By Melanie Fincher

Feliz Navidad!

Mexican food comes from a diverse blend of cultures. It's highly influenced by European cooking, particularly that of Spain, while still retaining its roots in Mesoamerican cooking. So it's no surprise to anyone that food is at the center of the holiday season in Mexico.

Photo by mauigirl

The festivities kick off on Dec. 16th, with the start of Las Posadas, which commemorates the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Buena Noche, or Christmas Eve, is the final day of Las Posadas, and is often a bigger celebration than Christmas Day for many Mexican families. A traditional family dinner is enjoyed late on Christmas Eve, and the leftovers are saved for Christmas Day. While what is considered "tradition" varies by region, culture, and family—these 15 Mexican Christmas dishes are commonly found on dinner tables across Mexico and beyond.

Drinks

There are two classic Mexican drinks that will warm you from the inside out during the winter months: champurrado and ponche. Champurrado is the chocolate version of atole, which is a hot, thick drink made from corn dough and milk, dating back to Aztec times. Ponche is Mexican fruit punch, which is served hot and loaded with fruits including oranges, apples, pears, and tejocotes—a bright yellow fruit native to Mexico. Both are especially popular during the holiday season.

1. Champurrado

Reviewer l.a.lady says "This was fantastic, nice and thick as I remember. You can substitute cinnamon sticks for ground and brown sugar for the piloncillo or panels. Wonderful!"

Photo by Yoly

2. Mexican Christmas Punch (Ponche Navideno)

"This traditional Mexican fruit punch is spiked with rum and best served during the Christmas season. Garnish each mug with a fresh hibiscus flower and sugar cane (or cinnamon) stick," says recipe creator FOODBEAST.

Photo by FOODBEAST

Meat Mains

Although Turkey is native to Mexico, pork tends to be the meat of choice for many Mexicans. The dish is often served spicy, using chili powder or chili pepper sauce. But depending on family tradition, turkey and even carne asada may be served for Christmas. Add some spice to your life with these Mexican-inspired recipes.

3. Spicy Pork Tenderloin

"The spice flavor was fantastic—so much better than the pre-seasoned pork tenderloins that are so popular in the grocery stores nowadays," says reviewer KIMALLI1.

Photo by DebDawson

4. Chipotle Crusted Pork Tenderloin

"Certainly not for the faint of heart. Or lips for that matter. That said, we loved it...An incredibly memorable meal, and one that will definitely be repeated," says reviewer Table for Two.

5. Taqueria Style Tacos - Carne Asada

"This is a great recipe for authentic Mexican taqueria-style carne asada tacos (beef tacos). These are served on the soft corn tortillas, unlike the American version of tacos," says recipe creator STANICKS.

Photo by mauigirl

Tamales

You won't find a Mexican holiday celebration without tamales! Although they can be enjoyed year-round, they're rather labor-intensive and time-consuming, making them an extra special treat for the holidays. There are a wide variety of fillings to choose from whether it's pork, beef, cheese, or chicken.

6. Real Homemade Tamales

"Tamales are a Christmas tradition here and these are the real deal. I got raves on mine this year from our friends that we gave a dozen to...Took a bit of work, but was simple to do, and worth the time," says reviewer ~TxCin~ILove2Ck.

Photo by pelicangal

7. Tamales de Puerco (Red Pork Tamales)

Recipe creator mega says, "This authentic red pork tamales recipe comes from Jalisco, Mexico. The tamales are filled with pork shoulder and a spicy tomato sauce."

Photo by mega

8. Poblano and Cheese Tamales (Tamales de Rajas con Queso)

"This authentic Mexican recipe for homemade tamales is straight from Mexico. Tamales are stuffed with a spicy tomatillo sauce with poblano chiles and cheese—delicious! In Mexico, Chihuahua or Oaxaca cheese is used, but those cheeses are hard to find here, so you can substitute with Monterey Jack," says recipe creator cocinaidentidad.

Photo by Pam

Soups and Stews

9. Bacalao a la Vizcaina (Basque Style Codfish Stew)

Although this is a Puerto Rican variation, Bacalao is a Spanish dish that became popular in many Spanish-speaking countries, including Mexico. Recipe creator Milly Sauzo-Martinez says, "This Spanish-style fish stew from the Basque region of Spain is a traditional peasant dish popular in all Spanish-speaking countries (where each has given it their special twist). For example, in Mexico it is usually made for Christmas, New Year's Eve, and Lent."

Photo by LatinaCook

10. Pozole in a Slow Cooker

Recipe creator Isabel describes this as, "Easy, authentic Mexican Pozole. You will be glad you took the time. You can make ahead of time and freeze the pork to keep until you're ready to make dinner. Serve with chopped white onion, cilantro, shredded cabbage, lime wedges, and corn tortillas or tostadas."

11. Posole Soup

Although traditionally posole is made with a pig's head, this variation from recipe creator Bryan B uses pork loin instead.

Photo by Melisa

12. Birria Recipe

This Mexican beef stew is tradition for many families on Christmas Eve. "This is as authentic as it can get— Sonoran Birria, we make it like this all the time especially for family gatherings," says reviewer jhoana.

Photo by Marcela Mariscal

Desserts

Of course a Mexican Christmas dinner isn't complete without dessert, and three of the most commonly served Mexican Christmas include bunuelos, marranitos, and rosca de reyes.

13. Bunuelos

Bunuelos is a Spanish dish that became a popular holiday food in Mexico. They are large rounds of fried dough covered in cinnamon sugar. "I remember white table cloths everywhere with bunuelos drying and then ready to fry. The cinnamon and sugar aroma in the air...My mom's were the best and this recipe is it. She always made from scratch and I am pleased to now have the recipe," says reviewer rarivera.

Photo by Grace Garcia

14. Marranitos (Mexican Pig-Shaped Cookies)

These pig-shaped cookies are commonly found in Mexican bakeries, and are made from sweet bread and flavored with molasses. Recipe creator nmcowgirl says, "Marranitos (or cochinos, or puerquitos, as they are called in some Mexican-American communities) are often called 'Gingerbread Pigs,' although they don't actually have ginger in them—and no cinnamon either. In fact, traditional marranitos get their delicious spicy-brown goodness from molasses. This recipe is a trans-pecos region variation, it uses the non-traditional addition of cinnamon."

15. Rosca de Reyes

This red and green sweet bread is traditionally served on Kings' Day in Mexico (Jan. 6th), but begins showing up in Mexican bakeries around Christmas. Rosca de Reyes directly translates to "Kings' Wreath." Recipe creator repostera says, "This traditional holiday Mexican bread is a bit time-consuming, but absolutely worth the effort."

Photo by repostera
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