Feasting on regional cuisine is a must when traveling as it introduces you to new flavors, new food, and innovative ideas for how to prepare food you know and love. Even if you’ve been to Mexico before there are some delicious dishes you have to try on your next trip to Oaxaca.
Grasshoppers are a delicious delicacy and high-protein source that have recently become a huge food trend stateside. Heaping bowls with different seasonings can be found in or around all the local markets. Vendors will gladly offer you a sample. Eat them by the handful as a snack, in tacos with guacamole, on a pizza, and more. Chapulines are part of the beautiful Botana Oaxaqueña sampler on our food tour tasting at Mezquite.
Huitlacoche is a delicacy that is hard to find outside of Mexico so it’s a must on your next trip. Sometimes referred to as corn smut it’s a fungus that grows on corn stalks. Don’t let the fact that it’s a fungus scare you from trying, as mushrooms and cheese are tasty funguses too!
Speaking of cheese, we suggest you try farm-fresh cheese everywhere you travel. There is a long list of Mexican cheeses you won’t find anywhere else in the world, but queso Oaxaca, more commonly known as Quesillo, originated in our state. This mild, buttery, and stringy cheese – similar in texture to mozzarella – is easily identified as it is rolled up into a ball. Great for making quesadillas and the perfect topping for a tlayuda paired with tasajo – a thinly sliced grilled beef.
If you have a sweet tooth be sure to try Mexican ice cream at least once or twice or daily when it’s really hot! Nieves are a handmade frozen treat, made with regional ingredients—like fresh fruit – and can be milk or water based. Two of our favorite spots in town are Jardin de Nieves right next to Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude and Chagüita in Mercado Benito Juarez, or look for the bicycle carts selling it around the zócalo or Santo Domingo.
Mole is a creamy sauce that tops eggs, tacos, meat, and more. Mole recipes are often passed down through the generations which is why each mole tastes unique. Mole Negro, a savory sweet style mole, is the most common variety. It contains a bit of chocolate, and up to 100 additional seasonings, spices, and secret ingredients. Oaxaca is known as “the land of seven moles” so aim to taste all 7 while you are on vacation:
A tetela might look a bit like a quesadilla from the outside, but it’s in a class of its own. A thin-stuffed corn tortilla (white, yellow or blue corn), folded into a triangle and filled with beans, cheese and the herb hoja santa. It’s then topped with crema, queso fresco, and salsa macha. An original food to go, the triangle-shaped snacks were compact and long-lasting for farmers traveling to work their fields. Our food tour partner Tierra del Sol serves up one of the best Tetela’s in town.
Zega Cola is a locally-produced Coca-Cola alternative. Even if you are a die-hard fan of Coke it’s fun to try something a bit different. Zega Cola can be found in local shops or you can order it with your meal while dining with our food tour partner Los Danzantes.
There are many delicious dishes you have to try in Oaxaca but don’t forget the drinks! Tequila gets most of the attention in Mexico, but we prefer its close cousin Mezcal. Also made from the agave plant, with an entirely different distillation process and a distinct smoky flavor. There are many local Mezcal distilleries in our area, most who have been making Mezcal since their youth—like Bertha Vázquez. Look for Mezcal cocktails on local menus and sample some on our tour at Mezquite, Los Danzantes, and Tierra del Sol.
Street food is a must as it introduces you to local favorite spots, often from vendors whose family have been serving their specialty for multiple generations. Try tacos, hamburgers, elotes (roasted corn on the cob), consome de res to fresh agua frescas, nieves and many more. Tacos del Comal, a long-time favorite can be found near Carmen Alto church. If not street food, spend at least one meal eating your way through one of our many local markets.
In addition to Zega Cola and Mezcal, be sure to try regional coffee. Cafébre is one of our favorite spots in town. Also, be sure to try fruit infused water known as agua fresca—which comes in a variety of flavors like Jamaica (hibiscus flower), sandia (watermelon) and tamarindo. You’ll try 4 different and delicious waters on our tour. Last but not least, Mexican hot chocolate is a must for chocolate lovers – made traditionally with water, or if you like, with milk. Find great chocolate at La Autentica.
Everything on this list with the exception of the huitlacoche and a few of the moles can be tasted along the way with Oaxaca Eats Food Tours. Enjoy over 20 tastings in just 4 hours. Be sure to come hungry!