The Must-Try Dishes in Mexico City

Tamales, stuffed corn or banana leaves, are among the best known Mexican street food dishes
Tamales, stuffed corn or banana leaves, are among the best known Mexican street food dishes | © Wolfgang Kaehler / Alamy

Northern England Writer

Mexico is a well known hotbed of culinary action with incredible flavor combinations. And as the capital of Mexico, Mexico City plays host to some of the top dishes you must try on your next visit.

If you love Mexican food, let our insider guide you through the local mercado to nose out the best street food stalls on Culture Trip’s five-day Mexico City tour.


The most ubiquitous and famed Mexican dish, the taco remains a favorite of Mexican cuisine — regardless of if you’re a tourist or a lifelong local. Greasy and satisfying, you can order a few as a light on-the-go snack or dine street side. There are numerous variations, but the true taco should be made with corn tortillas and be topped with cebollita y cilantro (onion and coriander.) Tacos al pastor (spit roasted, pineapple infused pork) are the perfect introduction to this famous dish.

‘Tacos al pastor’ are a street food favorite in Mexico


Tamales are made from corn-based dough and can be cooked with herbs or stuffed to the brim with chicken, rajas con queso (chilies and cheese) and countless other delicious ingredients. Tamales are wrapped in corn or banana leaves before they’re cooked and are sold by street vendors across Mexico. They definitely make for a wonderfully filling snack.

Tamales are stuffed dough wrapped in corn or banana leaves

Tortas de tamales

A phenomenon considered unique to Mexico City is the carb-on-carb action of the torta de tamal. Although it may seem overkill to add bread into this already delicious mix of tamal and spicy filling combo, the torta de tamal is a true CDMX experience which many consider an excellent – if a little stodgy – on-the-go breakfast.

Pick up a ‘torta de tamal’ for a filling on-the-go breakfast


A similarly Mexico City-based phenomenon comes in the form of the cheese-less quesadilla. When you order a quesadilla anywhere else in the country, the assumption is that cheese comes as standard. In the capital, however, you must specify that you want queso in your quesadilla – or you’ll end up cheese-free and disappointed. Try to find a street vendor that sells them in beautiful blue corn tortillas and choose as many extra fillings as you like.

Make sure to order your quesadilla with ‘queso’ when you’re in the Mexican capital


Corn tortillas are double fried before being stuffed with refried beans, cheese and fillings of your choice. Pile on the free sides such as onion, cilantro, salsa and guacamole. These greasy, messy stalwarts of the Mexican street food scene are hot and delicious – just don’t try to eat one while you’re walking.

‘Gorditas’ are delicious but messy, don’t try to eat one on the move


Another common Mexican street food is the tlacoyo – a blue corn dough tortilla traditionally filled with chicharrón (pork crackling), requesón (soft cheese) or a bean paste. Ingredients are stuffed into the center of the dough before being cooked. They’re then served with salsas, cheese and nopales (cactus) loaded on top. These are best when bought from street vendors who make them fresh on open-air griddles.

For the perfect ‘tlacoyo’, order from a street vendor using an open-air grill


A classic of Mexican cuisine is the distinctive sauce known as mole. However, given there are seven different varieties of mole, it’s guaranteed there’ll be a flavor to suit everyone. The most recognizable flavor, though, is undoubtedly the brown chili-chocolate mole, which comes with seasoned rice and chicken topped with sesame seeds. Another excellent mole option is the yellow version, which features none of the chocolate but all of the spice.

You can pick up pre-mixed spices to create your own mole at many markets in Mexico City


Mexico City’s variation on the traditional torta is the pambazo – and the bread is what makes all the difference. Pre-soaked in a guajillo chili sauce before being dried adds a fiery kick to every mouthful. However, the filling is just as impressive: chorizo, potatoes, crema and queso fresco come together to make a hearty sandwich that will keep you going as you explore the city.

‘Pambazo’ is Mexico City’s spicy answer to the ‘torta’

Chiles en nogada

Patriotic and delicious just about sums up chiles en nogada. Featuring the red, white and green coloring of the Mexican flag, this meal is unsurprisingly popular around the time of Mexican Independence Day. Similar in concept to cheese-filled chiles rellenos, chiles en nogada are filled with picadillo (seasoned ground meat) before being topped with their distinctive, creamy walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds.

‘Chiles en nogada’ is a popular dish around Mexican Independence Day


Trying camote is something no visitor to Mexico City should miss out on. Listen for the distinctive whistle of the vendor’s cart and camotes will be just round the corner. This sweet potato dish is served piping hot with condensed milk and strawberry jam. It’s one of Mexico’s oldest and sweetest street food traditions that you should indulge in at least once.

‘Camotes’ are one of the oldest street food traditions in Mexico
culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.


Keen to explore the world?

Our passionately curated premium small-group trips are an invitation to connect with like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences.