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Various different plates of Mexican food

A Beginner’s Guide to Mexican Food

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It’s easy to think that every Mexican dish is just some variation of meat and tortilla. With these two ingredients playing a key role, you may be asking yourself how can there possibly be so many different dishes? Don’t know the difference between fajitas and enchiladas, or a taco from a burrito? Then our Beginner’s Guide to Mexican Food is a must-read!

What is Mexico’s Most Popular Dish?

When we think about Mexican food the first word that comes to mind is usually tacos. You might even think that this is the only food that Mexicans eat. This is certainly the favoured meal, often the cheapest and also with being handheld the most practical to eat. Tacos have been around for centuries in Mexican cuisine and stood the test of time.

What Makes up a Taco?

Grilled Chicken Tacos

It’s a fact that when Mexicans travel abroad, aside from their spicy habanero sauce, they miss their tacos! But which one and how are they made? You will be surprised to know that there are more than 60 kinds of tacos, and the best part is that while we are counting them, there’s most likely a new kind being born.  

There are two main differences between the multiple variations of tacos. One is about the tortilla itself – corn vs. flour. Corn tortillas are often found in the southern part of Mexico. In the northern part of Mexico, flour tortillas reign supreme. We are big fans of the tortillas you find in street food. We think they provide just the right ratio of tortilla to filling and inspired are Street Taco wraps.

The second is the filling. Tacos generally have a single filling and there is quite a wide variety of fillings. With the increasing number of plant-based eaters, there has been a proliferation of even vegan tacos much to the dismay of more conservative meat-eating Mexicans. 

The filling is then typically topped with a variety of taco toppings including finely cut onion and cilantro, sliced Green Serranos, Sliced Cactus and of course the unmissable habanero hot sauce. 

As taco fanatics, it’s no surprise we have a number of taco recipes, be sure to check them out!

Different Types of Tacos

In our Guide to Tacos we delve deeper into the different popular tacos by region but here are a few of the highlights:

Al Pastor: the king of the tacos, made with pork meat or veal normally cooked over coal

Gobernador: made with prawns and cheese. 

Carnitas: these are most commonly found on the street stalls, and are the cheapest version made with different cuts of pork and cooked with lard and various spices. 

Barbacoa: (barbeque tacos) made with different types of meat cooked on the BBQ either with lemon juice or steamed. Different types of meat can be used, from goat, to chicken, rabbit or fish.

How Does a Burrito Differ from a Taco?

Chicken Burrito

Next, on our Beginner’s Guide to Mexican Food we have the difference between tacos and burritos. The key difference here is quantity and size. Tacos are small and open, and you might need 3 or 4 to satisfy your appetite. A burrito, on the other hand, has a much larger tortilla and a variety of fillings. Certainly, a single burrito would make up a meal. Burritos are made with flour tortillas as corn would break with that size of a tortilla. The ends of the tortilla are folded in and then it’s rolled closed. Inside you will often find meat along with rice and beans for a hefty all in one. Our recipe for a Chicken Burrito has tender slow-cooked chicken with chipotle paste for a delicious smoky flavour.  

How are Fajitas Different From Tacos?

Healthy Chicken Fajitas

The term Fajitas refers to the filling. Originally with sizzling strips of steak, peppers, and onions but you will find Fajitas with just about every variation of protein and even Veggie Fajitas. The fun with Fajitas is that you make your own tacos so can build them just how you want them! Be sure to check out our Fajita recipes.

How are Quesadillas Different from Tacos and Burritos?

Pulled Pork Quesadilla

When it comes to quesadillas, it’s all about the melted cheese! A tortilla is filled with cheese along with other fillings such as carne asada steak, chicken or veggies and then toasted. In Mexico, Queso Oaxaca is used which is a stringy cheese. As Queso Oaxaca can be quite hard to find in the UK, we recommend using a ball of mozzarella in your quesadillas. Be sure to check out our quesadilla recipes.

What’s the Difference Between Tacos and Tostadas?

Tuna Tostadas

Tostadas have a crunchy, fried flat tortilla as a base. You will typically find tostadas spread with refried beans, cheese, shredded lettuce and then topped with any variety of meat, veggies and salsa. Another popular and quite different variation is the Tuna Tostada made with delicious tuna ceviche, fried leeks and a good dollop of our chipotle mayo.

What are Enchiladas?

Slow Cooked Chicken Enchiladas

Enchiladas are smothered in sauce and melted cheese and meant to be eaten with a knife and fork. Flour tortillas are filled with meat or cheese and rolled up, with a sauce which can be green, red or white poured over the top, and sprinkled with shredded cheese that is melted in the oven. Our Enchilada Cooking Sauce with tomatillo and jalapeño makes it easy it to make delicious Chicken Enchiladas Verdes. If you have more time though, our Slow Cooked Chicken Enchiladas with a red sauce are a crowd-pleaser. 

What are Nachos?

Chipotle Beef Nachos

Last on our list of the Beginner’s Guide to Mexican Food is Nachos. Nachos use tortilla chips which are tortillas that have been cut into triangles and quickly fried. They are then served with melted cheese and a variety of toppings. A great dish to make when entertaining, be sure to check out our Nacho recipes

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our Beginner’s Guide to Mexican Food and now confidently know the difference between an Enchilada and Fajitas! We hope we’ve also inspired you to try making some Mexican food at home and would love to see what you get up to in the kitchen. Be sure to tag us #granluchito and happy cooking from all of us!


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j m lewis
j m lewis
1 month ago

It should be highlighted that these are not dishes commonly found in mexico itself. Enchiladas are common but are usually chicken filled with possibly mole on top, not smothered in cheese. Burritos might be found up north maybe but not in the majority of mexico. Fajitas are only seen in touristy hotels. Quesadillas are traditionally ONLY cheese, not stuffed with other things. .

1 month ago
Reply to  j m lewis

Hi there, you might prefer to read our What Is Authentic Mexican Food blog – https://gran.luchito.com/food/authentic-mexican-food/
The Beginner’s Guide is geared to people living in the UK and the types of Mexican food found here


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