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Mexico City is one of the world’s most elite culinary destinations. With a thriving street food scene and numerous Michelin-star-worthy restaurants, there is no shortage of great foods to eat in Mexico City. But when determining what to eat in Mexico City, come with a big appetite and an open mind. While you will find a variety of different foods in this cosmopolitan city that will appeal to any type of foodie traveler, here are the top 15 foods to try in Mexico City.
The best and most unique foods to eat in Mexico City
Dining in the capital city of Mexico doesn’t have to break the bank. Hailed for its incredible street food, you can easily have a quality meal for less than $3 USD. Eating street food is one of the best things to do in Mexico City, but whether you stick strictly to street vendors or sit-down restaurant, this foodie guide to Mexico City lays out the best foods to eat in this cultural city.
FIND THE TOP-RATED FOOD TOURS IN MEXICO CITY HERE.
Tamales are a culinary staple in Mexico City. Walk down any main street in the morning, and you’ll find street vendors with small pushcarts and ice chests selling homemade tamales. Tamales come wrapped in a steamed corn husk and filled with masa de maíz, a type of dough made from ground corn. The masa is stuffed with deliciously seasoned meat which is typically pork or chicken.
If you prefer a vegetarian option, you can even find tamales in Mexico City that are stuffed with cheese only. The best and least expensive way to enjoy tamales in Mexico is to buy a few from a street vendor. They aren’t that messy because the steamed corn husk serves as the perfect make-shift plate or wrapper to catch any crumbs or grease that might fall out.
Tortas are a type of flatbread sandwich commonly found in Mexico City. They are one of the most popular foods to eat in Mexico City. Tens of thousands of tortas are sold every day at food stalls, sandwich shops, or torterias. Tortas are generously filled with spiced meat, chilies, onions, cheese, and other vegetables. They are a popular lunch item and, like tamales, are one of the most delicious street foods in Mexico City.
Tacos al pastor
Another lunchtime favorite in Mexico City is street tacos. At lunch, the tamale carts are replaced with taco carts. Street tacos in Mexico are served on a soft corn tortilla shell and filled with finely chopped or shredded meats and garnished with chopped onions, peppers, or cilantro. There is a wide variety of meat used to make street tacos. From traditional pork, chicken, or beef, to spicy chorizo, which is a pork sausage typically encased in the lining of the pig intestines, you’ll find plenty of options when it comes to tacos in Mexico City.
While there are several types of tacos in Mexico City, my favorite is tacos al pastor. These tacos, which originate from central Mexico, use grilled meat that is cut from a grill spit. The process is similar to that used when making shawarma or gyro meat. You can find tacos al pastor at high-end restaurants as well as street vendors.
Simply referred to as mole in Mexico, this traditional sauce is a base for many Mexican dishes. The sauce is a blend of peppers, onions, garlic, and spices, along with a plant called hoja santa, which gives the sauce its unique flavor. Mole is often served atop chicken, pork, or another meat.
Chilaquiles is often prepared with mole or another spicy sauce or salsa. It consists of tortilla chips, smothered in a sauce and topped with cheese, onions, shredded chicken or scrambled eggs. It is often eaten as a breakfast dish, especially when it is served with eggs.
If you have ever visited any of the Caribbean islands or West Texas, you may already be familiar with barbacoa. In traditional Mexico, barbacoa is a whole sheep, goat, or slab of beef slow-cooked over an open fire. It is a high-fat, and strongly-flavored meat.
Roasted Corn / Elote
A late afternoon snack purchased from street vendors across Mexico City, elote is roasted corn seasoned with chili powder, salt, and lime juice. It is often topped with a white, creamy sauce, as well. While it is most often served on the cob, you can also buy this tasty snack off the cob and prepared in a wok.
Yes, you read that correctly… insects, as in bugs… grasshoppers and ants to be specific are often fried and added to foods like guacamole as a garnish to add a little crunch. Chapulines, or grasshoppers, are sometimes served covered in chocolate, as are hormigas, or ants. You can also buy them in bags and eat them as a crispy, high-protein snack if you are adventurous enough to eat them by themselves.
Mariscos is the Spanish word for seafood. While Mexico City may not be on the coast, you can still find plenty of popular seafood dishes, like seafood soup, shrimp cocktail, or ceviche. Each Latin American country has its own version of ceviche, which is made from raw fish cured in lime or lemon juice. The ceviche in Mexico is different than the ceviche we had in Colombia, but both are equally good. Although ceviche is popular in Mexico City, it is perhaps even more widely eaten in coastal cities like Cancun or Playa del Carmen.
Another one of the most popular foods to eat in Mexico City is tlacoyo. This football or oval-shaped dish made with masa is stuffed with beans, cheese, and other ingredients. It is just one more yummy example of street food in Mexico City, as this is most often purchased from street vendors with fiery charcoal grills. Unlike tamales which are always made with yellow corn masa, tlacoyos are often made with blue corn masa. Once cooked, they are garnished with chilies, salsa, or vegetables.
Pozole, Caldo, or Menudo
Every country or culture needs a must-try traditional soup dish, and Mexico has several, pozole, caldo and menudo, to name a few. My favorite, and the one I have since learned to make at home, is pozole. This traditional stew is made from hominy, chicken or pork meat, and red chili peppers. It can be quite spicy depending on where you buy it, but it has a distinct flavor that I love! Caldo and menudo are similar to pozole but are made with different meats like beef tripe or beef shank and spices.
Foods to eat in Mexico City for dessert
If it is sweets you crave, Mexico City will not disappoint you. Although many of the foods on this list are savory, some of my favorite desserts originate from Mexico.
Churros are a cylinder-shaped deep-fried pastry covered in sugar and cinnamon and served alongside a dipping sauce such as chocolate. This tasty treat is the perfect ending to any meal! As with many of the foods on this list, you can find churros at street carts on the sidewalk. Or if you prefer to sit down and eat them, visit one of several El Moro Churros locations around the city to indulge in this delicious guilty-pleasure. Don’t worry about a fork or knife. This dessert is meant to be picked up and eaten..
If you prefer something less sweet for dessert or if you like pastries for breakfast, find a panaderia or bakery in Mexico City and get a pan dulce or two. Pan dulce isn’t as sweet as many traditional American pastries. Concha is one of the most popular Mexican pan dulces. It is a round sweet roll topped with a sweet paste-like topping. It kind of resembles a sea shell, hence the name concha, which means shell in Spanish.
Drinks to try in Mexico City
Mexico City isn’t just known for its food. There are several must-try drinks in Mexico City, as well.
To be honest, I am not a fan of this agave-based liquor, or any hard spirits for that matter. Mezcal is similar to tequila so you’ll want a chaser if you are drinking it straight. In fact, tequila is a type of mezcal since they are both made from agave. But they are made from different varieties of the plant, so while tequila is a mezcal, not all mezcals are tequilas. While some people sip it straight or shoot it, if I am going to drink mezcal, I order it mixed it in a cocktail for a smoother, less intoxicating drink.
You can’t go to Mexico without having at least one Mexican cerveza – AKA – beer! Mexican beer is light, refreshing and best served with lime and a salted rim. After a day of sightseeing, it’s nice to enjoy a cold cerveza or two with your meal. This lager-style beer isn’t heavy like many of the beers you’ll find in Germany or other parts of Europe, so it goes down easy and isn’t as filling.
Why you must try these unique foods to eat in Mexico City
Mexicans are passionate about their culture, and their food is a source of deep cultural pride for them. While the food in Mexico City is unique to the region, you will find other delicious and region-specific dishes in the Yucatan, a great Mexico destination to visit with kids. Upon tasting any of the authentic cuisine in Mexico, it is no wonder the people of this beautiful country take such pride in their food.
Mexico City’s reputation as a foodie paradise has definitely spread to the masses. It has even become somewhat of a foodie destination for those traveling to indulge in the spicy, the savory, and the sweet. It is a city that your taste buds will be begging to return to after just one visit.
Have you been to Mexico City? What were your favorite foods to eat in Mexico City? We’d love to hear from you. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.