23 Essential Mexican Recipes for the Ultimate Cinco de Mayo

Start with chilaquiles for breakfast, end with a tres leches midnight snack

When it comes to Cinco de Mayo, a holiday that commemorates Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War in 1862, we like to celebrate with more than margaritas. (Okay yes, margaritas too.) But the bold, bright flavors of authentic Mexican cuisine are worth planning a menu around.

Here’s a menu for our best authentic Mexican recipes—not just taco recipes, but also salsa-drenched Mexican breakfasts and Mexican dessert recipes that always wins over a crowd. Like a challenge? Try making your own masa by hand. And of course, break out the tequila—it wouldn’t be a Cinco de Mayo fiesta without it.

A primal experience is how eating a shank feels. That may go a ways in understanding how this dish has been my most popular for years now. This dish has also had the most impact on how I cook.Years ago while going from market to market in central Mexico I was talking to the ladies in the fondas and I had been making an Adobo for some time now, as I was talking to one Dona and asking about what made her adobo so special she asked how I would make one, after sharing the basics of my recipe she told me I was overcomplicating the sauce and the only way to make something better would be to make it a simpler way. I guess you could call it a lightbulb moment, that afternoon I learned more about my cooking than I had learned in my life and from that day on I have tried to make food that was simple yet elegant using the best ingredients and giving them a chance to shine. Get the recipe for Lamb Adobo »

Grilled Mexican-Style Street Corn

Chef Chris Shepherd’s take on Mexican-style street corn is served off the cob and comes together easily for a side dish that is especially great for summer entertaining, when corn is in season. Get the recipe for Grilled Mexican-Style Street Corn »

Brisket Tacos

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 »

Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup (Sopa Azteca)

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) »

Tacos de Papa Hwy 99 (Potato Tacos)

Inspired by the potato tacos at Loncheria Otro Rollo in Bakersfield, these Tacolicious versions are stuffed with fluffy mashed potatoes and pan-fried until crisp. The accompanying smoky ranchero sauce also would be great as an accompaniment for meat or fish or spooned over eggs. Get the recipe for Tacos de Papa Hwy 99 (Potato Tacos) »

Oaxacan Red Chile Enchiladas (Enchiladas de Chile Ajo)

These classic Oaxacan-style enchiladas are stuffed with chicken and doused in a sweet chile-and-garlic sauce. Get the recipe for Oaxacan Red Chile Enchiladas (Enchiladas de Chile Ajo) »

Real Deal Ignacio-Style Nachos

A balance of pickly, salty, cheesy, and crisp, this recipe—inspired by the original—proves that simple is preferable when it comes to nachos. When deep-frying your own tortillas, look for soft tortillas made with all corn (and no flour) for the crunchiest results. Get the recipe for Real Deal Ignacio-Style Nachos »

Arroz a la Mexicana (Mexican-Style Red Rice)

This classic Mexican rice, embellished with tomatoes, serrano chiles, and peas, is a versatile side dish for all kinds of meat and vegetable main dishes. See the recipe for Arroz a la Mexicana »

Mango Ice (Raspado de Mango)

This refreshing frozen treat, made from bottled or fresh mango juice, is a Mexican version of granita.

Posole Verde

This is a dish common to parts of southern Mexico. Posole is something of a Mexican analogue to ramen; but instead of noodles, posole uses hominy. Get the recipe for Posole Verde »

Posole Rojo

Traditionally this dish is part of many celebrations of life in Mexico as well as US border towns from birthdays to weddings to large family gatherings. When it’s made at home or for a party it is best to serve it family style. Posole can remain in the stockpot and be served directly from it with the accompaniments at the table where guests, friends and family can add as much or as little of the ingredients as they please. Get the recipe for Posole Rojo »

Chilaquiles

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 »

Yucatán-Style Shredded Pork Tacos with Achiote (Cochinita Pibil Tacos)

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. See the Recipe for Cochinita Pibil Tacos »

Corn Tamales with Tomatillo Salsa

Get the recipe for Corn Tamales with Tomatillo Salsa »

Fried Shredded Beef Empanadas

Get the recipe for Shredded Beef Empanadas »

Hatch Green Chile Enchiladas

Hatch Green Chile Enchiladas

Classic Margarita

This recipe proves that simple can be delicious. We recommend using Herradura Silver Tequila. Get the recipe for Classic Margarita »

Red Chile Enchiladas

These saucy tortillas are stuffed to the ends with different cheeses and covered in a spicy chile sauce. Get the recipe for Red Chile Enchiladas »

Classic Guacamole

Grind your cilantro, onion, and chiles into a paste before folding in mashed avocado for the deepest flavor. Get the recipe for Classic Guacamole »

Mexican Braised Spare Ribs with Squash and Corn

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 »

Frida Kahlo’s Zucchini Salad (Ensalada de Calabacín)

The recipe for this simple Mexican salad of grilled zucchini, avocado, and salty, crumbled añjeo cheese was served at a dinner party attended by Mexican composer Carlos Chávez and Nelson Rockefeller.

Tres Leches Cake

Popular throughout Latin America, this milk-soaked cake is thought to have originated in Nicaragua. Get the recipe for Tres Leches Cake »

Cilantro, Chile, and Pineapple Sangrita

This flavor-packed sipper is served alongside a neat glass of tequila at La Mezcaleria in Ajijic, Mexico. Do as many Mexicans do: A sip of tequila, a sip of sangrita—repeat, for the best experience. Get the recipe for Cilantro, Chile, and Pineapple Sangrita »