Mexican food is famous across the Globe for its colors, flavors and use of healthy ingredients. In fact it is so famous that the best known snack has had a day unofficially named after it! And who isn’t excited when “Taco Tuesday” comes around? Here are some tips on how to eat like a Mexican?

How to eat like a Mexican

In 2010 UNESCO made the decision to include food as an Intangible World Heritage item for the first time and it was no surprise that Mexican Cuisine was the first to be recognized.

Combining a history that dates back to the Mayan Indians fused with the influence of the invading Spanish, today’s Mexican cuisine is globally recognized.

Want to discover the best food tours on Tripadvisor? Click this image.

One of the best known of the traditions comes from Oaxaca, the home of the 7 molés.

While many countries have “Mexican” restaurants all claiming to be authentic food and experiences you will find that the traditional recipes have been altered in almost all cases to better suit the local palette.

MEXICO FOOD TOURSThe only place bold enough, or honest enough not to claim this authenticity is Texas. With Tex-Mex being the preferred option, and damn tasty in its own right!

To eat Mexican food in the small, family run establishments in Mexico, or better still from the local street vendors, not only gives you a new appreciation of this cuisine but shows you how you have been tricked into thinking your local restaurant at home was serving you good Mexican food.

There is little better in the food world than having tacos from a tiny Taqueria set up in someone’s garage with dozens of salsa options, a variety of fillings, fresh tortillas and a crowd of locals.

I had the absolute pleasure of experiencing this at a little place in the residential suburbs of Mexico City at a place called Taco Gus. Cheap and delicious!

At the other end of the scale the number of world class restaurants is exploding with local chefs taking the traditional recipes and and adding a Michelin Star quality twist on them.

Breakfasts – Desayuno

The typical Mexican food day starts first thing in the morning with a coffee, hot chocolate or atole (another hot drink but thickened with rice, corn or oats). Or the cold refreshment of a juice or licuado (fresh fruit and milk smoothie)

Brunch – Almuerzo

This is where the real breakfast takes place. Usually eaten between 9am and noon this meal usually includes eggs, meat, frijoles and tortillas and spicy sauces in one of many combinations.

Some of the more popular options are huevos rancheros, chilaquiles and enchiladas. All big and hearty meal sure to help you through until the next meal.

Lunch – Comida

For foreign visitors looking for a mid day meal it is easy to get the (wrong) impression that service in restaurants is quite poor and it is also common to see smaller local restaurants not even trading during our regular “lunch time”.

The reason behind this is that midday to about 2pm was traditionally the time for siesta. A break in the work day to refresh and in some cases avoid the extreme heat.

What this means is that to eat like a local, or with the locals expect to have your comida some time between 2pm and 4pm.

Comida is the Mexicans main meal of the day and usually consists of three courses including a soup (sopa) or salad (ensalada), main dish (guisado) and a dessert (postre). Tortillas and salsas are always on hand and a refreshing agua fresca (fruit flavored water).

One thing to be on the watch for is the Comida Corrida offered by many restaurants. This is a set three course menu usually offered at ridiculously cheap prices. Expect to see many offers for between 40 and 100 pesos.

Dinner – Cena

The final meal of the day can vary quite substantially for Mexicans. It can be as simple as some bread and a hot drink or as expansive as a full restaurant meal.

For a truly incredible example of where modern Mexican food is heading read about the 26 course tasting menu at Benazuza in Cancun.

The option you should definitely consider is trying a selection from the huge array of street vendors found throughout the country.

Photograph by Penny De Los Santos- Hugo's Mexican Street FOod

There is nothing better than cheap and delicious tacos, tortas, enchiladas and the rest of the range of local street food and then sitting back with the locals sharing stories and cervezas or margaritas.

This meal is usually taken between 7pm and 9pm but varies from region to region.

Snacks – Antojitos and Botanas

Want something to keep you going through the day? Plenty of quick and easy options are available from street vendors and market stalls.

Roasted peanuts, fresh corn on the cob, tortilla chips and salsa are readily available but for something a little different, and surprisingly good, why not try a bag of fresh chupalines?

Sounds interesting? These grasshoppers or crickets and fried, usually with lime and chili, and sold by the small bag in enormous numbers. The flavor of the spices is wonderful and the crunch is just like potato crisps. Give them a try next time.

What to Drink?

Beer (cerveza) is very popular in Mexico but contrary to popular belief don’t expect to see all the locals drinking Corona, that is just clever marketing to help make it the best selling exported beer.

You are more likely to be offered one of the growing number of craft beers but the choice is more to do with the region that the taste.

Tourists generally associate Mexico with cocktails, probably due to so many of the people pushing that opinion having stayed at All-inclusive Resorts.

The truth of the matter is that locals are far more likely to be drinking refreshing non-alcoholic fruit drinks than cocktails.

But that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find an easily accessible supply of Margaritas, Pina Coladas and Mojitos.

The other obvious drink is Tequila. Arguably the drink most associated with Mexico. What a lot of people don’t know is that Tequila is a state in Mexico and only the spirits distilled in that state can be called Tequila. It is similar to the rule about Champagne and France.

In many parts of Mexico you are more likely to be offered Mezcal. In fact Tequila is a type of Mezcal and not the other way around. You will also only find a worm in Mezcal and not Tequila.

The worm is found on the blue agave plants that Mezcal is derived from. Stories vary as to the origin of this practice but most believe it was simply a marketing ploy to sell more Mezcal over the more popular Tequila in the USA.

Fun fact : the worm is often eaten as a snack even without having to down copious amounts of Mezcal or being dared by a companion or local.

A foodie’s paradise

Even if for some odd reason you are not interested in history, sightseeing or culture but just looking for an incredible food adventure then Mexico should still be at the top of your list.

So if you think the “Mexican” food you love back at home is great then you will be blown away once you are exposed to the freshness, color and flavors of the real thing.

No matter what your choice of filling, salsa, style of tortilla or level of service you are looking for there is no doubt that you haven’t really had Mexican food until you have eaten in Mexico.

*all images courtesy of respective owners.

34 COMMENTS

  1. Hello and thanks for sharing, how to eat like a mexican. These foods look so delicious and very pleasing. It so good o travel the world and experience culture and all that they have to offer. Your readers will find this post to be most helpful as they learn all about mexican foods and the awesome flavors that they have. Thanks for sharing this detailed post.

    • Thank you for commenting Norman. It is interesting that when people finally taste the authentic flavors of the food of any culture they notice how different it is to what their local restaurants provide claiming to be the same.

  2. I’m part Mexican, my dad came to this country in his 20’s as a kid I was down there several times but we never ate at local restaurants or any food stands but I do know that there were certainly some peculiar foods down in Mexico.

    Sometimes they fried pigskin and put hot sauce on it or they had popsicles with actual fruit pieces in them. The locals would make tomalies inside of corn hides. My grandma always cooked rice it was always red never white and we did have that coffee.

    At the time I thought it was horrible, because it was thick and pasty. For the most part this is an area of Mexico I must have missed. Yet I’m very intrigued by the fact that such food exists nonetheless!

    • Very interesting to hear your story and how strange you found some of the things in Mexico especially with your family history.

      The fruit popsicles are called Paletas and are perfect on a hot day.

  3. “you haven’t really had Mexican food until you have eaten in Mexico” – That’s what I thought after traveling in Mexico a bit. Then I returned to the US (Portland, Oregon), sought out Mexican-owned food carts, and found the food there to be just as good, if you ask for the right things.

    • That’s a big call saying the food in Portland is just as good Peter. I know from experience you have some incredible food coming from those trucks, I even wrote a post on my other site about them, but don’t you still find some of the ingredients have been “Americanized” and it’s not quite as good?

  4. It is insanely colorful. What you mention is pretty much the rule in most places: go check out the smaller mom & pop type places, and ask them what they do best. More often than not you’ll be very pleased.

    Bookmarked your video for another time when I have a bit more time. Looks great.

    • Great advice on the little local places Bob. Too often people are worried about even going in to them and if they do just order something they know rather than what is the house specialty. No matter where you travel it’s worth taking a risk. If you don’t like it get something else, it’s not like you spent a lot of money to try it.

  5. Mexican is my second favourite cuisine in the world and the biggest reason for me to visit the country will be food! Meanwhile, have to go find a decent Mexican meal in my home town tomorrow itself.

  6. I’m Texan, and I’m not so sure that we call ours Tex-Mex for anything other than arrogance. 🙂 I do love true Mexican food, with that being the primary reason I travel to Mexico. Now that I live in France, I am constantly educating Europeans that Mexican food is not just tacos and burritos. It drives me nuts! And now I’m starving…thanks!

    • I have to admit to also being a fan of Tex-Mex Leah and at least they don’t claim it to be “authentic Mexican”. I can imagine how hard it is to convince Europeans, the home of food arrogance!

  7. I have been eating Mexican food for a while now (in India though) but your post gave such a different perspective to the food. I am not at all surprised it was included in the UNESCO list as well…

    It’s great how you have broken it down to different hours of the day. For someone like me, it helps to appreciate the food even better 🙂

    • It wasn’t until I tried the real thing that I realized that I had been missing out on something special Siddhartha. I thought my local restaurant was good until I ate in Mexico.

  8. It was a great thing when UNESCO recognised food culture as a world heritage asset. Such a big part of the travel experience and relating to a culture and people is caught up in the cuisine and customs around it. I hope it results in these food heritages and recipes being preserved correctly. In Australia, like many places I’m sure, it is so difficult to get authentic Mexican cuisine and your photos and desciptions have made me hungry to visit and enjoy the real thing.

    • I know you have a long list of places to visit on your travel list Toni but believe me when I say that no matter what you want to get from a travel experience, Mexico can provide it.

  9. OK, you just complicated my life! We were so close to heading out to Mexico for Ironman Cozumel, but just moments ago decided on Ironman Langkawi instead. I might have to reconsider! Looks superb. But Asian Food ( I don’t like Malaysian, but we’ll be based in Vietnam) v. Mexican….not sure!

    • First of all I can’t believe you chose Malaysia over Mexico (although I suppose Cozumel and Langkawai are pretty nice little resort islands) but then you go and say you don’t like Malaysian food! You have 2 strikes against you now in my book. Have a great time in Langkawi, unless you change your mind again.

  10. When you said Scotland all I could imagine was a deep fried taco. As for the recipes, I am planning on adding some to the site shortly including a few that I love to do at home using the limited ingredients I can get in Australia.

  11. Some of those foods look delicious! It makes me what to jump on a plane and fly over to Mexico and try out all their food right now. I live in Scotland so as you can imagine the access to foods like these is quite limited, there are a few restaurants but as you said these chains probably won’t do the culture justice.

    Although I could make my own, do you know of any good recipes I could try that are suitable for a beginner?

  12. I’m always happy to have a discussion about good food Netta, so I don’t mind how much you get carried away.

    You make a good point about how love and passion has a big influence. Once the food is being made in an overseas restaurant those emotions are gone.

  13. Hey Dean:

    I do so agree! Mexican food can be heavenly.

    I suppose it is because the culture and the people are so heartful and they LOVE tasting and experimenting with all the passionate end of the spectrum of tastes.

    Mexican food’s kinda like a good soap opera, I think. You know all the flavors and all of the feelings and in the hands of a good cook, they blend so very beautifully.

    Sorry…I always get carried away about good food!

    • I’m always happy to have a discussion about good food Netta, so I don’t mind how much you get carried away.

      You make a good point about how love and passion has a big influence. Once the food is being made in an overseas restaurant those emotions are gone.

  14. I always get excited when I see a new Mexican place open up anywhere near home but always leave disappointed.

    The simple fact is they all claim to be authentic but are nothing like it. I can cook better, truer Mexican than the restaurants here offer, and for a fraction of the price.

    If you love your Mexican food you have to go and try the real thing one day Adrian. You won’t regret it.

  15. I’ve always liked mexican food ever since I first tried it as a teenager and where I did try it was I think one of the more genuine mexican restaurants as opposed to some of the more family oriented restaurants in Australia.

    Some of the photos you have of Mexican food in Mexico looks wonderful and I have no doubt the food is going to taste a lot better than what I’ve experienced here at home.

    I find it interesting how they have their meals during the day and include their siesta and the tourists would have to adjust to their timetable.

    Thanks for the insight into how Mexicans really eat, this has been good to read, well done.

    • I always get excited when I see a new Mexican place open up anywhere near home but always leave disappointed.

      The simple fact is they all claim to be authentic but are nothing like it. I can cook better, truer Mexican than the restaurants here offer, and for a fraction of the price.

      If you love your Mexican food you have to go and try the real thing one day Adrian. You won’t regret it.

  16. Ohhhh yes baby thank you!!! Me encantan lol. I don ‘t speak much Spanish but I love the language and the food. I just moved to Wyoming, Mi and we have a great Hispanic culture here with some very authentic restaurants.

    I have not been to any yet but my wife and I was just talking about the difference between Taco Bell and Authentic Mexican food. Well I admit I love Taco Bell and they do a good job. But I love the family businesses.

    There is a small shop that I go to near me that is always packed! And they have the best Cheese Enchiladas for a great price. The people are always nice. Thanks for the beautiful post with all that good food. Makes me feel good.

    • Thanks for reading and for sharing a passion for good Mexican food. Although I don’t think we are the only ones!

      We have a similar issue in Australia, a few decent “Mexican” chains and a handful of very good and more authentic restaurants. But everything in the USA and Australia can’t be as good as the real thing because it is modified for the local palette and also probably doesn’t use the traditional ingredients.

      Now I’m hungry too.

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