These Traditional Mexican Recipes Will Make Any Day Feel Like a Fiesta

Chiles Rellenos on cooling rack
Photo: Carson Downing

Craving some south of the border flavor? Try these traditional Mexican food recipes. Our best classic Mexican dishes include pozole, chiles rellenos, nachos, empanadas, and more. Add your favorite margarita or paloma recipe and you'll have one supremely delicious classic Mexican food feast.

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Chicken Tinga

Chicken Tinga
Adam Albright

Choose your own adventure with this traditional Mexican recipe. Chicken Tinga, a saucy blend of shredded chicken, tomatoes, chipotles in adobo, and sliced onions, is crowd-pleasing and remarkably versatile. Not only can you make it as a slow cooker chicken dinner or speed things up in the pressure cooker, but you can also serve it in a wide variety of ways (atop tostadas, tucked inside tacos, alongside rice and beans, pressed inside a quesadilla).

02 of 13

Nachos Mole

Nachos Mole
Jason Donnelly

Our rendition of this classic Mexican food snack is more of a framework than a recipe. Start with a bed of tortilla chips, add refried beans and your favorite shredded protein, spoon on copious amounts of mole (a traditional sweet-spicy Mexican sauce made with fruit, nuts, chili peppers, and spices), then finish with cheese and your favorite veggies and taco toppers. If you're sharing this party appetizer with any picky eaters, consider serving it with a toppings bar so everyone can build their own nacho plate.

03 of 13

Pozole Verde

Pozole Verde
Karla Conrad

Kick the can. Our rendition of this classic Mexican dish explains how to make a homemade canned soup that tastes just like the citrusy and hominy-spiked chicken thigh soup you know and love from your favorite Mexican restaurant. Fresh tomatillos, cilantro, orange juice, jalapeño peppers, and poblano peppers pack in plenty of punchy flavor.

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Beef Birria Tacos

Beef Birria Tacos
Dera Burreson

Far before they were a social media trend, these authentic Mexican tacos were a staple on many dinner tables south of the border. Melty cheese, saucy tortillas, succulent pressure-cooked shredded beef, and warm spices star in these hearty tacos. Serve with extra broth for dunking, plus fresh lime wedges, cilantro, onions, and pico de gallo to cut through the savory richness.

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Chiles Rellenos

Chiles Rellenos on cooling rack
Carson Downing

If you like fried mozzarella sticks—or pretty much fried anything—then you'll love this authentic Mexican food recipe. These stuffed peppers start with roasted poblanos, which are then stuffed with shredded cheese, battered, and fried until golden brown and ooey-gooey inside. Make it a meal by following our Beef Picadillo Chiles Rellenos variation, and enjoy either or both with our easy homemade tomato broth for the ultimate umami bomb.

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Tacos de Barbacoa

Tacos de Barbacoa
Blaine Moats

Not all smoker recipes are basic brisket and ribs. (Although we adore those, too.) Assemble a big batch of authentic Mexican tacos starting with this remarkably juicy, spice-rubbed beef barbacoa as the centerpiece. To ensure the maximum amount of flavor soaks into the beef roast, we call for coating the meat in a spice paste, then wrapping it in banana leaves before smoking. We can speak from experience that the finished product is so worth the extra step. Plus this makes a whopping 12 servings!

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Huevos con Migas

Huevos Con Migas
Blaine Moats

If you can scramble eggs, you can make this dish. So the next time you're in the mood for a classic Mexican recipe in the morning, or as breakfast for dinner, might we suggest Huevos con Migas? In addition to being a savvy way to put stale corn tortillas to use, this vegetarian-friendly Mexican meal can be on the table in a mere 20 minutes.

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Pork Empanadas with Jicama Pico de Gallo

Pork Empanadas with Jicama Pico de Gallo
Blaine Moats

These savory pork pies are about to become one of your favorite traditional Mexican recipes to whip up from scratch. Start with frozen bread dough and you can devour a warm batch of golden, crispy pork-stuffed homemade empanadas about 1 hour from now. Jicama, a crisp root vegetable, balances the sweet raisins in the refreshing pico de gallo.

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Basic Tamales

Basic Tamales
Peter Krumhardt

A tamale or tamal is a traditional Mexican food recipe made with a masa-based dough that's steamed inside a corn husk or banana leaf. Once you master the classic, you'll be craving all of our flavor variations. Choose any or all for our next Tamale Tuesday (because tacos shouldn't steal all of the spotlight!): chicken and dried fruit, red chile-pork, or poblano-cheese.

Buy It: Angie's Gourmet Kitchen Corn Husks ($12, Amazon)

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Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake
Blaine Moats

Tres leches ("three milks") is a very apt name for this classic Mexican food creation. It's essentially a sponge cake soaked in a trio of dairy products: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whipping cream or regular milk. Our version of this classic cake features a fluffy whipped cream frosting and luscious sweet-tart fresh strawberry filling.

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Guisado de Res

Guisado de Res
Jason Donnelly

One common element of many of our all-time favorite classic Mexican dishes? Layer upon layer of complexity, achieved with an army of pantry staples. This hearty Mexican stew is a terrific (and tasty) example of this strategy. While the ingredient list might look long, chances are you have most of the vegetables and spices in your kitchen as we speak. You'll probably just need to add masa harina, beef short ribs, and chile peppers to your next shopping list.

Buy It: Hearth & Hand with Magnolia Dutch Oven ($50, Target)

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Torta Ahogada

Torta Ahogada (Drowned Sandwich)
Jason Donnelly

Roughly translated from Spanish to mean "drowned submarine sandwich," Torta Ahogada is a staple at restaurants in the Mexican state of Jalisco. No wonder—the traditional Mexican food recipe is a brilliant way to refresh leftover chicken or pork. Plus, it can be on the table in about 15 minutes if you start with store-bought refried beans, guac, and enchilada sauce.

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Sopapillas with Spiced Honey

Sopapillas with Spiced Honey wrapped in parchment paper
Andy Lyons

When you think of "classic Mexican dishes," you might immediately jump to spicy more than sweet. But this honey dessert is proof that our southern neighbors excel at both heat and sweet! The fried dough puffs are delicious as-is, but only get better once drizzled with spiced honey. Opt for cinnamon if you prefer warmth or, for more kick, mix in a pinch of crushed red pepper.

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