Mexican street food is one of those things I started missing the moment I wasn´t in Mexico anymore. There´s a food stand at basically EVERY corner and the selection of both sweet and salty snacks seems to be never ending. Here is a gapless guide to the most famous Mexican street foods you definitely shouldn´t miss trying.
Salty Street Food
Something you’ll find all over Mexico at street stands. Elote is basically a whole piece of corn, Esquite are the seeds in a cup. They are topped with mayonnaise, chili and lemon or whatever combination you wish out of those three.
Basically corn dough cooked in a banana leaf filled either salty or sweet. While salty tamales are with meat, cheese or spinach, sweet ones usually come with pineapple or strawberry. It’s one of my favorite Mexican snacks (I like them most with cheese or pineapple) and a must-try because you barely find it in Europe!
Cannot be missing on that list, right? First thing to learn here: real Mexican tacos are so different from what is sold as “tacos” in most other parts of the world. The main differences to the tacos sold in Europe are:
- Mexican tacos are about one third of the size of European tacos.
- While in Europe you’ll barely find them like that, the typical mexican tacos are actually made of mize, not of flour.
- Tacos are not burritos! There is no rice, corn or beans in tacos.
Don’t miss to try the real tacos in Mexico, top them with some Pico de gallo and Salsa verde!
Fried dough usually filled with meat.Embed from Getty Images
Of course, Guacamole! In Mexico served differently depending on where you eat it (sometimes it has chili, usually not), I like it most with tomato, onion, cilantro, lime and salt. Sidenote: It´s not perfectly correct to add Guacamole to “streetfood”, as you mostly find it as an appetizer in restaurants. Anyways, I thought it fits the whole “snack topic” and there´s never too much (information about) Guacamole I think.Embed from Getty Images
(Do you know the feeling, when something gets so natural to you, you can´t be bothered taking a picture of it? That´s what happened to me in the case of Guacamole. After five months of eating it regularly, apparently I didn´t take a single picture of it!)
Fried bread filled with all kind of stuff, usually including tomato, salad, onion, avocado and meat. All this gets topped with Salsa (of course!). It´s very comparable to a warm sandwich.
Check out this page for pictures or if you loved Lonches so much, you want to know how to prepare them yourselves.
One of the classics! A taco filled with cheese (and often with meat in addition), fried so that the cheese melts. It´s an all-time favorite and one of the few Mexican food options for vegetarians, also great with champignons.
TIP: Mexicans love barbecues. If you end up at one by chance, try Quesadillas with Guacamole and grilled beef, it´s incredible. It´s one of those things if they there I won´t be able to stop eating.
Raw shrimps in spicy chili, lime sauce usually served with Tostadas. It´s one of my favorite Mexican dishes! Be careful though, this one can be REALLY spicy.
Originally coming from Peru (this is the official version, during my travels in South America I heard many nationalities arguing it was theirs and it´s served all over the place), this is the simplest and best of all Mexican snacks in my opinion. It’s raw, shredded fish in lime with cilantro, onion and often tomato. In Mexico also served with or on a tostada, it’s one of the dishes that goes very well with European taste, everybody liked it!
Sweet Street Food
Translated this means “fatty”. It seems like Mexicans liked that name because they call all kind of stuff “gordita”. The one I’m referring to here, is sweet, grilled corn dough often topped with jam or Nutella but also served pure.
They come in different sizes and while I thought the big ones were just too much of not-that-exceptional-tasting dough, the small ones are a nice snack for in-between.
Mexicans don’t seem to be very creative with their names because “buñuelo” again refers to two different snacks, this time they are both sweet though.
One of them are fried bowls of sweet dough, similar to doughnuts in taste. The other one is something that seems a little more Mexican to me because guess what it´s made of: exactly, tacos! It´s basically a fried taco covered in a lot of sugar. It´s good, but I would recommend to share it.
TIP: If you are in Mexico City, you can try buñuelo among many other traditional Mexican sweets in “Dulcería de Celaya”, a really cute and apparently the oldest sweets shop in Mexico.
So, this one is something you might rather imagine in my “Mexican food you want to avoid” blogpost in the first place: Nutella and salty cheese in a sweet, crunchy wrap with a taste very comparable to an ice cream cone.
Try it, I think you are not going to regret it. I personally got a big fan to be honest.
(You find it all over Mexico, but especially on the Yucatan peninsula you cannot miss the “Marquesita motorbikes”. Marquesitas are a very popular snack there, especially in the evening.)
Nieve de Garrafa
Believe it or not, nieve goes back to the Aztecs. It´s basically shredded ice with different flavors, very comparable to our ice cream. It comes in a great variety of different tastes, it´s cold and it´s sweet. The special thing about nieve though, is the way it´s kept cold: not with electricity, but with a mixture of ice and salt that´s put into a wooden tank.
TIP: The best nieve I tried in Mexico (and apparently as well the most famous one) is found in Guadalajara in the artisanal town of Tlaquepaque.
For those who don´t know them: Churros are basically long, thin pieces of fried dough covered in sugar often enjoyed with chocolate.
Although some Mexicans admit this is truly coming from Spain, most of them will proudly call it “traditionally Mexican”. I didn´t really see any difference to the Churros that are still found all over Spain, but wherever they are from, they are compelling, I think.
Your mouth is watering but you think if you want to try all of this, you will have double the weight once you return back home? Don´t worry, I have a solution for you!
All over Mexico one of the most common street foods are fruits! Amazing, fresh and sweet tropical fruits prepared to eat them right away for prices you would wish to find them in a supermarket back home. There´s an endless number of stands selling all kind of fruits, usually for about 0.50€-1€ for a big cup. You can combine the different fruits individually.
Funfact: In Mexico cucumber seems to be considered a fruit. You get it along with mangos, pineapples and papaya. Other countries, other manners.
Something that probably doesn´t neatly go under the title “streetfood” but I still want to mention at this point, are the sweets you can buy in supermarkets and with some street vendors.
Most of the Mexican sweets are a weird, sticky mix of chili, sugar and lemon with too much of every ingredient. The majority of us didn´t like that, but if you want to try it, just search for something saying “Tamarindo” or even simpler: something red.
Besides that, there are some few Mexican sweets that even Europeans (and I personally) like. I recommend trying:
- Cocadas: Basically coconut mixed with sugar and Milk (or simply with “Lechera”, which comprises both) until it gets a sweet, sticky mass. My favourite mexican dessert and one you’ll get everywhere!
- Cabra Caramel: A sticky caramel candy made of goat milk and nuts wrapped in red plastic. You get it at the pay desk of every Oxxo (minimarket in Mexico) and although it gets close to being too sweet, it was one of the things I could hardly resist once I discovered it.
- Cajeta oblea: Cajeta is a sticky caramel mass, similar to the one Snickers are filled with. This put inbetween two pieces of wafer (the thin, round piece of bread you get in churches) is “cajeta oblea”. You get it with diameters between 2 – 10cm and it´s really nice.
- Jamoncillo: As this is made from sugar, milk and nuts, it´s comparable to marzipan. You will find it in every traditional sweets store in Mexico and it´s one of things they´ll probably make you try.
Sidenote: Talking about street food, I probably need to mention the following: I only realized after a while, that many people coming to Mexico were worried, they would get sick of the food they got on the streets.
I was never worried about my health when buying there, no matter what kind of food, and I never had a problem. Anyways, you should be aware of it and we were advised to go to a crowded and clean stand if it´s about meat or fish.
Just don´t let the little risk of getting sick from the food (it could easily be from somewhere else as well!) completely keep you from trying things. If I had gotten sick from the street food at some point, I probably would have said “worth it!”. Besides, you´ll find most of the traditional Mexican dishes on the street.
You can imagine trying all this food, getting the pictures and writing this post took me a lot of time and love for food. I hope you enjoyed it and have the chance to try some of the above.
I would love to hear your feedback!
(Did I mention, I love mangos? Read more about the author.)