A Guide to Mexican Street Food
Street food is big – and for good reason. From Asia to Latin America, it offers an affordable way to grab a meal while enjoying local flavors. But ask any real foodie and they’ll tell you that one place tops all others when it comes to eating off the street: Mexico.
Mexico City took the top spot on Forbes’ list of the top 10 cities in the world for street food a few years ago, and it’s estimated that over half the Mexican population eats from street vendors at least once a week. In light of this, we’ve rounded up some of their most popular (and delicious) options
What it is: The quintessential Mexican street food, you’d be hard-pressed to find a community across the entire country without at least one taco vendor. Typical tacos consist of freshly pressed corn tortillas – usually double layered – topped with tender meat, diced onion, and lots of cilantro. There are usually a handful of salsa options to choose from – and choose wisely, because at least one of them will be hot.
Where to find it: Tacos can be found across all of Mexico. If you’re choosing a street vendor, watch where the locals flock and follow along!
2. Tacos envenenados
What it is: These tacos – whose name translates to ‘venomous’ – are probably unlike any you’ve had before. They’re essentially tortillas stuffed with beans, potatoes, chorizo, serrano chile, onion, cumin, and cheese, and may be served soft or crispy.
Where to find it: Tacos envenenados are found only in Zacatecas, in central Mexico.
What is it: Similar to Colombian and Venezuela arepas, gorditas are made of corn dough, stuffed with beans, cheese, and meat, and then topped with salsas and cream. They can be found around the country and make for a filling lunchtime meal.
Where to find it: Gorditas are eaten throughout Mexico, but they’re especially popular in the northern city of Torreón, where you can find vendors and restaurants selling them on just about every street.
What it is: One of the most loved street foods in Mexico City, tamales are made from corn masa that’s been formed around a filling and wrapped up, most commonly in a corn husk. Each state has its own variation of the tamal that uses local flavors and ingredients.
Where to find it: You’ll find stands selling tamales all over Mexico, though the more tropical regions (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, and the Yucatán, for example) use banana leaves in place of corn husks.
What it is: In some Spanish-speaking countries, tortas are cakes. But in Mexico, they’re giant sandwiches. Jalisco offers a particularly popular version, the torta ahogada, where pork is loaded onto birote (a Mexican-style baguette), doused in a spicy red sauce, and then topped with white onion and radishes.
Where to find it: You can find tortas around the country, with each region offering their own take. In Mexico City, stands selling tortas are especially popular around the subway.
What it is: Typical of the states on Mexico’s northern Pacific coast, aguachile is a spicy local take on ceviche. The base is literally water and chili, which is then poured over prawns, onion, chili, and cucumber and served with lime juice, salt, and cilantro.
Where to find it: Aguachile is frequently found in the states of Sonora, Sinaloa, and Nayarit.
What it is: Mexican pizza? You heard correctly. Hailing from Mexico’s culinary capital, Oaxaca, these ‘pizzas’ are made from large, crispy tortillas spread with pork lard and mole. They’re topped with meat, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and, of course, Oaxacan cheese.
Where to find it: This specialty is part of traditional Oaxacan cuisine, and you’ll find it sold at street carts and in restaurants around the region – though each does it a little differently.
What it is: Street vendors along the Riviera Maya sell these sweet treats to visitors and locals alike. They’re Edam cheese and melted Nutella-filled crispy rolled crepes, topped with – you guessed it – more Edam cheese and Nutella.
Where to find it: Marquesitas are mainly sold in Yucatán state, though they can also be found as far south as Chiapas.
What it is: The perfect late night snack, elote is basically grilled corn with a Mexican twist. It’s covered in lime-tinged cream or mayonnaise, chili, and cotija cheese. It’s just as messy as it sounds – and as delicious.
Where to find it: You’ll find elote all over Mexico, though it’s more common to see street vendors selling it at night than throughout the day.