Popular Mexican Dishes

If you plan on taking a vacation in Mexico, you are in for a treat! The foods you’ll find in hotels and restaurants are savory, spicy, and just plain scrumptious. Many of these foods are well-known staples in the United States as well, but there’s nothing quite like tasting the real thing in its country of origin.

Barbacoa de Cabeza

Barbacoa de cabeza refers to smoke meat from a cow’s head. Traditionally, the whole cow head is smoked in a pit that is covered with maguey, agave, or banana leaves. The meat is then scraped directly from the skull. Barbacoa de cabeza is traditionally served with corn tortillas and salsa. Other additions might include chopped onions and guacamole.


This Mexican dish is made of a corn or flour tortilla than can be wrapped around any number of fillings. The fillings are prepared in various ways and cut so they will all fit nicely into the tortilla. The tortilla is then folded so that the contents of the burrito are completely encased. A traditional Mexican burrito might contain some combination of meat, rice, beans, and chili peppers.

Carne Asada

Carne asada means “grilled meat” in Spanish. The term usually refers to beef that has been grilled or cooked using a dry-heat method. Carne asada can be a meal in itself, but it is often cut into small strips and used as an ingredient in tacos and burritos. It can be served with guacamole, beans, and rice.


Chimichangas do not actually originate in Mexico, but they are born of traditional Mexican food. It is believed by some that they were invented by accident at a Mexican restaurant in Arizona. Therefore, you may have a hard time finding a chimichanga while you’re on vacation in Mexico. A chimichanga is similar to a burrito in that it is a mix of ingredients encased in a tortilla. The difference is that a chimichaga is deep-fried and covered in mild sauce and shredded cheese. It is typically served with refried beans and rice.


Churros are a traditional Mexican dessert that consists of strips of fried dough. The dough is piped into a vat of hot oil and fried until it is golden in color and crisp. Churros are often rolled in a cinnamon-sugar mixture to make them sweet. They can be served with thick hot chocolate as well.

Dulce de Leche

Dulce de leche, which means “milk candy” in Spanish, is a typical Mexican desert. It is made by slowly heating sweetened milk and other ingredients until brown. The result is a caramel-like sauce that can be used as a topping on other desserts or enjoyed on its own. There is a popular variety made with goat milk called cajeta.


Empanada, which means “breaded” in Spanish, is the name of a pastry that is typically filled with meat, vegetables, cheese, or fruit. They are made by folding dough around various fillings in half-moon shapes and baking or frying them. The dough is typically made with wheat flour, but it can also be made using a variety of other ingredients, including corn flour. Empanadas can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert.


An enchilada is a rolled-up tortilla containing meat or another kind of filling, served with chili sauce on top. The word enchilada actually means “seasoned with chili peppers.” An enchilada is made by first preparing the chili sauce and fillings. The fillings are rolled up in a corn tortilla, which is then topped with the chili sauce. Enchiladas can be served with refried beans and rice.


Fideo is simply the Spanish word for “noodle.” Fideo noodles are typically thin but vary in length. They are frequently used in soups and spaghetti-like dishes often called simply “fideo.” These dishes might include tomato sauce, cheese, vegetables, and chili peppers. Fideo is prepared by boiling the noodles and adding whatever other ingredients are being used in the soup or pasta dish.


A gordita is a Mexican pastry that can be filled with meat, vegetables, cheese, and other ingredients. The outer shell consists of a flatbread made from a type of corn flour known as masa. Masa is a special kind of flour that is made by drying corn and soaking it in a solution of water and lime. The wet corn is then mashed to make the dough. The dough is fried to give the gordita a crispy exterior, and the resulting flatbread is split open and filled with a variety of fillings.


Guacamole is a traditional Mexican dip and condiment that originated with the Aztecs. It is made from mashed avocados and some combination of other ingredients, like diced onions, tomatoes, garlic, or chili peppers. The process of making guacamole is fairly simple: The ripe avocados are mashed with a mortar and pestle, and the additional ingredients are mixed in as desired. Guacamole can be eaten with corn chips or can be included as an ingredient in other Mexican dishes, like burritos.

Huevos Rancheros

Huevos rancheros is a popular Mexican breakfast dish consisting of fried or poached eggs on top of fried corn tortillas, covered in a spicy tomato-based chili sauce. The dish is named for its popularity among Mexican farmers. There are different versions of huevos rancheros, but the most traditional version is quite easy to make. The corn tortillas and eggs are fried separately, and an egg is then placed on top of each tortilla. The tomato-chili sauce is added on top to complete the dish.


Nopalitos refers to a dish made by dicing and cooking the flat, fleshy pads of the prickly pear cactus. These pads are de-thorned, washed, diced, and boiled in water until they become a dull green color. They are often compared to green beans, although they are more acidic. Nopalitos are often eaten for breakfast with eggs, but they can also be used in salads or soups.


Pambazo is a popular sandwich made in Mexico. It is commonly made with white bread dipped in a hot chili pepper sauce called guajillo. The dipped white bread is then fried and filled with ingredients, typically diced potatoes and chorizo sausage. Other ingredients that might be included are chopped onions, salsa, cheese, refried beans, and chili peppers.

Pico de Gallo

Pico de gallo, which literally means “rooster’s beak,” is a common name for a fresh salsa typically made from diced tomatoes, onion, chili peppers, cilantro, salt, and lime juice. Is is also sometimes called salsa fresca. Pico de gallo differs from most salsa in that it is more of a salad than a sauce. It is commonly used as a vegetable garnish and can be eaten with chips, served in tacos and burritos, or simply enjoyed on its own.


A quesadilla consists of a wheat or corn tortilla folded in half and filled with cheese and other ingredients. Mexican quesadillas are often made with Oaxaca cheese, but other kinds of cheese can be used as well. If you’re looking for an authentic quesadilla made with Oaxaca cheese, look for hotels in the state of Oaxaca. Quesadillas can be made in a pan or on a griddle over heat. Cheese and other common ingredients like chicken, onions, and peppers can be added on top of a wheat or corn tortilla, which is then folded in half. The quesadilla is cooked in the pan or on the griddle until the cheese is melted. It can be sliced into sections and served with guacamole, salsa, sour cream, or some combination of these condiments.


Salsa is simply the Spanish word for “sauce.” Typically, the word is used to refer to salsa picante, a spicy, tomato-based sauce. Common ingredients include tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, cilantro, and lime juice. Salsa picante can easily be made by mixing all of the ingredients together in a blender or food processor. It can be served warm or chilled.


A taco is a traditional Mexican dish that consists of a lightly fried corn tortilla that is filled with meat. Carne asada, chicken, chorizo, and fish are all common fillings. Tacos are sometimes topped with salsa picante or pico de gallo. Other common toppings include onions, tomatoes, and cheese.


This traditional Mexican food consists of dough made from a corn flour called masa and a filling, all wrapped up in a banana leaf or a corn husk. The tamale is steamed inside the leaf or cork husk. It is also served in its wrapping, but is meant to be unwrapped before being consumed. Common fillings include chicken and pork.


Taquito is the Spanish word for “little taco.” Taquitos are a typical Mexican food consisting of corn tortillas that are wrapped into tubes around some kind of prepared filling and fried. Taquitos are also commonly called flautas, which means “flutes” in Spanish. They can be filled with beef, chicken, cheese, and refried beans, among other things.


A tortilla is a thin, pliable flatbread used as a wrap in Mexican cuisine. They are typically made using corn or wheat flour. A dough is made by adding water to the flour, and the dough is rolled into balls. These balls are then pressed flat in a press and are lightly cooked in a pan or on a griddle. Tortillas are used in an astounding number of Mexican dishes, including tacos, burritos, and quesadillas.


A tostada is a corn tortilla that has been fried or toasted. The word tostada means “toasted” in Spanish. Tostadas can be eaten on their own but are often topped with other foods, mostly commonly meat, beans, and vegetables. Frying some tortillas to make tostadas is a great way to make use of tortillas that have gone a bit stale.