EDITOR’S NOTE:Traveleater Matt Robson from Spain Guides shares with us the tastiest and most authentic Spanish tapas that you need to try on your next trip to Spain.
Welcome to our comprehensive guide to Spanish tapas! This one-stop guide will explain everything you need to know about this integral part of Spanish gastronomy.
Like Spanish food as a whole, tapas have become an essential aspect of tourism in Spain, with visitors eager to explore the unique regional variations and flavors of tapas and pintxos.
There’s a wide range of Spanish tapas that you need to try in Spain, but some of the most popular include patatas bravas (spicy potatoes), tortilla de patatas (Spanish version of a potato omelette), gambas al ajillo (Spanish garlic prawns), and croquetas (croquettes filled with ham, cheese, or fish).
If you’re like us and don’t want to miss out on the most delicious and interesting food a destination has to offer, then this Spanish tapas guide will be very useful to you.
And don’t worry. If you can’t go to Spain just yet but would like to throw a tapas party, then we’ve compiled a list of the most popular dishes with authentic Spanish tapas recipes. Recreate them at home and get even more excited for your future trip to Spain!
SPANISH TAPAS QUICK LINKS
If you’re planning a trip to Spain and want to learn more about tapas and Spanish food, then you may be interested in going on a food tour or taking a cooking class.
Food Tours: Food and Wine/Drinking Tours in Spain
Cooking Classes: Cooking Classes in Spain
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WHAT ARE SPANISH TAPAS?
Tapas are basically small dishes that are served as a starter to the main course in tapas bars, taverns, and restaurants across Spain. Although they were originally thought of as appetizers, nowadays it’s very normal for people to eat a selection of tapas instead of one large plate of food.
The tradition of tapas is believed to have originated in the southern region of Andalusia, where bartenders would place a small piece of bread over the glass to keep the flies out. Then tapas bar owners started putting snacks on the plate to accompany the drink, and this is how Spanish tapas were born. The word tapar in Spanish means “to cover”.
In the Basque Country, in northern Spain, tapas are called pintxos. They’re the region’s unique take on these famous little plates of food.
The history of pintxos is closely linked to the development of the Basque Country’s gastronomic offerings, which is world renowned for its emphasis on innovative cooking techniques using only the freshest of local ingredients.
Pintxos bars in San Sebastian offer an incredible range of flavors, with ingredients ranging from seafood and cured meats to cheese and vegetables. Popular pintxos served in San Sebastian include olives, anchovies, cured ham, and idiazabal – an award-winning Basque cheese.
Tapas and pintxos have become an integral part of the Spanish gastronomic scene, with many people enjoying them as part of their daily routine. Over time, tapas and pintxos have evolved from simple snacks to complex and diverse dishes, reflecting the cultural and regional diversity of Spain.
HOW TO ENJOY TAPAS IN SPAIN
Hopping from tapas bar to tapas bar is always fun, but perhaps an even better way to enjoy and learn all about tapas (and Spanish food in general) is to use a local guide. Joining a guided tapas tour is the perfect way to discover the diverse range of tapas and pintxos that each region has to offer.
A knowledgeable guide can take you to hidden gems and recommend Spanish dishes that you may not have tried on your own. They can also provide insight into the history and culture of the region, making your culinary experience more enriching.
Plus, with a guide, you don’t have to worry about getting lost or struggling with the language barrier!
TOP TRADITIONAL SPANISH TAPAS BY REGION
Depending on where you are in Spain, tapas will reflect local ingredients, culture, and culinary traditions. In some areas – such as Granada, Castilla y Leon, and Galicia – Spanish tapas are often served at tapas bars for free with drinks, while in most other areas, they are paid for separately.
Each region has its own unique take on tapas, such as boquerones (marinated anchovies) in Andalucia, ensaladilla rusa (Russian salad) in Madrid, and pintxos de tortilla (potato omelette skewers) in the Basque Country.
Pintxos are the Basque region’s version of tapas, particularly in the city of San Sebastian. The word “pintxo” comes from the Spanish word pinchar, meaning “to pierce”, as the small bite-sized Spanish dishes are usually served on a skewer or toothpick.
Some of the most classic Spanish tapas found in Andalucía include gazpacho, a cold soup made with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic; tortilla española, a Spanish tortilla or omelette made with potatoes and onions; and croquetas, small fried rolls filled with a variety of ingredients such as ham, fish, chicken, or cheese.
Other popular Andalucian tapas include fried fish (pescadito frito), grilled shrimp (gambas a la plancha), and cured ham (jamon curado).
Stock photo by supercat via Shutterstock
In the Balearic Islands, Spanish tapas are known as pa amb oli, which translates to “bread with oil.” This classic Spanish dish typically consists of toasted crusty bread rubbed with garlic and tomato and drizzled with olive oil, then topped with a variety of ingredients such as cheese, ham, and anchovies.
Another classic Spanish tapa in the Balearic Islands is ensaimada, a sweet pastry that is often filled with cream or other sweet fillings (people familiar with the Filipino pastry snack will want to try this). Calamares a la romana, or Spanish fried calamari, are also popular.
Stock photo by Fernando Sanchez Cortes via Shutterstock
In the Basque Country, you’ll find the famous pintxos, the region’s own version of Spanish tapas. The pintxos culture in the Basque Country is very important, with many tapas bars and restaurants specializing in creating unique and delicious combinations of ingredients.
Popular pintxos include gilda, a classic pintxo made with a skewer of olive, pickled pepper, and anchovy, often served with a spicy kick. Another is txalupa, a mini boat-shaped slice of bread topped with a variety of ingredients such as seafood, meats, or vegetables, and then finished off with a sauce. A third is tortilla de bacalao, a traditional Basque-style cod omelette that is often served as a pintxo.
In the Canary Islands, Spanish tapas have a strong Canarian and Latin American influence. Popular tapas include papas arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes) with the local spicy mojo sauce, gofio escaldado (toasted flour with fish broth), pulpo a la gallega (Galician-style octopus), queso asado (grilled cheese), and albondigas (Spanish meatballs).
Other Spanish tapas you may find on the islands are pimientos de padron (padron peppers), tortilla española (Spanish omelette), and churros con chocolate (fried dough with hot chocolate sauce), which are typically eaten as a dessert.
Stock photo by Joe McUbed via Shutterstock
Castilla a la Mancha
Typical Spanish tapas found in this region include the famous Manchego cheese, spicy chorizo sausage, and marinated olives. Other popular tapas include patatas bravas, which are fried potatoes served with a spicy tomato sauce; and migas, a dish made from fried breadcrumbs, garlic, and paprika.
Catalonia has a rich culinary heritage, and this is reflected in the variety of tapas available throughout the region.
Some of the classic Spanish tapas you might find in Catalonia include patatas bravas (spicy potatoes), escalivada (grilled vegetables), bombas (potato croquettes filled with meat), pa amb tomàquet (crusty bread rubbed with tomato and olive oil), fuet (a type of cured sausage), and coca de recapte – a type of flatbread topped with roasted vegetables and cured meats.
Catalonia is also known for its seafood dishes, so you can expect to find tapas using ingredients like fried baby squid, Spanish shrimp, fried anchovies, and marinated sardines.
Galicia is famous for its fresh seafood, and tapas in Galicia reflect this. Octopus (pulpo) is a popular tapa. It’s usually boiled and then drizzled with olive oil and Spanish paprika. Mussels (mejillones) and razor clams (navajas) are often served in a simple broth.
Galician empanadas (savory pastries) are also a must-try. They’re usually filled with tuna, cod, or chicken. Cheese (queso) is another staple in Galician tapas.
Some of the most typical tapas in Madrid include tortilla de patatas, a delicious potato omelette; and bocadillo de calamares, a type of sandwich made with fried squid rings in a bread roll.
Other popular tapas in Madrid include croquetas, a fried breadcrumb ball filled with ham, cheese, or chicken; huevos rotos, which are broken fried eggs typically served with ham and fried peppers; and patatas bravas, deep-fried potato chunks served with a spicy sauce.
Murcia is famous for its seafood so it’s no surprise that a number of the most popular tapas use fresh fish and shellfish.
Some of the most delicious tapas in Murcia include ensalada murciana (a salad of tomatoes, onions, and salt cod), pulpo a la gallega (Galician-style octopus with potatoes), and calamares a la Romana (fried squid rings).
Another popular tapa in Murcia is zarangollo, a dish made with eggs, onions, and courgettes. Additionally, many bars in Murcia offer a variety of local cheeses, cured meats, and bread as tapas.
Valencia’s tapas scene is influenced by its location on the Mediterranean coast. You will find a variety of seafood tapas like sepia con alioli (cuttlefish with garlic mayonnaise) or gambas al ajillo (shrimp with garlic).
Valencia is where paella was first created and is a popular tapas dish. Other regional specialties include esgarraet, a dish made with roasted red peppers and salt cod.
AUTHENTIC SPANISH TAPAS RECIPES FOR 20 OF THE MOST POPULAR TAPAS IN SPAIN
If you can’t fly to Spain just yet, then how about creating a Spanish tapas board or throwing your very own tapas party? Listed below is a brief description of twenty of the most popular tapas dishes in Spain, along with links to their recipes.
1. Tortilla de Patatas
An authentic Spanish tapas recipe for this classic Spanish omelette made with potatoes and onions is a must for any tapas party.
RECIPE: Tortilla de patatas
These Spanish ham croquettes are another crowd-pleaser. They’re small fried bites made with a creamy filling, usually ham or cheese.
3. Patatas Bravas
Are these fried potato chunks served with a spicy tomato sauce better than french fries? We think so.
RECIPE: Patatas bravas
4. Pan con Tomate
This tapa consisting of toasted bread rubbed with garlic and then topped with tomato and olive oil is one of my personal favorites.
RECIPE: Pan con tomate
5. Gambas al Ajillo
Sautéed Spanish garlic shrimp served in a sizzling hot skillet? Yes, please!
RECIPE: Gambas al ajillo
6. Calamares a la Romana
These deep-fried battered squid rings will always be everyone’s favorite squid dish. Serve them with lemon wedges for a punch of acidity.
RECIPE: Calamares a la romana
Stock photo by Fernando Sanchez Cortes via Shutterstock
7. Pimientos de Padron
Turn up the heat with these fried small green peppers sprinkled with coarse salt.
RECIPE: Pimientos de padron
8. Pulpo a la Gallega
This Galician-style octopus dish served with boiled potatoes, paprika, and extra virgin olive oil is a guaranteed showstopper.
RECIPE: Pulpo a la gallega
9. Ensaladilla Rusa
Russian salad is delicious. This Russian-inspired Spanish potato salad made with potatoes, carrots, peas, and tuna may be even better.
RECIPE: Ensaladilla rusa
Stock photo by igorgolovniov via Shutterstock
10. Pincho de Tortilla
Want tortilla de patatas that’s easier to eat? Served on a toothpick, these pinchos de tortilla are the answer.
RECIPE: Pincho de tortilla
Photo by Amasuela – Luis Lafuente Agudín, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
11. Montadito de Jámon
Toasted bread topped with Iberian ham is your new favorite finger sandwich. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil to make them even better.
RECIPE: Montadito de jamon
Grilled Basque sausages served sliced on bread will definitely grab people’s attention.
13. Boquerones en Vinagre
This tapas dish of marinated white anchovies served with garlic and parsley is one of the best things we’ve eaten in Spain. Your guests will love it.
RECIPE: Boquerones en vinagre
14. Huevos Rotos
Fried eggs served on top of crispy fried potatoes. Enough said.
RECIPE: Huevos rotos
Photo by fluzo (Manuel Bartual) from Madrid, España, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
15. Chorizo a la Sidra
You may have heard of Spanish chorizo cooked in red wine (chorizo al vino tinto), but have you heard of Spanish chorizo cooked in Asturian cider?
RECIPE: Chorizo a la sidra
Photo by Tamorlan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
16. Solomillo al Whiskey
Tenderloin steak cooked in whiskey sauce because whiskey makes everything better.
RECIPE: Solomillo al whiskey
17. Cazón en Adobo
Bring your guests to Andalusia with this Spanish tapas recipe for deep-fried marinated dogfish served with alioli.
RECIPE: Cazon en adobo
18. Tostada con Tomate y Jamón
Simple but tasty, it’s hard not to like toasted bread rubbed with garlic and then topped with tomato and Iberian ham.
RECIPE: Tostada con tomate y jamon
Photo by Tamorlan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
19. Pintxo Gilda
This classic Basque-style pintxo made with olives, pickled peppers, and anchovies is sure to grab eyeballs.
RECIPE: Pintxo gilda
Photo by Biskuit from Atlanta, GA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
20. Almejas a la Marinera
Last but not least is this recipe for clams cooked in a white wine and garlic sauce.
RECIPE: Almejas a la marinera
Photo by Amasuela – Luis Lafuente Agudín, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SPANISH TAPAS
Tapas and pintxos are an essential part of Spanish gastronomy and culture.
The tradition of sharing small plates of food with friends and family is a way of life in Spain, and visitors to the country should definitely experience it for themselves.
Whether it’s classic dishes like tortilla de patatas and croquetas or more unique regional specialties like Basque pintxos or Galician pulpo a la gallega, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
So if you’re planning a trip to Spain, don’t miss out on the opportunity to sample some of the best and most authentic Spanish tapas the country has to offer.
Some of the links in this article on Spanish tapas are affiliate links, meaning we’ll get a small commission if we make a sale at no added expense to you. We only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. Thank you!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Traveleater Belen Gutierrez – a Panamanian food expert from Panama City – shares with us 20 traditional dishes you need to try on your next trip to Panama.
Panama is known mostly for its idyllic beaches, its tropical forests, biodiversity, and of course, the Panama Canal. But one of the things visitors should look forward to the most is Panamanian food.
Today, we’ll be telling you a little about the local gastronomy and the delicious Panamanian foods you have to try to fully immerse yourself in the country’s culture. Panamanian food has been known to cause excessive drooling so don’t say we didn’t warn you!
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Photo by Fanfo
WHAT IS TRADITIONAL PANAMANIAN CUISINE?
Panamanian cuisine consists of many traditional dishes that are at the heart of the majority of its holidays. From birthdays to bachelor parties, Panamanians have a dish for every special occasion.
With a varied cuisine that’s based chiefly on grains like wheat and corn, a wide variety of vegetables, spices, and different types of meat, it isn’t hard to understand why Panama was nicknamed “the Hub of the Americas.”
Panamanian food culture is nuanced and complex. From a young age, the country became the epicenter of trade in Latin America with the construction and implementation of the Ferrocarril de Panamá (Panama Canal Railway). Following this, the building of the Panama Canal brought together people from different parts of the world. In turn, they brought with them their traditions, cultural backgrounds, and of course, their recipes.
From Herrera to Veraguas, Colon, Bocas del Toro, and Chiriqui, each province will treat Traveleaters to a different gastronomic experience. Each dish tells a different story and invites you to get lost in the flavors and aromas that make Panamanian gastronomy what it is today.
Once you get a taste of the many delicious Panamanian foods on this list, you’ll definitely want to come back. Wherever you go, expect to try dishes that are grilled by hand over a wood fire, stewed, baked, and above all, fried.
MUST-TRY PANAMANIAN FOODS
Here’s a list of twenty Panamanian foods that will make you feel less like a tourist and more like a local. For your convenience, we’ve organized it by category to make it easier to digest. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.
Starters / Sides
Desserts / Drinks
STARTERS / SIDES
A popular street food dish in many Latin American countries, Panamanian empanadas come in two presentations. They can be made with either wheat or corn flour, and they’re typically stuffed with ground meat (or shredded chicken) and vegetables. Sometimes, they can be stuffed with sweet fillings like fruit jam and dulce de leche.
One of the most ubiquitous Panamanian foods, you can think of empanadas as the staple finger food of traditional Panamanian celebrations and carnivals, like Desfile de las Mil Polleras (1000 Polleras Parade).
Photo by bhofack2 via Depositphotos
2. Carimañolas de Carne
Similar to empanadas, this is another popular finger food in Panamanian cuisine. Made from cassava – a commonly used root vegetable produced locally in Darién, Chiriqui, Herrera, and Veraguas – the flour is kneaded and then filled with pre-cooked ground meat before being deep-fried.
If you go to Panama and don’t try carimañolas de carne, then you’ll definitely be missing out!
Photo by Mabelin Santos
3. Tamales Panameños
Like many other Latin American countries, the tamal is a landmark dish in Panamanian cuisine. It’s made from corn flour and is usually prepared with different types of meat like pork, ground beef, or chicken.
This is one of the few traditional Panamanian foods that’s boiled instead of fried. A must during Christmas and New Year’s holiday celebrations, its presentation makes it look like a “mini pie” full of Panamanian deliciousness.
Photo by Mabelin Santos
4. Yuca Frita
As I mentioned at the start of this article, carbohydrate-rich foods like cassava are the cornerstone of Panamanian cuisine. Cassava can be used to make Panamanian dishes like carimañolas, but they can also be fried and eaten as is.
Like a Panamanian version of french fries, yuca frita is usually served as a side dish, often for breakfast with sausages. People who like fried finger foods really need to try this dish.
Photo by rocharibeiro
When it comes to popular Panamanian food, a handful of dishes sit at the top of the mountain. Patacones or deep-fried plantains are one of them.
Patacones are among the most recognized dishes in Panama and throughout Latin America. They’re made from green plantains that are sliced into pieces before being smashed and fried. No words can adequately describe how important patacones are to Panamanian cuisine. In my opinion, you can’t say that you’ve truly experienced Panamanian cuisine without trying patacones.
This side dish can be found in many Latin American countries. Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Guatemala are all big plantain producers. It makes a great addition to many tropical Panamanian dishes like fried fish, though you can find patacones pretty much anywhere in the country.
Photo by altagraciaart via Depositphotos
A representative dish of Dolega District in Chiriquí province, this Panamanian dish is famous for its crunchiness and how easy it is to prepare it.
Almojábanos are made from milled corn combined with a local white cheese called cuajada cheese. It’s shaped like an “S” – to mimic the shape of Panama – and is commonly eaten throughout the day. It’s one of those interesting flavor pairings that you can taste only in Latin American countries like Panama.
Almojábanos and almojábanas are consumed throughout Latin America but only in Panama is a four-day festival held in its honor. Every January, thousands of Panamanians flock to Dolega to partake in the festivities and celebrate this tasty Panamanian dish.
Try almojábanos and you’ll be amazed to find that you can do just about anything with corn. Almojábanos, white cheese, and freshly brewed coffee. Try and name a better Panamanian breakfast trio…I’ll wait!
Photo by Mabelin Santos
Associated with the Quechua tribe, ceviche is a Latin American dish that has existed in the region since before colonization. Originally called siwichi by the Quechuas, ceviche can take many forms and flavors depending on where it’s from.
Even though this is a landmark dish in Peruvian cuisine, Panamanians prepare it with their own signature twist. Panamanian versions are usually made with lots of lemon, chopped onion, cilantro, and salt. The trick to making good ceviche is easy – the simpler, the better!
Since the main ingredient is just raw fish and seafood, you’ll find a wide variety of ceviche in Panama. Corvina, octopus, and shrimp are the most commonly used ingredients in Panamanian ceviche.
When in Panama City, I suggest enjoying your ceviche with cold local beer at the Amador Causeway. A road and green space that extends 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) into the Pacific Ocean, it connects the mainland with Naos, Perico, and Flamenco and offers spectacular views of the Panamanian sunset.
Photo by ScarletRE
8. Sancocho de Gallina
Tradition. Culture. Heritage. Legacy. Those are just a few of the words that come to mind when you think of this Panamanian chicken stew called sancocho de gallina. Widely considered to be the national dish of Panama, this traditional dish sits at the top of the cultural hierarchy for the majority of Panamanians.
Sancocho de gallina is a staple dish at every Panamanian celebration. Made with spices and a variety of vegetables like cassava, yam, carrot, and corn, the chicken is cooked at very high temperatures in a traditional Panamanian method of food preparation called fogón.
Simply put, no list of the tastiest Panamanian foods can ever be complete without sancocho de gallina. Try it with a bowl of white rice and fried sweet plantains. Comforting and delicious, it will change your life if you let it.
Photo by ScarletRE
9. Sopa de Pata
You can think of sopa de pata or cow’s feet soup as sancocho’s cousin, but with a bigger personality. Made with a variety of vegetables, herbs, and spices, it’s a rejuvenating dish that’s every bit as delicious as it is nourishing.
Unlike sancocho that’s made with a thinner broth, the collagen in the cow’s feet gives this soup a thicker consistency and a meatier flavor. It’s typically enjoyed at big family gatherings or eaten as hangover food the day after a drunk night out.
Photo by Tamer Adel Soliman
10. Carne Entomatada
This next dish is the perfect way to enjoy a lazy Sunday in Panama. Wear a pair of comfortable walking shoes and explore the city on foot. Enjoy the sights and sounds of Panama before stopping and having lunch at one of the many local restaurants that serve carne entomatada.
Carne entomatada refers to a type of Panamanian beef stew served in tomato sauce. It’s made with ground beef (or pork) stewed with tomatoes, vegetables, Worcestershire sauce, herbs, and spices. The stew is simmered and allowed to thicken before being served with a side of white rice.
Simple but comforting and delicious, it’s the perfect Sunday dish in Panama!
Photo by Fanfo
11. Arroz con Pollo
Like sancocho de gallina, arroz con pollo is one of the most culturally important Panamanian foods. You can find this dish everywhere in Panama – at birthdays, celebrations, anniversaries, and sometimes even funerals. It’s one of those dishes that brings people together.
Even though its literal English translation is “rice with chicken”, arroz con pollo is so much more than that. The combination of spices, herbs, finely chopped vegetables, chicken, and achiote (the secret ingredient that gives this dish its yellow-ish color) tells the story of a long line of Panamanian grandmothers who’ve passed down the recipe through countless generations.
Comforting and super delicious, it’s often served with side dishes like patacones or potato salad. You’ll definitely miss out if you don’t try this dish in Panama!
Photo by NeblettStudio
12. Arroz con Camarones y Coco
You’ll find a good amount of African and Caribbean influences in Panamanian dishes like arroz con camarones y coco. A staple tropical dish, it’s made with rice, shrimp, and coconut milk flavored with various herbs, spices, and even white vinegar.
If you visit Colon province, then you’ll undoubtedly hear the story of our ancestors who traveled to the region to build the Panama Canal. And if you try this dish, you might consider yourself part of that story, because you are.
You’ll essentially be eating the same dish that many Caribbean immigrants did on their lunch break. If that’s not a culturally immersive experience, then I don’t know what is!
Photo by The Image Party
13. Ropa Vieja
Ropa vieja is a Panamanian meat dish made with shredded beef stew and vegetables. Its name literally translates to “old clothes”, due to the shredded beef looking like a pile of old clothes when plated. But don’t let its unappetizing name fool you, ropa vieja is delicious.
Ropa vieja is mainly prepared in the provinces farther away from the coast, like Herrera, Los Santos, and Coclé. It’s best served with rice or a side dish of freshly fried patacones or yuca fritters.
There are many popular Panamanian restaurants in Panama City where you’ll find excellent versions of this classic Panamanian dish, like Sabroso Panamá or El Trapiche. Make sure to visit them and let us know what you think!
Photo by Julia-Bogdanova
14. Chuletas en Salsa de Piña
Personally, I prefer ropa vieja over chuletas en salsa de piña, but people with a fondness for pork and pineapples will definitely want to try this dish.
A delectable combination of savory and sweet, chuletas en salsa de piña are pork chops served with pineapple sauce. It’s a tasty dish that pairs beautifully with white rice or patacones.
Photo by Sergii Koval
15. Pernil de Puerco al Horno
A staple dish to celebrate Christmas and the New Year in Panama, pernil de puerco al horno refers to pork leg seasoned with different ingredients like garlic, onions, vinegar, orange juice, herbs, and spices. The meat is baked slowly at a low temperature, causing the meat to become incredibly tender and juicy.
Photo by Chatham172
DESSERTS / DRINKS
16. Ron Ponche
If you’re in the mood for a sweet and fun drink, then ron ponche (aka Panamanian eggnog) is the way to go. This delicious dessert drink combines rum, evaporated milk, regular milk, eggs, and other ingredients to make a traditional drink that’s hard to resist during the holiday season.
If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a holiday party in Panama, then chances are, ron ponche will be there.
Photo by Brent Hofacker
You can think of raspados as one of the landmark desserts of Panama. Whether you’re spending an afternoon exploring Casco Viejo or enjoying the annual Independence Day parade (or any parade for that matter), you’ll undoubtedly find vendors ready to turn large blocks of ice into this delicious shaved ice dessert called raspado.
Made from shaved ice, an artificial sweetener of your choice (please go with strawberry!), condensed milk, and milkshake powder, raspados are the perfect foil to sweltering hot days in Panama.
I may be biased, but in my opinion, raspados and hojaldras (fried bread) sprinkled with sugar are the best sweet treats in the world.
Photo by Chiilandia
18. Pesada de Nance
This traditional Panamanian corn flour dessert has a lot of history. Recipes for pesada de nance have been handed down from generation to generation (and across provinces), though these recipes have remained largely untouched to preserve the flavors as they were originally intended.
This dessert was born in the central provinces of Panama and is made from nance fruit (originally from Mexico), corn, brown sugar, cinnamon, milk, white cheese, and other ingredients. The nance fruit gives the dessert a thick consistency and a rich, nuanced flavor.
You’ll find pesada de nance on the dessert menu of virtually every traditional Panamanian restaurant.
Photo by Mabelin Santos
Chicheme is one of the most popular drinks among Panamanian children. It’s a drink that many adults remember fondly. They pass down the recipe for chicheme to their kids, nieces, and nephews to teach them that nothing tastes better than home.
Chicheme is made from broken corn kernels, cinnamon, sugar, vanilla extract, and other ingredients. After boiling the corn and adding condensed milk and cinnamon, you’ll get a tasty drink that’s just as delicious when served hot or cold.
Photo by Mabelin Santos
20. Chicha de Saril
The last entry in this Panamanian food guide is another holiday classic – chicha de saril. It’s a festive tropical drink that combines the flavors of roselle flowers (flor de jamaica), ginger, and sugar.
Chicha de saril is typically served cold. Like many of the drinks on this list, it brings people together and is usually enjoyed in the company of family and friends over the holidays.
Photo by Regreto
FINAL THOUGHTS ON TRADITIONAL PANAMANIAN FOOD
We hope you try as many of these Panamanian foods as you can when you visit Panama. In our opinion, trying the local cuisine is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in any culture.
In Panama, you’ll have an endless variety of delicious dishes to choose from. Panamanian food is known for its spectrum of flavors that’s as broad and diverse as the country itself.
Do let us know which Panamanian dish was your favorite!
The TripAdvisor links in this Panama food guide are affiliate links, meaning we’ll earn a small commission if you make a booking or reservation at no extra cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We appreciate your support as it helps us make more of these free travel and food guides. Thank you!
Cover photo by Fanfo. Stock images via Shutterstock.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Traveleater Elise Ofilada shares with us 15 traditional Algerian dishes you need to try on your next trip to Algiers.
Bounded by the Mediterranean Sea and home to a portion of the Sahara Desert is the largest country in the African continent – Algeria. Admittedly, this North African country isn’t a common tourist destination, but it’s a nation with many breathtaking and historically significant attractions – not to mention great food!
From Ottoman-era palaces to Ancient Roman ruins, the past is an ever-present part of the Algerian experience. Colonized by the French in the late 1800s, the country was officially known as the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria after its people so fiercely fought to gain their independence. With their population, many of whom are Arab and Amazigh, being predominantly Muslim, the country also tends to have a deeply Islamic heritage.
Though it might take some effort to arrange a trip to Algeria, there’s no doubting the vibrancy and richness of this nation’s culture. If you’re the kind of person with a taste for obscure and typically underrated places (that, of course, boast culinary wonders), visiting this country will definitely be a worthy addition to your travel bucket list.
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WHAT IS TRADITIONAL ALGERIAN CUISINE?
Ranging from spicy meat stews to sweetened pastries, Algerian dishes are diverse in both flavor and essence. The country’s cuisine is a vivid patchwork of all the different historical and cultural influences that have settled in their lands.
Aside from Arab, Amazigh, and Turkish culinary traditions, Algerian food remains affected by their past with the Romans, French, and Spanish. Mutton and poultry are indispensable ingredients for cooking many of their dishes, while vegetables and dried fruit also make frequent appearances in traditional recipes.
While a number of the nation’s foods also exist in other North African cuisines, each meal will differ in how they’re prepared. Rest assured that Algeria – as the country once dubbed the “Breadbasket of Rome” – will deliver a unique gastronomic journey to any Traveleater that’s willing to ride out an adventure.
MUST-TRY ALGERIAN DISHES
A trip to Algeria isn’t truly complete if you miss out on their popular delicacies. With the help of this list, try to remember these staples of Algerian cuisine when planning your next visit to the country.
Chakchouka (or shakshouka, shakshuka) is named after the Amazigh word for “mixture” and is made to resemble one, visually. A variation on the Turkish menemen, the base of this traditional Algerian dish consists mainly of tomato sauce, onions, and peppers.
Chakchouka is a common dish in North African countries like Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt. In many countries, it’s often served for breakfast but in Algeria, it’s commonly eaten as a light lunch or dinner. It’s usually cooked with poached eggs on top while eaten with flatbread to dip the sauce in.
The taste of spices like cumin and paprika is fairly prominent in the dish. A variety of vegetables can also be included in its preparation, such as eggplants, zucchini, and potatoes. While typically vegetarian, meats like lamb or beef can sometimes be added too. With so many components to chakchouka, it’s also best to share it with a group.
Photo by istetiana
Algeria’s national dish is none other than the mouthwatering couscous. It’s traditionally made from ground and steamed semolina (which are middlings of durum wheat) and can be topped with a variety of savory stews. Though also a staple food of the Maghreb (i.e., Northwest Africa), Algerian couscous is special in that it may feature tomatoes and legumes.
That said, Algerians may sometimes serve couscous as a dessert. Doused in milk with a hint of orange blossom water, it can be sprinkled with almonds and cinnamon. Given its versatility, the dish has been recognized by UNESCO as a kind of intangible cultural heritage.
With the light and fluffy texture of its granules, this popular dish is adored by food lovers all over the globe.
Photo by Cook Shoots Food
Rechta is an Algerian pasta dish prepared largely for special occasions, the most well-known ones being Eid al Fitr (which marks the end of Ramadan) and Mouloud (a celebration of the prophet Muhammad’s birth). Made with thin and flat noodles accompanied by a cinnamon-y chicken sauce, the dish is particularly associated with the city of Algiers, the capital of Algeria.
The addition of vegetables like potatoes and turnips is also welcome, as is the use of ras el hanout (an Algerian mix of spices) for the sauce. Algerian households are often inclined to make the pasta from scratch, as is the custom.
Photo by bazoul
Originating from Biskra, a region in Northeastern Algeria that’s found by the edge of the Sahara desert, Dobara is a spicy vegetable stew that’s meant to keep you warm during the winter. This staple of Algerian food takes its name from the Arabic word “d’bara” (meaning “to orchestrate”).
Dobara is a vegetarian dish primarily prepared with either chickpeas or fava beans, though some recipes call for a mix of both. Ingredients like olive oil, tomato paste, and lemon juice are also common.
Photo by keeshaskitchen.com
More than your average meat stew, this delicious soup radiates comfort. As such, Berkoukes is a certified must-try if you’re visiting Algeria during the colder months. The dish features large balls of couscous bathed in a spicy tomato soup that, depending on your preference, can be thick or thin in terms of consistency.
As is typical with Algerian food, there are different versions of Berkoukes per region. Some incorporate a variety of meats, while some integrate dried mutton fat. In Algeria’s city of Oran, ras el hanout is added for a pungent kick.
Served hot and often drizzled with olive oil, berkoukes is traditionally made to celebrate a good harvest.
Photo by Svetlana Monyakova
6. Chorba Frik
Though Chorba Frik was brought to Algeria by the Ottoman Empire, the nation now frequently eats it during Ramadan. This traditional Algerian dish is a kind of tomato soup that can be served alongside either flatbread or bourek (a pastry filled with minced meat that we’ll touch upon later).
The star of the show, however, is a green type of crushed wheat called “frik” which gives the soup a nice grainy texture. While frik is necessary and can’t be substituted, variations of the dish can choose to include meats like lamb or vegetables like squash.
Garnished with fresh herbs on top for a picturesque finish, a spritz of lemon juice can also be added for some extra zest.
Photo by amieur ranya
Also consumed during Ramadan, Harira can be described as a smooth and creamy soup. Like many Algerian dishes, it’s tomato-based and prepared with lamb, beef, or chicken.
That said, what makes Algerian harira distinct from the Moroccan version is that it doesn’t use lentils. Some Algerian recipes might add ingredients like frik or vermicelli, but overall, the dish remains perfect for a traveler looking for a taste of simplicity.
Photo by Hadja Nebia SideLarbi
If you’re a carnivore craving tasty Algerian food, look no further – Mechoui is the dish for you. Featuring a spit-roasted lamb that’s been heavily seasoned with ras el hanout, it constitutes the kind of meal you would normally find at a feast.
Except for its kidneys, all organs from the lamb’s stomach are cleanly removed from its body. These can be saved for cooking other delicacies later, such as Usban and Tkalia ou Douara.
The remaining meat is brushed with olive oil for maximum crispiness and slowly barbecued over an open fire that infuses it with a smoky flavor. It’s served with a plate of cumin and salt, which you can then sprinkle according to your taste.
Photo by MattLphotography
Sometimes known as the traditional Algerian pancake, Msemen is a flatbread that can be eaten for breakfast or as a snack. While being made, it’s dusted with semolina to prevent the layers of dough from sticking to each other.
Though its name means “well baked” in the Amazigh language, it’s commonly cooked in a pan or on a griddle. Msemen can be finished off with a mix of butter, honey, and rose water, and pairs well with coffee and mint tea, Algeria’s customary beverages.
Photo by Hadja Nebia SideLarbi
Kesra is another kind of Algerian flatbread. It’s often served alongside other dishes on this list, like harira. While the bread is distinguished by its round shape (given that it’s made in a special kind of cast iron pan with embossed circle lines at the bottom), Kesra is known by different names depending on the region or city it’s made in.
Similar to the traditional Moroccan flatbread – harcha – and with a Tunisian variation as well, you will definitely recognize this staple food when you find yourself in different North African countries.
Photo by Zaho
Mentioned earlier as complementary to chorba frik, bourek is a meaty finger food that’s Turkish in origin. With variations existing throughout the Balkans and beyond like Greece, Armenia, Albania, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, it’s obviously a dish that can please even the most foreign types of palates.
Aside from being stuffed with ground beef and onions, its filling is also packed with cheese, parsley, and various spices. Some Algerian versions will even add shrimp and béchamel sauce to the fray, as well as mashed potatoes and spinach when designed to be vegetarian.
Commonly prepared during Ramadan, eating bourek is certainly one appetizing way to break the fast.
Photo by faroukb16
North African cuisine would be severely lacking without the presence of samsa. Though where it comes from is occasionally subject to heated debate (with Tunisia boldly staking its claim), it surely counts as a kind of delicious Algerian food.
These triangle-shaped pastries sport a sweet filling of orange blossom water, sugar, ground almonds, and cinnamon. Fried until beautifully golden brown, they’re often finished off by sprinkling a handful of sesame seeds on top.
The Algerian version of samsa uses hard and crispy dough, similar to another dessert called griwech (more on it in a bit!). Additionally, Eid al Fitr is when this tasty pastry makes its most prominent appearance. Sharing it with family and friends during this joyous celebration is a delightful way to participate in the festivities.
Photo by art3dz
Crescent-shaped like the horns of a wild animal (hence its French name, “cornes de gazelle”), this traditional Algerian dessert is often prepared for weddings and the like. Despite the traditional version being eaten plain and without much fanfare, modern variations are likely to be topped with powdered sugar, almonds, icing, and honey.
Equal parts fragrant, dainty, and crunchy, it’s a cookie that should undoubtedly satisfy your sweet tooth with just one bite.
Photo by nancykasz
Named for its distinctive diamond shape, makroudh is said to be one of the most popular Algerian desserts out there. It’s another classic treat that’s commonly enjoyed during Eid al Fitr, as well as other holidays and special events.
The more favored and traditional Algerian version of the pastry is generously filled with almond paste. However, the dessert can also benefit from the inclusion of fruits inside, such as dates and figs (as is the case in Tunisia).
Whether oven-baked or fried, makroudh dough is made from a mix of semolina and flour. A mixture of honey and lemon makes for a lovely syrup that you can both soak or dip the pastry in.
Photo by Hadja Nebia SideLarbi
Ending this list with a crunchy bang is none other than the famous Algerian dessert, griwech. Cities like Oran and Tlemcen are especially fond of this delicious food as the treat finds its roots in the country’s western regions.
The pastry can be formed into a variety of different shapes, such as a rose, a bow, or even a “babouche” slipper. More often than not, however, its dough is fashioned to look like a long, braided pretzel.
Before eating, this deep-fried dessert can be drizzled with caramel or honey that’s been infused with orange zest. Paired with a cup of strong coffee or tea, it will make for an ideal conclusion to your Algerian journey.
Photo by nancykasz
FINAL THOUGHTS ON TRADITIONAL ALGERIAN FOOD
Given the long and intricate arch of the nation’s history, it’s no surprise that Algeria boasts a seemingly unending supply of wonderful dishes. With an assortment of stews, bread, meats, and pastries, it’s difficult not to appreciate the vast profile of flavors that Algerian culture has to offer.
Sure, being an Islamic country, Algeria considers some ingredients to be “haram” or forbidden. Typical Algerian food won’t feature pork, for example. Even so, the Algerian people have cultivated a cuisine that has proudly satisfied centuries of taste buds.
On your next visit to this underrated destination, you’re sure to find that each of their traditional meals can stand, deliciously, on their own.
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Cover photo by istetiana. Stock images via Shutterstock.
When it comes to states with the best regional Mexican food, Michoacán is one of the top destinations in Mexico. It’s right up there with Puebla, Oaxaca, Yucatan, and Jalisco.
However, Michoacán doesn’t receive as many foreign travelers as those other states, likely because it’s on the US Department of State’s “Do Not Travel” list. This is unfortunate because Michoacán cuisine truly is one of the best and most interesting in Mexico.
Luckily for us, the US Department of State advises against all travel to Michoacan, except to two cities – Morelia and Lazaro Cardenas. That was all the assurance we needed to book bus tickets to Morelia and explore what Michoacán food was all about.
If you travel for food like we do and decide to spend time in Morelia, then here are 18 great restaurants to visit for the tastiest traditional Michoacán dishes.
MORELIA RESTAURANTS QUICK LINKS
To help you with your Morelia trip planning, we’ve compiled links to popular hotels, tours, and other travel-related services here.
Top-rated hotels in Centro, the best area to stay for first-time visitors to Morelia.
Luxury: Hotel De La Soledad
Midrange: NaNa Vida Hotel Morelia
Budget: Hotel Colonial
Sightseeing Tour: Downtown City Tour
Patzcuaro Tour: Patzcuaro – Janitzio Tour
Butterfly Tour: Monarch Butterfly Reserve Guided Day Trip
Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
Mexico SIM Card
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WHAT FOOD IS MORELIA, MICHOACAN KNOWN FOR?
Michoacán is often referred to as the “soul of Mexico”. Spend a few days in Morelia and you’ll understand why.
We’ve been exploring Mexico for the past eight months and the people of Morelia have been some of the warmest and most welcoming we’ve encountered thus far. They’re hospitable and caring, and their warmth carries over to their food.
You can read more about them in our Michoacán food guide, but traditional Michoacán dishes like sopa tarasca, morisqueta, and churipo are the type of dishes that comfort and warm you, much like your mother’s bowl of chicken noodle soup.
In the words of James Beard award-winning chef Pati Jinich, “The more I cook, the more I am convinced that the food of a place resembles the characteristics of its people.”
In the eyes of many, Michoacán is the soul of Mexico, and its food is Mexican soul food.
THE BEST MORELIA RESTAURANTS
To help organize this list of the best restaurants in Morelia, I’ve arranged them by category. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.
Street Food / Market Stalls
We tried many delicious dishes in Morelia, but carnitas is our hands down favorite dish. Originally from Michoacán, it refers to a dish of slow-cooked pork that’s become popular throughout Mexico. However, no one makes it the way Michoacános do.
We already loved carnitas but even more so after visiting Morelia. They make it differently here. We enjoyed Michoacan-style carnitas so much that we had it as often as we could in the hopes of finding the best.
1. Carnitas Don Pepe
In our opinion, Carnitas Don Pepe is the best carnitas restaurant you can visit near Morelia’s Historic Center. Open since 1942, they served some of the juiciest and tastiest carnitas we enjoyed in Morelia.
If you’ve had carnitas tacos in Mexico City or anywhere else in Mexico, then you may find that the carnitas in Michoacán is served a little differently. Instead of being chopped up into tiny pieces, they give you the carnitas in larger chunks with corn tortillas and condiments so you can assemble the tacos yourself.
Carnitas restaurants in Morelia typically give you a mixture of different cuts of pork (surtido). At Carnitas Don Pepe, you have the option of getting surtido or especial. Surtido comes with maciza (butt/shoulder), cuerito (skin), and aldilla (loin) while especial consists of aldilla, costilla (rib), and cuerito. Both are delicious but we highly recommend getting the especial.
Pictured below is a quarter kilo of especial. A quarter kilo is usually enough for one person.
Not only was the carnitas at Don Pepe incredibly tasty, but their refried beans were some of the best as well. Carnitas is typically served with refried beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, pickled vegetables, and salsa.
The meaty parts of the pig are delicious but what makes carnitas truly special is the cueritos or pork skin. They have a gelatinous texture that goes so well with the other cuts of meat.
Carnitas Don Pepe is located about an 8-10 minute walk west of Plaza de Armas (zocalo). I’m not sure why, but there don’t seem to be any carnitas restaurants located in the heart of the Historic District. Carnitas Don Pepe is one of the closest.
Here’s Ren eagerly digging into her carnitas. If you can see the menuboard in the back, you’ll find that carnitas is served in varying portions from a quarter to a full kilo. This is standard at all carnitas restaurants in Morelia.
Carnitas Don Pepe
Address: C. La Corregidora 826, Centro histórico de Morelia, 58000 Morelia, Michoacan Operating Hours: 8AM-PM, daily What to Order: Carnitas
2. Carnitas Jorge
Carnitas Jorge is another carnitas restaurant that isn’t too far from the zocalo. It’s on the same block as Carnitas Don Pepe so you can visit both on the same day, if you have the stomach space.
What you’re looking at below is a half kilo of carnitas, which is more than enough for two.
Unlike the other carnitas restaurants on this list, Carnitas Jorge serves you whole pinto beans.
Carnitas Jorge is another good carnitas restaurant to visit if you’d rather not stray too far from the zocalo.
Address: C. La Corregidora 782, Centro histórico de Morelia, 58000 Morelia, Michoacan Operating Hours: 9:30AM-4:30PM, daily What to Order: Carnitas
3. Carnitas Huandacareo
After visiting the previous two restaurants, you’ll need to walk a bit farther to get to more carnitas restaurants in Morelia. Carnitas Huandacareo is about a 20-25 minute walk from the zocalo but it’s worth the trek if you want more carnitas in Morelia.
Pictured below is a quarter kilo of carnitas.
My token carnitas taco shot. It’s a little blurry but still incredibly sexy.
Carnitas Huandacareo is a small family-run restaurant that serves tasty carnitas in Morelia.
Address: 5 De Febrero 753, Obrera, 58000 Morelia, Michoacan Operating Hours: 10AM-5PM, daily What to Order: Carnitas
4. Carnitas Don Raul
If you saw the carnitas episode on Taco Chronicles, then this next restaurant may be familiar to you. Thanks to the popularity of that Netflix series, Carnitas Don Raul is perhaps the most popular carnitas restaurant in Morelia. It’s located about a 30-minute walk from the zocalo but it’s definitely worth the effort.
Pictured below is a half kilo of carnitas. Check out those glistening strips of cueritos or pork skin!
Perhaps due to the popularity it gained from the show, Carnitas Don Raul was the most expensive carnitas restaurant we visited in Morelia. However, they do give you the most condiments to enjoy with your carnitas.
Like Don Pepe, Carnitas Don Raul serves amazing refried beans. Their guacamole is fantastic too.
Carnitas Don Raul is located about 2.2 km (1.4 miles) east of the zocalo. It’s a bit of a trek but worth every step if you’re serious about finding the best carnitas in Morelia.
Carnitas Don Raul
Address: Carpinteros de Paracho 1007, Vasco de Quiroga, 58230 Morelia, Michoacan Operating Hours: 9:45AM-5:30PM, daily What to Order: Carnitas
5. Carnitas El Michoacano
We enjoyed every carnitas restaurant we went to in Morelia but Carnitas El Michoacano was our hands down favorite.
Not only was the meat succulent and juicy, but they also give you A LOT of cueritos, the most of any carnitas restaurant we went to in Morelia. The meatier chunks of pork are good on their own but they’re even better when paired with gelatinous strips of pork skin. It’s a marriage made in carnitas heaven.
A half kilo of carnitas was usually more than enough for the two of us but we could have eaten more at Carnitas El Michoacano. The carnitas here is top-notch delicious.
I must have eaten three of these carnitas tacos within the first five minutes.
Carnitas El Michoacano is located in Vasco de Quiroga, a more residential part of Morelia about 2.5 km (1.6 miles) east of the zocalo. Don’t be intimidated by the distance. You’ll be rewarded with some of the very best carnitas anywhere in Morelia.
Carnitas El Michoacano
Address: Obrajeros de Nurio 326, Vasco de Quiroga, 58230 Morelia, Michoacan Operating Hours: 7:30AM-4:30PM, daily What to Order: Carnitas
It wasn’t hard learning about which dishes to try in Michoacán. What was challenging was finding restaurants in the Historic Center that served them. We don’t usually have trouble doing that but in Morelia, we had to go door-to-door and check every restaurant’s menu.
I think part of the reason for that is traditional Michoacán cuisine consists largely of rustic soulful dishes, the kind of food that’s more often made at home than served at restaurants. Sort of like chicken pot pie or Filipino adobo.
So when we found a restaurant that served Michoacán regional cuisine, we ordered as much as we could off their menu. The first two restaurants in this section – Restaurante Caracuaro and La Guarecita de San Agustin – are perfect examples of that.
6. Restaurante Caracuaro
If you had time for just one restaurant in Morelia to try as many Michoacán dishes as you can, then Restaurante Caracuaro is a great place to go. It’s perhaps the best restaurant on this list to try Michoacán specialties like sopa tarasca, morisqueta, and aporreadillo.
What you’re looking at below is a bowl of sopa tarasca, a tasty Purépecha pinto bean soup made with tomatoes, onions, ancho peppers, queso cotija (cotija cheese), avocados, and other ingredients. I’m not much of a soup person but I really enjoyed this one.
The Purépecha are an indigenous people that’s inhabited the northwestern parts of Michoacán for over a thousand years. Many dishes in Michoacán cuisine are Purépecha dishes.
Like the Yucatan, Michoacán is home to many different preparations of tamales, one of the most popular being uchepos. Uchepos are made with fresh instead of dried corn and are often sweet.
Pictured below is a spicy plate of aporreadillo. It’s a filling dish of meat jerky and egg cooked in a sauce made with different types of chili pepper, garlic, onion, and spices. Typically served with a side of rice and refried beans, it’s a popular dish that’s commonly consumed in Michoacán and Guerrero.
Like tacos, enchiladas are available everywhere in Mexico. Some cities like Guanajuato (enchiladas mineras) and Queretaro (enchiladas queretanas) have their own regional versions. So does Michoacán.
Known as pollo placero (or enchiladas morelianas, enchiladas placeras), the Michoacán version of enchiladas is served with stewed carrots, potatoes, and oregano-seasoned chicken that’s been fried in lard.
Aside from carnitas, morisqueta was one of my favorite dishes in Michoacán cuisine. Strictly speaking, morisqueta refers to just white rice and pinto beans topped with queso fresco and sour cream, but it’s usually served with some type of soup or stew.
What you’re looking at below is a version of morisqueta from Apatzingán, a city in the west-central region of Michoacán. It’s a hearty dish that’s traditionally served with pork ribs braised in tomato sauce.
As described, Restaurante Caracuaro is one of the best restaurants in Morelia to visit for traditional Michoacán food. They serve excellent food and offer great service.
Restaurante Caracuaro is located about a 10-15 minute walk east of the zocalo.
Restaurante Caracuaro is a large restaurant with a main dining hall and one or two smaller dining areas. The main dining room is quite dark and gloomy but you can ask to be seated in one of these brighter side rooms.
Address: Dr. Miguel Silva G. 92, Centro histórico de Morelia, 58000 Morelia, Michoacan Operating Hours: 8AM-8PM, daily What to Order: Traditional Michoacan dishes
7. La Guarecita de San Agustin (Near Plaza de Armas)
Like Restauante Caracuaro, La Guarecite de San Agustin is one of the best restaurants in Morelia to have traditional Michoacán food. Located in the heart of the Historic District, on the south side of the zocalo, they have an extensive menu featuring many local dishes like aporreadillo, uchepos, corundas, and enchiladas morelianas.
I thought I’d have to wait until Pátzcuaro to try charales but we were happy to find it here at La Guarecita. Charales is a Pátzcuaro specialty of lightly battered and fried Chirostoma fish.
Charales looks to be a seasonal item at La Guarecita. It isn’t a permanent dish on their menu so I highly recommend ordering it if you see it on their specials board.
To be honest, we didn’t know about this dish until we saw it on La Guarecita’s menu. Known as xanducata de pollo, it’s a tasty dish made with chicken and rice in a thick, mole-like sauce.
This Michoacán dish is the main reason why we decided to eat at La Guarecita. We couldn’t find churipo anywhere so were ecstatic to find it here.
Churipo is a hearty Purépecha stew made with beef, vegetables, chili peppers, corn, herbs, and corundas.
If you have a sweet tooth, then you’re definitely going to want to bite into this syrupy sweet Michoacán dessert called chongos zamoranos. It’s a cloyingly sweet curdled milk dessert made with milk, sugar, cinnamon, and rennet tablets.
There are many great restaurants in Morelia but only a few offer a wide selection of Michoacán specialties on their menu. La Guarecita de San Agustin is one of them.
If you want good food that isn’t too far from the zocalo, then La Guarecita is a great option to consider.
La Guarecita de San Agustin is a traditional restaurant along the popular Hidalgo walking street, just a stone’s throw away from the zocalo.
La Guarecita de San Agustin
Address: Hidalgo 54, Centro, 58000 Morelia, Michoacan Operating Hours: 7:30AM-11PM, daily What to Order: Traditional Michoacan dishes
8. Cuish Cocina Boutique Mich-Oax
Oaxaca and Michoacán are two states with a reputation for having the best food in Mexico. So when you find a restaurant that specializes in both cuisines, you don’t ask too many questions. You just go.
Cuish is a terrific restaurant in the heart of Morelia’s Historic Center. They have an interesting menu featuring specialties from both Michoacán and Oaxaca. Each dish is labeled with an “M” or “O” on their menu so you know where it’s from.
What you’re looking at below is atapakua, a flavorful Purépecha stew made with pork cooked with local ingredients like ancho chilis, tomatoes, fresh corn, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), garlic, sorrel, and yerba buena.
This artfully plated dish of enchiladas morelianas was meant to be served with chicken, but they were out of it that day so they gave us tasajo (dried beef) instead. If you’ve been to Oaxaca, then you may recognize it as the type of meat they often serve with tlayudas.
Since we were in Morelia, our gregarious server was quick to point out that tasajo in Michoacán is known simply as bistec.
If you’d like to wash all that delicious Michoacán food down with a local spirit, then you may want to get a glass of charanda. It’s a PDO spirit distilled from sugarcane, similar to rum.
Cuish is one of the most interesting restaurants on this list. They serve great food and offer excellent service right in the heart of the Historical District. They serve other Michoacán specialties as well like charales, sopa tarasca, corundas, and uchepos.
Not only does Cuish serve excellent food, but it’s a charming restaurant as well. The interior and decorations reminded us very much of Oaxaca.
We enjoyed great service at almost every restaurant in Morelia but our lunch at Cuish was the most memorable. Unfortunately, we didn’t catch our server’s name but aside from the good food, he was a big reason why we enjoyed this restaurant so much. ¡Muchisimas gracias señor!
Cuish Cocina Boutique Mich-Oax
Address: C. de Santiago Tapia #60, Centro, 58000 Morelia, Michoacan Operating Hours: 2-11PM, Tue-Sat / 9AM-7PM, Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Traditional Michoacan and Oaxacan dishes
9. La Casona de las Rosas
Jardin de las Rosas (Garden of the Roses) is a small but lovely plaza just a short walk from the zocalo. It’s a pleasant place to visit on any day of the week but especially on Sundays when vendors set up around the park to sell a variety of wares like crafts, paintings, sculptures, and artisanal food items.
You’ll find around five or six restaurants around the plaza with al fresco seating, including La Casona de las Rosas. This is a fun place to have lunch on a Sunday when the park really comes alive.
I don’t think this is originally from Michoacán but pictured below is a bowl of caldo tlalpeño, a type of Mexican soup made with chicken and vegetables seasoned with garlic, onion, epazote, cumin, and chipotle chili.
If chicken and vegetable soup is a little too boring for you, then perhaps you’d like to go for a bowl of caldo de rana instead. It’s a Mexican soup made with frog’s legs cooked with guajillo chilis, celery, carrots, and potatoes.
La Casona de las Rosas is a good place to have breakfast as well. They offer a variety of breakfast platters, including this Michoacano breakfast featuring corundas and pork ribs drenched in red salsa.
La Casona de las Rosas is an atmospheric restaurant that offers great food and excellent service. It’s a fun place to just hang out and go people-watching too.
La Casona de las Rosas has a large indoor seating area as well, though most people prefer to sit outside. There’s a stage inside so it looks like they play live music here at night.
La Casona de las Rosas
Address: C. de Santiago Tapia 331, Centro, 58000 Morelia, Michoacan Operating Hours: 8AM-12MN, daily What to Order: Breakfast dishes, antojitos, botanas
STREET FOOD / MARKET STALLS
If you’re traveling on a budget and want great food at a good price in Mexico, then one of the best things for you to do is to visit a market fonda (family-owned eatery) or street food stall.
Not only will you be getting good food for cheap, but you’ll be rubbing elbows with locals as well. It’s one of the most authentic food experiences you can have in Mexico.
I explored two large markets in Morelia – Mercado Independencia and Mercado Revolucion. Mercado Independencia is the larger and more interesting of the two but Mercado Revolucion is located in a more pleasant neighborhood so I’m recommending that one instead.
10. Mega Quesadilla Doña Agus
Mega quesadillas seem to be a thing in Morelia. It’s exactly as its name suggests – a large quesadilla measuring around 18 inches (46 cm) long. Aside from cheese, it’s filled with the usual ingredients like chorizo, pastor meat, bistec, and tripa.
You’ll find food stalls selling mega quesadillas at different spots throughout Morelia, including Mercado Revolucion. Just outside the market is a row of about four or five food stalls selling typical Mexican dishes like pozole, enchiladas, pambazos, and these mega quesadillas.
When in doubt, always go to the busiest food stall and that stall today was Mega Quesadilla Doña Agus. This mega quesadilla went for just MXN 30.
It’s hard to mess up a quesadilla. Cheese makes everything better so it doesn’t really matter where you go. Pictured below is my deliciously cheap and filling mega quesadilla with chorizo.
This row of street food stalls is located on the south end of Mercado Revolucion. It’s a great place to eat a filling meal for cheap in Morelia.
Mega Quesadilla Doña Agus
Address: 20 de Noviembre 733, Centro histórico de Morelia, 58000 Morelia, Michoacan Operating Hours: 8AM-7:30PM, daily What to Order: Mega quesadillas
PLAZA DE SAN AGUSTIN
Another good place to eat cheap food in downtown Morelia is Plaza de San Agustin. Surrounding the plaza in front of Rectoría de San Agustín is this U-shaped cluster of stands selling traditional Mexican food.
Most of the places here offer the same things so it doesn’t really matter where you go. As advised, just look for the busiest stall.
11. Antojitos Mexicanos “Carmelita”
When I went, one of the busiest stalls was Antojitos Mexicanos “Carmelita”. I had this plate of three quesadillas with mixed fillings for just MXN 50.
This is the stall I went to but like I said, most of the places here offer the same dishes so it doesn’t really matter where you go.
Antojitos Mexicanos “Carmelita”
Address: Centro histórico de Morelia, 58000 Morelia, Michoacán Operating Hours: 9AM-12MN, daily What to Order: Antojitos, botanas
MERCADO MUNICIPAL VASCO DE QUIROGA
Mercado Municipal Vasco de Quiroga is the third traditional market I visited in Morelia. It isn’t nearly as big nor as lively as the other two but we went here specifically to visit one stall – Uchepos y Corundas Rossy.
12. Uchepos y Corundas Rossy
As its name suggests, Uchepos y Corundas Rossy specializes in corundas and uchepos. I wanted to get uchepos de dulce con mantequilla (sweet uchepos with butter) but they were out of it by the time we got there so I got this corunda rellena de calabacita con queso instead. It’s a type of corunda filled with squash and cheese.
Mercado Municipal Vasco de Quiroga is located across the street from Carnitas El Michoacano. If you’re still hungry after your carnitas meal, then you may want to pick up a few uchepos and corundas from this stall.
Uchepos y Corundas Rossy
Address: Obrajeros de Nurio 17-Int. 78, Vasco de Quiroga, 58230 Morelia, Michoacan Operating Hours: 9:30AM-3PM, Tue-Sat / 9:30AM-2PM, Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Corundas, uchepos
13. Corundas Sto. Niño
You can find corundas at many restaurants in Morelia but I prefer trying them (or any other dish) at specialty restaurants like Uchepos y Corundas Rossy or this one – Corundas Sto. Niño. Located near Carnitas Don Pepe and Carnitas Jorge, they specialize in a handful of pre-Hispanic dishes like corundas, pozole, tamales, and atole.
Corundas Sto. Niño offers two types of corundas – corundas de manteca and corundas de ceniza. The owner tried explaining to us the difference between the two but our limited Spanish made it difficult to understand.
Corundas de manteca translates to “butter corundas” while corundas de ceniza means “ash corundas”. According to this recipe, corundas de ceniza is cooked with lime and ash.
If I remember correctly, the triangular tamales in the picture below are the corundas de manteca while the flatter ones beneath them are the corundas de ceniza. Both were tasty so I suggest trying both.
Whatever the type, corundas are typically enjoyed with Mexican sour cream and a thin, tomato-ey red salsa.
It’s hard to find room after a filling carnitas meal but you may want to give these corundas a try before rolling back to your hotel.
Corundas Sto. Niño
Address: C. La Corregidora 805, Centro histórico de Morelia, 58000 Morelia, Michoacan Operating Hours: 7AM-4PM, daily What to Order: Corundas
14. Gaspachos el Guero de la Merced
Walk around downtown Morelia and you’ll find many locals digging into these plastic cups filled with chopped fruit. This fruity snack is called gaspachos and it’s one of the most emblematic dessert snacks you’ll find in Morelia.
Not to be confused with the Spanish dish of cold vegetable soup, gaspachos morelianos consist of finely chopped mango, jicama, pineapple, and watermelon mixed with onions, lime, orange juice, chili, and cotija cheese.
There are many gaspachos stalls throughout Morelia but Gaspachos el Guero de la Merced is known for being one of the best. Like carnitas, you can’t leave Morelia without trying this dish.
Gaspachos el Guero de la Merced is conveniently located about a 5-7 minute walk west of the zocalo.
Gaspachos el Guero de la Merced
Address: Andrés Quintana Roo 192, Centro histórico de Morelia, 58000 Morelia, Michoacan Operating Hours: 10:30AM-6PM, daily What to Order: Gaspachos
15. Nieve de Pasta
Like charales, nieve de pasta is a Michoacán dish originally from the magical town (pueblo magico) of Pátzcuaro. Meaning “paste ice cream” in English, it’s an ultra-thick and pasty type of ice cream that tastes similar to condensed milk or dulce de leche.
You can get nieve de pasta in its “natural” flavor but you can also get it enhanced with other ingredients like mango, strawberry, avocado, or mamey.
The Nieve de Pasta ice cream shop in Morelia makes decent nieve de pasta but it’s still a far cry from the original at Neveria La Pacanda in Pátzcuaro.
Nieve de Pasta is located along Av Francisco I. Madero Pte. You’ll see it on the right side of the street on your way to Callejon del Romance or the Aqueduct from the zocalo.
Nieve de Pasta
Address: Av Francisco I. Madero Pte, Centro, 58000 Morelia, Michoacan Operating Hours: 10AM-9PM, Mon-Sat / 10AM-7PM, Sun What to Order: Nieves de pasta
16. La Michoacana
If you’ve been to Mexico, anywhere in Mexico, then you’ve undoubtedly seen one of these La Michoacana ice cream shops. As its name suggests, it’s a chain that originated in Michoacán, specifically from the town of Tocumbo.
La Michoacana ice cream is the same no matter where you go but it’s cool to try it in the state where it originated from.
Like any Mexican city, there are several La Michoacana branches in Morelia. We went to the one near Plaza Villalongin and Fuente de las Tarascas.
Address: Av Acueducto 870, Centro histórico de Morelia, 58000 Morelia, Michoacan Operating Hours: 10AM-9PM, daily What to Order: Ice cream
17. Churreria Porfirio
The zocalo is one of the best places to go people-watching in any Mexican city. Morelia is no exception.
There are always plenty of restaurants to go people-watching from around the zocalo but we prefer doing it from cafes or dessert shops. In Morelia, Churreria Porfirio is an excellent spot to watch life go by over churros and hot chocolate.
Their churros are good but their buñuelos may be better. A buñuelo is a type of donut or fried dough fritter that’s popular in Spain and in many parts of Latin America.
You’ll often find simple versions of buñuelos sold from street food carts in Mexico but at Churreria Porfirio, it looks like a large version of a rosette cookie. It’s crunchy and crumbly and perfect with coffee or hot chocolate.
Churreria Porfirio is a popular Mexican churros chain with branches throughout the country.
There’s nothing like a good cup of coffee to while away the time in Mexico, or any other country for that matter.
Address: Allende 243, Centro histórico de Morelia, 58000 Morelia, Michoacan What to Order: Churros, buñuelos
18. Calle Real
If you’ve been to Puebla and have a sweet tooth, then you’re probably familiar with poblano dulces tipicos or traditional sweets. People who enjoy the sweeter things in life will be pleased to learn that Michoacán makes its own traditional sweets as well.
Known as dulces tipicos de Michoacán, the state is famous for traditional confections like ate, cocada, moreliana, and mazapan. And like Puebla, they’re famous for their own version of rompope as well.
In Morelia, one of the best places to buy dulces tipicos is Calle Real. Open since 1840, it’s a beautiful chain of sweet shops that’ll make you feel like you’re in the 19th century. As you can see in the picture below, shop employees wear period costumes to complete the illusion.
At Calle Real, you’ll be like a kid in a candy shop. Oh wait…
The dulces tipicos from Puebla are good but the sweets in Michoacán may be even better. If you’re looking for the perfect food souvenir to bring home from Morelia, then look no further than Calle Real. Not only are their sweets delicious, but they’re beautifully packaged as well.
Here’s our haul of sweets from Calle Real. My favorite is definitely the ate which is a type of Mexican fruit jelly. They were so good I couldn’t stop eating them!
There’s more than one Calle Real branch in Morelia but the most conveniently located is the one along Av Francisco I. Madero Ote.
Address: Av Francisco I. Madero Ote 440, Centro histórico de Morelia, 58000 Morelia, Michoacan Operating Hours: 10AM-8PM, daily What to Buy: Dulces tipicos de Michoacan
To help you navigate to these restaurants and street food stalls in Morelia, I’ve pinned them all on the map below. Click on the link for a live version of the map.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN MORELIA, MEXICO
We almost always stick to local food when we travel but we couldn’t help but notice the large number of Italian and sushi restaurants in Morelia. Like surprisingly many.
We didn’t go but Pizzas del 108 is often mentioned as having some of the best pizzas in the Historical District. It may be a good place to go if you have a hankering for Italian food.
I’ve all but given up on sushi in Mexico but we happened to be staying at an Airbnb near Ici Makis Centro, one of the top-rated Japanese restaurants in Morelia. While I was away in Pátzcuaro, Ren had the yaki meshi especial and she said it was pretty decent for Japanese food in Mexico. If you want sushi, then just know that Mexican restaurants typically put Philadelphia cream cheese in every roll.
Anyway, that about sums up this Morelia restaurant guide. Michoacán food is amazing but I can understand why some travelers choose to skip this state in western Mexico. If you’re interested in visiting Morelia but have reservations, then be sure to check the US Department of State’s website for the latest travel advisory to Michoacán.
If you do decide to go, then I hope you enjoy the food in Morelia as much as we did. ¡Buen provecho!
Some of the links in this article on the best restaurants in Morelia are affiliate links, meaning we’ll earn a small commission if you make a purchase at no added cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. Muchas gracias!
You can’t have a conversation about the best regional cuisines in Mexico without including Michoacán. It may not be as globally recognized or celebrated as the cuisines of Puebla, Oaxaca, or Yucatan, but anyone who knows Mexican food will tell you that Michoacán belongs to that conversation.
Perhaps part of the reason why Michoacán (and its cuisine) is often overlooked by foreign travelers is its current status as a red-level Mexican state. Due to the threat of crime and kidnapping, the US Department of State advises against all travel to Michoacán, except to two cities – Morelia and Lazaro Cardenas.
To be honest, I almost didn’t include Michoacán in our Mexico itinerary because of those warnings. But we travel for food so we couldn’t possibly leave Mexico without exploring Michoacán cuisine.
We spent two weeks in Morelia and the nearby pueblo magico of Patzcuaro to experience what’s often been described as the “soul food of Mexico”. Here’s what we found.
MICHOACAN FOOD QUICK LINKS
To help plan your Morelia visit, we’ve compiled links to recommended hotels, tours, and other travel services here.
Popular hotels in Centro, the best area to stay for first-time visitors to Morelia.
Luxury: Casa Grande Hotel Boutique
Midrange: Casona Origen
Budget: HostalMich by Rotamundos
Sightseeing Tour: Downtown City Tour
Pueblos Magicos Tour: 3 Magic Towns Tour
Avocado Tour: Avokado Tour
Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
Mexico SIM Card
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WHAT IS TRADITIONAL MICHOACÁN CUISINE?
Michoacán cuisine can best be described as soulful and simple, but complex. According to James Beard Award-winning chef Pati Jinich, dishes in Michoacán are typically made with fewer ingredients than those from other Mexican regions, though the end result is typically more complex.
Take carnitas for example. Originally from Michoacan, carnitas is enjoyed in many parts of Mexico but Michoacan-style carnitas is still considered the best. It’s made in the simplest way possible – with just pork, lard, and salt.
In Michoacán, a whole pig is expertly broken down and slow-cooked in its own fat to produce a delicious and complex-tasting dish with a minimal number of ingredients. We’ve enjoyed carnitas in many parts of Mexico but the carnitas in Michoacán truly is a cut above the rest.
Chef Jinich also praises the quality of the ingredients in Michoacán. The Tierra Caliente region in particular enjoys an abundance of natural resources. Michoacán is the country’s top producer of avocados, accounting for up to 92% of Mexico’s total crop. Aside from avocados, other ingredients often used in Michoacán cooking include tomatillos, guava, tamarind, dried pasilla chilis, peruano beans, and chayote root.
It was interesting to learn that queso cotija (cotija cheese) – the crumbly cheese often used as a topping on many Mexican dishes – hails from Cotija de la Paz, while the super popular chain of La Michoacana ice cream shops is originally from the small town of Tocumbo. Both towns can be found in the western region of Michoacán state.
But perhaps the most distinguishing feature of Michoacán cuisine is something that can’t be understood until you actually taste it – its soulfulness. The people of Morelia are some of the warmest and most welcoming we’ve encountered thus far in Mexico, and that warmth carries over to their food. In many ways, it reminded us of Filipino food – simple dishes that are meant to fill you up and bring you a sense of comfort.
Michoacán food is Mexican soul food. Taste hearty dishes like sopa tarasca, morisqueta, churipo, and atapakua and you’ll quickly see why Michoacán is known as the soul of Mexico.
WHAT FOOD IS POPULAR IN MICHOACÁN?
Aside from carnitas, corundas, and a few other dishes, many of the entries on this list are not that easy to find in Morelia. We’ve never had a problem finding regional dishes in any Mexican City but in Morelia, we had to go door-to-door and go through each restaurant’s menu.
I think the reason for this is that many of Michoacán’s specialties are typically home-cooked, family-style dishes that aren’t usually served at restaurants, which again speaks to the soulful nature of Michoacán food.
In any case, we were lucky to find delicious examples for each of these dishes in Morelia. Check out our Morelia restaurant guide for suggestions on where to try them.
We tried many delicious dishes in Morelia, but carnitas was easily our favorite dish. The carnitas in Michoacán really is on a different level.
Carnitas literally means “little meats” and refers to a Mexican dish of pork confit slow-cooked in lard. It typically consists of a whole pig that’s butchered and then cooked in its own rendered fat for two to four hours in a large cauldron.
The slow-cooking process results in incredibly tender and juicy meat that’s chopped up into smaller chunks and eaten in corn tortillas with refried beans, salsa, pico de gallo, pickled vegetables, and guacamole.
In other parts of Mexico, the pork is usually chopped up into tiny pieces and served to you on tortillas, but in Michoacán, they give the meat to you in larger chunks. They give you the corn tortillas and condiments on the side so you’re free to assemble the tacos yourself.
As described, carnitas can be prepared in different ways depending on where it’s from, but Michoacan-style carnitas is widely considered to be the best. We were already in love with carnitas before visiting Morelia but even more so after our trip. The carnitas here is absolutely delicious.
We went to five carnitas restaurants in Morelia and they all served it in the same way. You can get it in varying amounts from a quarter kilo to a kilo of meat cut from different parts of the pig. A half kilo of meat is usually good enough for two people.
You can request for a specific cut of pork but surtido or an “assortment” is standard. It’ll typically be served with a few slivers of cueritos or pork skin. For me, the cueritos is what makes carnitas truly special. It has a wonderful gelatinous texture that goes amazingly well with the meatier cuts of pork.
In Michoacán, carnitas is traditionally prepared in large copper cauldrons produced in Santa Clara del Cobre, a pueblo magico (magical town) with a long history of copper production in central Michoacán state.
Aside from the Yucatan, no other region in Mexico is as recognized for its tamales as Michoacán. You can find many different preparations for tamales in Michoacán, none more famous perhaps than corundas.
Corundas are triangular-shaped tamales made with a sturdier dough wrapped in corn leaf. Steamed until golden, they’re often filled with savory ingredients and are typically eaten with a side of sour cream and red salsa.
Corundas are one of the easiest Michoacán dishes to find in Morelia. Many Mexican restaurants and street food stalls serve corundas, either on its own or as a side dish to larger entrees.
Uchepos are another common type of tamal in Michoacán. Unlike corundas and many other types of Mexican tamales, uchepos are made with fresh instead of dried corn and are often sweet.
Uchepos can be eaten on their own or topped with salsa, sour cream, or cotija cheese. When eaten for dessert, they’re typically served with sweetened condensed milk.
One of the best day trips you can make from Morelia is to Pátzcuaro, a charming pueblo magico about an hour southwest of Morelia. If you do decide to visit Pátzcuaro, then you absolutely need to try charales. It’s a term that can refer to both the dish and the type of fish used to make it.
Charales is a Michoacán dish of lightly battered and fried Chirostoma fish. This genus of fish can be found in the waters of Mexico’s Lerma River basin, which includes Lake Pátzcuaro and Chapala. Chirostoma fish can vary in size but the species used for the dish typically measure around three to four inches long.
We had charales twice in Michoacán, once in Morelia and another time in Pátzcuaro. Both times, the charales were lightly battered and fried but I read they can be prepared in other ways as well. They can be added as an ingredient in omelettes or made into fried pancakes or fritters.
However they’re made, charales are absolutely delicious and something you need to try while in Michoacán.
5. Sopa Tarasca
I found sopa tarasca to be one of the most surprising dishes in Michoacán cuisine. I’m not a big soup person so I expected it to be like any other bowl of Mexican soup, but it turned out to be incredibly delicious.
Sopa tarasca refers to a hearty Mexican pinto bean soup flavored with tomatoes, onions, garlic, ancho peppers, herbs, and seasonings. It’s often garnished with strips of fried tortilla, queso cotija, avocado, and sour cream.
Sopa tarasca, like many of the dishes on this list, is a tasty example of local Purépecha cuisine. The Purépecha people are an indigenous group that’s inhabited the northwestern region of Michoacán for over a thousand years.
Like sopa tarasca, atapakua is an eye-opening Michoacán dish. It isn’t the most appetizing-looking dish on this list but it’s absolutely redolent with flavor.
Atapakua refers to a type of pre-Hispanic Purépecha stew thickened with masa. Depending on the cook, it can be made with a variety of different ingredients like ancho chilis, fresh corn, tomatoes, garlic, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sorrel, and yerba buena. When made with pepitas as its main ingredient, you can think of it as a type of Michoacán pipian.
Before the Spaniards arrived, atapakua was thought to be made with just plant-based ingredients like vegetables and legumes. Today, it’s often made with animal proteins like beef and pork and is usually reserved for weddings and funerals.
Churipo is another delicious Purépecha stew that you need to try in Michoacán. As you can probably tell from its color, it’s spicier than atapakua and is traditionally prepared with beef, vegetables, corn, chili peppers, herbs, and corundas.
Morisqueta, for me, is a great example of why Michoacán food is referred to as Mexican soul food. It’s a hearty and comforting dish of white rice and cooked pinto beans topped with sour cream and crumbled queso fresco.
The term morisqueta refers specifically to the basic dish of white rice and beans but it’s traditionally served to accompany different types of stews and soups.
What you’re looking at below is an Apatzingán version of morisqueta. It’s traditionally served with pork ribs braised in tomato sauce.
If you enjoy bold punches of flavor in your food, then you’re going to love aporreadillo. It refers to a spicy dish made with dried and salted meat that’s been beaten with a stone, shredded, and then cooked with egg in a sauce made from different types of chili pepper, onion, garlic, and spices.
Aporreadillo is a popular dish in both Michoacán and Guerrero regional cuisines. It’s typically eaten for breakfast or dinner, usually with a side of rice and refried beans.
As previously described, it was surprisingly hard to find many of these traditional dishes at Mexican restaurants in Morelia’s Historic Center. So when we did find one, we ordered as many dishes as we could. La Guarecita de San Agustin was one of those restaurants.
We ordered churipo, charales, chongo zamorano, and this Purépecha dish that we hadn’t come across in our research – xanducata de pollo. Xanducata refers to a thick mole-like sauce that’s typically served with rice and some type of meat, in this case chicken.
There isn’t as much information about this dish online but based on this one xanducata recipe, it appears to be another type of Michoacán pipian (made with pepitas). Interestingly, there’s a minty version of xanducata called xanducata de novia y novio that’s traditionally prepared for a bride and groom.
11. Pollo Placero (Enchiladas Morelianas)
Like tacos, enchiladas are among our favorite dishes to eat in Mexico. There are many different types of enchiladas you can try in Mexico but in Michoacán, you need to try pollo placero.
Also known as enchiladas morelianas or enchiladas placeras, pollo placero refers to a popular Michoacán dish that used to be served in the plazas of Michoacan’s Spanish colonial cities. It’s made with oregano-seasoned chicken fried in lard and then served with enchiladas, carrots, and potatoes coated in an ancho chili sauce.
If you’ve eaten your way through Guanajuato or Queretaro, then you may find it similar to enchiladas mineras or enchiladas queretanas.
No guide to Michoacán cuisine can ever be complete without gaspachos. While the word gazpacho may conjure up images of a cold Andalusian soup made with raw blended vegetables, gaspacho in Michoacán refers to a dessert snack made with chopped fruit, onions, orange juice, lime, chili, and queso cotija.
A specialty of Morelia, you’ll find gaspacho stalls and people eating this fruity snack throughout the city at all times of the day. There are different variations of gaspacho but the basic version is made with finely chopped mango, jicama, pineapple, and watermelon.
13. Chongos Zamoranos
If you have a soft spot for the sweeter things in life, then you need to sink your teeth into this Michoacán dessert called chongos zamoranos. Originally from Zamora de Hidalgo, it’s a syrupy sweet curdled milk dessert made from milk, sugar, cinnamon, and rennet tablets.
Chongos zamoranos have a soft and spongey texture similar to some types of cheese. Be warned that this dessert is cloyingly sweet so one small cup will probably be enough for two.
14. Nieve de Pasta
Aside from charales, nieve de pasta is a Michoacán dish that you need to try in Pátzcuaro. Nieve de pasta literally means “paste ice cream”. It’s a perfect way of describing this ultra-thick and pasty ice cream that tastes similar to condensed milk or dulce de leche.
Nieve de pasta was invented by the Neveria La Pacanda ice cream shop in Pátzcuaro over a hundred years ago. According to this Mexican food blog, it’s made by combining various ingredients like milk, sugar, baking soda, vanilla, and honey in a copper saucepan (from Santa Clara del Cobre).
I asked an ice cream shop owner in Morelia if nieve de pasta was a type or flavor of ice cream, and she said it’s both. Nieve de pasta natural tastes like dulce de leche but it can also be used as a base to make other flavors like mamey (sapodilla), mango, strawberry, peanut, corn, and mezcal.
You can find nieve de pasta in Morelia but it’s a far cry from the real deal at Neveria La Pacanda in Pátzcuaro. It’s super thick and pasty, almost like an ice cream version of New York cheesecake.
15. Dulces Tipicos de Michoacan
Michoacán is famous for its traditional sweets. Similar to the dulces tipicos of Puebla, the dulces tipicos de Michoacán (“typical sweets from Michoacán”) were originally produced in convents during the colonial era. Today, they’re one of the best food souvenirs you can buy in Morelia.
Fruit jellies called ates are the most well-known (and delicious) but there are many different types of dulces tipicos you can buy in Morelia. Some of our favorites include morelianas, mazapanes, cocadas, and serpentinas. Even chongos zamoranos can be considered a type of dulce tipico from Michoacán.
Like Puebla, rompope or Mexican eggnog is popular in Michoacán as well.
This bonus entry isn’t a dish but if you like to drink, then you need to try charanda. It’s a sweet and smooth alcoholic spirit made from sugarcane, similar to rum.
Like mezcal and tequila, charanda enjoys Protected Designation of Origin status (PDO). This means that only spirits distilled from sugar cane in sixteen municipalities of Michoacán can carry the label “charanda”.
Charanda, in the Purépecha language, means “red-colored soil”. It’s named after the hilly area called Cerro de la Charanda where the first distillery was built.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON MICHOACÁN CUISINE
I am so happy we decided to visit Morelia and Michoacán. When it comes to cities with the best and most interesting Mexican food, there’s no question that Michoacán belongs in that discussion. It’s right up there with Puebla, Oaxaca, Yucatan, and Jalisco.
The US Department of State’s advisory made me a bit nervous to visit Michoacán but any fears were quelled within the first day of being in Morelia. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Michoacán is home to some of the warmest and kindest people we’ve met so far in Mexico. We felt that within the first couple of days of being there. Everyone treated us so well and that made the experience, and the food, that much more memorable.
I’m not an expert on the security issue in Michoacán but I can say from experience that we felt completely safe in Morelia. It’s like any other major city in Mexico. As long as you use common sense and observe the usual travel safety guidelines, then you should be fine. I suggest checking the US Department of State’s latest advisory before making a decision.
If you do decide to visit Morelia, then you’ll be in for quite a treat. Because not only does Morelia have some of the best food in Mexico, but it’s home to arguably the country’s most breathtaking architecture as well.
Some of the links in this Michoacan food guide are affiliate links, meaning we’ll earn a small commission if you make a purchase at no added cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. Muchas gracias!
We’re originally from the Philippines and find Colombian food to be familiar and very comforting.
In many ways, it reminds us of Filipino food which shouldn’t be surprising considering Colombia and the Philippines share similar histories. We were both colonies of Spain for about 300 years and Spanish influence is still very much apparent in our cultures, especially in our respective cuisines.
Empanadas and bandeja paisa are some of our favorites but here are 25 Colombian dishes that you need to try on your next visit to Bogota and Colombia.
FOOD IN COLOMBIA QUICK LINKS
If you’re planning a trip to Colombia and want to really learn about the local cuisine, then you may be interested in joining a Colombian food or wine tour.
Colombian Food Tours: Food and Wine/Drinking Tours in Colombia
Colombian Cooking Classes: Cooking Classes in Colombia
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Photo by bhofack2
WHAT IS TRADITIONAL COLOMBIAN CUISINE?
Colombian cuisine is comprised of the culinary traditions of the six main regions of Colombia – the Caribbean, Pacific, Orinoco, Amazon, Andean, and Insular regions. It varies from region to region and can best be described as a mix of native Colombian, Spanish, and African influences. In some parts of Colombia, you can find a distinct Arab influence as well.
The food in Colombia is strongly influenced by local ingredients and the cultural traditions of its ethnic groups, but common ingredients include rice, maize, potato, cassava, and various legumes. Beef, chicken, pork, and goat are commonly consumed proteins as are different types of fish and seafood.
Being a tropical and isothermal country, you’ll find a wide range of tropical fruits in Colombia like lulo, papaya, cape gooseberry, feijoa, guava, and passion fruit. Arepas and patacones are important side dishes while bandeja paisa, sancocho, and ajiaco are widely considered to be national dishes.
MUST-TRY COLOMBIAN DISHES
This Colombian food guide has been organized by category to make it easier to digest. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.
Soups / Stews
Sides / Starters / Snacks
Bread / Rice
SOUPS / STEWS
Ajiaco is a type of chicken soup that’s popular in Colombia, Peru, and Cuba. It’s considered a national dish of Colombia and is especially popular in Bogota, where it’s known as ajiaco santafereño.
Colomban ajiaco is traditionally made with chicken, three varieties of potatoes (papas criollas, sabaneras, and tocarreñas), corn on the cob, and the guascas herb. It’s commonly garnished with capers, avocados, and heavy cream.
Photo by nataliamylova
Sancocho refers to another traditional soup that’s popular in Colombia and other parts of Latin America like Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Panama, and Honduras. Like ajiaco, it’s considered a national dish of Colombia.
Sancocho can be prepared in different ways but it’s typically made with large chunks of meat, vegetables, and tubers served in a broth. In Colombia, it’s commonly made with chicken, pork or beef ribs, fish, or ox tail.
Depending on the region, Colombian sancocho is made with different tubers and vegetables like potatoes, cassava, plantains, corn on the cob, carrots, and tomatoes. It’s typically garnished with fresh cilantro and lime juice and served with a side of avocados and white rice.
Photo by Maria_Castellanos
3. Cazuela de Mariscos
Cazuela de mariscos is a type of seafood stew that’s popular along the Caribbean coast of Colombia, especially in Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta. It’s made with different types of seafood like shrimp, lobster, fish, squid, and clams cooked in coconut milk.
To prepare, vegetables and aromatics like onions, garlic, carrots, and peppers are sauteed in olive oil and butter before being mixed with coconut milk. The different types of seafood are then added to the pot followed by wine and tomato paste. When ready, the stew is often garnished with fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley.
If you’re visiting Cartagena, then be sure to check out our guide on the best restaurants in Cartagena for suggestions on where to try cazuela de mariscos.
Photo by bbivirys
4. Sopa de Mondongo
Sopa de mondongo refers to a type of tripe soup popular in many countries throughout South America and the Caribbean like Colombia, Puerto Rico, Brazil, and Argentina. It’s made with diced tripe slow-cooked with different vegetables and herbs like onions, garlic, carrots, bell peppers, cabbage, and cilantro.
Sopa de mondongo can be made in different ways depending on where it’s from. In Colombia, it’s typically made with chicken or beef stock, vegetables like carrots, peas, and onions, and lots of cilantro. Beef tripe is most common but in some regions of the country, pork, chicken, and turkey tripe are also used.
Photo by CUNDO
5. Mote de Queso
Mote de queso is a type of soup that’s commonly consumed in the Caribbean region of Colombia. It’s made with ñame (yams) and queso costeño cooked with onions, scallions, garlic, cumin, tomatoes, and lime.
Photo by CUNDO
SIDES / STARTERS / SNACKS
Hogao refers to a type of sauce commonly used in traditional Colombian cuisine. It’s made with tomatoes and scallions mixed with other ingredients like garlic, cilantro, spices, and seasonings.
Hogao is traditionally used as a base in many recipes or as a dip or topping for Colombian dishes like bandeja paisa, arepas, and patacones. You can think of it as a cooked version of salsa.
Photo by ildi_papp
The empanada is the perfect example of Spain’s culinary influence on its former colonies. Believed to have originated in Galicia, empanadas have become an important part of the cuisines of the Philippines and many Latin American countries like Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, Mexico, Bolivia, and El Salvador.
Empanada stems from the Spanish word empanar and literally means “enbreaded” or “coated in bread”. It refers to a baked or fried turnover pastry stuffed with a variety of fillings like ground beef, cheese, corn, and vegetables.
Colombian empanadas are typically made with a dough consisting of ground corn or wheat or corn flour. They can be filled with a variety of ingredients like ground meat with mashed potatoes, pumpkin, cheese, peanuts, and meat or chicken stews with rice and vegetables. They’re relatively small in size and almost always deep-fried.
Photo by anamejia18
8. Tamal Tolimense
The tamal is an important dish in the cuisines of many countries throughout Latin America and Colombia is no exception. Tamal tolimense refers to a type of tamal that hails from the Tolima department in the Andean region of Colombia.
Tamales tolimenses are made with a filling of chicken, pork ribs, pork belly, hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, carrots, peas, and rice. The tamal is wrapped in plantain leaves and traditionally eaten for breakfast with chocolate caliente (Colombian hot chocolate) and arepas.
Photo by anamejia18
9. Aborrajados de Platano
Aborrajados de platano refer to a traditional Colombian dish made with deep-fried plantains stuffed with cheese. Typically served as a snack, starter, or side dish, they can also be made with bocadillo or guava paste to go with the cheese.
Aborrajado literally means “battered” and refers to the way the plantains are dipped in batter before being deep-fried.
Photo by CUNDO
10. Perro Caliente
Visit Medellin and you’ll find perro caliente stalls throughout the city. Perro caliente literally translates to “hot dog” and refers to the Colombian version of this popular comfort food.
Colombian-style hot dogs are boiled instead of grilled and generously topped with ingredients like coleslaw, pineapple sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, and potato chips.
After a night of drinking in Bogota or Medellin, nothing will satisfy your cravings like an overstuffed perro caliente.
Photo by bhofack2
BREAD / RICE
Arepas are essentially corn cakes or corn bread made with ground maize dough. It’s especially popular in the cuisines of Venezuela and Colombia where it’s considered a staple dish.
Colombian arepas are known to have at least 42 variants and are commonly eaten throughout the day. Available at street food stalls and restaurants, they can be eaten plain with a dip like hogao or stuffed with various ingredients like meat, eggs, or melted cheese.
In the Caribbean region of Colombia, a stuffed version called arepa de huevo is especially popular. Typically eaten for breakfast, it’s made with an arepa that’s been split open, stuffed with a raw egg, and then deep-fried.
Arepa de huevo is so popular that a festival is held in its honor every year. The small town of Luruaco, credited for inventing arepas de huevo, hosts an annual festival celebrating this delicious deep-fried Colombian treat.
Photo by ildi_papp
The almojábana is a type of Colombian cheese bread made with cornmeal and cuajada cheese as its main ingredients. Cuajada cheese is a type of fresh cheese made with non-pasteurized milk.
Almojábanas are typically enjoyed for breakfast or as an afternoon snack with a cup of hot coffee.
Photo by Luisecheverriurrea
Like almojábana, pandebono (or pan de bono) is a type of Colombian cheese bread. It’s made with cassava starch, cheese, and eggs and is traditionally consumed with Colombian hot chocolate. In some parts of the country, it can also be made with guava jam.
Photo by anamejia18
14. Arroz con Coco (Colombian Coconut Rice)
Arroz con coco translates to “coconut rice” and refers to a rice dish made with white rice cooked in coconut milk. It’s consumed in many countries throughout the Americas, Southeast Asia, and South Asia.
In Colombia, arroz con coco is especially popular in the Caribbean region where it’s typically eaten as a side dish with fish. It’s made by soaking white rice in coconut milk and mixing it with shredded coconut, water, sugar, salt, and raisins.
Photo by lenyvavsha
15. Ceviche de Camarones (Colombian Shrimp Ceviche)
Ceviche is originally a Peruvian dish that’s become popular throughout the Pacific coastal regions of Latin America and beyond. In Peru, it’s traditionally made with raw white fish cured in citrus juices and aromatics but in Colombia, it’s a little different.
Colombian-style ceviche is made with different types of cooked shellfish dressed with lime juice, ketchup, hot sauce, aromatics, herbs, and seasonings. It’s enjoyed throughout the country though it’s especially popular in the coastal regions of Colombia.
Photo by pxhidalgo
16. Bandeja Paisa
If you’re a big eater, then bandeja paisa will be one of your favorite dishes in Colombian cuisine. It refers to an overflowing platter of food consisting of white rice surrounded by a multitude of different meats and side dishes.
Bandeja paisa varies from region to region but it’s commonly made with dishes like carne molida (ground meat), red beans with pork, chicharron (fried pork rinds), chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage), platano maduro (plantains), arepa, hogao, avocado, and a fried egg. Depending on the region and restaurant, it can be made with other meats as well like steak, grilled pork, chicken breast, and wiener sausages.
Just from looking at the picture below, you can see that bandeja paisa is an immensely filling Colombian dish. Like ajiaco and sancocho, it’s regarded as one of Colombia’s national dishes.
Photo by gonzalocallefotografia.gmail.com
17. Lechona Tolimense
Like tamal tolimense, lechona tolimense is a traditional Colombian dish that hails from the Tolima department of Colombia.
It’s traditionally made with a whole pig stuffed with rice, chunks of pork, peas, spices, and seasonings. The stuffed pig is then baked in an oven for ten to twelve hours, until the skin becomes nice and crispy. When ready, it’s usually served with a side of arepas, potatoes, and lime wedges.
Like many whole pig dishes, lechona is typically reserved for holidays and special occasions. Though it traditionally calls for a whole pig, smaller versions can be made with stuffed slabs of pork fatback (pictured below).
Photo by OlafSpeier
18. Carne Oreada
Carne oreada refers to a traditional Colombian meat dish made with sun-dried, salted beef. Thin slices of dry, cured beef are grilled with oil and served with various side dishes like arepas, yucca, and potatoes.
Carne oreada is a specialty of Santander, a north-central Colombian department in the Andes mountains. At the time, refrigeration wasn’t available so people preserved meat by curing it with salt, lime, and beer before leaving it out in the sun to dry.
Photo by FotoRojas
Obleas are wafer desserts popular in Spain and Latin America. Traditionally, it consists of two communion wafers held together with dulce de leche, but it can also be made with other fillings and toppings like cheese, jam, fruits, whipped cream, chocolate, and coconut.
The term oblea stems from the Low Latin oblata, meaning “offering” or “bread offered to the Eucharist”.
Photo by Luisecheverriurrea
Cholado refers to a refreshing Colombian iced dessert popular in the Valle del Cauca department of Colombia. It’s made with crushed or shaved ice, chunks of fresh fruit, fruit syrup, and sweetened condensed milk.
Depending on the vendor, cholado can be served with additional ingredients as well like shredded cheese, grated coconut, whipped cream, and a wafer cookie.
Photo by anamejia18
21. Mazamorra Antioqueña
Mazamorra is a traditional dessert drink from Colombia’s Andean region. It consists of white hominy that’s been cooked until very soft and then served with milk and a side of panela (unrefined whole cane sugar) or guava paste.
Mazamorra Antioqueña refers to a version of mazamorra that’s hugely popular in the Antioquia department of Colombia. It’s made with cracked dry yellow corn instead of hominy.
Photo by gonzalocallefotografia.gmail.com
Bocadillo refers to a guava jelly or guava paste dessert made with guava pulp and panela. It’s popular in many countries throughout Central and South America like Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and Costa Rica.
Guava paste is made with fresh guava that’s mashed into a pulp and strained before being boiled in water with panela. The thickened mixture is then left to cool and molded into blocks.
Bocadillo can be enjoyed on its own, paired with dishes and desserts like mazamorra and aborrajados, or eaten as a spread on bread, often with cheese.
Photo by anamejia18
23. Jugo de Lulo (Lulo Juice)
Jugo de lulo literally means “lulo juice” and refers to a refreshing drink made from a tropical South American fruit known as lulos or naranjillas. They resemble tomatoes and are known for having a citrusy flavor that’s reminiscent of rhubarb and lime.
Lulos are used to make different Colombian dishes and drinks like lulo ice cream, esponjado de lulo (lulo mousse), lulada, and champús, but one of the most common ways to use it is to make lulo juice.
Made with fresh lulos, water, and sugar, jugo de lulo is a refreshing drink that’s purported to have many health benefits.
Photo by anamejia18
24. Chocolate Santafreño (Colombian Hot Chocolate)
Colombia is one of the birthplaces of cacao so it’s no surprise that hot chocolate is a popular drink. Also known as chocolate completo, chocolate santafreño is a Colombian hot chocolate drink that’s popular throughout the country, but especially in the capital of Bogota.
Chocolate santafreño is made with pastillas (blocks) of chocolate containing cloves and cinnamon. They’re broken into pieces and then added to milk or water in an aluminum pot called a chocolatera. The mixture is then whisked into a foamy concoction using a wooden instrument called a bolinillo (or molinillo).
What makes chocolate santrafreño different from the usual hot chocolate is that it’s mixed with a mildly salty white cheese called queso campesino before serving.
Colombian hot chocolate is often enjoyed for breakfast with arepas or as an afternoon snack with pan de yucca or almojábanas.
Photo by Luisecheverriurrea
25. Cafe Colombiano
If coffee runs through your veins, then Colombian coffee is no stranger to you. Thanks to its climate and high altitude, Colombia has long held a reputation for being one of the best and most prolific coffee-producing countries in the world. It’s the third-largest producer of coffee behind only Brazil and Vietnam.
Famous worldwide, Colombian coffee tends to fetch a higher price because it consists mostly of higher quality arabica beans as opposed to the lower quality robusta produced by inferior coffee-producing countries.
Depending on where the beans are grown, coffee in Colombia can vary greatly in flavor. On some mornings, you may want a cup of joe that’s bold, nutty, and chocolatey in flavor while on others, you may prefer blends that are lighter, fruitier, and more floral. The choice is yours.
Photo by belchonock
COLOMBIAN FOOD TOURS
It’s easy enough to eat your way through any city, but if you want to go where the locals go, then you may want to join a food tour. Simply put, no one knows Colombian food better than a Colombian, so what better way to experience the local cuisine than with a food-obsessed local?
Not only can a knowledgeable guide take you to the city’s best restaurants, markets, and street food stalls, but they’ll be able to explain all the dishes to you in more detail as well. Check out Get Your Guide for a list of food tours in Colombia.
COLOMBIAN COOKING CLASSES
Going on a food tour takes you to a city’s best eateries, but if you want to really dive into the local cuisine, then you may want to take a cooking class. Eating Colombian dishes like arepas and ajiaco is one thing, but learning how to make them yourself is another. As I like to say, taking a cooking class is like looking under the cuisine’s hood.
If you’re adept in the kitchen and want to learn more about Colombian food, then check out Cookly for a list of cooking classes in Colombia.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON COLOMBIAN CUISINE
As with all our food guides, this article on Colombian food presents just a small taste of all the delicious traditional dishes that the local cuisine has to offer. It’s hardly a definitive list but I hope it whets your appetite and gets you even more excited to visit Bogota, Medellin, or any other city in Colombia.
Colombian food is comforting and filling and will be an excellent companion on your journey through this beautiful country in South America. Thanks for reading and have an amazing time eating your way through Colombia!
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Cover photo by alexat25. Stock images via Depositphotos.
Who doesn’t love ice cream? Like pizza, it’s one of the first foods I can think of that’s universally loved across all cultures.
You can make ice cream out of almost anything so there are literally thousands of flavors from around the world. Some are conventional, others not so much.
Case in point, we were in Oaxaca recently and got to try one of the strangest ice cream flavors we’ve ever had on a trip – grasshopper. Seriously.
And I’m not talking about a scoop of ice cream topped with toasted grasshoppers either. The grasshoppers were blended into the ice cream so you couldn’t see them but you could definitely taste them. It was an odd but intriguing blend of sweet, sour, spicy, and salty that’s probably not for everyone.
As much as we enjoy trying these strange flavors, we find that the classics are still the best. We’ve rounded up 25 of our favorite ice cream flavors here. Some of them may not be as exciting as squid ink ice cream but they’re definitely among the most delicious.
I think we’ll leave the balut ice cream for another list.
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THE MOST POPULAR ICE CREAM FLAVORS
1. Vanilla Ice Cream
This is a no-brainer. Vanilla is the most popular ice cream flavor in the world so it only makes sense to start this list with vanilla ice cream. It isn’t the sexiest flavor but it’s definitely one of the most delicious and versatile.
Made from vanilla bean, vanilla ice cream is delicious on its own but it’s often the flavor of choice when serving desserts a la mode. Apple pie, brownies, turon, and pisang goreng are just a few desserts we’ve tried that are made even more delicious by a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Photo by koss13
2. Chocolate Ice Cream
Like vanilla and strawberry, you can’t compile a list of the world’s best flavors of ice cream without including chocolate.
Vanilla may be the most popular flavor but chocolate ice cream was invented first. In fact, it could very well be the world’s first ice cream flavor. In 17th century Europe, popular drinks like hot chocolate, coffee, and tea were the first food items to be turned into frozen desserts.
Chocolate ice cream is typically made by blending cocoa powder with eggs, cream, sugar, and vanilla. All types of chocolate ice cream are heavenly but personally, we love the versions made with dark chocolate. The richness and slight bitterness of the dark chocolate is to die for.
Like vanilla, chocolate ice cream is often used as a base to create other ice cream flavors like rocky road, neapolitan, and chocolate fudge brownie.
Photo by koss13
3. Strawberry Ice Cream
Strawberry completes the holy trinity of simple but quintessentially delicious ice cream flavors. It can be made with strawberry flavoring but the best versions are made with fresh strawberries blended in with eggs, cream, sugar, and vanilla.
I’ve never met a Haagen-Dazs flavor I didn’t like but their strawberry ice cream is my hands-down favorite. It’s so creamy and delicious.
Photo by ajafoto
4. Chocolate Chip
Chocolate chip ice cream is basically vanilla ice cream enriched with mini chocolate chips.
When I first arrived for school in the US, chocolate chip ice cream became my first love. We didn’t have this ice cream flavor in my native Philippines back then so I was intrigued by the bits of chocolate in the ice cream!
As delicious as it is, vanilla can sometimes be boring but the chocolate chips give the ice cream texture and little punches of chocolate flavor.
Photo by StephanieFrey
Can you believe that something as universally appealing as ice cream can have its controversies? Like pineapple on pizza, there are some people who don’t think that chocolate and mint should go together, which is exactly what you get in every scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
To its detractors, this refreshing blend of mint and chocolate tastes like toothpaste. Personally, it isn’t my favorite ice cream flavor but I say to each his own!
Photo by bhofack2
5. Butter Pecan
Butter pecan ice cream is a rich, buttery, and nutty ice cream flavor that’s popular mostly in the US. It’s essentially vanilla ice cream enriched with whole pecans toasted in browned butter. Need I say more?
Photo by krisrobin
We absolutely love matcha. We consume it as often as we can whenever we visit Japan, especially in Kyoto.
Matcha refers to the finely ground powder made from green tea leaves. Aside from being an integral component in Japanese tea ceremonies, it’s a commonly used ingredient in many Japanese food products like cakes, cookies, crackers, and candy. Earthy and a bit grassy, it has a unique and complex flavor that’s difficult to describe.
Anything made with matcha is delicious but personally, I enjoy it most in green tea ice cream. You can enjoy matcha soft cream (soft serve ice cream) anywhere in Japan but the best comes from Uji, a small town between Kyoto and Nara. Eating matcha ice cream in any form is an absolute must in Japan.
Photo by anna.pustynnikova
I spent a good chunk of my early life in the States and one of my favorite things about the US was the eggnog. A Christmas holiday tradition, I remember getting my first sip of eggnog and thinking: “What in heaven’s name is this magical creation? It tastes just like liquid ice cream!”
Needless to say, if you’re a fan of that incredibly rich and creamy gift to humankind known as eggnog, then you’re going to love this ice cream. It already tastes like ice cream so it only makes sense to eat it as ice cream!
A quick side note, if you ever visit Mexico, then be sure to try rompope ice cream. Rompope is basically the Mexican version of eggnog.
Photo by bhofack2
Teaberry is another ice cream flavor that’s popular in the US, mostly in Pennsylvania. Because of its bright pink color, you’d think it was flavored with Pepto Bismol but it’s actually made from teaberries, a crimson-colored pea-sized fruit native to New England.
The teaberry is a polarizing fruit. Like mint chocolate chip, people either love or hate teaberry ice cream because of its intensely minty, almost medicinal flavor that tastes nothing like berries.
Food products made from teaberries aren’t as popular as they once were but teaberry ice cream is definitely something to look for on your next trip to Pennsylvania. Love it or hate it, you can at least say that you tried it.
Photo by yuliang11
Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry are three of the most popular ice cream flavors so it only makes sense to combine them in this creamy mash-up known as Neapolitan ice cream. It consists of those three iconic flavors served side by side in the same container.
Neapolitan ice cream was invented in the 19th century and gets its name from its presumed origin of Naples. Italian immigrants brought their frozen-dessert-making skills to the US and created this three-flavor combination to resemble the Italian flag.
Photo by bradcalkins
Tubs of ice cream made with two or more flavors are common now but Neapolitan ice cream was the first type of ice cream that combined three flavors.
Photo by Slast
10. Moose Tracks
Ice cream making is such big business in the US that you’ll often hear of branded flavors like Cherry Garcia and Phish Food. The flavors produced by Ben & Jerry’s are the most well-known but another famous ice cream flavor is Moose Tracks by the Denali Flavors company.
Moose Tracks is basically vanilla ice cream leveled up with peanut butter cups (or brownie bits) and their trademark Moose Tracks fudge. Aside from vanilla, it can be made with other ice cream flavors as well like chocolate and mint.
Photo by bhofack2
11. Rocky Road
Rocky Road is an established ice cream flavor in the US made with chocolate ice cream, nuts, and marshmallows. It’s said to have been invented by William Dreyer of the Dreyer’s ice cream company in the late 1920s.
According to the story, Dreyer and his partner named it “Rocky Road” to give Americans something to smile about after the Wall Street Crash of 1929.
Photo by stu_spivack, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
I’m a big coffee drinker so it only follows that coffee is one of my favorite ice cream flavors. Perfect as an after-dinner indulgence, it’s made with eggs, cream, vanilla, and sugar infused with the awesomeness of finely ground coffee beans.
Photo by yuliang11
I used to be confused by mocha as a kid because I didn’t know what mocha meant. It tasted sort of like chocolate but it was lighter in color like milk coffee. As it turns out, it’s a combination of both.
Originally from Yemen, mocha basically refers to coffee drinks sweetened with chocolate.
Photo by szefei
Pistachio is another of my personal favorite flavors of ice cream. Known for its distinctively pale green color, it has a wonderfully nutty flavor derived from finely ground pistachios and almond paste.
Photo by tashka2000
15. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
I initially found chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream to be a bit strange when I first arrived in the US. I had never eaten raw cookie dough before and never would have thought of doing it had it not been for this ice cream flavor. As its name suggests, it’s essentially vanilla ice cream mixed in with unbaked chunks of chocolate chip cookie dough.
I didn’t know this until I started doing research for this article, but this ice cream flavor was apparently invented at the first Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop in Vermont in 1984.
Photo by bhofack2
16. Cookies n’ Cream
Cookies n’ cream is another ice cream flavor that’s easy to love. It’s basically vanilla ice cream mixed in with crumbled bits of chocolate sandwich cookies like Oreos. It’s great as ice cream but in my opinion, it’s even better as a milkshake.
Photo by rafer76
17. Ube (My Favorite Ice Cream Flavor!)
I may be biased but ube is my favorite flavor of ice cream. Ube or purple yam is an ingredient from the Philippines that’s taken the world by storm thanks to its sweet earthy flavor and lovely purple color. Like matcha, its color makes it perfectly suited for Instagram.
Ube is used as the main ingredient in many desserts like cakes, cookies, and croissants but in my opinion, ube ice cream is the best. It’s often the crowning ingredient on halo-halo, a popular Filipino dessert made with shaved ice, condensed milk, and other ingredients like sweetened beans, coconut strips, and sugar palm fruit.
Photo by bhofack2
Butterscotch – a caramel-like sweet made with brown sugar and butter – is the driving ingredient in this luscious flavor of ice cream. Like caramel, butterscotch sauce has long been used as an ice cream topping though it works just as well when incorporated into the ice cream itself.
If you like butterscotch ice cream, then you need to try the Indian version. Butterscotch is one of the most popular ice cream flavors in India where it’s often topped with crunchy pralines.
Indian butterscotch ice cream differs from western versions in that it’s made with milk instead of cream. It also contains less sugar and is made with additional spices and aromatics like cardamom, saffron, and rosewater.
Photo by bhofack2
19. Salted Caramel
Caramel is very similar to butterscotch except it’s made with granulated white sugar instead of brown sugar. The sugar is caramelized and mixed with cream, salt, and other ingredients to make a sauce that’s used as a topping or flavoring for ice cream.
Caramel ice cream is delicious but salted caramel ice cream may be even better. As its name suggests, it’s made with more salt which helps to enhance and bring out the flavor of the caramel.
Photo by bartoszluczak.yahoo.com
20. Cherry Garcia
As previously mentioned, Cherry Garcia is one of Ben & Jerry’s most iconic ice cream flavors. Named after the late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, it was produced in 1987 and remains the company’s most famous fan-suggested flavor of ice cream. I’m not a fan of the Grateful Dead but I do remember being impressed by the name. Clever!
When it first came out, it started off as cherry vanilla ice cream but today, it’s made with cherry ice cream mixed in with cherry bits and chocolate flakes.
Photo by Don.chulio, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
21. Chunky Monkey
Chunky Monkey is another famous flavor from Ben & Jerry’s. As you can probably guess from its name, it’s made with a base of banana ice cream filled with fudge chunks and walnuts.
Like Cherry Garcia, this now iconic Chunky Monkey flavor was created from a suggestion made by an anonymous customer.
Photo by Don.chulio, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
22. Queso (Cheese)
Queso or cheese is another of my personal favorite flavors of ice cream. It may not be as popular in the west but it’s long been one of the most common flavors of street ice cream in the Philippines.
To some people, ice cream with cheese may sound odd and slightly off-putting, but it actually works. It’s the perfect combination of salty, sharp, creamy, and sweet.
Photo by ajafoto
Strawberry may be the most popular fruit-based flavor in the west, but visit the tropics and you’ll find ice cream made with fruits like coconut, durian, soursop, and mamey.
Personally, my favorite is mango. The Philippines is known for having the best mangoes in the world, which probably influences my preference. A little.
Photo by 00coffeecat00
Visit Bangkok and you’ll quickly realize that coconut is the most popular ice cream flavor in Thailand. It’s a heavenly, tropical blend of egg yolks, heavy cream, and sugar enriched with sweetened shreds of coconut, coconut milk, and coconut cream.
Photo by denio109
25. Bubble Gum
Last but not least is perhaps the oddest ice cream flavor on this list, at least to non-Americans. In other parts of the world, “bubble gum” and “ice cream” don’t belong in the same sentence together but in the US, it’s an iconic ice cream flavor.
This brightly-hued blue and/or pink flavor of All-American ice cream is made with bubble gum flavoring and whole gumballs. I read up on what “bubble gum flavoring” actually means and as it turns out, it’s made from a unique blend of chemicals that smell like fruit.
Hey, if ice cream can be made with grasshoppers and squid ink, then why not bubble gum?
Photo by kitzzeh
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST ICE CREAM FLAVORS
With all the existing flavors out in the market today, and with all the new flavors being created tomorrow, it’s impossible to come up with a definitive list of the best ice cream flavors. These lists are inherently subjective which is part of what makes them fun to compile and compare. Everyone’s list will be different and that’s perfectly ok.
While doing research for this article, I read about a few concoctions that I had never heard of like peanut butter and jelly ice cream, Eskimo ice cream, and Tonight Dough. Eskimo ice cream or Akutuq sounds especially intriguing. Made with caribou fat, seal oil, and berries, it’s something that we’ll definitely look for should we ever find ourselves in Alaska.
Bizarre food intrigues me so I may follow up this article with a list of the world’s weirdest ice cream flavors. Until then, I hope you enjoyed reading this article and feel free to chime in with your own favorites below. Thank you!
Cover photo by gorkemdemir. Stock images via Depositphotos.
The humble taco is the most iconic Mexican food. It can be enjoyed in many forms throughout Mexico, but no city offers more variety than the country’s capital – Mexico City – and it isn’t even close. This massive city is home to a staggering number of taquerias serving every type of taco you can think of.
Are you in the mood for fish tacos? The nearest ocean is over 300 km away but that won’t be a problem. Do you want tacos filled with stewed meats and vegetables? Mexico City has plenty.
If you’re feeling hungry after a night of drinking in Roma-Condesa, then you can follow your nose and stumble to the nearest al pastor or suadero stand. Chances are, you won’t have to stumble too far. In some parts of the city, they seem to exist on nearly every block.
Simply put, Mexico City is a taco lover’s paradise. You’ll be spoilt for choice in the world’s taco capital but the sheer number of options, coupled with the city’s size, can be daunting. To help narrow down your search, we’ve scoured the internet, binge-watched Taco Chronicles, and sought the opinions of locals to come up with what we believe to be 35 of the absolute best tacos in Mexico City.
If you’re planning to visit Mexico City and love this iconic street food dish as much as we do, then this list will be very useful to you.
If you’d like to go on a food tour, be sure to check out our guide to the best food and taco tours in Mexico City.
MEXICO CITY TACOS QUICK LINKS
To help you with your Mexico City trip planning, we’ve put together links to popular hotels, tours, and other travel-related services here.
Top-rated hotels in Roma-Condesa, one of the best neighborhoods to stay for first-time visitors to Mexico City.
Food Tours: Mexico City Foor Tours and Cooking Classes
Day Trip: Teotihuacan and Tlatelolco Day Trip by Van
Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
Mexico SIM Card
Save This on Pinterest!
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WHAT IS A TACO?
Before we dive into the best tacos in Mexico City, let’s quickly talk about what a taco is.
A taco is a traditional Mexican dish consisting of freshly made corn tortillas topped with a variety of fillings. Taco fillings can consist of anything from spit-grilled pork to stewed meats and vegetables to pit-cooked goat to battered fish and shrimp. The possibilities truly are endless.
If you’ve never been to Mexico and have eaten your fair share of Taco Bell, then you may be in for a surprise. The crispy taco isn’t the norm here. In Mexico, tacos are typically made with soft, palm-sized corn tortillas. Some taquerias will give you the option of having them with flour tortillas, though those are usually at least twice the price.
When you order a taco in Mexico, the server will ask if you’d like it topped with onions and cilantro. In the case of the popular taco al pastor, they may ask if you’d like it topped with pineapple as well. We always get them topped with everything so we say con todo or “with everything”.
Your tacos will be served with wedges of lime, pickled onions, and one or more salsas on the side – typically green (salsa verde), red (salsa rojo), and yellow (salsa amarillo). These will vary in spice level so be sure to try them first before putting them on your taco.
To eat, you simply pick up the soft corn tortillas by hand and bite into the taco. They’re typically small enough to be eaten in two or three bites.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF TACOS IN MEXICO CITY?
Tacos can be made with pretty much anything but there are probably over two dozen varieties of traditional tacos made from different cuts of meat like bistec (beef steak), costilla (ribs), lengua (tongue), and chorizo (sausage).
You can find all types of traditional tacos in Mexico City, along with non-traditional versions like Peking duck tacos and iguana tacos. Described below are some of our favorites.
Tacos al Pastor
The taco al pastor is arguably the most popular type of taco in Mexico City. It refers to a taco made with marinated pork grilled on a vertical rotisserie. It’s a cousin of the Lebanese shawarma and Greek gyros, all of which are derived from the Turkish doner kebab.
To prepare, thin slices of pork are shaved from the vertical spit and served on corn tortillas, usually with small chunks of grilled pineapple.
You won’t have trouble finding good tacos al pastor in Mexico City. Personally, our favorites are El Vilsito, Tacos Los Güeros de Boturini, and Tacos Don Güero.
Tacos de Suadero
Thanks to Taco Chronicles on Netflix, this was the one taco that I was most excited to try in Mexico City. It refers to a type of taco made with meat cut from the area between the pig or cow’s belly and leg. Unlike carnitas or barbacoa which are stringier and more muscular in texture, suadero meat is smoother and fattier in texture.
Many taquerias in Mexico City serve suadero tacos only at night. Taco Chronicles described it as a sexy, late-night taco which it absolutely is. It’s one of my favorite tacos and something that you absolutely need to try when you visit Mexico City. We’ve had it at many taquerias and our hands-down favorite is Tacos Don Juan.
We’ve visited several cities in Mexico like Oaxaca, Guanajuato, Valladolid, and San Miguel de Allende, and for some reason, suadero doesn’t seem to be as popular outside of Mexico City. Do NOT miss it!
Tacos de Guisado
Like tacos al pastor, guisado tacos are among the most common types of tacos in Mexico City. Guisado means “stew” and refers to tacos made with a variety of stewed meats and vegetables. If you’re a vegetarian and meat tacos aren’t your thing, then tacos de guisado will be your best option.
We enjoyed tacos de guisado from many taquerias in Mexico City, but out favorites are definitely Tacos Hola El Güero and Taqueria La Hortaliza.
Tacos de Cabeza
If you’re an adventurous eater, then you need to try tacos de cabeza. Like suadero tacos, they’re among my favorite types of tacos in Mexico City.
Cabeza means “head” and refers to tacos made with meat from the cow or pig’s head. Taquerias that serve tacos de cabeza will typically also serve tacos made from specific cuts of head meat like lengua (tongue), ojo (eyes), seso (brain), and cachete (cheek). You can try them at Taqueria El Borrego Viudo or at any of the taquerias along Lorenzo Boturini Street.
I understand that cabeza tacos may not be for everyone but I strongly urge you to try them. They’re delicious. The meat is usually softer than more conventional cuts of meat like bistec or costilla.
Tacos de Tripa
We love what Western society deems as the “undesirable” cuts of meat, so it’s no surprise that tacos de tripa is another of our favorites. As you can probably guess, tripa literally means “tripe” but it refers to tacos made from the small intestines of a cow, pig, or goat.
If you can get past the thought of eating animal intestines, then I think you’ll find the texture to be quite wonderful. You can enjoy tacos de tripa at Taqueria El Torito in the Centro Historico area or at any of the taquerias along Lorenzo Boturini Street.
Tacos de Pescado / Tacos de Camaron
Tacos de pescado or fish tacos are a good gateway taco for people unaccustomed to eating authentic Mexican tacos. Originally from Baja California, it consists of grilled or battered and fried fish served with lettuce or cabbage, pico de gallo, and a citrus/mayonnaise or sour cream sauce.
Tacos de camaron are very similar to tacos de pescado, but instead of fish, they’re made with shrimp. El Pescadito serves amazing tacos made from either fish or shrimp. They serve the best seafood tacos I’ve had anywhere in Mexico, and that includes Puerto Vallarta.
Tacos de Canasta
Tacos de canasta are some of the cheapest and most unique tacos you’ll find in Mexico City. They’re also among the most delicious.
Also known as tacos al vapor (steamed tacos) or tacos sudado (sweaty tacos), tacos de canasta literally means “basket tacos” and refers to tacos filled with various stews and then bathed in oil or melted butter. Unlike other types of tacos that are assembled on the spot, they’re pre-made and typically sold from baskets to keep them warm, hence the name.
Los Especiales is a great place to try basket tacos in the Centro Histórico area. If you visit Coyoacan, then we recommend trying them at the Tacos de Canasta Beto stand.
Tacos de Barbacoa
Barbacoa refers to a style of cooking meat in Mexico. Typically enjoyed on weekends, it consists of a whole sheep or goat traditionally cooked for several hours in a pit covered with agave (maguey) leaves. Like carnitas, the meat is juicy and incredibly tender.
True to the barbacoa tradition, you can enjoy tacos de barbacoa over the weekends at El Hidalguense, one of the most popular restaurants in Mexico City to try this dish.
Tacos de Carnitas
Carnitas means “little meats” and refers to a pork dish from Michoacán. It’s made with pork that’s braised or simmered in lard or oil for several hours until the meat is juicy and fork tender.
We had carnitas a few times in Mexico City and the best were definitely from La Esquina del Sabor and Tacos Don Juan. Their carnitas tacos are incredibly delicious.
Tacos de Cochinita Pibil
Like tacos de carnitas, tacos de cochinita pibil are pork tacos. Originally from the Yucatán Peninsula, they’re made from pork that’s been marinated in a strongly acidic citrus juice. The marinated meat is then wrapped in banana leaves before being slow-roasted in a píib or traditional earthen oven.
Aside from being incredibly tender and juicy, this Yucatán specialty is citrusy in flavor and known for its burnt orange color derived from annatto seeds. The dish is traditionally associated with Merida and the Yucatán Peninsula but in Mexico City, one of the most popular places to try it is at Taqueria El Turix in Polanco.
Tacos árabes is the predecessor of the al pastor. It’s originally from Puebla, the central Mexican state and city which welcomed a wave of Lebanese immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They brought with them their shawarma-making tradition which eventually became tacos árabes.
Tacos árabes are similar to pastor except the meat is flavored with Middle Eastern spices and indigenous central Mexican ingredients. Another key difference is that the grilled pork in tacos árabes is wrapped in pita bread (pan árabe) or flour tortillas, and it isn’t served with any pineapple.
Tacos árabes are the predominant type of taco in Puebla but you can also find it in Mexico City. We tried it at Taqueria El Greco in the Condesa neighborhood.
Tacos de Birria / Quesabirria
Birria is one of the signature dishes of Jalisco state and Guadalajara. It refers to a type of Mexican stew made from a spicy slow-cooked goat meat adobo with cumin, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves.
Tacos de birria is delicious on its own, but if you really want to kick it up a notch, then you need to try quesabirria. Originally from Tijuana, it refers to a version of birria tacos made with melted cheese. It’s so incredibly tasty.
If you’re in Mexico City over the weekend, then you can enjoy the most delicious quesabirria tacos at Tacos Don Juan.
THE BEST TACOS IN MEXICO CITY
Mexico City is huge. You may need Uber to get around so to help maximize each trip, we’ve organized this list of the best tacos in Mexico City by location. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.
Del Valle – Narvarte
Most if not all cities in Mexico will have a zocalo or central plaza. They say that every first-time visit to any Mexican city should start in its zocalo. So should your quest for the best tacos in Mexico City.
1. Taqueria El Torito
There were three taquerias in the Centro Historico area featured on Taco Chronicles. Taqueria El Torito was one of them. Open since 1957, this humble taqueria offers just three things on their menu – suadero, tripa, and campechano.
I’ve briefly described the first two in the previous section but campechano refers to a taco topped with a mixture of meats like carne asada (grilled beef), longaniza (pork sausage), and chicharrónes (fried pork skin).
Pictured below are suadero and tripa tacos. We recommend trying both. These were our favorite tacos in the Centro Histórico area.
Like any popular taqueria in Mexico City, you can expect a line at El Torito at any time of the day. But no worries, orders are filled quickly.
El Torito has limited counter seating so be prepared to eat your tacos while standing outside the shop. Served on plastic-covered plates, this my friends is the true Mexico City street taco experience.
Taqueria El Torito
Address: Isabel la Católica 83 Local A PB, Cuauhtémoc, Centro, 06090 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 10AM-10PM, Mon-Sat / 10AM-8PM, Sun What to Order: Suadero, tripa
2. El Buen Taco
El Buen Taco was another taqueria featured on Netflix. Unlike El Torito and Los Cocuyos (#3), it’s a proper restaurant with plenty of tables and seats. They offer different types of tacos but what they’re really known for is their pastor.
On my plate below is a delicious trio of pastor tacos. At the time of my visit, each taco goes for MXN 17 but you can order a set of three for just MXN 47.
We love the street food experience but we understand it isn’t for everyone. If you’d rather eat your tacos in a more comfortable setting, then El Buen Taco is a good choice in the Centro Historico area.
El Buen Taco
Address: Dolores 16-D, Colonia Centro, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 8AM-9:30PM, Mon-Fri / 8AM-10PM, Sat-Sun What to Order: Pastor
3. Los Cocuyos
Los Cocuyos is arguably the most famous taqueria not just in Centro Historico, but in all of Mexico City. Not only was it featured on Taco Chronicles, but the late great Anthony Bourdain once paid a visit to this 24-hour taqueria on an episode of No Reservations. Today, it’s probably the longest wait you’ll need to make for tacos in Mexico City.
Los Cocuyos offers many different types of meat tacos like campechano, longaniza, cabeza, and tripa. One of their most popular is the suadero.
On my plate below are tacos de suadero, molleja (sweetbreads), and ojo (eyes). I’m all about texture so tacos made with offal and head meat are among my favorites. I find ojo to be especially delicious. It has a soft, gelatinous texture that’s unlike any other.
Los Cocuyos has no indoor seating so be prepared to eat your tacos on plastic stools or while standing. Their tacos are good but personally, I prefer El Torito. Do try both and let us know what you think.
I didn’t time it but I must have waited over 30 minutes to get my tacos at Los Cocuyos. This was easily the most popular taqueria we visited in Mexico City so be prepared for a wait no matter what time of day you go.
Address: Calle de Bolívar 57, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: Open 24 hrs What to Order: Suadero, cabeza
4. Taqueria Arandas
Like Los Cocuyos, Taqueria Arandas is a popular taqueria in the Centro area. They stay open 24/7 so if you ever wake up in a cold sweat craving for tacos al pastor, then this is a good place to go. I suggest getting them with cheese.
Taqueria Arandas offers tacos de cabeza de res and carnitas tacos as well. If I remember correctly, these were topped with ojo (eye) and cachete (cheek).
Taqueria Arandas is a Tripadvisor Traveler’s Choice awardee. It’s one of the most popular taquerias in the Centro area so expect a crowd at peak times.
Address: Av. 5 de Mayo 46, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico Operating Hours: Open 24 hrs What to Order: Al pastor tacos, suadero, cabeza de res
5. Los Especiales
Tacos de canasta really surprised us. We weren’t as excited to try them but they turned out to be some of our favorite tacos in Mexico City. They’re soft and tasty and offer a different experience from other types of tacos.
Los Especiales is probably the most famous basket taco place in the Centro Historico area. The wait was almost as long as Los Cocuyos so I decided to get mine to go. Unlike other tacos that are best eaten on the spot, tacos de canasta get better if you let them sit for a while.
Pictured below is a set of five assorted basket tacos, each stuffed with a different filling. Common fillings include beans, chicharrón, chorizo, and potatoes.
They gave me a plastic bag with what seemed like way too much guacamole, but as it turned out, it was just right. These basket tacos were delicious on their own but the guacamole made them that much better.
Like Los Cocuyos, Los Especiales is immensely popular so expect a wait no matter what time of day you go. They have indoor seating but if you’d rather not wait, then you can get yours to go and eat them on a bench somewhere.
Address: Av Francisco I. Madero 71, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 9AM-10PM, Mon-Sat / 9AM-6PM, Sun What to Order: Canasta
ROMA – CONDESA
The Roma-Condesa area (Roma Norte / Roma Sur / La Condesa) is one of the most pleasant neighborhoods in Mexico City. Designated as a Barrio Mágico (magical neighborhood), it’s an upscale tree-lined area with plenty of restaurants, cafes, bars, and some of the very best tacos in Mexico City.
6. Don Juan (Best Suadero Tacos)
Don Juan was easily our favorite taqueria in Mexico City. We enjoyed this place so much that we wound up eating here five times in two weeks. In our opinion, they serve some of the absolute best tacos in Mexico City.
Don Juan serves many different types of meat tacos. Everything we had was delicious but one of our favorites was definitely the suadero. We love suadero anywhere but the offerings at Don Juan were by far our favorite. Not only do they offer the most meat, but the flavor and texture was always spot on – soft and tasty with bits of fat mixed in. They’re sooo good.
On my plate below are suadero and guisado tacos. The suadero is a constant on their menu but this particular guisado, made with lengua (tongue), was a daily special. More on their specials below.
Don Juan’s suadero is plenty delicious on its own, but throw in some grilled cheese and it goes to a whole different level. Known as the suaqueso or suadero con queso, this was one of my absolute favorite tacos in Mexico City.
To prepare, shreds of quesillo are thrown on the grill before the corn tortilla with suadero is placed meat-first on top of the cheese. The taco is left on the grill for a few seconds, just enough time to melt the mozzarella-like cheese.
Gooey, stringy, and a little crispy in parts, the creamy quesillo goes so well with the suadero meat. Trust us, you NEED this suaqueso in your life. Luckily, it’s available everyday at Don Juan.
Every Friday, Don Juan serves what has to be some of the best carnitas or pork tacos in Mexico City. They’re juicy, tender, and incredibly flavorful.
If you’re in Mexico City over the weekend, then you need to head over to Don Juan to try their quesabirria tacos. Judging by how crowded the restaurant gets on Saturdays and Sundays, this has to be one of the most popular items on their menu.
Filled with juicy birria meat and coated with crispy, gooey melted cheese, this could very well be one of the very best tacos in Mexico City. It’s insanely delicious.
Make sure to come early because they do run out of these quesabirria beauties. We got these two and then ordered a third, which turned out to be their last one. Lucky us!
This is the line at Don Juan on a regular day. On Saturdays and Sundays, it gets even more crowded. They only have a few seats but trust us, these are tacos worth waiting and standing for.
Address: Calle Juan Escutia 35, Colonia Condesa, Cuauhtémoc, 06140 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 10AM-4:45PM, Mon-Fri / 10AM-3PM, Sat-Sun What to Order: Suadero, quesabirria, carnitas
7. El Pescadito (The Best Fish Tacos!)
Located across the street from Don Juan is El Pescadito, a taqueria that serves some of the best Baja-style seafood tacos in Mexico City. Not only do they serve delicious fish and shrimp tacos, but theirs are some of the most loaded we’ve had anywhere in Mexico. They put so much fried shrimp and fish on their tacos that you almost need a fork to eat them!
This mound of tasty seafood-y goodness below is what they call the que-sotote, a taco filled with a shrimp- and cheese-stuffed chili pepper to go with even more shrimp and cheese. ¡Que maravilloso!
This is El Pescadito’s version of the campechano, but instead of pork and beef, they use shrimp and fish.
As described, El Pescadito is located across the street from Don Juan so you can easily visit both on the same day. I have a feeling you’ll go to both places more than once.
Address: C. Atlixco 38, Colonia Condesa, Cuauhtémoc, 06140 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 10AM-6PM, daily What to Order: Pescado, camaron
8. Hola El Güero
If you want great tacos de guisado in Mexico City, then look no further than Hola El Güero. Located in La Condesa, it’s a small restaurant that was also featured on Taco Chronicles.
Hola El Güero offers many types of guisado tacos made with meat, seafood, and vegetable fillings like picadillo (hash), chicharrón (fried pork skin), sardina con atún (sardine with tuna), and calabazitas (pumpkin). They top them with beans and/or rice and crumbled cheese.
One of Hola El Güero’s bestsellers is the hígado or liver taco. Mineral-y but clean-tasting, it’s seriously delicious.
We enjoyed Hola El Güero so much that we wound up eating here twice. On the plate below are picadillo and liver tacos. You really need to try the hígado!
Pictured below are torta de camaron (shrimp cake) and chorizo con papa (cured sausage with potatoes) tacos. These were delicious as well.
Hola El Güero offers a true street food experience in classy Condesa. We stayed at an Airbnb near here and they were this crowded almost all the time.
Hola El Güero
Address: Amsterdam 135, Hipódromo, Cuauhtémoc, 06100 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 9AM-9PM, Mon-Fri / 9AM-7PM, Sat / 8:30AM-3:30PM, Sun What to Order: Guisado
9. Taqueria La Hortaliza
La Hortaliza shares many similarities with Hola El Güero. Both are located in Condesa, both were featured on Netflix, and both serve amazing tacos de guisado. It was impossible for us to choose which one we liked better so we wound up eating at both taquerias twice.
La Hortaliza offers fewer options than Hola El Güero but they served the best lengua tacos we had anywhere in Mexico City. Topped with hefty chunks of beef tongue, my god was this delicious!
Sitting behind the lengua below is a guisado taco filled with chicharrón. It was incredibly tasty as well so make sure to get both.
Pictured below are equally delicious guisado tacos filled with torta de pollo (breaded chicken) and chile relleno (stuffed chili pepper).
La Hortaliza is located near Bosque de Chapultapec so you can eat here on your way to or from the park.
Taqueria La Hortaliza
Address: Cto. Interior Mtro. José Vasconcelos 48, Colonia Condesa, Cuauhtémoc, 06140 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 9:30AM-5PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Guisado
10. La Esquina del Sabor (Best Carnitas Tacos!)
This is probably one of the best Mexico City taquerias on this list that you’ve never heard of. Located in Roma Sur, La Esquina del Sabor serves some of the best tacos de carnitas we’ve had anywhere in Mexico City.
As you can see from this picture, they load up those tortillas with a generous amount of soft and juicy carnitas. If you like cilantro and onions, then be sure to ask for it “con todo”. My god were these delicious!
We must have tried every cut of carnitas on multiple visits but our favorites are lengua (tongue), oreja (ear), and buche (stomach).
You can’t tell from this rare quiet moment but La Esquina del Sabor is hugely popular with the locals in the area. This humble stall always had a line, but not to worry, it always moved pretty quickly.
Don’t miss this stand if you want some of the best tacos de carnitas in Mexico City.
La Esquina del Sabor
Address: Tuxpan 22, Roma Sur, Cuauhtémoc, 06760 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico What to Order: Carnitas
11. Chico Julio
Chico Julio is a proper sit-down restaurant that serves seafood dishes like ceviche, aguachile, tostadas, and fish and chips. We were here exclusively for the tacos so we tried this trio of shrimp and octopus tacos.
As you can see from this picture, they mix in bits of chorizo with the seafood to make them even tastier.
I’m usually happy with just lime juice and salsa but the condiments and sides at Chico Julio are next level. I think we used up all these condiments for just three tacos!
Chico Julio is a small but lovely restaurant in Roma Norte. You can’t really see it in this picture but they offer outdoor patio seating as well.
Address: Jalapa 126, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico Operating Hours: 12NN-10PM, Wed-Sat / 12NN-8PM, Sun-Tue What to Order: Seafood tacos
12. El Hidalguense
El Hidalguense is one of the most popular restaurants in the Roma neighborhood. They serve many dishes, including insects, but they’re best known for their barbacoa. They were also featured on Taco Chronicles and recommended in many food blogs.
El Hidalguense is a bit pricey but they do have a reputation for serving some of the best barbacoa in Mexico City. You may want to go there over the weekend to enjoy some barbacoa and other tasty Mexican dishes like mixiote (pit-barbecued meat), enmoladas (enchiladas with mole), and chilaquiles (corn tortilla breakfast dish).
If you’re an adventurous eater, then you may want to try their escamoles (ant larvae) and hormiga chicatana (leaf-cutter ants) as well.
As previously described, barbacoa is typically enjoyed only on weekends in Mexico so El Hidalguense only opens from Friday till Sunday. I initially thought the restaurant was located in Roma Norte but it’s actually in Roma Sur, right at the border with Roma Norte.
Address: Campeche 155, Roma Sur, Cuauhtémoc, 06760 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 7AM-6PM, Fri-Sun (closed Mon-Thurs) What to Order: Barbacoa
Cariñito is one of the most interesting taqueries we’ve visited thus far in Mexico City. They basically offer just one thing on their menu – pork belly tacos – but they make them in four different ways.
Whoever came up with these inventive tacos was clearly inspired by his travels to Asia. Three of the four preparations were inspired by Asian flavors.
If I remember correctly, this one was the Cantones pork belly taco. Reminiscent of char siu, it’s meant to mimic the flavors of Hong Kong and Cantonese cuisine.
This one I believe, was the Thai pork belly taco. I think the sauce on the pork belly may have been Thai red or yellow curry.
This one was the most interesting and surprising. They call it Issan because it’s inspired by Issan cuisine in northern Thailand. Cariñito’s chef has probably traveled to northern Thai cities like Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai, hence the inspiration for this taco.
Called Criollo, the last type of pork belly taco they serve is inspired by Criollo and Caribbean cuisine.
If you’d like something a little different from the usual al pastor taco, then head over to Cariñito in the Roam Norte neighborhood. This tiny taqueria seems to be a popular stop on many Mexico City taco tours.
Address: Guanajuato 53, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico Operating Hours: 1-10PM, Mon-Sat / 1-8PM, Sun What to Order: Pork belly tacos
14. El Autentico Pato Manila
El Autentico Pato Manila was one of the taquerias we were most curious to visit in Mexico City. We’re originally from the Philippines so we were intrigued with the taqueria’s name.
Pato means “duck” so that’s the protein they use in the two types of tacos on their menu – Tacos Manila and Tacos Kim. The tacos are tasty and interesting but we were confused by the taqueria’s concept.
Duck isn’t a commonly used ingredient in Filipino cuisine. To me, “Tacos Kim” is suggestive of a Korean-inspired taco but both of these tacos seem to have been inspired more by Chinese food rather than by Filipino or Korean cuisine. These Tacos Kim are clearly Mexican taco interpretations of Peking duck.
Pictured below are the Tacos Manila. Again, they were tasty but nothing about these tacos reminded me of Filipino food. Why do they call them “Tacos Manila?” Hardly anything “autentico” about these.
If I showed you these condiments without telling you what type of restaurant they’re from, what would you think? They definitely look and taste Chinese to me.
Regardless of the name, El Autentico Pato Manila does serve interesting tacos that you probably can’t find anywhere else in Mexico City. Pay them a visit if you want a break from suadero tacos.
El Autentico Pato Manila
Address: Culiacan 91, código 2, Hipódromo, Cuauhtémoc, 06100 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico Operating Hours: 12NN-9PM, Sun-Wed / 12NN-10PM, Thurs-Sat What to Order: Asian-Mexican fusion tacos
Speaking of Asian-Mexican fusion tacos, if you like Japanese food, then you need to visit Takotl. They make unique tacos, some with an Asian twist.
The three dark tacos below are wrapped in nori (seaweed) while the light-colored one is wrapped in jicama. Very interesting!
Here’s a closer look at one of the nori-wrapped tacos. If I remember correctly, this one was called Takataka de Arrachera. It’s basically a skirt steak taco wrapped in nori with seasoned rice and deep-fried tempura greens.
Give it a spritz of lime juice and it really does feel like you’re eating a sushi taco hybrid. Delicious! I absolutely love the delicate crunch and umami-rich flavors of nori.
I’ve seen nori-wrapped tacos before but this was the first time I’ve ever seen one wrapped in jicama. I believe this one was the Tako Camaron Oriental or shirmp taco wrapped in thinly sliced turnip.
As god as their nori tacos are, this may have been my favorite taco from tonight’s set. It’s different and surprisingly delicious and refreshing.
The nori and jicama tacos are nice but Takotl does serve more conventional tacos as well, like this tasty Tako Suadero and Tako al Pastor estilo Takotl. Both are wrapped in blue corn tortillas.
Takotl is one of the most interesting taco restaurants we’ve been to in Mexico City thus far. Like Crudo in Oaxaca, they combine Mexican flavors with Japanese ingredients to come up with tasty fusion tacos that work. Mexicans in general don’t like raw food so Takotl’s nori tacos felt like a nice compromise.
A Traveler’s Choice awardee, Takotl is a Roma Norte restaurant and bar with a perfect 5-star rating on Tripadvisor. Aside from their inventive tacos, they offer a good range of cocktails as well.
Address: Av. Insurgentes Sur 275, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico Operating Hours: 1-11PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Japanese-Mexican fusion tacos
16. Tizne Tacomotora
Tizne Tacomotora is another Mexico City taqueria in the Roma Norte neighborhood with interesting taco offerings. They have around eight tacos on their menu made with different cuts of meat like brisket, pork belly, and pulled pork al pastor. Artfully served on blue corn tortillas, these definitely don’t look like your everyday Mexico City tacos.
Pictured below is Tizne Tacomotora’s most creative taco – kalbi asada. Marinated in miso, garlic, and sesame oil, it’s the chef’s nod to Korean food. Kamsahamnida!
If I remember correctly, this one was the pork belly.
This quesabirria was a limited time special. ¡Riquisimo!
Like many Roma-Condesa taquerias, Tizne Tacomotora is another great place to visit for interesting tacos in Mexico City.
Address: Guanajuato 27-B, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico Operating Hours: 1-9PM, Mon-Sat / 12NN-6PM, Sun What to Order: Pork belly tacos, kalbi asada tacos
17. Birria Estilo Jalisco
We had just finished brunch at popular Panaderia Rosetta in Roma Norte when we walked by this birria stall. Good birria isn’t something we can easily ignore so we sat down at this humble taco stall to have a second breakfast.
This piping hot cazuela of birria brought us right back to Guadalajara and Jalisco. ¡Que rico!
You can get birria already prepared in taco form, or you can have it served in a clay pot with fresh corn tortillas on the side. We prefer the latter because we enjoy making the tacos ourselves.
Now this is a real Mexican breakfast!
Don’t you just love Mexican street food? As described, this humble taco stall is located just a stone’s throw away from ultra popular Panderia Rosetta, so it shouldn’t be hard to find.
Birria Estilo Jalisco
Address: Colima 171, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico What to Order: Birria tacos
18. Taqueria El Greco
If you like al pastor meat, then you’ll probably enjoy tacos árabes as well. As previously described, it’s the predecessor of the pastor and differs in the type of marinade and bread used.
There are many taquerias that serve this popular Puebla dish in Mexico City but one of the most popular is Taqueria El Greco. They call their version tacos doneraky but I believe it’s the same thing as tacos árabes. If you like pastor and Lebanese shawarma, then you need to try this.
Renée got the taco doneraky while I stuffed my face with this much larger gringa doneraky with cheese and avocado. It’s delicious and something you should definitely try, just so you can compare it to the pastor and shawarma. You can almost taste the history and relationship between these three very similar but different dishes.
Taqueria El Greco is a small restaurant located in the trendy La Condesa neighborhood.
Taqueria El Greco
Address: Av Michoacán 54-Local B – 91 And 92, Hipódromo, Cuauhtémoc, 06100 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 2:10-10:45PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Árabes
19. Taqueria Orinoco
Orinoco is a chain of taquerias with branches in Roma Norte, Condesa, Polanco, and Zona Rosa. They pride themselves on serving Monterrey- or northern-style tacos which are heavier on the meats, especially beef, and often use flour instead of corn tortillas.
Orinoco specializes in three types of tacos – pastor, res (beef), and chicharrón – which you can get with either flour or corn tortillas. On the tray below are res and chicharron tacos topped with everything. The beef was juicy and tender and the chicharrón nice and crunchy.
Taqueria Orinoco has several branches but their most popular is in Roma Norte. Their shops have a more modern feel to them with their tiled walls and strong red and white branding.
Address: Multiple branches Operating Hours: Varies per branch What to Order: Pastor, res, chicharron
20. Taqueria La Chiquita
We found these next two taquerias while exploring the Roma Sur neighbrhood. They’re located right next to each other and pretty much offer the same things – carnitas.
Here’s a plate of carnitas topped with different parts of the pig. Oh my!
This is Taqueria La Chiquita. On its right at the corner is the very similar Taqueria la Reyna. Both are excellent.
Taqueria La Chiquita
Address: C. Manzanillo 164, Roma Sur, Cuauhtémoc, 06760 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico Operating Hours: 10AM-10:30PM, daily What to Order: Carnitas
21. Taqueria La Reyna
As described, Taqueria la Reyna has similar offerings as Taqueria la Chiquita. They specialize in carnitas but they offer canasta tacos and tacos al pastor as well.
Of course, we got the carnitas.
Can you see both restaurants’ names on the blue awning? Tacos are small so you can easily eat at both on the same trip.
Taqueria La Reyna
Address: C. Manzanillo 159, Roma Sur, Cuauhtémoc, 06760 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico Operating Hours: 10AM-11:30PM, Mon-Fri / 10AM-10:45PM, Sat-Sun What to Order: Al pastor tacos, carnitas, canasta tacos
Polanco is often described as the “Beverly Hills of Mexico City”. It’s a swanky area with lots of upscale restaurants and bars. We didn’t think we’d find good street food here but we were wrong. Explore Polanco and you’ll find that it’s home to a good number of taquerias and street food stalls, just like any other neighborhood in Mexico City.
22. Taqueria El Turix
El Turix is one of the most well-known taquerias to try cochinita pibil in Mexico City. It’s the only thing they serve and you can have it in tacos, tortas (sandwiches), or panuchos.
As you can see below, they prepare their cochinita pibil tacos a little differently here. Instead of topping the tortillas with meat, they give them to you rolled up and slathered in sauce.
As previously described, cochinita pibil is marinated in strongly acidic citrus juices so that’s the first thing you’ll notice when you take a bite. They’re tangy, juicy, and delicious.
Taqueria El Turix is popular so expect a small crowd of hungry taco lovers no matter what time of day you visit.
Taqueria El Turix
Address: Av. Emilio Castelar 212, Polanco, Polanco III Secc, Miguel Hidalgo, 11550 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 11:30AM-10PM, daily What to Order: Cochinita pibil
Coyoacán is a lovely borough about 10 km (6.2 miles) south of the Centro area. It’s best known for its colonial architecture and the Frida Kahlo Museum but there’s plenty of good street food to be found here as well.
23. Tacos de Canasta Beto
We were waiting for our time slot to visit the Frida Kahlo Museum when we spotted this food stall on Google Maps. They’re located just a block away from the museum and serve only basket tacos. It’s a great place to try this tasty snack before or after visiting the museum.
Beto’s basket tacos are absolutely delicious. Had we not been so full from eating so many tostadas at Coyoacán Market, then we would have ordered more. They’re incredibly tasty.
From the looks of it, the Beto stall is a well-known stand in Coyoacán. People would drive by in their cars to pick up bags of their tasty basket tacos to go. You can check the map at the bottom of this article to see exactly where it is in Coyoacán.
Tacos de Canasta Beto
Address: 04100, Berlín 184, Del Carmen, Coyoacán, 04100 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 10AM-4PM, Tue-Sat (closed Sun-Mon) What to Order: Canasta
Zona Rosa refers to the neighborhood just north of Roma-Condesa and west of the Centro area. Similar in feel to La Condesa or Roma Norte, it’s a trendy area known for its gay community and many nightlife and shopping options.
24. Tacos Los Juanes
In Mexico, they say that the best tacos come out only at night. These next two taquerias are proof of that. Open only from 8PM and 10PM respectively, they serve some of the best tacos we’ve had anywhere in Mexico City.
Tacos Los Juanes is a humble street taqueria that sets up shop at 8PM on the corner of Puebla and Cozumel Streets. They offer tacos and tortas filled with the usual meats like suadero, bistec, campechano, and longaniza. We tried the pastor and cabeza and both were outstanding.
Pictured below are two pastor tacos. Their corn tortilla is a bit small but they do load them with lots of al pastor meat. Plus, they’re just MXN 10 apiece.
On this plate are two cabeza tacos. As you can see, the tortilla is practically overflowing with meaty goodness.
We arrived before 8PM while they were still setting up and there was already a small group of people waiting to get their hands on their delicious tacos. If you’re feeling hungry after a night of drinking in Roma Norte, then Los Juanes is a great place to go.
Tacos Los Juanes
Address: Puebla 326, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 8PM-3AM, Sun-Thurs / 8PM-5AM, Fri-Sat What to Order: Pastor, cabeza
25. Tacos Don Güero
Tacos Don Güero is another late-night taqueria that was featured on Netflix. Open only from 10PM, they serve the usual taco meats like suadero, chuleta (chops), and pechuga (chicken breast). Taco Chronicles highlighted their pastor so that’s exactly what we came for.
The producers of that show really knew what they were doing because these pastor tacos turned out to be some of the best tacos we had anywhere in Mexico City. Smokey and charred in parts, they were absolutely delicious.
Here’s a shot of the al pastor man firing up that trompo. They blaze it up from time to time to give their pastor tacos that extra smokiness and char. So so good.
Tacos Don Güero
Address: Río Nilo 66, Cuauhtémoc, 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 10PM-12MN, Sun-Fri / 10PM-4AM, Sat What to Order: Pastor
DEL VALLE – NARVARTE
Del Valle and Narvarte are adjacent neighborhoods located in the Benito Juarez borough of Mexico City. This area doesn’t see as many tourists which is a shame because it’s home to many fantastic taquerias, including the one place that we believe serves the best pastor tacos in Mexico City.
It’s easy enough to visit Colonia Narvarte on your own, but if you’d to go on a guided tour, then you may be interested in this Narvarte night tour.
26. El Vilsito
El Vilsito is perhaps the one taqueria that I was most excited to visit in Mexico City. Like many of the taquerias on this list, we learned about it from Taco Chronicles on Netflix.
We were excited to try El Vilsito’s pastor tacos but I was also looking forward to the place itself. They set up early in the afternoon and share a space with an auto repair shop. It isn’t everyday that you find a taqueria in an auto repair shop so I thought that was super cool!
The novelty of the space is interesting but El Vilsito also serves some of the very best al pastor tacos in Mexico City. We visited many taquerias and these were some of our favorite tacos anywhere in CDMX. They’re absolutely delicious.
Traveleater Tip: Get a side of cebollitas (grilled green onions) to enjoy with your tacos. The chopped raw onions they usually put in your tacos are nice, but the sweetness from the caramelized green onions adds another layer of flavor to the dish. They’re so good!
El Vilsito could very well be home to the best tacos al pastor in Mexico City. You seriously need to visito El Vilsito. (sorry)
Address: Petén 248 y, Avenida Universidad, Narvarte Poniente, 03020 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 2PM-3AM, Mon-Thurs / 2PM-5AM, Fri / 3PM-5AM, Sat / 3PM-12MN, Sun What to Order: Pastor
27. Tacos Manolo
El Vilsito is arguably the most famous but the Narvarte neighborhood is home to many great taquerias. We loved Roma-Condesa but when it comes to tacos, I think Narvarte may have the slight edge. The taquerias here were less fancy and felt more authentic.
Tacos Manolo is one of the most famous taquerias in this neighborhood. Nothing fancy. Just the usual al pastor, suadero, and longaniza tacos, but done well.
I think these may have been longaniza and campechano tacos.
When you spot the naughty logo, then you’ll know you’re at Tacos Manolo.
Address: Luz Saviñon 1305, Narvarte Poniente, Benito Juárez, 03020 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico Operating Hours: 2PM-12:30AM, Sun-Thurs / 2PM-2:30AM, Fri-Sat What to Order: Suadero tacos, al pastor tacos
28. Taqueria Don Frank
Like Tacos Manolo, Taqueria Don Frank is a no-nonsese taco restaurant that serves simple but delicious food. They serve the usual taco offerings like suadero, al pastor, and tripa tacos.
Take a good look at the taco in the foreground. Do you recognize that cut? What you’re looking at is a slice of our favorite lengua (tongue).
At Taqueria Don Frank, you can get 60 gram (foreground) or smaller 30 gram tacos. This one was topped with longaniza.
Taqueria Don Frank is the big bright orange corner taqueria in Narvarte. You can’t miss it.
Taqueria Don Frank
Address: Torres Adalid 1353, Narvarte Poniente, Benito Juárez, 03020 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico Operating Hours: 1:30PM-1AM, daily What to Order: Al pastor tacos, suadero tacos
29. Taqueria los Pericos
Taqueria los Pericos is another popular taco restaurant in the up-and-coming Narvarte neighborhood.
Like the previous two taquerias, there’s nothing fancy here. Just basic tacos like cabeza, bistec, suadero (pictured below), and lengua, but done well.
Pericos means “parakeets” in Spanish, hence the taqueria’s logo.
Taqueria Los Pericos
Address: Enrique Rébsamen 701-A, Narvarte Poniente, Benito Juárez, 03020 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico Operating Hours: 12NN-12MN, daily What to Order: Al pastor tacos, suadero tacos
30. Sonora Taco Steak
From a distance, we could already smell the meats roasting on a grill. We knew this place would be good and we were right.
As their name suggests, Sonora Taco Steak is a steak restaurant that serves tacos made with different cuts of meat like rib-eye, sirloin, and skirt steak. We got a few each of the rib-eye and sirloin and they may have been some of the best steak tacos we’ve had anywhere in Mexico. They were smokey, fatty, juicy, and just delicious.
If you want the taste of steak in your tacos, then Sonora Taco Steak is a great place to go in the Narvarte neighborhood.
Sonora Taco Steak
Address: Casa del Obrero Mundial 295, Narvarte Poniente, Benito Juárez, 03020 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico Operating Hours: 1-10PM, Tue-Sun / 1-6PM, Mon What to Order: Steak tacos
31. Ceci la Cecina
It’s hard not to notice this fun taqueria in the Narvarte neighborhood that specializes in cecina tacos. Cecina refers to thin slices of beef that have been salted, marinated, and then left to dry in the sun.
At Ceci la Cecina, you can have tacos topped with cecina natural (pictured below) or cecina enchilada. A popular dish in Oaxaca, the latter refers to butterflied slices of pork coated in chili pepper.
On the left below is the Ceci, a house special taco topped with cecina natural, longanisa, and cheese.
And of course, don’t forget the condiments.
Colorful Ceci la Cecina will surely grab your attention in working-class Narvarte. We didn’t come across too many of these cecina taquerias in Mexico City.
Ceci la Cecina
Address: Anaxágoras 635, Narvarte Poniente, Benito Juárez, 03020 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico Operating Hours: 9AM-5PM, Tue-Thurs, Sun / 9AM-9PM, Fri-Sat (closed Mondays) What to Order: Cecina tacos
Tacubaya is a grittier working-class neighborhood located south of La Condesa. There isn’t much here for tourists but it is home to an interesting 24-hour drive-in taqueria.
32. Taqueria El Borrego Viudo
El Borrego Viudo is another taqueria that was featured on Taco Chronicles. It’s known for being a 24-hour taco restaurant that offers drive-in service. Many diners would drive in, park, and order and eat tacos from their cars. People love them because they can satisfy their taco cravings at any time of the day.
El Borrego Viudo offers the usual taqueria meats like pastor, suadero, longaniza, and cabeza. We tried almost everything on their menu, starting with these pastor tacos.
On the plate below are cabeza and ojo tacos.
The suadero is always a good choice at any taqueria in Mexico City.
Last but not least was this cachete or beef cheek taco. You seriously need to try tacos made with head meat in Mexico City. The texture of the meat is so enjoyable.
El Borrego Viudo caters to both drive-in and dine-in customers. It took us about half an hour to walk here from our Airbnb in La Condesa.
Taqueria El Borrego Viudo
Address: Av. Revolución 241, Tacubaya, Miguel Hidalgo, 11870 Mexico City, CDMX Operating Hours: Open 24 hrs What to Order: Pastor, suadero, cabeza
True taco Traveleaters need to make the trip to Lorenzo Boturini Street. Located about 4.5 km (2.8 miles) east of Roma Norte, this busy street with a cluster of taquerias has been called the “taco capital of Mexico City”. When you’re the taco capital of Mexico City, then you’re pretty much the taco capital of the world.
Every taqueria on Lorenzo Boturini serves the usual offerings like pastor, suadero, cabeza, bistec, and chuleta. You’ll find several taquerias along this street but we went to the three featured on Taco Chronicles.
Netflix highlighted their tacos al pastor so that’s what we ordered from all three taquerias to see which one we liked the best.
33. Tacos Los Güeros de Boturini
I’m not one to keep you in suspense so I’ll tell your straight up, the pastor from Los Güeros de Boturini was our favorite. I understand that taste is subjective but for us, theirs was the best. Not only were they the best along Lorenzo Boturini, but they were among the best pastor tacos we had anywhere in Mexico City. They were seriously delicious.
Of the three Lorenzo Boturini taquerias featured in this article, Los Güeros de Boturini opens the latest, at 4:30PM. They’re definitely worth the wait.
Tacos Los Güeros de Boturini
Address: Lorenzo Boturini 4354, Aeronáutica Militar, Venustiano Carranza, 15980 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 4:30PM-1AM, Mon-Thurs / 4:30PM-4:30AM, Fri-Sat / 4PM-1AM, Sun What to Order: Pastor, suadero, cabeza, tripa
34. El Gabacho Taqueria
Los Güeros de Boturini may have been our favorite but El Gabacho wasn’t far behind. Taste truly is subjective so we highly recommend going to all three to see which one suits you the best.
One thing we really liked about El Gabacho is that they serve their pineapple as a condiment on your table so you’re free to add as much as you like. Their salsas were ferociously hot as well.
El Gabacho opens at 2:30PM everyday.
El Gabacho Taqueria
Address: Lorenzo Boturini 659, Jardín Balbuena, Venustiano Carranza, 15900 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 2:30PM-12MN, Thurs-Sun / 2:30-11:30PM, Mon-Wed What to Order:Pastor, suadero, cabeza, tripa
35. El Pastorcito
The pastor tacos at El Pastorcito are delicious as well. Like El Gabacho, they offer their pineapple as a condiment on your table so you’re welcome to add as much as you like. The citrusy sweetness of the pineapple goes so well with the spiciness and smokiness of the pastor meat.
El Pastorcito is located right next to El Gabacho. They open the earliest at 1PM so we recommend taking an Uber to Lorenzo Boturini Street at around 3:30-4PM so you don’t have to wait too long to go to all three taquerias.
Address: Lorenzo Boturini 4503, Aeronáutica Militar, Venustiano Carranza, 15970 Ciudad de México, CDMX Operating Hours: 1PM-2:30AM, Mon-Thurs / 1PM-4:30AM, Fri-Sat / 1PM-12MN, Sun What to Order:Pastor, suadero, cabeza, tripa
MEXICO CITY TACO MAP
To help you navigate to these taquerias in Mexico City, I’ve pinned them all on the map below. Click on the link for a live version of the map.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST TACOS IN MEXICO CITY
As you can probably tell from this guide, we LOVE tacos. We could eat them everyday which is practically what we did on our last trip to Mexico City. Bite-sized and with lots of variety, we could never grow tired of them.
We’ll be in Mexico for at least another year so chances are, we’ll be eating our way through Mexico City again soon. We’ll definitely update and refine this guide after every visit, though it probably won’t grow to more than 35 taquerias. The goal is to find the best tacos in Mexico City so quality, not quantity, is key.
In any case, I hope you enjoyed reading this guide as much as I enjoyed writing (and doing research for) it. If you’re from Mexico City and have suggestions on which taquerias to visit, then we’d love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading and have a delicious time eating the best tacos in Mexico City!
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Before arriving in San Miguel de Allende, we had spent four weeks in Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, Tequila, and Guanajuato City. Maybe we were too focused on street food stalls and taquerias to notice but up to that point, we had little idea how important coffee was to Mexican culture.
True coffeehouses – like the kinds you find in Hanoi or Saigon – didn’t seem all that common in the Mexican cities we had visited. We were making do with the cheap instant coffee we had been buying from our local OXXO, until we arrived of course, in San Miguel de Allende.
After spending the first couple of days in this gorgeous colonial-era city in Mexico’s central highlands, it became clear that coffee is indeed a thing in Mexico, and some of the best can be found right here in San Miguel de Allende.
COFFEE IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE QUICK LINKS
Traveleating on your own is always fun, but if you really want to learn about the local cuisine, then it’s best to go on a guided food tour or join a cooking class. Check out these food tours and cooking classes in San Miguel de Allende.
Food Tours: San Miguel de Allende Food and Drinking Tours
Cooking Classes: San Miguel de Allende Cooking Classes
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WHY IS SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE A COFFEE LOVER’S PARADISE?
Until I read this article on National Geographic, I didn’t realize that Mexico was a major coffee-producing country. I did some digging and according to the International Coffee Organization, Mexico is the 9th largest coffee-making country in the world, producing roughly 234,000 metric tons of coffee every year.
As I’d soon learn, not every major coffee-producing country in the world gets to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The majority of locals from top coffee producers like Ethiopia, Colombia, and Guatemala are priced out of the most valuable beans which are typically reserved for export. Mexico – particularly in affluent cities like San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City – is an exception.
In San Miguel de Allende, locals get to enjoy the world-class brews that their country produces. Explore the town on foot and you’ll find amazing local cafes on almost every block. Most coffee shops abide by a fair-trade ethos and source their beans ethically and responsibly, mostly from Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Veracruz – the three Mexican states known for producing the best coffee beans in the country.
THE BEST COFFEE SHOPS IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE
While in San Miguel de Allende, I tried coffee made from beans produced in Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Chiapas. For me, coffee made from Oaxacan beans are the best. They’re more robust and fuller in flavor. They’re also twice the price as beans produced in the other two states.
According to the National Geographic article, most cafes in San Miguel de Allende source their beans from Oaxaca. This seems to contradict what one coffee shop owner told me. According to him, only two shops in San Miguel de Allende brew their coffee with beans from Oaxaca. Keep reading to learn which ones.
1. Lavanda Café
According to the coffee shop owner and barista I had a long chat with, Lavanda Café is one of just two shops in San Miguel de Allende that serves coffee brewed from Oaxaca beans. Unsurprisingly, it’s also one of the most popular cafes in the city. There’s typically a half-hour wait so I suggest arriving early if you can.
Unlike some of the cafes on this list which serve only coffee, Lavanda serves delicious food to go with their excellent coffee. Lavanda is a popular breakfast and lunch spot with many offerings on their menu like waffles, poached eggs, baked goods, cakes, and Mexican favorites. Check out our San Miguel de Allende restaurant guide for more information.
As expected, Lavanda offers many different types of coffee, from espressos to cold brews to cups of joe infused with flowers. I had no idea what to get so I turned to our server for recommendations. She told us that they don’t serve super strong coffee but they do offer flavorful brews, one of the tastiest being a concoction they call the “Mexican Geisha”.
Here’s a shot of our server pouring me my cup of Mexican Geisha. It’s a type of pour-over black coffee that’s floral and fruity in flavor.
Don’t you just love the super cute presentation? The coffee cup and jar were served on a Japanese-like wooden tray with a card explaining the type of beans they use.
Renée wasn’t in the mood for something as frou-frou so she went with a standard cup of cappuccino. We enjoyed our coffee with a pistachio cinnamon bun and a slice of guava and dulce de leche cake.
Lavanda Café has a calming outdoor courtyard with a guitarist singing Mexican folk songs. It’s a fun place to enjoy a great breakfast and good coffee in San Miguel de Allende.
Lavanda Café de Especialidad y Desayuno
Address: Calle del Dr Ignacio Hernandez Macias 87, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 8:30AM-3:30PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays)
2. La Ventana Coffee
If you want coffee on the go, then La Ventana is one of the best places to visit in San Miguel de Allende. As its name suggests, it’s a coffee shop that serves great coffee, mostly from a window on the side of a building. They do have indoor seating and a simple lunch menu with a few sandwich options, but most people just get coffee to go.
Here’s the window where you can order your coffee from. Entrance to the indoor seating space is around the corner.
Located near Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, La Ventana is a cute neighborhood spot that offers great coffee to go. Unlike Lavanda, they offer just the usual brews like cafe americano, espresso, cappuccino, and latte.
La Ventana Coffee
Address: Diez de Sollano y Dávalos 11, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 8AM-9PM, daily
3. Ki’bok Coffee
National Geographic described Ki’bok Coffee as a “tiny café that serves some of the best coffee in the world”. Ki’bok, in a Mayan language local to Tulum, where the shop originated from, means “good aromas”.
Like Lavanda, Ki’bok is a lovely cafe that serves delicious food to go with their great coffee. It’s a popular breakfast and lunch spot that offers international dishes like pasta, hummus, quinoa bowls, and focaccia sandwiches along with traditional Mexican food like chilaquiles and enchiladas.
Pictured below are two cups of their Hemingway coffee. It’s their signature blend of Cuban cortado double espresso served with an infusion of brown sugar and topped with foam and powdered cinnamon. It was delicious and one of the best cups of coffee we had in San Miguel de Allende.
Ki’bok is located up the street from La Ventana. If you’re a digital nomad, then this is a great place to work. They have decent-sized tables and aren’t nearly as busy as Lavanda so you can work undisturbed for many hours. They have a nice covered rooftop seating area as well.
Address: Diez de Sollano y Dávalos #25, Cuadrante #1, Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 8AM-7PM, daily
4. El Cafe de La Mancha
El Cafe de La Mancha is another cafe recommended by National Geographic. Located in a more residential neighborhood just outside the central tourist area, it’s a tiny coffee shop that offers almost a dozen ways to prepare your coffee.
With fancy names like Aeropress, V60, Chemex, and Origami, I was stumped on what to get so I asked the barista for recommendations. He suggested I get the Aeropress which is a modern, multi-step brew that culminated in him pouring the coffee from a beaker and into my cup. Fancy!
El Cafe de La Mancha makes good coffee but unfortunately, they don’t offer much in the way of food. They focus mainly on coffee so all they had at the time were some freshly baked cookies.
Luckily for us, El Cafe de La Mancha was located just a short walk from our AirBnB, so we could quickly pop in and get coffees to go.
As you can see from the picture below, El Cafe de La Mancha is tiny. The whole cafe basically consists of a counter, one table, and two small sofas with side tables. It’s a cute neighborhood cafe that seems to have a loyal following.
El Cafe de La Mancha
Address: Julián Carrillo 5b, Guadalupe, 37710 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 8:30AM-5PM, Mon-Sat / 10:30AM-4PM, Sun
5. Zenteno Cafe
Like El Cafe de La Mancha, Zenteno Café is a tiny coffee shop with just three or four tables. We were here just for the coffee but they do offer light meals like sandwiches and quiche and have a decent selection of pastries, cakes, and various fresh breads.
Pictured below is my frothy cup of cappuccino brewed from Veracruz coffee beans. Zenteno Café makes great coffee, some of the best we had in San Miguel de Allende. They’re about a 5-minute walk from Parque Benito Juárez and make for a great stop to or from the park.
Similar to El Cafe de La Mancha, Zenteno Café seems to have a loyal following. One customer was on a Zoom call while other regulars would pop in for a chat with the baristas before taking their coffees to go.
Address: Calle del Dr Ignacio Hernandez Macias 136, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 8AM-8PM, Wed-Sat / 9AM-6PM, Sun / 8AM-4:30PM, Mon-Tue
6. Cafe 20 Trece (Our Favorite Coffee Shop!)
This was our favorite coffee shop in San Miguel de Allende. This hidden gem located directly opposite the entrance to Ignacio Ramirez Market serves excellent coffee. We visited over ten of the most popular and recommended cafes in the city and this unassuming stall was our hands-down favorite.
Cafe 20 Trece serves gourmet coffee brewed from beans produced in Veracruz, Chiapas, and Oaxaca. When ordering my cup of joe, the owner asked if I wanted the strongest coffee or the best. I said the best so he proceeded to make me a cup of coffee brewed from Oaxaca beans. It was easily the best cup of coffee I had in San Miguel de Allende. It was balanced, it had body, and it wasn’t overly acidic or fruity.
This is what the Cafe 20 Trece stall looks like. They were barely three weeks open when I found them so they didn’t have a proper sign yet. It’s easy to miss so look for this stall opposite the entrance to Ignacio Ramirez Market.
I found Cafe 20 Trece by chance when I was looking for a cup of coffee shortly after sunrise. It was the first cup of quality coffee I had in Mexico so we spent the rest of our stay looking for something even better. We never found it.
Not only does Cafe 20 Trece serve great coffee, but it’s also the friendliest coffee shop we went to. Aarón, the owner, is a nice guy who genuinely loves what he does. He’ll gladly talk your ear off about all things coffee if you let him.
Cafe 20 Trece
Address: Across the street from Ignacio Ramirez Market Operating Hours: Opens at 8AM
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST CAFES IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE
Based on my conversations with Aarón, it seems that locally produced coffee is a source of pride only for some Mexicans. I asked him how many cups of coffee the average Mexican drinks and he said not enough. According to him, many Mexicans are happy with an average cup of coffee bought from the convenience store.
Coffee doesn’t seem to be a national obsession in Mexico the way it is in countries like Vietnam, but that’s something the coffee connoisseurs in San Miguel de Allende are rallying to change.
Some of the links in this article on the best coffee shops in San Miguel de Allende are affiliate links. What that means is that we’ll get a small commission if you make a booking at no additional cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. ¡Muchas gracias!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Traveleater Aminaa Ganbold, a writer from Ulaanbaatar, shares with us ten of the tastiest and most interesting traditional Mongolian foods to look for in her country.
To many foreigners, Mongolia is synonymous with Genghis Khan. Ask people what’s the first thing they think of when they think of Mongolia, and many will still say “Genghis Khan”.
But for travelers who’ve already been to Mongolia, the Mongolian steppe, Gobi Desert, and endangered animals like the snow leopard and takhi (Przewalski’s horse) come foremost to mind.
The Mongolian-Manchurian grassland and its nomadic people attract many travelers to Mongolia in summer, while people drawn to extreme weather will find winters in the country to be a more interesting time to visit. But regardless of when you visit Mongolia or what you’re into, one thing you can always look forward to is traditional Mongolian food.
In this article, I’ll talk about ten of the tastiest and most interesting Mongolian foods to look forward to on your next trip to Mongolia.
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WHAT IS TRADITIONAL MONGOLIAN FOOD?
With a land area of roughly 1,564,116 square kilometres (603,909 square miles), Mongolia is one of the largest countries in the world. However, less than 1% of its land is used for agriculture. Mongolia’s high altitude, extreme winters, and low precipitation make most of the country unsuitable for growing crops.
With about 30% of the Mongolian population being nomadic or semi-nomadic, much of the agricultural sector continues to be heavily focused on nomadic animal husbandry. It was never easy for nomads to grow and harvest crops so most of their attention has been focused on rearing livestock.
While crops like corn, potatoes, barley, and wheat are produced in Mongolia, about 75% of the land is dedicated to pasture for the rearing of domestic animals like cows, horses, goats, sheep, and camels. As a result, dairy products, animal fat, and meat figure heavily in Mongolian cuisine. Many Mongolian foods are seasoned lightly and simply, often only with salt.
THE BEST OF MONGOLIAN CUISINE
If you’re a fan of meat-heavy dishes, then you’re going to enjoy Mongolian food. Listed below are ten traditional dishes to try on your next trip to Mongolia.
There’s no better way to start this list of traditional Mongolian foods than with buuz, a popular meat-filled Mongolian dumpling. It’s a Mongolian national dish that’s typically consumed to celebrate the Lunar New Year (Tsagaan Sar).
In winter, the country comes under the influence of the Siberian High so fatty Mongolian foods like buuz help people get through its harsh winters. Recipes vary from cook to cook but the dumplings are usually made with a basic flour dough filled with a mixture of lamb, tail fat, and other ingredients like onions, victory onions, and caraway.
In Mongolia, you’ll find buuz in many forms. They get their names from how they’re folded and shaped like “flower buuz”, “sheep buzz”, or “lazy buuz”. As their names suggest, flower buuz resembles a flower while lazy buuz is the easiest and quickest to make.
To prepare, the flour dough is cut into pieces roughly the size of your palm. They’re rolled out flat and filled with the meat mixture before being folded and pinched shut. The dumplings are then steamed for about twenty minutes and consumed by hand.
Photo by MarkuzaAnna
Like buuz, bansh is one of the most popular Mongolian foods. It refers to a smaller type of Mongolian dumpling, about half the size of the average buuz. It can be steamed and eaten on its own or added to Mongolian soups.
One of the most interesting Mongolian dishes made with bansh is banshtai tsai, a type of milk tea with dumplings. Recipes vary but it’s typically made with bansh, water, milk, flour, salt, and tail fat.
To prepare, a sheep’s tail is cut into pieces and then fried. Once it turns a golden brown color, a bit of flour is added to fry in the tail’s fat. Water is then added and brought to a boil.
At this point, you may think that it’s just soup with dumplings but it isn’t! Once the bansh is ready, we add it to the soup along with some salt and milk.
In Mongolia, we have a traditional drink called suutei tsai which is tea with milk. If you add bansh into suutei tsai, then it becomes milk tea with dumplings or banshtai tsai. It’s an interesting dish that you need to try in Mongolia.
Photo by KatyaZork
You can think of khuushuur as the Mongolian version of chebureki, a Russian fried pastry filled with seasoned ground meat. It’s a Mongolian dish that was directly influenced by Russian cuisine.
The ingredients for khuushuur are very similar to buuz or bansh but it’s much larger, about 4-6 times bigger than the average buuz. It’s usually shaped in an oval or half-moon and is much oilier than the previous two dumplings because it’s deep-fried.
Khuushuur is the main dish served at Naadam, a traditional Mongolian festival that features competitions in three sporting events – wrestling, horse racing, and archery. Unlike homemade versions, the khuushuur served during Naadam are round.
Photo by mors74
As described, meat features prominently in Mongolian cuisine. It can be barbequed, mixed into dumplings, or cooked into soups and other dishes like budaatai khuurga (Mongolian rice bowl). One Mongolian meat dish that you absolutely must try is tsuivan.
Tsuivan is a type of Mongolian noodle dish made with meat and various vegetables. It’s traditionally made with mutton but other types of meat like beef or pork can be used as well.
To prepare, the dough is rolled out into a round flat sheet and poured over with some oil. It’s then cut into quarters and stacked before being sliced into strips about 0.4 cm (0.15 in) wide.
The noodles are placed over the meat and vegetables simmering together in a pot. The pot is covered tightly with a lid to allow the noodles to be steamed by the shallow layer of water boiling in the pot. After about 10-15 minutes, the noodles are cooked and the pot is tossed with the lid still on to thoroughly mix the ingredients.
Tsuivan is one of the most beloved and culturally significant Mongolian foods. Mongolian men love tsuivan so there’s a general saying that a woman’s abilities as a housewife can be determined by how well she makes tsuivan. If she can cook it well, then chances are she’ll make a great housewife.
Photo by zemskovphoto
5. Guriltai Shul
No Mongolian food guide can ever be complete without mentioning guriltai shul. It refers to a family of Mongolian noodle soups made with fatty meat like mutton or beef, vegetables, spring onions, root crops, and noodles. The name of this popular Mongolian dish literally means “noodle soup”.
One interesting type you should try in Mongolia is tasalan guriltai shul. It’s a simply seasoned soup made with boiled lamb or beef bones, salt, and short flat noodles cut by hand. In some cases, the flattened sheets of dough are fried first before being cut into strips.
Compared to other countries that typically form their noodles into long strands, Mongolians don’t have a preference to the shape or length of their noodles. As long as it tastes good, then noodles can be short or long, narrow or wide, thick or thin.
Photo by fanfon
Borts refers to the Mongolian version of jerky. Before cold storage was invented, Mongolians would expose fresh meat to the cold air to dry and preserve it. Lamb and horse meat weren’t as suitable for preservation so borts was typically made with beef, goat, or camel meat.
This method of food preservation was ideal for the nomadic lifestyle because it allowed meat to last for a long time, about 1-3 years. It was also just a fraction of the weight of fresh meat, making it much easier to transport. 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of fresh meat and bone would produce about 214 grams (7.5 oz) of borts.
Borts is an ingredient in many Mongolian recipes. It’s used in soups, dumplings, and many other Mongolian dishes. It was even brought to space as a food source by Mongolia’s first astronaut Jügderdemidiin Gürragchaa.
During the era of Genghis Khan, borts was an invaluable food source that provided sustenance to Mongolian soldiers in times of war.
Photo by raptorcaptor
Khorkhog refers to a traditional Mongolian barbeque. It’s typically made with lamb or goat meat, vegetables, and root crops cooked in milk churns using heated stones.
To make khorkhog, the meat and vegetables are placed in a milk churn which is used like a pot. To facilitate the cooking process, river stones are heated in a fire and added to the pot, followed by water which produces steam to cook the vegetables and meat. It’s a method of cooking that was invented by nomadic Mongolian tribes and is still used by families living in the countryside.
When the khorkhog is ready and the stones have cooled down a bit, Mongolians will take the stones and rub them in their hands. They do this because they believe the heated stones have healing effects. If you get the chance to try khorkhog in Mongolia, then you should do the same.
Photo by Saingerel
Boodog is one of the most interesting dishes in this Mongolian food guide. It refers to a unique method of preparing meat in Mongolia.
Boodog is similar to khorkhog but it doesn’t make use of a milk churn or pot to cook the meat. In fact, it doesn’t use any type of cookware at all. Instead, boodog is made by cooking the meat in the animal’s own skin.
Mongolian nomadic warriors carried what they could on horseback. They couldn’t be weighed down by heavy cookware so they devised a method of cooking meat and vegetables using the animal’s carcass.
Boodog was traditionally made with any type of animal but these days, it’s made only with lamb or goat. The most difficult part was removing the meat, bones, and organs without tearing the skin. The meat is then seasoned and stuffed back in the carcass with vegetables, heated river stones, and water before being sealed shut to cook.
In ancient times, boodog would be roasted over an open fire to scorch the fur, but modern cooks now use blowtorches. Any leftover fur gets scraped away with a knife. When the opening that was sealed shut starts to drip with hot fat, then you’ll know that the boodog is cooked and ready to eat.
Boodog is an ancient dish that’s highly respected in Mongolia. In fact, Mongolians have a saying about boodog that goes something like this: “People who make and eat Boodog together will be best friends for life”.
Photo by fanfon
Mongolian food may be heavy on meats but there are other dishes you should try as well. Boortsog is one of them. It refers to a type of fried dough snack popular in Mongolia and Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. It’s available throughout the country with every province having its own unique spin on the dish.
Recipes for boortsog vary but it’s generally made with a dough consisting of flour, butter, water, salt, and sugar. The dough is cut and formed into various shapes like spheres, rectangles, or strips before being deep-fried to a golden brown. When ready, they can be eaten plain with tea or enjoyed with butter, honey, or cheese.
Photo by alman-n
With all that meat-heavy Mongolian food weighing you down, you’ll need something to aid your digestion. Look no further than airag.
Airag (or ayrag) refers to fermented mare’s milk. It’s the traditional national beverage of Mongolia and equally popular in Central Asian countries where it’s known as kumis.
Airag is made by filtering fresh mare’s milk through a cloth and pouring it into a leather sack called a khukhuur. The milk is repeatedly stirred for 1-2 days with a wooden masher called a buluur until its ready to drink. Slightly sour but pleasant in flavor, it’s often the first drink offered to guests as a show of hospitality.
Airag has an alcoholic content of about 2% and is known to be a rich source of vitamins and minerals.
Photo by photos_adil
FINAL THOUGHTS ON MONGOLIAN FOOD
Mongolians use meat in nearly every dish so you’ll have no trouble enjoying Mongolian food if you like eating meat. As previously described, seasonings are used sparingly in Mongolian cuisine. Meat dishes are often seasoned lightly using just salt to allow the natural flavors of the meat to shine.
Because of the country’s long and cold winters, Mongolians consume a lot of animal fat and dairy products to pack on the calories. In winter, meat is frozen and preserved to last for several months. Their nomadic ways demand that they maintain a simple lifestyle. Belongings and kitchen supplies must be kept to a minimum.
It isn’t a lifestyle for everyone, but visit Mongolia and you’ll find a happy and content people well-connected to their land. If you enjoy nature and simple living, then there’s much to fall in love with in Mongolia, not least of which is Mongolian cuisine.
Cover photo by MarkuzaAnna. Stock images via Depositphotos.