A typical Mexican lunch often consists of lighter fare than the hearty breakfasts and dinners that Mexican cuisine is known for. Lunch is usually the main meal of the day in Mexico, eaten between around 2-4pm. Some common components of a classic Mexican lunch include tacos, tortas, soups, salads, and antojitos (“little cravings” or appetizers). The midday meal tends to be quick, affordable, and satisfying.
Common Main Dishes
Tacos are one of the most popular items found on Mexican lunch menus. Soft corn or flour tortillas are filled with a variety of meats, cheeses, vegetables, salsas, and other ingredients. Some typical taco fillings are:
- Carne asada (grilled beef)
- Carnitas (braised pork)
- Pollo (chicken)
- Chorizo (Mexican sausage)
- Lengua (beef tongue)
- Tripas (beef tripe)
- Pescado (fish)
- Camarones (shrimp)
- Hongos (mushrooms)
- Rajas (strips of roasted poblano pepper)
- Papas (potatoes)
- Frijoles (refried beans)
- Queso (cheese) – often queso fresco or cotija
- Cebolla (onion)
- Cilantro (coriander)
- Salsas like pico de gallo, salsa verde, salsa roja
Tacos are topped with lime wedges and sometimes radish, onion, cilantro, and salsa. They make a quick, versatile lunch.
Tortas are Mexican sandwiches served on crusty rolls known as teleras or bolillos. They are loaded with fillings like meat, cheese, beans, vegetables, avocado, jalapeños, onions, tomatoes, and chipotle or avocado cream. Some common torta fillings are:
- Milanesa – thinly breaded and fried beef, chicken, or pork cutlet
- Jamón (ham)
- Quesillo – string cheese
- Poblano peppers
- Refried beans
- Shredded lettuce
Tortas make a hearty and flavorful midday meal. They can be served alone or with sides like rice and beans.
Soups are often served at lunchtime in Mexico. Some light, broth-based soups commonly found on lunch menus include:
- Caldo de pollo – Chicken soup with vegetables
- Caldo de res – Beef soup with vegetables
- Caldo de camarón – Shrimp soup with vegetables
- Sopa de tortilla – Brothy soup with fried tortilla strips, avocado, cheese, and chile peppers
- Sopa Tarasca – Tomato-based soup with beans and chile ancho
- Sopa de fideo – Vermicelli noodle soup with tomatoes, onion, cilantro
- Sopa de lima – Lime soup with chicken or vegetables
These light, nourishing soups make a refreshing midday meal. They can be accompanied by rice, tortillas, or salad.
Quesadillas are made of folded tortillas filled with cheese and other ingredients that are lightly grilled. Popular fillings include:
- Queso Oaxaca or queso asadero – stringy melting cheeses
- Queso fresco
- Huitlacoche – corn mushrooms
- Flor de calabaza – zucchini flowers
- Hongos – mushrooms
- Rajas – strips of roasted poblano chiles
- Espinacas – spinach
Quesadillas can be served alone or with sides of rice and beans. Salsas, guacamole, pico de gallo, and crema are often served with them.
Classic Side Dishes
A simple salad often accompanies or begins the midday comida. Popular ingredients in Mexican salad include:
- Lettuce – usually iceberg or romaine
- Queso fresco
- Peanuts or pumpkin seeds
The salad is dressed simply with lime juice, olive oil, and salt.
Beans, frijoles, are a staple of Mexican cuisine. At lunch, refried or whole beans are typically served. Pinto, black, or Peruvian beans are common varieties.
Rice is another typical side dish. Plain white rice or rice seasoned with tomatoes and onions can accompany the main course.
Tortillas de Maiz
Fresh hot corn tortillas are often served alongside soups and tacos to use as utensils to scoop up food. Their simplicity contrasts nicely with richly flavored fillings.
Common Antojitos (Appetizers)
In addition to main dishes, tacos, and soups, antojitos are popular items found on Mexican lunch menus. These small street food style dishes make tasty starters. Common antojitos include:
As mentioned above, quesadillas make great quick snacks or appetizers before the main lunch dishes.
Sopes are small, thick, fried cornmeal discs topped with ingredients like refried beans, shredded chicken, salsa, onion, cilantro, queso fresco, and crema.
Gorditas are thicker cornmeal pockets that are split open and stuffed with fillings like ground meat, cheese, beans, lettuce, crema, and salsa.
Queso fundido is melted cheese cooked with chorizo or vegetables and served with tortillas for dipping.
Guacamole and Chips
Made tableside, creamy guacamole served with crispy tortilla chips makes a tasty starter.
Ceviche is fresh raw fish or shrimp marinated in citrus juice with onion, cilantro, chile peppers and avocado. With tortilla chips, it’s a refreshing appetizer.
Aguas frescas are refreshing fruit based drinks made with fresh fruit, sugar and water blended together and served over ice. Flavors like lemon, lime, watermelon, tamarind, and horchata (a rice milk drink) are typical.
Licenciados feature tropical fruits like papaya, melon and pineapple blended with milk or yogurt for creamy, chilled drinks.
Horchata is a sweet cinnamon-spiced rice milk drink that makes a tasty accompaniment to a Mexican lunch.
Mexican Coke and other sodas
Made with real sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup, a cold Mexican Coke or soda like Jarritos makes a delicious beverage.
An infusion made with dried hibiscus flowers gives a tart, cranberry-like agua fresca called jamaica. It has a deep red color.
For those who want something stronger, micheladas are beer cocktails made with lime, Worcestershire sauce, chile sauce, and salt served over ice.
Dessert is not always served at lunch, but here are some sweet treats that may cap off the midday meal:
A luscious baked caramel custard makes a classic Mexican dessert.
Fried dough dusted in cinnamon sugar makes churros a favorite sweet treat.
Arroz con Leche
Rice pudding made with cinnamon and raisins provides a comforting, familiar dessert.
Fresh tropical fruit like mango, pineapple, melon, oranges, and jicama served in their own juices makes a light, refreshing dessert.
Ice cream in flavors like vanilla, chocolate, coconut, lime, and mango round out the meal nicely.
The Midday Meal
The midday comida is the most important meal in Mexican food culture. It’s a time to slow down, gather with family, friends or coworkers and enjoy well-prepared, flavorful foods. Typical Mexican lunches feature tacos, tortas, soups or stews, beans and rice, salad, antojitos, and refreshing drinks. The meal balances rich and fresh ingredients and takes care to incorporate colorful vegetables and fruits. Lunch is a chance to take a break and nourish both body and soul in the Mexican culture.
A classic Mexican lunch strikes a perfect balance between hearty and light. Tacos, soups, and tortas provide sustenance, while sides of rice and beans fill you up without weighing you down. Fresh components like salad, fruit cups and aguas frescas provide brightness. Antojitos add a fun starter to whet your appetite. The midday meal in Mexico is a time to slow down and savor full flavors and good company. Whether you’re dining with family, friends or coworkers, a delicious, authentic Mexican lunch provides satisfaction and connection.