From tacos to tamales, it's hard not to love authentic Mexican cuisine. Sure, we love a good Tex-Mex recipe as well, but let's be clear: it's a totally different beast from the authentic Mexican food found south of the border.
Mexican cuisine draws on indigenous staples like chile peppers and corn. Turn the latter into homemade masa, which can be used as a base for the best masa recipes, namely, excellent tortillas. And while tortillas can be found across the canon of Mexican cooking as the starch du jour, a drive through the country reveals that bread too has a place: the behemoth Mexican sandwiches, cemita poblana with fried cutlet, roast pork torta ahogada reminiscent of a French dips, and griddled pambazo are ubiquitous throughout Mexico. Looking for comfort food? Mexican comfort dishes are among some of the best—think hearty stews, cheesy enchiladas, and zesty soups. Mexican food is never short on flavor, but just to make sure, almost every Mexican dish comes with a side of serious sauce, from rich moles to pico de gallo and various salsas. If the spice gets to you, reach for the closest Mexican drink, like a cooling agua fresca.
These crunchy empanadas, featuring shells made with masa, lard, and salt, are filled with tender shredded beef tossed in a spicy salsa. You can prepare the masa and filling in advance, but don't fill or fry the empanadas until just before eating. Adding baking powder and using an electric mixer are two secrets to light, puffy empanada pastry. Get the recipe for Fried Shredded Beef Empanadas »
This salsa verde has a fresh, tangy sourness (and kick of heat if you like) that helps cut through richness. Get the recipe for Corn Tamales with Tomatillo Salsa »
The key to moist, flavorful tamales is not being shy about adding fat. Lard is traditional in Mexico, but you can use softened butter for vegetarian versions. Tamales are best eaten doused in salsa or hot sauce. This salsa verde has a fresh, tangy sourness (and kick of heat if you like) that helps cut through the richness of the masa. Get the recipe for Corn Tamales with Tomatillo Salsa »
Behold the glory of mashed potato-y homemade masa, building block of many Mexican favorites. Get the recipe for Homemade Masa »
These enchiladas aren't baked; they're simply drenched in a rich sauce made with fruity dried chiles, rolled, and eaten right away. Get the recipe for Enchiladas »
Roasted Hatch chiles are the most important ingredient for this recipe. You can purchase green chiles fresh or frozen online (find our favorite Hatch chile sources here), available in mild, medium and hot varieties. From July to October, some produce shops and farmers markets carry them fresh. As a substitute, use roasted Anaheim or other green chiles (but don’t tell anyone from New Mexico). Get the recipe for Hatch Green Chile Enchiladas »
This version of the classic Mexican rice-based drink, which writer Sara Deseran adapted from one at Fresno's El Mercado Super, is made with a mix of coconut milk and coconut water for a beverage that is both luxurious and refreshing. Get the recipe for Coconut Horchata »
Every element of this taco—inspired by those at Don Pepe Taqueria in Fresno—is amped up, from the red rice simmered in a blend of chicken stock and puréed tomatoes to the quick-marinated shrimp. Use large flour tortillas as tacos or wrap them into a burrito. Get the recipe for Shrimp Tacos »
A homemade Mexican spice rub adds a gentle heat to the chicken and peppers in this uncomplicated dish. Get the recipe for Chicken Quesadillas »
This simple pasilla chile- and tomato-based soup is ladled onto tortilla chips and topped with creamy avocado, jack cheese, and tangy Mexican crema. Get the recipe for Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup (Sopa Azteca) »
Grind your cilantro, onion, and chiles into a paste before folding in mashed avocado for the deepest flavor. Get the recipe for Classic Guacamole »
Alex Stupak's shrimp version of the Mexican classic is a delicious play on the ultimate beginner's sausage. Get the recipe for Shrimp and Chorizo Sausage »
Requeson (Mexican ricotta) and a variety of other Mexican cheeses to make these craveable croquettes. Serve them with a sweet and smoky chipotle-honey salsa. Get the recipe for Mexican Ricotta Croquettes »
Avocado is an unlikely but delicious pairing for smoked whitefish, and this guacamole is a smokier, creamier spin on classic whitefish salad. Get the recipe for Whitefish Guacamole »
Rough-chopped and served on fresh, homemade tortillas is New York City chef Julian Medina's way of showcasing brisket. Get the recipe for Brisket Tacos »
Braise pork ribs with a homey, vegetable-rich sauce with a touch of heat, and use the leftovers for tacos. This is a classic recipe from Mexican cooking sage Josefina Velázquez de León. Get the recipe for Mexican Braised Spare Ribs with Squash and Corn »
What do you make with a lot of leftover tortillas? Not just tortilla soup, but how about tortilla dumplings? These dumplings, from Mexican cooking sage Josefina Velázquez de León, get pan-seared, then simmered in a rich cream of tomato soup. Get the recipe for Masa Ball and Tomato Soup »
This pibil recipe, inspired by one used at Chando's in Sacramento and prepared in a Dutch oven, pops with earthy achiote paste and citrus juices, yielding a luscious, spicy pulled pork. Get the recipe for Yucatán-Style Shredded Pork Tacos with Achiote (Cochinita Pibil Tacos) »
A staple in New Mexico, this pork stew gets its flavor from an earthy, sweet chile powder available at most Mexican specialty stores.
A low-and-slow cooking technique used for this birria, which colloquially means “a mess,” ensures that the meat is fork-tender and the tomatillo broth infused with a rich, meaty flavor. Swap pork for goat, if you prefer. Get the recipe for Jalisco-Style Goat Stew (Goat Birria) »
This salsa is spicy—use it sparingly!—as any serious salsa should be. Its flavor is all chili and garlic, and does well atop nachos, burritos, and eggs. If you're feeling daring, go for big scoops with your favorite bag of tortilla chips. Get the recipe for Chile de Arbol Salsa »
The heat of this deep-red ancho chile soup and its pasilla chile garnish is balanced by the addition of cooling crema and thinly sliced avocado. Get the recipe for Ancho Chile Soup with Avocado, Crema, and Chile Pasilla (Sopa de Chile Ancho) »
Inspired by Mexican street vendors who artfully carve and serve mangos on sticks, this recipe ups the ante with cilantro leaves and shaved coconut. Get the recipe for Mango with Cilantro, Coconut, and Chile Powder »
Canned chipotle chiles and chorizo are two of the ingredients that distinguish this central Mexican version of chilaquiles from other regional styles of the dish. Get the recipe for Chilaquiles »
This quick breakfast dish is made a la Mexicana with red tomatoes, white onions, and green jalapeños, ingredients that mirror the colors of the Mexican flag. Get the recipe for Mexican Scrambled Eggs »
Hearty and filling, this easy chicken stew gets its signature smoky flavor from chipotles in adobo. Get the recipe for Chicken and Potato Stew (Guisada al Pollo) »
This creamy, rich soup is a favorite in Mexico City. In summer it's usually chilled like a vichyssoise, but it's also served hot, especially in the cooler months. Get the recipe for Chilled Mexican Potato and Leek Soup (Sopa de Poro y Papa) »
The Gonzalez family in Las Cruces, near El Paso, makes enchiladas similar to these using an old family recipe. Get the recipe for Red Chile Enchiladas »
This creamy all-purpose salsa is great on tacos filled with carnitas or grilled cactus.
This fruity-spicy southeast Mexico staple is ideal on enchiladas or huevos rancheros.
Toasting dried chiles until they're brown and brittle creates a dark, smoky salsa that complements robust meats such as lamb and goat.
This smooth peanut sauce, a take on a traditional salsa from Chiapas, is delicious spooned on roast chicken or shrimp.
These tacos are stuffed with cumin-spiced potatoes and fried until they're crunchy.
Lighter and simpler than the nut-enriched moles of Puebla and Oaxaca, this Zacatecan version is made with fresh tomatillos, cilantro, jalapeños, and garlic.
Squash blossoms bring color and a light texture to this fresh vegetable stew. It's great served with warm corn tortillas.
This slow-cooked stew of pork, chiles, and peppery purslane is best eaten with warm flour tortillas.
The secret to this soup is a flavorful aromatic base of tomatoes, garlic, and onions—called a recado—that is pureed and fried before the beans go into the pot.
Roasted garlic adds sweet depth to this classic green salsa, best served over steak, tacos, or rice and beans.
Try this tart, cooked salsa, a contemporary creation by Roberto Santibañez, spooned over seafood.
Red onions soak up the flavors of oregano and cumin in this classic pickle relish.
Pineapple's firm texture and sweet-tart tang is perfect for salsa and an ideal foil for rich meats.
This earthy roasted salsa is traditionally pounded to a smooth paste in a molcajete, but a food processor works just as well.
This Acapulco-inspired pico de gallo gets a briny boost from olives and capers. Serve it spooned over grilled fish or chicken.
These savory gorditas stuffed with chile-spiced scrambled eggs make a great breakfast meal or afternoon snack.
Margarita Morales of Fresnillo, Zacatecas, shared the recipe for these crisp, bean-filled snacks.
Leftovers from these soupy pinto beans can be used to stuff Gorditas Zacatecanas.
Slow-cooked, extra-tender beef brisket is tossed with lime, chiles, herbs, and cheese, then topped with avocado slices for an incredible taco filling.
We've tried many roasting methods over the years, but the one Susana Trilling uses to make the chile-rubbed turkey she serves at her Thanksgiving feast in Oaxaca, Mexico, really stands out. An hour into roasting, Trilling flips the turkey so that the breast is on the bottom. The result is juicy white meat and meltingly tender legs and thighs.
This piquant, aromatic rice dish is a fun way to spice up your Thanksgiving dinner.
A flip through any cookbook from the early or mid-20th century will reveal a bevy of shimmering, molded gelatin treats like this one, made with peaches and cream cheese.
The smoky flavor of this side dish from Oaxaca-based cook Susana Trilling comes from charring the onions before adding them to a spice-infused cream sauce.
Adding beer to the batter helps the fish for these tacos fry up golden brown and lightly crispy.
This recipe for huevos rancheros comes from La Abeja, a restaurant on LA's east side.
The key to making this Mexican street-food and market-vendor snack is to char the corn on the grill and then brush it with mayonnaise so that the cheese, cilantro, and chile powder adhere to the kernels.
This simple refried beans recipe requires little more than pinto beans and chorizo.
Tiny, ring-shaped butter cookies like these are a popular holiday treat in Mexico. They're typically decorated with chocolate sprinkles, but green, red, and white ones transform them into festive Christmas wreaths. Get the recipe for Mexican Butter Cookies with Sprinkles (Galletas con Chochitos) »
Charred tomatoes and chiles add a deep smoky note to the salsa for these fresh fish tacos—either flounder or halibut works well.
Mexico's overstuffed cemita poblana brims with queso blanco, chipotle, pepper, avocado, papalo and crisp milanesa (a fried cutlet).
This popular Mexican sandwich from the state of Jalisco is filled with crisp roast pork, then "drowned" in a spicy chile de árbol sauce.
These salsa-dunked and griddled sandwiches, an iconic Mexico City street food, are named for the pambazos—soft, oval rolls—they're typically made with. Telera and kaiser rolls make fine substitutes.
The bolillo, a French-style crusty white bread roll from Mexico, is the traditional foundation of this comforting dish, but a kaiser or most any other sandwich roll will work well.
Similar to tortilla soup, this version is sour from lots of whole limes in the broth and garnish; roasted habañero chiles add smokey heat to this bright soup.
This vibrant rice is served with virtually every meal in Zacatecas.
This sumptuous stew makes a satisfying supper when paired with Mexican rice, pinto beans, and tortillas.
We love the combination of spicy ancho chile powder with sweet-sour tamarind.
Sweetened condensed milk, rice, vanilla, and cinnamon combine for this frozen take on rice pudding.
With just two ingredients—puréed pineapple and sugar—these paletas are unbelievably simple to assemble.
The flavor of ripe summer strawberries is front and center in these creamy treats, which are brightened with just a touch of fresh lemon juice. Get the recipe for Strawberries and Cream Ice Pops (Paletas de Fresas y Crema) »
A unique blend of mango, lemon juice, and ancho chile powder makes up one of our favorite Mexican treats.
Creamy and sweet, this recipe is a far cry from traditional horchata—his is almost like a dessert, and equally good served hot or cold.
Toasted rice horchata is traditionally served in the Mexican state of Campeche. Surprisingly clean and refreshing in flavor, it's an ideal thirst quencher on a hot day.
The horchata originally came to Mexico via the Spaniards, who called it Agua or horchata de chufa and made it with tiger nuts.
Cantaloupe seeds, usually discarded, make a refreshing drink when ground with water. Cubes of cantaloupe are a great garnish.
We recommend using any fruit that's in season for this sweet, vibrantly-colored, non-traditional horchata—the riper and juicier the better.
When apricots are in season, use them to make this velvety-rich version of horchata. You can also substitute peaches or nectarines—when it's not stone fruit season, the fresh-frozen variety work just as well.
This drink takes its ruby color from blackberry liqueur.