Cinco de Mayo is a popular Mexican holiday celebrating the Mexican army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Food is a major part of the Cinco de Mayo festivities. Here are some of the traditional foods Mexicans eat on this day:
Tacos are one of the most iconic Mexican foods. They are a staple on Cinco de Mayo. Tacos are made by folding a tortilla around a filling, which typically includes proteins like beef, chicken, pork or fish, along with onions, cilantro and salsa. Some popular taco fillings for Cinco de Mayo include:
- Carne asada – Grilled and sliced beef
- Al pastor – Spit-grilled pork with pineapple
- Carnitas – Braised and shredded pork
- Lengua – Beef tongue
- Chorizo – Spicy Mexican sausage
- Camarones – Shrimp
Tacos are topped with salsas like pico de gallo, salsa verde or salsa roja to add even more flavor. They are typically served with lime wedges, diced onions, cilantro and hot sauces.
Quesadillas are another beloved Mexican food featured on Cinco de Mayo menus. Quesadillas are made by filling a tortilla with cheese like Oaxaca, asadero or queso fresco, then folding it in half and cooking until the cheese melts. Common quesadilla fillings include:
- Huitlacoche – Corn fungus
- Queso fresco – Fresh cheese
- Queso panela – Panela cheese
- Quesillo – String cheese
- Flor de calabaza – Squash blossoms
- Hongos – Mushrooms
Quesadillas may also contain proteins like shredded chicken, beef or chorizo. They are served with sides like guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream and salsa.
Tortilla Chips and Guacamole
No Mexican fiesta is complete without tortilla chips and guacamole. Tortilla chips are cut or fried from corn tortillas and salted. The crunchy chips are perfect for scooping up creamy, rich guacamole made from mashed avocados, onions, cilantro, lime juice and chiles.
Nachos are another popular Cinco de Mayo appetizer made from tortilla chips. Tortilla chips are layered with melted cheese, beans, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and jalapeños. Protein options like ground beef or shredded chicken are often added too. Nachos are the ultimate Mexican-inspired appetizer for celebrating Cinco de Mayo.
Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish frequently seen on Cinco de Mayo. Tamales consist of masa dough stuffed with savory fillings, wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves, and steamed. Some tamale fillings are:
- Chicken – Shredded chicken in red or green salsa
- Pork – Pulled pork in adobo sauce
- Cheese – Cheese like queso fresco or queso Oaxaca
- Beans – Refried beans or black beans
- Vegetables – Zucchini, corn, spinach
Tamales are often served with condiments like crema, queso fresco and salsa.
Chiles rellenos feature roasted and stuffed poblano peppers. The most classic filling for chiles rellenos is cheese, such as queso Oaxaca or queso fresco. Chiles rellenos are dipped in a light egg batter and fried until golden. Besides cheese, other popular fillings include ground beef, chicken or pork, potatoes, vegetables or beans. The stuffed chiles are served in a rich tomato sauce.
Mole is a signature Mexican sauce made from more than 20 ingredients including different types of chiles, spices, seeds, nuts, chocolate and more. It has complex layers of flavor. Mole poblano is one of the most popular types, featuring chili peppers and chocolate. There are many variations of mole depending on the region. Mole is served with proteins like chicken, turkey or pork.
Ceviche is a bright, refreshing seafood appetizer perfect for Cinco de Mayo. It consists of raw fish or shrimp that is “cooked” by marinating in citrus juices like lime, lemon or orange. Onions, chiles, cilantro, tomatoes and avocado are added. The citric acids chemically cook the seafood without heat. Ceviche is served chilled with tortilla chips.
No Mexican fiesta is complete without margaritas! Margaritas are a classic Cinco de Mayo adult beverage. They are made by mixing tequila, orange liqueur like triple sec and lime juice. Margaritas are often served frozen, on the rocks or blended. They are garnished with a lime wedge or salt on the rim of the glass. Skinny margaritas made with fresh lime juice, agave nectar and sparkling water are a lighter option.
Mexican beer is another popular drink for Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Top Mexican beer brands include Corona, Modelo, Pacifico, Victoria, Sol and Dos Equis. These crisp, refreshing lagers are perfect for washing down spicy Mexican food.
Horchata is a sweet, milky Mexican drink made from rice, cinnamon, vanilla and almonds. It’s flavored with canela, a Mexican cinnamon. Horchata is a refreshing non-alcoholic drink that pairs perfectly with spicy Mexican dishes. It’s a staple at Cinco de Mayo gatherings.
Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)
Jamaica, also called flor de jamaica, is a flavorful Mexican hibiscus flower tea. The tea has a tart, cranberry-like flavor and vibrant red color. It’s naturally caffeine free and often sweetened with sugar. Jamaica tea offers a unique non-alcoholic drink choice for Cinco de Mayo.
Mexican cuisine is diverse and delicious. Tacos, quesadillas, guacamole, tamales, chiles rellenos, mole, ceviche, margaritas and Mexican beer are all popular options for celebrating Cinco de Mayo. The holiday’s festive foods help highlight the incredible flavors of authentic Mexican cooking. From fiery salsas to cool margaritas, the traditional dishes and drinks of Mexico are perfect for the Cinco de Mayo fiesta.