What is “Real” Mexican Cuisine?

When discussing Mexican food, it is nearly impossible to come up with a simple yet adequate description, as there is a remarkable range of flavors and ingredients that are used in the distinct regional cuisines found throughout the vast country.  Although there are certainly dishes that you can find just about anywhere you travel to within Mexico, they often still feature a regional variation that sets it apart from any given neighboring area.  

While Mexican cuisine found outside of the country is usually delicious (think Tex-mex in the U.S.), it can be difficult to find truly authentic eateries that capture the flavors and essence of one of the most beloved – and diverse – cuisines on the planet.  

So, what are some of the most highly regarded regional delights found in Mexico?  Take a look at these mouthwatering regional styles of cuisine:

JALISCIENSE

Drowned sandwich with pork, a Mexican dish from Guadalajara, Jalisco

As the birthplace of many of Mexico’s most beloved cultural traditions including tequila, mariachi and charrería (similar to rodeo), Jalisco has an incredible wealth of flavors, too.  With hundreds of miles of coastline, fresh seafood is a highlight, as is the torta ahogada (a sandwich bathed in a delicious tomato and chile-based sauce) and birria (goat or beef stewed in chile).

OAXAQUEÑO

Chicken Enchiladas with mole sauce

Famous for its culinary depth as well as its rich culture, Oaxaca serves up some of the most sought-after cuisine in the country.  Several varieties of mole hail from this region including amarillo, chichilo, coloradito, manchamantel, negro, rojo and verde.  Gigantic empanadas, tamales and tortillas here are the norm, tlayudas (not unlike a Mexican version of pizza) make a favorite meal, and chapulines (fried grasshoppers) are a scrumptious local snack.  

POBLANO

Close view of the many ingredients needed to create a popular mexican paste-sauce called amoleai. It is eaten almost daily and on festivities.

The state of Puebla is home to two of Mexico’s most iconic dishes, the first of which is mole poblano, an incredibly complex sauce that contains chocolate, dried chiles, nuts and seeds.  It is so delicious that many connoisseurs would be happy to just eat the sauce with tortillas!  The second standout dish is chiles en nogada, which consist of chiles stuffed with picadillo that are topped with a walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds for a taste sensation like nothing else.   

VERACRUZANO

Barbecue, Food and Drink, Lemon – Fruit, Salad, Grilled, Salmon

With more than 400 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico, the state of Veracruz is an obvious destination for incredible seafood.  The signature dish of the region is pescado a la veracruzana, which features Mediterranean flavors including capers, olives and tomatoes.  African and Caribbean influences are evident in many dishes as well.  Arroz a la tumbada (a sauce-driven paella) and chilpachole (a thick, hearty seafood soup) are standouts, too.  

YUCATECO

A traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán Península

The Yucatán Peninsula, which encompasses three states (Yucatán, Campeche and Quintana Roo) has some of the most celebrated regional cuisine in Mexico.  Culinary influences from Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East have made the food here particularly distinctive.  Hands down, the most memorable dish is the tender cochinita pibil (roasted pork marinated in achiote and sour orange), while Sopa de lima (a tangy tortilla soup) shouldn’t be missed, either.