. Coming originally from the border area of France and Spain, this simple yet elegant dessert has spread in popularity as far as the Philippines and Japan. Read more »

Frijoles de la Olla

Ingredients | Pinto Beans

(Mexican beans in broth)

Frijoles de la olla, or beans in a pot, are good in burritos and tacos, on tostadas or on their own as a side dish. These slow-cooked, creamy beans are traditionally made in a bean pot, or olla. Read more »


Sauces | Guacamole Image

(Mexican avocado sauce)

Guacamole is a popular condiment made of mashed and seasoned avocados. Guacamole originated in Mexico, but it is enjoyed throughout Central America, as well as in the American Southwest and in Tex-Mex cuisine. The name comes from the Aztec words for avocado (ahuacatl) and sauce (molli). Read more »

Horchata de Arroz

Beverages | Horchata de Arroz Image

(Mexican sweet rice beverage)

Horchata (or-CHA-tah) is a milky white, sweet beverage that was introduced to Spain by the Moors. The original Spanish version is made with ground tiger nuts and is especially popular in Valencia. In Latin America, where the tiger nut is not commonly available, pulverized rice is used. In Mexico, horchata is one of the most common aguas frescas and is ladled from large glass jars set in ice. Read more »

Huevos Rancheros

Breakfast | Huevos Rancheros Image

(Mexican ranch-style eggs)

Huevos rancheros is a classic Mexican breakfast, traditionally served to farm laborers, or rancheros. The eggs match perfectly with the spicy tomato sauce. Use fresh tortillas to mop up every last bite. Read more »

Jalapeños en Escabeche

Ingredients | Peppers, Jalapeños Image

(Mexican pickled jalapeño peppers)

Sliced jalapeños en escabeche are used as a garnish for a variety of Mexican dishes. They can also be chopped and added to soups and stews for an extra punch. Some hardy souls like to munch on them whole. Read more »

Menudo Rojo

Soups | Menudo Rojo

(Mexican spicy beef tripe soup)

Menudo is a tasty Mexican stew that is popular for big family gatherings. It is also served as a late-night or breakfast hangover cure for a night of drinking. The red (rojo) version adds the mild spice of dried chiles. White (blanco) menudo, without the spice, is more popular in the north of the country. Read more »


Beverages | Michelada

(Mexican spicy beer cocktail)

Cervezas preparadas, or "prepared beers," are popular throughout Mexico. What goes in a michelada varies by region, but the simplest version uses lime juice and hot sauce to give beer a spicy kick. Pair a michelada with a hot bowl of pozole, and you have the perfect hangover cure. Sometimes called a chelada, the name is Mexican slang for "my chilled one." Read more »

Pan de Muerto

Breads | Pan de Muerto Image

(Mexican anise-scented bread for the Day of the Dead)

Pan de muerto, or "bread of the dead," is a sweet anise-scented bread served during Mexico's Días de los Muertos celebrations. The bread is offered up at temporary altars to relatives and friends who have passed away. Loaves are typically round and decorated with a knob of dough on top, representing a skull, and with bone-shaped pieces of dough around its perimeter. Pan de muerto is often sprinkled with colored sugar or glazed with orange juice. Read more »

Pastel de Tres Leches

Desserts | Pastel de Tres Leches Image

(Central American cake of three milks)

The famous cake of three milks, pastel de tres leches is believed to have originated in Nicaragua. It has become very popular throughout Central America and is becoming more and more common in the United States. Soaking the cake in three kinds of milk gives it a rich, dense quality, almost like a cheesecake. Read more »

Pescado a la Veracruzana

Fish | Pescado Veracruzana Image

(Mexican fish Veracruz-style)

Pescado à la veracruzana is one of the most famous seafood dishes of Veracruz on the Caribbean coast of eastern Mexico. The ingredients and seasonings show a strong Spanish influence. Read more »


Soups | Pozole Image

(Mexican pork and hominy stew)

Pozole is a special occasion dish in Mexico, especially in Guerrero State. Restaurants called pozolerías specialize in it. This dish is a well known cure for hangovers and is often eaten in the wee hours of the morning as a preventive. Pozole is also popular in New Mexico, where it is usually spelled posole. Read more »

Queso Fundido

Appetizers | Queso Fundido

(Mexican melted cheese appetizer)

Queso fundido is as simple as it is decadently tasty. Flavorful cheese is melted together with fragrant mushrooms, roasted peppers or other garnishes and served with fresh corn tortillas. Serve this south-of-the-border version of cheese fondue as a starter to any Mexican meal. Your guests will be singing your praises. ¡Que rico! Read more »

Recado Rojo

Sauces | Recado Rojo Image

(Mexican Yucatecan achiote spice paste)

Recados are Mayan spice pastes particularly popular in the Yucatán region of Mexico. A deep brick red, recado rojo is the most common, and is an essential ingredient of the region's famous slow-roasted pork dish, cochinita pibil. Use it as a flavoring rub for pork, chicken and fish. Premade recado rojo can be bought at Latin markets in brick-shaped packages. Read more »

Salpicón de Res

Meats | Salpicon Image

(Central American shredded beef salad)

Popular throughout Central America, salpicón is a refreshing salad that is great as a topping for tostadas or wrapped in fresh corn tortillas. It is especially easy to make in large quantities for parties and family gatherings. Read more »

Salsa Fresca

Sauces | Salsa Mexicana Image

(Mexican fresh tomato condiment)

Salsa mexicana is the basic salsa that is used as an all-purpose condiment in Mexico. There are innumerable variations, but here is a basic — and very tasty — version. Other names for it are pico de gallo, salsa cruda, salsa Mexicana and salsa picada. Read more »

Salsa Verde

Sauces | Salsa Verde Image

(Mexican tomatillo salsa)

Salsa made with tomatillos is a refreshing and bright change from your typical tomato-based salsa. Salsa verde improves in flavor if allowed to rest for 1 or 2 hours before serving. Tomatillo salsa pairs well with pork, chicken, tamales, enchiladas and is a great dip for tortilla chips. Read more »

Sopa de Albóndigas

Meats | Sopa de Albondigas Image

(Mexican meatballs in broth)

Albóndigas is Spanish for "meatballs," and sopa de albóndigas is Mexican meatballs in a bowlful of hot broth. It's favorite comfort food in Mexico and a great way to warm up a cold day. Read more »

Tamales de Elote

Breads | Tamales de Elote

(Central American fresh corncakes)

Tamales de elote are a favorite breakfast food in Mexico and throughout Central America. In El Salvador and Guatemala they are often served as the starchy portion of a meal. The fresh elote, or corn, used in Central America has a higher starch content than that in the United States, but the addition of masa harina in this recipe produces a very good approximation of the original. Read more »

Tamales de Pollo

Breads | Tamales de Pollo Image

(Mexican steamed corncakes with chicken)

Tamales are a staple of Central American cuisine. At their simplest, they are masa corn dough wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves and steamed in a large pot, the tamalera. Most tamales also have some sort of stuffing. Read more »

Tostadas de Pollo

Poultry | Tostadas de Pollo Image

(Mexican fried tortillas with chicken)

Tostadas are snack food in Mexico, made in street stalls throughout the country. The tostada shell itself is made by frying corn tortillas until they are crisp. The tostada shells then serve as a platform for all sorts of toppings from cheese and beans to shredded chicken to ceviche. Read more »

Vinagre de Piña

Fruits | Pineapple Image

(Central American pineapple vinegar)

Homemade fruit vinegars are popular throughout Central America, and vinagre de piña is a favorite. The trimmings of a pineapple are mixed with piloncillo and water and set aside to ferment for a few weeks or even months. Read more »