Themes: Food

Food in Mexico

History and geography of Mexican food

Many different climatic zones, along with the varied topography of Mexico, have provided the perfect conditions for growing a wide range of ingredients for Mexican dishes.  Mexican food is a mixture of ancient traditional cuisine, going back thousands of years, alongside the influence of Spanish invaders with their introduced species.  From 1492 onwards, missionaries would not only bring the Bible with them, but also seeds of wheat, rice and onion, and many other European ingredients. Some of the ingredients were unique to Mexico until the Spanish conquest, including: potatoes, pumpkins, avocados, guavas, vanilla, and chocolate.  

Typical foods in Mexico

Maize, or sweetcorn, is one of the staple foods in Mexico, and has been grown in the Americas for over 5000 years. White, yellow, blue and red varieties of maize are grown.  Mexicans use every part of the maize plant, including the husks for wrapping ‘tamales’ (tacos wrapped round a filling and then steamed), and the silks for tying them.  The rest of the plant is made into animal feedstuffs.  A huge number of beans exist, too, and come in many colours and sizes.  They are a staple food, too.  There are also more than 150 varieties of chilli, and a number of types of cactus are grown for their leaves (nopales) and their ‘prickly pear’ fruits.  A very special Mexican dish is called ‘mole poblano’, which consists of chicken served with a chocolate and chilli sauce. More common is the tortilla - flat, unleavened maize or wheat pancakes, used on their own as an accompaniment with almost any meal. 


Meals are taken at different times of the day.  A light, and very early breakfast (desayuno) of fruit, sweet bread (pan dulce) and coffee is followed at about 11am by and almuerzo of an egg dish such as ‘huevos rancheros’ (fried eggs on tortillas with ‘frijoles’ or refried beans, with a hot chilli salsa) and fruit juice.  Comida is the main meal of the day, with several courses, starting at about 3.00 pm.  Merienda would be a light, snacky supper eaten at about 8pm, often with leftovers; or, with guests on special occasions, one would eat a proper cena, or dinner.