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10 iconic dishes to keep an eye out for in Mexico City

10 iconic dishes to keep an eye out for in Mexico City

by Olivia Bell
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Table of contents

  • 1. Tacos — back to basics
  • 2. Nopalitos — the same through the centuries
  • 3. Chicharrónes — for your keto diet
  • 4. Mole — more than just a sauce
  • 5. Tamales — delicacy in a corn husk
  • 6. Chiles en nogada — national colors on a plate
  • 7. Flans — your life sweetener
  • 8. Champurrado — a local cocoa drink
  • 9. Pozole — the soul of Mexican food
  • 10. Elote — worth every bite
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Mexico City is one of the oldest and most populated cities in the Americas, founded by indigenous people — the Aztecs. Unbelievable but true — the heritage of ancient Aztecs is still alive and can be found not only among architecture and pyramids, but also in food and drinks, sold both in the street stalls and at the top restaurants! Let’s dive into the iconic Mexican dishes that have retained their recipes through the ages.

1. Tacos — back to basics
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La Pitahaya Vegana
#3 of 403 vegetarian restaurants in Mexico City, Mexico
C. Querétaro 90, Ciudad López Mateos, State of Mexico, Mexico
Closed until tomorrow
Tacos
Tacos

Сrispy and tasty, tacos are a popular street food in Mexico and other parts of the world. The dish consists of small tortillas topped with meat, beans, cheese, and vegetables.

It’s impossible to imagine Mexicans without their vitamin T — tacos, tlacoyos, tlayudas… But let’s get back to basics. It all started with a hand-sized tortilla made with corn or wheat flour and topped with a filling. Tacos are cooked with vegetables, beef, pork, mushrooms, beans, cheese — the variations of tacos are as many as the stars in the sky, innumerable.

Tacos are synonymous with tradition and diversity. Try as many as you may, you’ll never try them all. 

You can buy tacos from street vendors and at modern restaurants like La Pitahaya Vegana. 

2. Nopalitos — the same through the centuries 
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Quintonil
#1 of 48438 restaurants in Mexico City, Mexico
Av. Isaac Newton 55, Ciudad López Mateos, State of Mexico, Mexico
Closed until tomorrow

Nopales are just Opuntia cactus leaves, which have been used as food in Mexico since Aztec times. The salad with nopales has a variety of forms and flavors — it may be used as a standalone appetizer and be served with tomatoes, cheese, and avocado. Cactus pads are really nutritious and aromatic. When grilled, they taste grassy and remind some people a bit of asparagus. 

Don’t miss a chance to try Nopal Salad at Quintonil and get in touch with the most ancient Mexican dish! 

3. Chicharrónes — for your keto diet
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Carmela y Sal
#56 of 25878 restaurants in Ciudad López Mateos, Mexico
Torre Virreyes, Calle Pedregal N.24 Del. Miguel Hidalgo, Ciudad López Mateos, State of Mexico, Mexico
Closed until 1PM
Chicharrón
Chicharrón

Chicharrón is a dish made from the fried pork skin. Sometimes, it can be cooked with chicken, lamb or beef. These are usually eaten with tostones, especially the chicken variant.

First things first, chicharrónes are salty, savory and crunchy pork rinds, or simply fried pig skin. Before getting onto your plate, the dried pork rinds spent a few minutes in a fryer where they transform into crunchy delicious snacks. They can have salty, spicy, and sweet flavors, and they can be served with opuntia leaves or vegetables. Due to their usefulness and nutritional value, chicharrónes became an excellent collagen protein source and have gotten extremely popular among keto and gluten-free diet followers all over the world.

Don’t miss your extra dose of protein here at Carmel y Sal!

4. Mole — more than just a sauce
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Pasillo de Humo
#461 of 16665 Mexican restaurants in Mexico City, Mexico
Av Nuevo León 107, Ciudad López Mateos, State of Mexico, Mexico
Open until 7PM

Yes, "mole" is a name for a thick sauce but there’s no one recipe for it. Actually, there are thousands of moles in Mexico, and every chef has his own variety of ingredients. Despite this diversity, most moles include nuts or seeds, chili peppers, and dried spices. Some of them also contain dried or fresh fruit. By the way, did you know that guacamole is technically a type of mole made from avocados? 

The most traditional way to use mole is as an addition to dishes, for example, to enchiladas, rice or meat at Pasillo de Humo. 

5. Tamales — delicacy in a corn husk
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Restaurante Rosetta
#2 of 48438 restaurants in Mexico City, Mexico
Colima 166, Ciudad López Mateos, State of Mexico, Mexico
Closed until tomorrow
Tamales
Tamales

It's specially prepared corn dough masa with a filling of meat with a spicy sauce. And all this is collapsed into the leaves of corn cobs.

Tamales are a delicate treat that contains meat, cheese or veggies baked in a steamed cornmeal dough with a savory or sweet taste. This snack is cooked in a corn husk or banana leaves, which protect the dish from open flames and seal juices inside. Simple but delicious tamales can be found all around Mexico, from street vendors to top restaurants, keep an eye out for this delicacy! 

One of the best places to try it is Rosetta, a cozy restaurant in an old mansion surrounded by greenery.  

6. Chiles en nogada — national colors on a plate
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El Cardenal
#8587 of 48438 restaurants in Mexico City, Mexico
C. de la Palma 23, Mexico City, Mexico
Open until 6:30PM

These poblano peppers stuffed with meat, covered in walnut sauce and garnished with pomegranate seeds are traditionally cooked on Independence Day. Green chili, white sauce, and red pomegranate resemble the colors of the Mexican flag and will inspire you with a touch of patriotism for this incredible country. If you are looking for a worthy Instagrammable fare, chiles en nogada won’t disappoint you with its photogenic look.

Try it at El Cardenal — one of the most famous restaurants in Mexico City.

7. Flans — your life sweetener
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La Casa de Toño en Zona Rosa
#22 of 16665 Mexican restaurants in Mexico City, Mexico
Londres 144, Ciudad López Mateos, State of Mexico, Mexico
Open until 11PM
Flan
Flan

Flan is a standard dessert in Spain and Portugal. This dessert is made of eggs, sugar, milk and other ingredients and poured with caramel.

Mexican flans are an absolute must-try dessert with a creamy custard base covered in a thick caramel sauce. They have a silky texture similar to cheesecake or panna cotta, but with a unique mouthfeel. Traditionally, chefs bake flans in a boiling water bath to achieve the splendid souffle texture which melts in your mouth. Once you try a flan, then you’ll eat it all the time during your vacation. 

Try out one of the best flans around Mexico City at La Casa de Toño.

8. Champurrado — a local cocoa drink
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Chocolatería La Rifa
#13 of 5841 cafeterias in Mexico City, Mexico
C. Dinamarca 47, Mexico City, Mexico
Open until 9PM
Hot chocolate
Hot chocolate

Hot chocolate, also known as hot cocoa or drinking chocolate, is a heated drink that consists of melted chocolate or cocoa powder, warm milk, and usually sugar. Hot chocolate may be topped with whipped cream or marshmallows.

It is made with local chocolate, milk, hot water, vanilla, cinnamon and a little bit of corn flour which makes the drink creamy and thick. Due to the chemical composition of authentic chocolate, this drink uplifts your spirit, gives joy and has aphrodisiac properties, which are likely to empower your natural charisma. Because of its texture, every sip of champurrado is so creamy, filling and satisfying, and it can be used as a nutritious meal replacement if you don’t have time for a full lunch. 

Chocolatería La Rifa makes chocolate from cacao beans and applies it to fantastic desserts and drinks!

9. Pozole — the soul of Mexican food
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El Pozole de Moctezuma
#11 of 16665 Mexican restaurants in Mexico City, Mexico
Moctezuma 12, Mexico City, Mexico
Closed until tomorrow
Pozole
Pozole

Pozole is a spicy stew made with pork, hominy, onion, garlic, radishes, avocado, salsa and red chiles. This savory and hearty soup is a traditional Mexican dish.

Known since the pre-Columbian era, this soup has proven its right for existence. The ingredients are simple: hominy with any kind of meat, lettuce or cabbage, chili peppers, avocado, and plenty of herbs and spices. From state to state, the recipe may differ, but you’ll definitely recognize it due to the hominy basis. Traditionally pozole is stewed for hours, often overnight, and it is very nutritious and rich. It’s a true vitamin bomb for everyone who’s feeling sick or hungover. 

Visit the 75-year-old restaurant El Pozole de Moctezuma for the most exquisite pozole in the city!

10. Elote — worth every bite
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Saks Polanco
#827 of 16665 Mexican restaurants in Mexico City, Mexico
11560 Campos Eliseos, Lamartine 133, Ciudad López Mateos, State of Mexico, Mexico
Open until 11:30PM

Elote is grilled or boiled corn on the cob with cotija cheese, chili powder, lime juice and mayo on the top. It’s popular street food in Mexico and though the recipe may seem too simple to a foodie, still give this snack a chance! The mayo on the top absorbs the flavor of spices and it gives an incredible milky accent to corn’s kernels together with hard, salty cheese. Plenty of top restaurants have elote on their menu, and sometimes serve it in a form of salad or even a dessert.  

If you’re looking for something more gourmet than just grilled corn, take el panqué de elote at Saks Polano —  a delicious fluffy cupcake made from corn!

Enjoy your trip to Mexico City with this gastronomic guide and remember that tacos are never too much.

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