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Mexican street food is both delicious and diverse, with so many different options to choose from. These dishes are sold in colorful stalls set up on the streets of towns and cities throughout the country.
Mexicans love their street food, generically called garnachas. Although most of the dishes typically contain corn, there can be a lot of variation in the ingredients used.
However, all garnachas have two things in common: they are packed with flavor, and they are very inexpensive so that Mexicans from all walks of life can enjoy them.
Next time you’re in Mexico, keep an eye (and tongue!) out for these 17 truly scrumptious foods, and eat as the locals do!
Mexican Street Food
Savory Mexican Street Food
1 – Tacos de Canasta (Basket Tacos)
These tacos consist of small, soft tortillas filled with many different fillings, including mashed potatoes, pork rinds, beans, or beef adobo.
Once cooked, vegetable oil or melted lard is poured over the tacos to soften the exterior. The tacos are finally placed in a warm basket lined with a large blue plastic sheet, ready to be eaten.
Both buttery soft and truly delicious, the tacos are served with pickled veggies, adding a welcome dash of tartness to every mouthful. Get ready to get your fingers greasy with this food – just make sure to have some napkins on hand!
Basket tacos vendors generally transport them via bicycle, with the basket attached to the back. They sometimes use a distinctive ring on their bikes, so customers can instantly recognize them.
Mexico’s favorite basket tacos drag queen, Lady Tacos de Canasta, is a Mexican muxe cook and internet celebrity well known for her singing voice when selling basket tacos.
2 – Tacos al Pastor (Shephard’s Tacos)
Traditional tacos al pastor are corn tortillas filled with pork marinated in a sauce of spices and dried chilies. The meat is then skewered and turned by hand, slowly cooked over a fire.
A skilled taquero will hold the tortilla in one hand and the knife in the other as the meat cooks. They will then quickly slice pieces of meat with the knife and catch them in the open tortilla with their other hand. Finally, pineapple is added for a Hawaiian twist!
The famous taqueria El Vilsito in Mexico City is a car repair shop by day. However, the mechanical workshop becomes a taco haven at night, when many shepherd’s tacos are served with warm tortillas to many hungry Mexicans.
3 – Tacos de Carnitas (Fried Pork Tacos)
Carnitas are cooked by frying every part of the pig, including ribs, skin, tongue, liver, and tail, in orange juice or Coca-Cola for plenty of sweetness.
Carnitas get their intense flavor by simmering the pork in its fat until it’s nice and crispy. Carnitas tacos are usually served with chopped onion, cilantro, and green or red salsa on top.
The best carnitas you can taste are those of Don Pepe’s in Morelia, Michoacan. People from all over Mexico travel to this city to taste these delicious tacos.
4 – Tacos de Buche (Maw Tacos)
Buche, the pig’s stomach, is one of the most succulent parts of the animal and is the key ingredient in these tacos, hence the name. These tacos are usually served with fresh white onion, cilantro, and hot salsa.
Maw tacos are also served with nana, a dish of pig’s uterus after it has been cleaned and cooked. This deliciously soft and salty combination is popular among Mexicans, who call it nenepil.
This dish is a favorite on Sundays. If you’re ever in Mexico City, you’ll never be far from a delicious maw taco. In fact, 95% of the city’s inhabitants have a taco restaurant within 1300 feet of their home, so you have lots of places to choose from!
5 – Tacos Dorados (Golden Tacos)
Tacos dorados are crunchy tacos consisting of a small folded tortilla typically filled with chicken, mashed potato, or beef. The tortilla is then fried until it is crispy.
The dish is often topped with sour cream, cheese, and guacamole. You can mix and match the flavors, but shredded chicken is definitely a Mexican favorite.
There’s no denying it; eating tacos dorados means getting messy! If the filling doesn’t get all over your hands, you’re not eating them right. Each and every mouthful however is truly sumptuous, so it’s definitely worth the mess!
Tacos dorados are found all over Mexico. In almost every Mexican city, you’ll find more than one stand serving them hot and fresh.
6 – Vasolote (Seasoned Corn Salad)
The vasolote (also known as esquites or elote en vaso) is a traditional salad consisting of mayonnaise, cream, grated cheese, corn, salt, and lemon. Any vasolote stand will offer a wide variety of sauces, including tamarind, cranberry, and habanero.
Soft corn grains are at the height of their flavor when enjoyed in vasolotes. Vendors will give you the choice of white (salty) or yellow (sweet) corn to have in your salad.
The vasolote derives its name from the plastic cup it is served in. Many people love to add all kinds of ingredients (like fried tortilla chips) to enjoy with the salad’s creamy texture.
You can find vasolote on most of Mexico’s street corners any time of day. Adding vasolote‘s corn to your ramen soup cup is also a great way to enhance the flavor and add some extra nutrition to your lunch or snack.
7 – Quesadillas Fritas (Fried Cheese Tacos)
The Nahuatl term tlahco, meaning “in the middle,” is the origin of the word taco. Some scholars say the word is derived from the Nahuatl quauhtaqualli, a word that posed difficulties for Spanish speakers in terms of pronunciation. Over time, it eventually became taqualli, and then eventually taco.
Adding melted cheese to any taco automatically turns it into a quesadilla. Most quesadillas use Oaxaca cheese, known as quesillo. Quesillo is a white, semihard cheese that tastes similar to unaged Monterey Jack but has the consistency of mozzarella.
When you fry a quesadilla, the cheese melts inside the tortilla and mixes with the corn to create a sumptuously sweet, salty, and soft filling to gorge on. To fully enjoy any quesadilla, add hot or semi-hot salsa.
If you’re seeking an authentic Mexican quesadilla experience, look no further than the street stalls in the national park Desierto de Los Leones. Here, unique local ingredients are added to the quesadillas, such as the zucchini flower or the intriguing huitlacoche, an edible parasite from corn with a distinct flavor profile.
8 – Tamales (Corn Dough Meat-Filled Tamale)
Tamalli originates from the Nahuatl word for “wrapped.” A tamale is made by cooking corn dough and then stuffing it with various ingredients.
The tamale is cooked in a package of vegetable leaves, usually corn or plantain leaves. Not only are leaves an ecological way of eating, but they’re also an essential ingredient in any tamale, as their flavor enhances the whole taste of the dish.
Traditional Mexican tamales can be either sweet or savory. Pork, chicken, or vegetables cooked in red or green salsa usually fill a tamale.
Tamales chiapanecos often incorporate prunes as a surprise flavor. Tamales oaxaqueños usually contain meat seasoned in mole. You can also find fruit tamales with ingredients like blackberry or pineapple.
Some people prefer to eat tamales for breakfast by placing them inside a wheat bun, while others like them as standalone snacks. Some Mexicans even enjoy them fried.
Mexican cities are full of vendors selling delicious tamales out of big pans in small carts. They announce themselves with a distinctive sound bite (which has become a popular meme and phone ringtone).
9 – Pozole (Popped Corn Chicken Broth)
This hearty stew is packed with flavor. The highly seasoned broth is filled with the likes of tender corn kernels, chili, and pork or chicken meat.
The name pozole comes from the Spanish word for frothy, which is apt because this stew uses a type of maize known as cacahuazintle.
The large grains are precooked for two hours to remove their fibrous shell, and are then boiled, opening up like flowers that collectively look like foam. In fact, pozole grains look similar to popcorn.
Pozole is best enjoyed with pork rinds, avocado, and fried tortillas. White pozole made with pig’s head is a very tender and flavorful dish, and when seasoned and served with lemon juice, piquín chili, lettuce, sliced radishes, chopped onion, and oregano makes for a delicious medley of flavors in every bite.
Red pozole is made with ancho and guajillo chilis and can often include chicken. Green pozole uses green tomatoes, epazote, and pumpkin seeds for flavor.
Pozole originates from Mesoamerica, and hence is a popular street food choice in central and southern Mexico.
10 – Tlacoyos con Nopales (Cacti on Thick Tortilla)
Spaniards first discovered tlacoyos in the Tlatelolco market and fell in love with this traditional Mexican dish. Tlacoyos are thick, oval-shaped corn tortillas filled with various ingredients. The Spaniards included this food in their regular diet but modified the recipe by adding beef and dairy products.
Popular tlacoyos are served with nopales, the cactus stalk that is tender and edible. Incredibly, this Mexican food dates back more than 10,000 years. Ancient Mesoamerican cultures would stew nopales with zucchini or deer meat.
You can find tlacoyos at practically any Mexican food market, and even book tlacoyo food tours with a local expert in Mexico City.
11 – Gorditas de Chicharron (Pork Rind Tortilla Pockets)
A gordita is a dough ball typically filled with pressed chicharron. Chicharron is a fried pork rind traditionally seasoned and cooked in lard, then flattened and fried in oil or lard. Once the gordita is fried, it is cut in half and filled with cilantro, onion, or Oaxaca cheese.
I recommend you check out Doña Angela, a grandmother YouTuber with over four million subscribers. Her channel, “De mi Rancho a Tu Cocina” (From my ranch to your kitchen), has become popular because of her relatable yet charming personality. In the following video, Doña Angela prepares gorditas de chicharron.
12 – Dorilocos (Highly Seasoned Nachos)
Dorilocos are a hugely filling and satisfying combination of nachos, peanuts, fruits, vegetables, and even sweet gummies, smothered in salsa.
Dorilocos are a fusion of multiple textures and flavors, bringing together the crunchiness of Doritos and fried peanuts, the chewiness of gummies, the freshness, earthiness, and sweetness of vegetables and fruits, and, lastly, the tanginess of lemon and spicy sauces.
A Mexican take on the famous Doritos brand of flavored tortilla chips, produced since 1964, dorilocos stands offer various sweet and chili sauces outside schools, universities, and government offices. You can mix and match the different ingredients to create your own unique combination.
If you order this dish, be sure to ask for a spoon. It is a very messy but truly indulgent dish you won’t be able to get enough of!
Sweet Mexican Street Food
13 – Gaspachos de Morelia (Morelia’s Fruit Salad)
The gaspacho is prepared with mango, jicama, and pineapple cut into small pieces. In addition to orange and lemon juice, it contains Cotija cheese, onion, salt, and black chili powder. Some people also add watermelon and papaya.
The combination of acidic fruits and salty cheese is truly delicious. Gaspachos are cheap, filling, fresh, and delicious; vendors always use fresh fruit when making this dish, making it a healthier choice of Mexican street food.
El Guero de la Merced is one of the most iconic places to try gaspacho in Morelia. Although there is often a long line, it is definitely worth the wait.
14 – Platanos Fritos con Lechera (Fried Plantain with Condensed Milk)
This traditional Mexican dish is made by frying ripe plantains and then serving them with condensed milk. Ripe plantains are very popular in the Gulf of Mexico region.
In Latin America, fried ripe plantains make for a delicious side dish to many meals. In particular, they go well with Oaxaca cheese for breakfast or rice for a hearty main.
Mexicans love fried plantain topped with condensed milk and sometimes strawberry jam. You can find stands that sell platanos fritos con lechera at most parks on weekends, where people of all ages enjoy them.
15 – Buñuelos (Fried Dough Fritters)
Buñuelos are fried wheat dough pastries made with water, milk, and sometimes eggs. They are typically flat and circular in shape.
The buñuelos are a traditional Mexican dessert that is fried and then sprinkled with sugar, or sometimes bathed in honey or piloncillo, the undistilled juice of sugar cane boiled down to molasses. Although they are eaten throughout the year, these fritters are most commonly associated with Christmas.
Buñuelos have been loved and eaten in Mexico for centuries. In Manuel Serrano’s 19th-century painting “Vendedora de buñuelos,” you can see a woman cooking them on a small stove, using a round casserole dish.
16 – Marquesitas (Cheese Wafers)
The marquesita consists of a rolled crepe filled with cajeta, condensed milk, jam or chocolate, and Oaxaca cheese.
At present, there is a wide variety of marquesitas to choose from. In addition to being filled with jam and chocolate, you can find variants with banana, almond cream, caramel, hazelnut cream, cream cheese, strawberries, and even ice cream.
The marquesitas are crunchy crepes prepared using two steel plates. They were first made famous in Merida, but now you can find them throughout Mexico.
17 – Camotes (Sweet Potato Candy)
Sweet potato is a trendy Mexican dessert. Even though October and November are the best months for sweet potatoes in terms of freshness and taste, you can still find them in candy form throughout the year.
Typically, steel carts with a horizontal cylinder sell camote. Inside the cart is a wood-fired oven, where the sweet potatoes are cooked. The cooking process depends on how fast the cart is pushed.
It takes sweet potatoes around 30 minutes to cook. To keep camotes from sticking, the cart’s drawer is lined with a banana peel.
The oven on the sweet potato cart emits steam, which is then let out through a tube. This releases a sharp, flute-like noise, the signature sound of these carts, and you can hear the Mexican camotero’s whistle here. The sound is usually shrill and high-pitched, causing people nearby to cover their ears!
Mexican Street Food Summary
Mexico is a place for all the senses, and these delicious street foods very much eptomize that. These dishes capture the heart and soul of Mexican cooking, combining fresh ingredients from the land in simple and creative ways to make some truly hearty and mouthwatering food.
Mexican street food is for the people, so when you’re next in Mexico, dine as a local would and seek out as many of these dishes as you can. This is real Mexican food in its purest, rawest, and most passionate form.
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Keen to try some of these authentic Mexican street foods? Keep this list for safekeeping, by pinning it to one of your foodie travel Pinterest boards.
Contributor: Ana Perusquia is a bilingual writer, editor, and designer from Mexico City, passionate about Mexican cuisine and culture, who has worked in the publishing industry for many years.
Images licensed via Shutterstock