You’ve undoubtedly heard the time-old adage before that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well, in Mexico, this is truer than ever before, as breakfast food is both big business and mightily important – given that Mexicans tend to enjoy a light lunch, it’s important to fill up in the morning. With that in mind, what are the best breakfast dishes that you should be trying out on your next visit? Here are the top 10.
A staple of Mexican cuisine, albeit principally in the capital, the guajalota, otherwise known as a torta de tamal (tamale sandwich) is one of the heartiest, most authentic and genuinely delicious on-the-go breakfast dishes that you can get your hands on. While it may seem like a carb-on-carb nightmare to some (after all, the tamal itself is essentially just corn masa dough filled with either meats, cheeses or vegetables) it is surprisingly delicious and definitely a Mexico City experience. If you’re still not convinced though, just eat the tamale alone and skip the bread!
A classic of Mexican breakfast cuisine is an overflowing plate of chilaquiles, or tortilla chips bathed in either a red or green sauce and topped with chicken or egg, plus crema, onion and cheese. These are popular in family homes, fondas, breakfast spots, and you can sometimes even find them sold in takeout boxes by street vendors. Again, as is the Mexican way, you might find them served in bread in the form of a torta de chilaquil, but how you decide to eat them is up to you – we think both ways are equally delicious.
Your typical quesadilla (unless you’re in Mexico City, where you have to specify if you want cheese or not) always consists of a doubled tortilla filled with a healthy serving of cheese and then any additional extras that you ask for – from chicken to squash blossom, practically anything goes. However, if you want a more filling breakfast dish, then try and hunt down somewhere that serves fried quesadillas. Made from corn dough, these are filled and made in the same way, before being deep fried and topped with salsa and crema.
A Yucatán classic, huevos motuleños are a delightful regional treat, although you are likely to stumble across them in places outside of Yucatán such is their popularity. Eggs are big business in the Mexican breakfast world, and this dish is no exception – two crispy tortillas topped with black beans, layered with perfectly fried eggs and topped with a tomato based sauce, peas, ham and cheese, they’re typically also accompanied by fried plantain. The perfect mixture of sweet and savoury is sure to get your day off to a great start.
Enchiladas, the real Mexican version anyway, are the perfect light yet filling breakfast dish that will set you up for the day ahead. The basic version of enchiladas generally feature four loosely rolled corn tortillas that have been pre-bathed in a tomato sauce before having their filling added afterwards (chicken is the most popular option). They’re then served with a touch more salsa, lettuce and crema. Variations on enchiladas can include so-called enchiladas suizas (Swiss enchiladas), which have a green tomatillo sauce, with added cream and cheese. Alternatively, enmoladas are simply enchiladas topped with mole as opposed to salsa.
Another egg based dish, huevos divorciados (lit. ‘divorced eggs’) are a common addition to the menu of any restaurant or fonda which serves breakfast. This dish includes two sunny side up fried eggs (huevos estrellados), one of which comes topped with green salsa and the other of which has red salsa, hence the ‘divorced’ name. They are accompanied, as a rule, by beans, sliced avocado and the staple of many a Mexican meal, the humble corn tortilla. A variation on huevos divorciados is huevos rancheros – two crispy tortillas, topped with fried eggs and bathed in a mildly spicy sauce.
Mexico can admittedly be a carb and grease heavy cuisine, so if you’re not feeling entirely sold on the heartier, heavier breakfast options discussed so far, a combination of biónicos, freshly squeezed or juiced jugos, or even a thicker more substantial licuado would be the best choice for you. Biónicos are essentially a combination of yoghurt and granola, often topped with fruit or nuts, whereas jugo is simply just juice and licuados are more akin to smoothies.
Another entry for the perennially popular, egg-based breakfast dishes comes in the form of huevos a la Mexicana. This is one of the most famed and delicious options you can order, and is basically a serving of scrambled eggs (huevos revueltos) that has onion, tomato and chili added in for both extra flavour and a healthy dose of patriotism. As with the aforementioned egg options, it will usually come accompanied by beans and some pleasantly warm corn tortillas.
This combo of pan dulce (sweet bread) and the Mexican favourite of café de olla (literally ‘pan coffee’, less literally, sweet coffee boiled with raw sugar and cinnamon) is a traditional pre-breakfast option for many people; something to tide you over until the main event, you might say. As a result, you’ll see streets in Mexico filled with vendors balancing huge trays of pan dulce on their shoulders and even their heads during the mornings, and vast pots of steaming café de olla to wash it all down with.
The open-faced sandwich has been en vogue lately, yet Mexico have been serving up their own variation on this food fad for years. The humble mollete is essentially a bread roll (bolillo), sliced in half lengthways before being toasted, topped with a healthy schmear of beans and cheese, plus the added extras that you choose. Typically options include ham and eggs, although the options are as open as the molletes themselves. Think of it as a kind of Mexican breakfast pizza.