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A Beginner’s Guide to Mexican Food

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Estimated reading time: 18 minutes

Mexican cuisine is renowned for its vibrant flavours, bold spices, and diverse range of dishes that cater to all taste preferences. If you’re just starting to explore the world of Mexican food, the myriad of ingredients and their uses may seem overwhelming. Fear not, as this beginner’s guide will introduce you to some of the must-have elements in Mexican cuisine. With these essential ingredients, you’ll embark on a culinary adventure, creating authentic, delicious Mexican dishes right in your kitchen.

In this guide, we will explore the key ingredients used in Mexican cuisine, highlight popular dishes, and provide authentic recipes. If you have any questions or need further information, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. We would be delighted to assist you.

Ingredients Used In Mexican Food


Mexican Food - Avocado Mexican Beginner Guide
Mexican Avocado Dishes

Avocados, originating from Mexico, are the quintessential ingredient that epitomizes Mexican cuisine. When it comes to capturing the essence of Mexican food, nothing surpasses the delightful allure of homemade Guacamole. For an irresistible recipe, check out

Salsa Verde

Mexican Food - Tomatillo Mexican Beginner Guide
What Is A Tomatillo

Made using tomatillos, Salsa Verde is really the workhouse of Mexican cuisine. Green in colour and slightly tart you will find salsa verde in every Mexican meal.  Our favourite way to use it might be this Pork In Salsa Verde Tacos.


Mexican food and What To Serve With Enchiladas
Mexican Lime Rice

Rice is another staple of everyday meals in Mexico. Arroz Rojo, also known as red rice or Mexican rice, is the most common type of rice you will find. Our favourite way to enjoy is as a meal on its own with a crispy fried egg on top.

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Beans are a fundamental ingredient in Mexican cuisine, providing a great source of protein and fibre. Canned or dried pinto, black, and kidney beans find their way into burritos, tostadas, soups, and traditional bean dishes like frijoles refritos (refried beans).

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In Mexico, corn holds a fundamental role in the culinary landscape, serving as a key ingredient for iconic dishes like tortillas, tamales, and cornbread. Using corn masa flour, taken from dried corn kernels, tortillas are made. These versatile creations act as a canvas for various fillings or can be crisped into taco shells through frying.

Whether it’s tortillas, tamales or our favourite way to eat – slathered in chipotle mayo like the kind you will find from street vendors in Mexico City, corn is a really delicious part of Mexican cuisine.

Tortilla Wraps

Tortilla wraps are an essential component of Mexican cuisine, serving as the vessel for all the delectable ingredients discussed below. It is impossible to experience Mexican food without these versatile and flavorful carriers.

There are two things you need to know about them and that is they are either made with wheat or corn and they are either big or small.

Whether the wraps are corn or wheat largely depends on what part of Mexico you are in. Central and Southern Mexico is corn and Northern Mexico is wheat. This is down to what the locally grown crop is.

Outside of Mexico wheat tortillas tend to be more popular as they are softer and easier to cook with (they don’t break). It’s for this reason that wheat tortillas are used for Burritos.

One of the largest debates surrounding Mexican cuisine is whether to go with corn or wheat. But it doesn’t matter. They are both equally delicious so it’s down to what you prefer.

Mexican food with Tacos Al Pastor


Chilli peppers are an indispensable part of Mexican cuisine, adding depth and heat to dishes.

The most commonly used varieties include jalapenos, serranos, poblanos, and chipotles.

Experimenting with different types of chilli peppers will allow you to achieve various levels of spiciness and flavour profiles.

You can find here the full list of Mexican Chillies

Mexican food with Mexican Chilli Peppers


Tomatoes are a staple in many Mexican dishes, serving as a base for salsas, sauces, and stews. Both fresh and canned tomatoes are used, with the latter providing a depth of flavour in traditional Mexican cooking.

Tomatoes were introduced to Mexico by the Spanish in the 16th century. They quickly became popular, and today they are an essential part of Mexican cuisine.

Many different varieties of tomatoes are grown in Mexico, each with its unique flavour and texture.

Mexican food - Tomatoes essentials for beginners


Cheese varieties like queso fresco, queso blanco, and cotija are commonly used in Mexican cuisine. They bring a creamy, tangy, or crumbly texture to dishes.

Queso fresco is often sprinkled over salads or used as a topping for tacos, while cotija adds a distinct salty touch to dishes like Elotes (grilled corn). If you are new to Mexican cuisine, we recommend starting with the above-mentioned cheeses.

They are all relatively easy to find and can be used in a variety of dishes. As you become more familiar with Mexican cuisine, you can experiment with other types of cheese.

Mexican food with Nacho Cheese Sauce


When we think about authentic Mexican food the first word that comes to mind is usually tacos. Tortillas are the everyday bread of Mexican food and just about everything gets wrapped up to make a taco. Tacos are eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Tacos have been around for centuries in Mexican cuisine and stood the test of time.

Read More About Tacos

What Makes Up A Taco?

When it comes to the various types of tacos, two distinct differences can be observed. The first disparity lies in the choice of tortilla, specifically between corn and flour. Corn tortillas are commonly associated with the southern region of Mexico, while the northern part predominantly embraces the use of flour tortillas.

Carne Asada Tacos

The second main difference between the variations of tacos is the filling. Tacos generally have a single filling and there are quite a wide variety of fillings to choose from.

With the increasing number of plant-based eaters, there has been a proliferation of even vegan tacos, much to the dismay of the more conservative meat-eating Mexicans. 

The filling is then typically topped with a variety of taco toppings including finely cut onion and cilantro, a quick slaw or pickle, Green Serranos, Sliced Cactus and/or salsa.

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:

Mexican food with authentic mexican food

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.

Mexican food with Tacos Al Pastor - regional quide to tacos

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

Mexican food with authentic mexican food

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.


Next, in our guide to Authentic Mexican Food, we have burritos. The main difference between tacos and burritos is the size of the tortilla used and how many you eat!  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 the size of a tortilla. The ends of the soft flour 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.  

Read More About Burritos


The term Fajitas refers to the filling. They originally contained sizzling strips of steak, but now you will find fajitas with just about every variation of protein. They always contain peppers and onions though. 

If you do want a meat-free version, check out our Veggie Fajitas recipe. The fun with fajitas is that you make your own, so can build them just how you want them! 

Read More About Fajitas


Next up in this guide to Mexican cuisine are Quesadillas! When it comes to Quesadillas, it’s all about the melted cheese. For a quesadilla, you fill a tortilla with cheese and toast in a hot pan until the cheese melts. You can add other fillings such as carne asada steak, chicken or veggies.

In Mexico, Queso Oaxaca is used which is a stringy cheese. As Queso Oaxaca can be quite hard to find, we recommend using a good melting cheese such as gruyere, gouda, or cheddar.

Read More About Quesadillas:


Enchiladas are smothered in sauce and melted cheese and are 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 then melted in the oven.

Our Enchilada Cooking Sauce with tomatillo and jalapeño make it easy to make delicious Chicken Enchiladas. If you have more time though, our Slow Cooked Chicken Enchiladas with a red sauce is a major crowd-pleaser. 

Read More About Enchiladas


Next on our list of the Beginner’s Guide to Mexican Food is Nachos. Nachos use lightly salted tortilla chips which are tortillas that have been cut into triangles and quickly fried. Served with melted cheese and a variety of toppings. A great dish to make when entertaining, whether as a snack or starter.

In Mexico a common dish for breakfast is chilaquiles. These are a form of breakfast nachos. Normally made with Salsa Verde and topped with a fried egg they are worth a try!

Mexican Food - Chilaquiles Verdes social media image
Chilaquiles Verdes


Tostadas have a crunchy, fried flat tortilla as a base. You will typically find tostadas spread with refried beans, cheese, and 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.

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Huevos Rancheros

Mexican breakfasts are epic, and definitely one of the many meal highlights when travelling in Mexico! There are so many delicious and flavourful breakfast recipes to try including our favourites Huevos Rancheros and Chilaquiles.

Read More:

Embarking on a Mexican culinary adventure can be an exciting and rewarding experience. By familiarizing yourself with essential ingredients like chilli peppers, tomatoes, corn, lime, Mexican cheese, cumin, and Mexican chocolate, you have a solid foundation to create delicious Mexican dishes. Experimenting with these ingredients will open up a world of flavours and introduce you to the vibrant and diverse cuisine of Mexico. So, put on your apron and gather your ingredients. Impress your taste buds and loved ones with your newfound skills in Mexican cooking. Be sure to tag us #granluchito and happy cooking from all of us! Buen provecho!

Please share your comments below to let us know what you think of this article

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j m lewis
j m lewis
3 years 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. .

Celia - Chica Chismosa - Gran Luchito
3 years ago
Reply to  j m lewis

Hi there, you might prefer to read our What Is Authentic Mexican Food blog –
The Beginner’s Guide is geared to people living in the UK and the types of Mexican food found here

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Golden Triangle Tour Packages
1 year ago

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Amman Travels
Amman Travels
11 months ago

Excellent Post On Mexican Food

Taj Mahal One Day Tour
Taj Mahal One Day Tour
8 months ago

Only at touristy hotels do you see fajitas. Traditionally, quesadillas are only filled with cheese and never with additional ingredients.

Leletu Baba
Leletu Baba(@leletu)
8 months ago

Thank you for sharing that insight! It’s always interesting to learn about traditional culinary practices. Quesadillas filled solely with cheese are indeed a classic choice, and regional variations can add a unique touch to this delicious dish. Food traditions can vary widely, and it’s wonderful to explore and appreciate the diversity of flavours and preparations found in different places.

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