10 Cinco De Mayo Dishes That Keep Mexican Tradition Alive

Cinco de mayo main image

May 5 commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire. So, what do people eat on Cinco de Mayo? We’ve gathered the best dishes that celebrate the beautiful Mexican heritage. Vamos a comer!

1. Chicken Tamales

Chicken Tamales served on a platter

    Tamales came from Mesoamerica that spread out through Guatemala and Mexico. This dish symbolizes heritage, family, and a way of life. People first made it with their meat of choice wrapped in a sweet stalk and is generally served during holiday feasts or dinners.

    A typical chicken tamale is made from shredded meat, chicken, and cheese with chopped cilantro, peas, pimento-stuffed green olives, and green salsa wrapped in a large corn husk.

    How to Make

    1. While soaking the corn husk in water to soften, place the chicken, onion, garlic, and salt in a pot and bring it to a boil. 
    2. Keep 6 cups of the stock after draining the pot, and mix drops of it slowly into the dough.
    3. Stir fry the chicken in a wok. Cook it with vegetable oil and add seasoning. After 3 minutes, add 5 cups of the stock and bring to a boil. 
    4. Open the softened husk and spread a thin layer of dough using a wooden spatula. Add two tablespoons of chicken filling and two tablespoons of olives, then wrap.
    5. Using a steamer pot, cook the tamales for 45 minutes or until the husks begin to peel.

    2. Mole Poblano

    Traditional Mole Poblano

    Mole Poblano is considered the national dish of Mexico. The word “mole” comes from the Aztec word Mulli which means mix or sauce. Back then, it was served with turkey.

    But today, the typical Mole Poblano is served with poached chicken, and the sauce is made from a variety of chiles and spices with Mexican chocolate as the star of the dish.

    How to Make

    1. Using a cast-iron skillet, toast your chile and sesame seeds. After they’ve reached a golden brown color, transfer them to a spice grinder, and add toasted aniseeds, peppercorn, and cloves.
    2. Fry chiles in medium-high heat and set aside.
    3. Add the fried chiles, chicken stock, and some chile liquid in a blender to puree. Strain puree in a large bowl.
    4. Toast almonds, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds. Mix those with the fine spice powder along with some toasted bread and tortillas.
    5. Melt Mexican chocolate in a dutch oven pot, and add the chile puree. Stir until well combined, and add sesame seeds for some texture.

    3. Mezcal Marinated Fajitas

    Mezcal Marinated Fajitas

    Fajitas is a tex-mex dish. The term fajita originally referred to skirt steak, which is the cut of beef used in the dish. You can also use chicken and other meat cuts and vegetables.

    Mezcal Marinated Fajitas is made with skirt steak marinated for 8 hours in chiles, garlic, mezcal, fish sauce, soy sauce, herbs, and spices cooked with bell peppers and tomatoes.

    How to Make

    1. Grill your marinated steak on an outdoor charcoal grill or an indoor grill until medium-rare. 
    2. Let the meat cool down, and cut it into strips. 
    3. Prepare the onions and bell peppers. 
    4. Using a grill pan, toss your vegetables and season with salt and pepper. 
    5. Add your meat strips and serve with tortillas and add-ons.

    4. Chalupas

    2 Chalupas served with a sauce

    Chalupas are named after the Aztec boat or water taxi seen in the South of Mexico City. This boat-like shaped dish is made from Manteca, two types of salsa, shredded meat, and feta cheese plated on top of a thick fried tortilla.

    How to Make

    1. To make Chalupa dough, add flour, milk, salt, shortening, and baking powder in a large bowl and mix them.
    2. Cut the dough into eight sections, and roll each section into a small bowl. 
    3. Using a rolling pin, flatten the small bowl of dough.
    4. Heat the skillet full of vegetable oil, and fry the opposite sides separately to get that curved shape. 
    5. Let the fried chalupa shells rest on the rolling pin and prepare the filling you desire.

    5. Churros

    Traditional Spanish Desserts

    Churros were invented in Spain but have become popular in places like Mexico, the Philippines, and Latin America. It’s fried dough garnished with sugar or flavored powder with a sweet dipping sauce such as chocolate or caramel.

    How to Make

    1. In medium heat, add water, sugar, salt, and two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a saucepan
    2. Mix the ingredients and bring to a boil. 
    3. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly incorporate the flour until it forms into a ball.
    4. Put the mixture in a star piping bag, and get ready to fry the churros in medium-high heat. 
    5. Place the newly fried churros on a setting rack or a plate with some paper towels and sprinkle sugar on them.

    6. Chiles en Nogada

    Chiles en Nogada

    Chiles en Nogada was invented in 1821 by nuns. When Army General Agustin de Iturbide signed the Treaty of Cordoba, he passed through the city of Puebla, and the residents presented this meal to him as a sign of gratitude for the Mexican War victory.

    To this day, this dish is closely tied to Mexican Independence Day. It’s made with chiles stuffed with picadillo, topped with a walnut-based cream sauce, and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and parsley.

    How to Make

    1. To make a walnut sauce, boil the walnuts to peel off the bitter skin and soak them in milk overnight. 
    2. Drain the walnuts, and add queso fresco, sour cream, sugar, and cinnamon in a blender and puree.
    3. Roast the green bell peppers, and prepare the filling. 
    4. Cook the ground meat, bell pepper, potatoes, and onions. 
    5. Fill the roasted bell peppers with the meat and pour the walnut sauce. Garnish.

    7. Corn Chilaquiles

    Corn Chilaquiles

    Chilaquiles can be dated back centuries to the early Aztecs. It’s a traditional Mexican dish with its name derived from an ancient word in the Nahuatl language which means “chilis and greens.” 

    Basically, it’s crunchy fried corn tortilla pieces with chile salsa and corn bits draped all over them. You can add shredded meat of your choice or an extra spice to give you that kick.

    How to Make

    1. On a cast-iron skillet, cook your tomatillos, corn, and scallions for 3-4 minutes. 
    2. Puree your cook tomatillos, scallions, cilantro, and jalapenos in a blender to make your green salsa.
    3. Let your puree simmer in your skillet and add the crushed tortillas. Mix it in with your corn and add other condiments you might enjoy.

    8. Fried Fish in Tomatillo Sauce 

    Fried Fish in Tomatillo Sauce 

    Tomatillo is a staple ingredient in Mexico. It’s been theorized that the Aztecs domesticated it in central Mexico in 800 BCE. Its name literally means small tomato. You can fry up fish like black sea bass or red snapper for this dish, but the real show stopper is the sauce.

    How to Make

    1. Prepare cilantro, tomatillos, pickled jalapeños, salt, and vegetable oil to make the tomatillo sauce
    2. Roast your ingredients for the sauce, and use a food processor to combine them properly. Use vegetable oil to get your desired consistency. 
    3. Serve the fish resting on the sauce with warm tortillas on the side.

    9. Pozole Rojo

    Pozole Rojo

    This delicious one-pot dish has a dark origin story that hopefully doesn’t kill your appetite. 

    Pozole Rojo or red pozole is a foamy soup dish with pork, corn, and red chile salsa. It is a traditional Mexican dish that initially used human sacrifices as the meat. It was cooked during special and religious occasions but was later replaced with pork as the main ingredient. 

    How to Make

    1. To make the pozole, cook some pork in a saute pan until brown. Don’t forget to season it with salt generously.
    2. Add the browned pork in a large stockpot full of boiling water along with some herbs and spices.
    3. To make the Rojo or the red sauce, soak chiles in hot water for 15-20 minutes. 
    4. Puree the red chiles, salt, and garlic in a blender add some of the soaking water to the mixture to get a more liquid consistency. 
    5. Strain the Rojo into the Pozole pot and mix. Add some hominy corn, and garnish.

    10. Cheesy Quesadillas

    A serving of cheesy quesadilla

    This simple tortilla dish means “little cheesy things.” Before dairy was introduced to the Aztec people, they wrapped sweeter ingredients such as pumpkin and squash in corned tortillas. Colonizers at the time introduced dairy products. Thus, the cheese quesadilla was born.

    How to Make

    1. In a frying pan, layer cheese on top of a tortilla and fold it in. 
    2. Toast each side evenly, and serve. 
    3. You can add other ingredients such as meat, herbs, and vegetables.


    Cinco de Mayo is rich with history, and the best way to feel connected to Mexican culture and heritage is through food.

    If you plan to throw a small party during this holiday, we recommend Chicken Tamales for groups. At the same time, Pozole Rojo makes a great conversation starter with its gruesome history. But if you want a simple dish, Cheesy Quesadillas is your best friend. 

    Do you have a favorite Mexican dish? What foods do you eat during Cinco de Mayo? Let us know in the comments below.

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