Before i begin , did you know that Mexican Cuisine is listed by UNESCO as a world heritage ? You will not regret if you plan your whole trip to Mexico just to taste some delicious food.
Mexico has a rich food culture all over the country. There is an unimaginable versions/recipes of the same dish in different parts of Mexico. But if you want to experience maximum Gastronomic Adventure in short amount of time then Mexico City is the best option. Mexico City, in-fact, is considered one of the ‘Food Capital Of The World‘.
Let’s start with little background on common ingredients used in Mexican cuisine. Vital ingredients include corn, chili, beans, avocado, cactus, tomatoes, squashes, cocoa and vanilla.
Centro Histórico of Mexico City has tons of walkable historic sites along with endless opportunities to discover amazing food. You can always do a food tour but i would say also do some exploration on your own. You will find different kind of pleasure in walking around these historic centers with amazing larger than life architectural sites, bustling street with amazing food scene , talking with locals and watching them live their daily life. There is so much we can learn about Mexican food just by observing street scence in Mexico City that can never be found in any blog or youtube videos .
Its hard to narrow down handful of dishes but based on my conversation with Mexican locals, Uber drivers, Mexican friends , local tour guides and so on , here are some of the tried and tasted, “List of Must try food in Mexico City”.
Let’s get started.
What should i eat in Mexico?
Elote (Corn on the Cob or Cup ) :
Where to find: You will find several food carts selling Elote in every other street , but the best one in Mexico City is located on the street right around Reforma 222 mall . Its hidden from the view but if you try to walk around the mall or ask any locals , you should find this hidden local favorite . Trust me , you are going to order twice.
Sope or Gorditas (Fried and Stuffed corn dough ):
Sope is lime soaked corn dough fried and topped with any savory items like refried bean , meat and/or veggies , salsa and a dollap of cream. Gordita is also made from fried corn dough like Sope but only difference is, Gordita’s dough is sliced like pita to make pocket that holds delicious filling inside.
Where to find: From street vendor infront of Plaza de Santo Domingo square. This is a popular street among locals but you can’t find it in google as it does not have specific name. This street is bustling with street food vendors specially in the morning . Everything is made fresh on the spot and it smells amazing. Its 8 to 10 minute walk from Templo Mayor Museum.
If you are adventurer and want to try something new , Chapulines might be the one for you. Chapulines are basically grasshoppers eaten individually as snack , as a filling or in a soup. Chapulines are toasted until crispy and seasoned with garlic, lime juice, chilies and/or salt. This was the first time i tried eating insect and to my surprise it was pretty good.
Where to find: You can find Chapulines around mutiple street vendors . But if you want insect buffet then, Mercado de San Juan Pugibet is best option. This market has more than 300 vendor selling all different kinds of food , souvenirs, local art and crafts. This market is 11 minute walk from Palacio de Bellas Artes.
Chicharrón is crispy snack consisting of fried pork belly or fried pork rinds (Skin).
Where to find: Los Especiales, is a must visit if you are walking towards downtown after visiting zocalo. This place is at Francisco Avenue. It has four choices of chicharron i.e verde Or adobo, frijoles refritos (beans) or papa (potatoes). is also a great option if ypu are visiting Roma Condesa area.
My Mexican friend once said that first thing he craved after moving out of mexico was warm and comforting Chilaquiles breakfast. So i had to try this at any cost when i was in Mexico. Chilaquiles is corn tortillas cut into small triangles , lightly baked or fried as base of the dish. Then these cripsy triangles are topped with green or red salsa. The mixture is simmered until the tortilla starts softening. You can add protein of your choice like eggs, refried beans or pulled chicken to this mix. Then finally , it is garnished with crema, crumbled queso fresco, sliced onion, and avocado slices.
Where to find: You can find Chilaquiles everywhere where they serve breakfast. If you want breakfast with a view , EL Mayor has a rooftop restaurant with amazing Templo Mayor Museum right front and view of Centro Historico’s amazing architectural sites.
A fried sugary treat eaten not only as dessert but also as breakfast with coffee. It is served hot, is crispy outside and soft chewy inside. Bite it with sip of coffee or dunk it in milkshake, choice is all yours.
Where to find: Best place to try churros in Mexico City is Churreria El Moro which was established in 1935. They have five locations but the one in Centro Histórico is opened 24 hours 7 days a week. They accept credit cards. Even if you miss other places to eat mentioned in this post , please don’t miss this one.
I think most of you are familiar with dish or at least seen it in menu at Mexican restaurants. This meal starts with tortillas as a base , then refried beans , fried eggs and plenty of warmed salsa on top. It is often served with fried potatoes, avocado slices and pico de gallo on side.
Where to find: El Mayor (rooftop and in historic spot) , Santo Domingo Restaurant(rooftop and in historic spot), El Cardinal (in historic spot ), El popular ( in historic spot).
Anything after breakfast:
Birra Tacos (Wet Taco):
Though i have tried Birra Tacos in US, those are nothing compared to the ones you find in Mexico . It is basically a soggy taco. Meat like goat , beef, sheep or lamb is slow-stewed in a pot with chilli pepper, adobo, garlic , cumin, bay leaves, thyme and other spices to make Birria. It is then added to handmade corn tortillas and garnished with onion, cilantro, and lime.
Where to find: You can find best Birra tacos in any street Guadalajara Mexico, Jalisco. But in Mexico city you might have to travel little far from Centro Historico to find best one. Michoacanissimo is most popular spot for birra tacos in Mexico city however its 15 minutes drive from zocalo.
In Mexico city , you will find Tortas stalls and shops in every street. When talking about street food in Mexico, Tortas are as popular as tacos.
Tortas is basically a Mexican sandwich served on a wheat bread , filled with meat, sauce, and various toppings such as avocado, crema, iceberg lettuce, salsa , basically anything.There are different versions of Tortas in different region of Mexico. One popular one in Mexico City is Pambazos. Pambazos are bread rolls stuffed with chorizo and mashed potatoes, dunked in chile salsa and then fried on a griddle.
When talking about Tortas history, there is an argument that Tortas baguette-like shape is a sign of French influence when France invaded Mexico in mid 19th century.
Where to find: Literally in any street in Mexico City. My favorite was al pastor tortas served early in the morning infront of Plaza de Santo Domingo square. If you are visiting Churreria El Moro for churros, they have Tortas stall (cash only) right outside.
Chiles en Nogada (Stuffed Pepper) :
Who wouldn’t wanna try this? I mean look at it !! Absolutely stunning. If you look closely at the dish, these colors represent the Mexican flag.
Chiles en Nogada, is a dish made from poblano chiles stuffed with a mixture shredded meat, aromatic spices and fruits , topped with a walnut-based white cream sauce, called nogada, decorated with pomegranate seeds and parsley.
Where to find: As recommended by locals, Azul Historico is the best spot to try Chiles en Nogada. And they were absolutely correct.
Mole (A Sauce to pour over rice, piece of meat, enchiladas, tacos OR burrito) :
Mole is a complex sauce made with large number of ingredients . Authentic mole takes at-least a day to make and hence consumed in special occasions in Mexico. We tried Mole in one of the local grandma shop near Teotichucvan. It had 32 ingredient. A true gastronomic adventure.
Mole comes in different variations. Most popular one is Mole Negro. Mole Negro is a sauce with hot chiles and rich chocolate as main ingredients along with long list of other ingredients like various nuts, seeds, spices, banana, etc . It is used as topping for meats or enchiladas. Other variations include Mole poblano (more chilli , less chocolate) and Mole Verde (green sauce).
Where to find: Azul Historico, El Cardenal , if in Centro Historico, have some good mole dishes. But if you are planning to visit Teotihuacan pyramids, you can find some authenic mole in near by small towns. If you are feeling fancy , La Gruta, a fine dining restaurant inside cave, is another place in Teotihuacan to try some good mole.
Any Nopales Dish (Cactus) :
When in Mexican , you have to try Nopales , also know as cactus. It is one of the most abundant plant found in Mexico and also a local delicacy. I tried Enslada de nopales, which is basically cactus salad. Cactus is moist and crunchy with a slightly slimy texture similar to okra. In terms of flavor, they are tart and slightly citrusy. If you are like me who don’t like slimy texture a lot, i suggest having it with some corn chips and salsa. Another popular dish among Mexican Cecina(dried meat) with grilled nopal is another way that Mexcian local .
Where to find: We tried Enslada de nopales near Teotihuacan city in local grandma shop with no name.
Stews like Pozole or Pancita :
Legend has it that Pozole was an emperors’ dish, used as an offering for the gods. Pozole is a very popular celebratory dish in Mexico with rather disturbing history. Locals says, in pre- historic times , Pozole was served with human meat. After Spanish conquest, cannibalism was banned and people started using other kind of meat.
It a traditional stew dish consisting of a spicy broth usually containing pork or chicken topped with condiments like cubes of raw onion, shredded lettuce, oregano, dried chilli, radishes and fresh lime juice, often served with a basket of tostadas.
Pancita also know as (gut or stomach) is a traditional Mexican soup, made with cow’s stomach in broth with a red chili pepper base. Then ingredients like hominy (special kind of corn kernels), lime, onions, and oregano are used to season the broth giving it a unique taste.
Where to find: Mercado Roma is a chic upsacle multi level food hall with Mexican and international food. You can also find Pozole and pancita in various stores here.