15 Best Mexican Street Food Recipes
Carts, bicycles, trucks, shanties and stalls steam and bustle with the making of fabulous street food throughout Mexico. More than half of the country’s population indulges in al fresco offerings, because they are deliciously irresistible. In fact, in Spanish, this roadside fare is dubbed antojitos, meaning “little cravings.” The message is clear: These tasty bites hit the spot so satisfyingly well, that you’ll be left with a craving for more. From tacos, tamales, sandwiches, and even hearty stews to pastries, popsicles, and fresh fruit juices—Mexican street cuisine earns its acclaim as one of the best street-food scenes in the world. But you don’t have to cross the border to enjoy these dishes. Make one of these authentic street food recipes!
Tamarind Agua Fresca
A refreshing blend of fruit and water, agua fresca has its roots in Aztec civilization, when travelers between rural farms and the capital Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) muddled fruit and water to stay hydrated on the long journey. Today, it’s a staple of Mexican street food, coming in all manner of fruity flavors, like tamarind—a popular ingredient throughout the country, beloved for its tart yet sweet flavor.
Bionicos (Mexican Fruit Bowls)
Street vendors sell this healthy breakfast dish of fresh fruit topped with crema, a mixture of Mexican crema, yogurt, and sweetened condensed milk. “They originated in street food carts in Guadalajara, Mexico, and are commonly topped with shredded coconut, raisins, and granola," says Yoly.
Authentic Tacos al Pastor
Writings from 16th Century Mexico City document the Spanish conquistadors, led by Hernando Cortes, treating European captains to a taco feast. Now beloved across the world, tacos are perhaps the most famous Mexican street food. “Tacos al pastor is a quintessential Mexican dish with tender pork and pineapple marinated in a savory and aromatic chile sauce,” says docmancito, who suggests serving in warm corn tortillas with tomatillo salsa.
Tamales de Puerco (Red Pork Tamales)
Tamales originated in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 BC and were considered a sacred food of the gods by the Aztec, Maya, Olmeca, and Tolteca civilizations. Masa dough is filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables or chilies and steamed in a corn husk. “This authentic red pork tamales recipe comes from Jalisco, Mexico,” says Mega. “The tamales are filled with pork shoulder and a spicy tomato sauce.”
Mexican Corn on the Cob (Elote)
A staple of Mayan cuisine, corn has been enjoyed for centuries. But across Mexico these days, the choice corn is known as elote, which is grilled or boiled corn on the cob smothered in butter, mayonnaise, cotija cheese, and lime juice. Some eloteros, or people selling elote from carts, also throw salt and spices for an added kick!
This traditional Mexican dish has unique regional variations. Every sope is anchored by a thick fried-masa base. Regional Mexican versions have their own signature toppings, but you can create your own one-of-a-kind sope with your favorite combination of Mexican-style meats, vegetables, refried beans, cheeses, lettuce, salsa, and sour cream.
The conquistadors introduced this traditional Spanish and Portuguese fried pastry to Latin America. Coated in cinnamon-sugar and traditionally served with chocolate for dipping, Mexican street-style churros are also often filled with dulce de leche, chocolate, or other sweet fillings.
Authentic Mexican Torta - Tortas Ahogadas
Torta is a Mexican sandwich served on a white sub-style roll and filled with any number of meats, eggs, and other toppings and condiments. Torta ahogada, meaning “drowned sandwich,” is a Guadalajaran version of the torta, filled with pulled pork smothered in a savory red sauce.
Papas Rellenas (Fried Stuffed Potatoes)
Perhaps created to counter the effects of mezcal-laden revelry, this potato croquette—first stuffed with meat, cheese, and spices, then fried—is a fabulously addictive bite. Some are served with creamy or spicy dipping sauces. Whether you’re enjoying it solo on the sidewalk or with friends at a party, papas rellenas are a hit!
Chef John's Horchata
Horchata, a tiger nut-based milk, originated in 13th-century Valencia and found its way to Latin America, where it evolved to be made with rice, almonds, cinnamon, sugar, and sometimes vanilla—but no milk. “When it comes to delicious, unique, and refreshing summer drinks, it's hard to beat horchata,” says Chef John.
Birria de Chivo Estilo Jalisco (Mexican Braised Goat)
The iconic Jaliscan dish, birria, is a spicy stew of beef or goat. “The goat meat is marinated in a sauce with ancho chiles and spices, then slowly braised until soft,” says HildaM. Across Mexico, the stew can be found at birrierias, or street carts that serve birria, where it is served with any combination of corn tortillas, refried beans, onion, cilantro, lime, and hot sauce.
Conchas (Mexican Sweet Bread)
Pastries are a prevalent Mexican street food often enjoyed as breakfast or a snack, and conchas are among the most popular. Named for their conch-shell-like appearance, this sweetbread roll is topped with a crunchy outer crust of sugar, butter, and flour.
Pozole in a Slow Cooker
Since the Aztecs considered maize a sacred food, they made a chile-pepper-laced hominy-and-pork stew for a religious communion ritual, and ever since, it has been used to mark special occasions. But this stew is so beloved that you can also find it from a street vendor on any ordinary day too. Serve with your choice of chopped white onion, shredded lettuce or cabbage, sliced radish, avocado, limes, corn tortilla, tostadas, chicharrón, or chiles.
In early 1940, Ignacio Alcázar, a native of Michoacán, discovered ice pops during a visit to the US. He returned to Mexico and made his own paletas using fresh fruit, and the treat is now considered a national food. Uniquely Mexican flavors include horchata, tamarind, chili pepper, and avocado—like this recipe, which Danielle Walquist Lynch describes as “so creamy and delicious!”
Corn in a Cup (Elote en Vaso)
Also known as esquites, or elote off-the-cob, this “corn in a cup” is just as popular as elote on the street-food scene. “This is Mexican street food at its finest. Anytime I visit El Paso or Mexico the craving of elote en vaso steps into high gear,” says Muy Bueno. “The taste is sweet, crunchy, fiery, and juicy.”