Must-Try Mexico City Street Food
Introduction to Street Food in Mexico City
Cast all notions of fajitas and chimichangas from your mind—the must-try Mexican food you’ll read about here is traditional Mexico City street food!
While Mexican street food makes very affordable meals, it’s also some of the best food in Mexico City!
Mexico City is a metropolis that’s urban, gritty, high-end, sophisticated, peaceful, and hectic all at once. World-famous restaurants like Pojol Mexico City are a million miles from the modest traditional Mexican food stalls, and Mexico City is all the richer for its diverse food scene.
In CDMX (as the locals know it), you’ll find $1 street food outside lavish palaces and cathedrals. Around the corner, hungry hipsters grab tamales while queuing for the latest brunch cafe.
This city of contradiction (and carbs) has to be on your foodie bucket list if it isn’t already. There are so many places to eat and delicious Mexican delicacies to work into your Mexico City itinerary that you’ll want to spend at least 5 days wandering and eating in Mexico City.
Mexico City Street Food You Must Try
Exploring Mexico City will make you hungry! And although there’s rarely a bad meal in this city, it pays to do your homework. Rather than stuff your stomach with the first thing you see, why not suss out the best Mexico City street foods to ensure you try them all?
Tacos al pastor—The King of Street Food in Mexico City
At the top of the list is the king of Mexico City street food, Tacos al Pastor.
Prepare to have all your past taco memories tainted by the quality of Mexico City’s meaty, tender tacos al pastor.
Al pastor is a type of spit-roasted pork that came to Mexico with Lebanese immigrants in the early 19th century. Nowadays, it’s the nation’s favorite dish, well suited for late-night snacking, or a quick lunch while on the go.
Al pastor meat is sliced straight from the ‘trompo’ (kebab spit) onto fresh corn tacos topped with pineapple, onion, and cilantro. Add a generous dollop of salsa roja or verde (red or green) for a fiery kick.
Tlacoyos—Popular Breakfast in Mexico City
A popular breakfast in Mexico City is the tlacoyo, a modest morsel found on every street corner. Although tlacoyos are made with corn masa (dough) much like the ubiquitous taco, they have a twist.
These oblong-shaped street snacks are stuffed with many of Mexico’s favorite ingredients: queso (cheese), frijoles (beans), and papa (potato). What’s more, tasty tlacoyos are topped with salsas, salad, and nopales (cactus).
You can find them all over, but an unrivaled location for the best tlacoyos in Mexico City is Tlacoyos Doña Bety in Mercado San Gregorio Atlapulco, a local market in the south of the city. Swing by after visiting Xochimilco, an area of the capital renowned for its canal network and floating island gardens.
Machete Quesadilla—Famous Food of Mexico City
In the mood for a small snack? Stay away from machetes!
This famous food of Mexico City is made from enormous corn tortillas almost half a meter in length, folded over and stuffed with ingredients of your choosing.
If you can handle the richness, an unbeatable filling is huitlacoche, an earthy mushroom-like fungus that grows on corn. It’s often translated as ‘smut’ but it’s really more like truffles - and a fraction of the price.
Machetes are a must-try Mexico City street food because they can’t be found elsewhere. In fact, they’re native to one specific neighborhood, Guerrero, northeast of Centro Historico. The best venue is Los Machetes de la Guerrero, a street food-style eatery where you can grab machetes with the locals.
Tostadas—Mexican Street Food at Coyoacan Market
While tostadas can be found all over Mexico, it’s impossible to talk about Mexico City street food without mentioning them, especially if you plan to visit Coyoacan.
This suburb of Mexico City is renowned as the ex-home of Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. However, if you come to visit the Blue House, make sure you stay to eat tostadas in bustling, busy Coyoacan Market.
Tostadas are crispy fried tortillas topped with all manner of ingredients. They were thought to have been invented 2,000 years ago in Oaxaca near famous Monte Alban, the ancient centre of Zapotec and Mixtec culture.
Today, tostadas are best enjoyed perched on a stool at Tostadas Coyoacan, a modest market stall serving some of the best street food in Mexico City. Menu highlights include shrimp and avocado tostadas or rich chicken mole tostadas, washed down with a fresh agua fresca (flavored fruit water).
Tamales—Traditional Mexican Food
A trip to the Mexican capital wouldn’t be complete without a tamale, the OG Mexican street food. Even the name can be traced back 7,000 years to Nahuatl, the language spoken by the Aztecs. During this era, the tamale was an important ritual food, offered to the gods during worship.
To make this Mexican street food, corn masa (dough) is steamed and served inside a corn husk. Other ingredients can be found at its center, usually meat, cheese, salsa or, in the case of sweet tamales, sticky guava paste.
Despite their long history, tamales are just as popular today. When you walk down any calle (street) in Mexico City, you’re likely to see local vendors nursing metal vats with closed lids. Inside are sweet and savory tamales, sold for 10 pesos apiece.
Tamales Torta—Mexico City Cheap Eats
If you like tamales, you’ll enjoy another classic Mexico City street food dish: the tamale torta.
In Mexican Spanish, torta does not mean cake (as it does in Spain) but sandwich. The most ‘Mexican’ torta filling of all time is surely the tamale. Instead of its usual corn husk coat, moreish tamales and their fillings are sandwiched between two slices of crusty loaf.
Grab a tamale torta for a handful of pesos and rub shoulders with the chilangos (slang for Mexico City locals). Yummy Mexico City cheap eats!
Elotes and Esquites—Popular Mexico City Street Food
Have you noticed a theme connecting these Mexico City street food dishes?
When it comes to Mexican cuisine, corn is key or, as the popular saying goes, ‘no pais sin maiz’ (there’s no country without corn). When maiz is cooked, it’s known as elotes. Eating this dish is messy play: the cooked cobs are slathered with crumbly cheese, mayonnaise, lime juice, and chilli.
Luckily, there’s an easier way to eat corn: elotes y esquites. This Mexico City street food dish is made by scooping the corn kernels into a takeaway pot and mixing in the tasty yet calorific ingredients. It’s spicy, saucy, zingy, and overwhelmingly comforting.
Best Food Markets in Mexico City
Now we’ve covered what to eat in Mexico, let’s discuss the best food markets in Mexico City for street food. A few options include...
What was originally a Colombian market is now one of Mexico City’s most popular markets for groceries, flowers, and affordable Mexican cuisine. You can browse the bustling market picking up souvenirs and trying adventurous Mexican street snacks like chapulines (crunchy fried grasshoppers). For a more substantial meal, you can sample tacos, quesadillas, mole, and enchiladas at the sit-down area located at the market rear.
Mercado de Roma
Mercado de Roma is located, unsurprisingly, in the Roma neighborhood of CDMX. In line with the area’s stylish reputation, this Mexico City street food market has a hipster vibe with many popular local cafes serving food from pop up stalls. Here you can eat chilaquiles, tacos, and many other Mexican dishes. Beware prices are slightly inflated.
Mercado de Coyoacan
As well as its famous tostadas, this atmospheric market in Coyoacan is known for street food, souvenirs, pinatas, and flowers. Here you can try many traditional Mexican dishes from breakfast chilaquiles to meaty tacos. Don’t miss La Cocina de mi Mamá Coyoacán, a modest, traditional Mexican cafe.
Mercado de San Juan
One of the biggest and busiest food markets in Mexico City is Mercado de San Juan located near Centro Historico. It’s known as a chef’s market due to the many high-quality ingredients available. This Mexico City market is busy and crowded so wear closed-toed shoes, put away your valuables, and don’t wear white when standing nearby the butcher’s chopping board!
Final thoughts on Mexico City Street Food
Mexico City street food includes some of the most popular foods in Mexico, and food stalls can have some of the best food in Mexico City.
You just need to know what to order and trust that sometimes the best places to eat in Mexico City are literally on its streets.
Let us know in the comments if you love Mexican food, or have had street food in Mexico City!
About the Author
Rose is a solo female traveler, blogger at Where Goes Rose?, travel writer and foodie based between the UK and Mexico City. She can usually be found writing over coffee while befriending nearby pets and plotting her future travel adventures around Latin America and the world. Find Rose online: Instagram, Twitter , Facebook