Oaxaca Food, 20 Dishes to Try in 2020

Are you planning to visit Oaxaca this 2020? You may need to know why Oaxaca food is one of the highlights of Mexico. Let me introduce you to the Traditional food of Oaxaca.
Here, you can find a list of the most traditional and delicious dishes local people eat day by day.

Oaxaca Food. The Foundation

Memelitas

This is a small corn tortilla, with an ellipse form. The typical way to eat Memelitas is by spreading them with Asiento, which is pork lard that means “on the bottom” and black beans. Then topped with cheese, or Quesillo (Oaxaca Traditional Cheese). The spiciness is optional; you decide if you want to add salsa before enjoying it.
Memelitas is one of the most popular breakfasts because they are easy to prepare and easy to find; hence they are one of our favorites Oaxaca Street Food.

Tlayudas

A Tlayuda is a big tortilla and hard to bit. The reason why it is hard is that you have to be able to store them. It is the opposite of Blandas that you eat them at the moment. Tlayudas need to be hard. The world Tlayuda is actually an adjective, meaning big and strong.
The traditional Tlayuda has asiento, black beans, and Quesillo. It is also common to find them with some other ingredients such as lettuce or cabbage, guacamole or avocado, red tomatoes, meat, and of course, spicy salsa.

Tamales

A Tamal is a corn masa with certain other meats or herbs on it, such as mole with chicken, pork, Chepil, which is an acid herb, black beans, or sometimes fruits. You can find them folded with banana leaves or Totomoxtle, the corn leaves. This is also one of our favorites breakfast. If you visit early in the morning surrounding neighborhoods in Oaxaca, you can hear the classic “Tamales y Atole” scream, meaning a man or woman is selling them on a tricycle bike. You can also find them as a Huajolota, which means a Bolillo bread stuffed with a tamal. 

A common mistake that English speakers make is to use the word Tamale. That doesn’t exist in Spanish. The right name is Tamal when we refer to them in singular or Tamales when it’s plural.

Garnachas

In Mexico City, Garnacha refers to fried street food. But in Oaxaca, and especially at the Istmo de Tehuantepec zone, Garnacha is a tinny fried tortilla. On top of the tortilla, you can add pork, red salsa, and cheese. This tortilla is very crunchy and tasteful, and we eat it usually at lunch and dinner time.

Pozontle

This is an ancestral cold drink from the Sierra Norte region. Ingredients are cocoa beans, corn, Panela, and a herb called Cocolmeca. It’s watery and fresh, and it’s served cold with corn sediments. This is a ceremonial and religious drink from Yalalag, 115kms away from Oaxaca City.

Frijoles con Hierba de Conejo

Hierba de Conejo means Rabbit Grass literally, and it’s a local herb that Oaxaca local people use to season beans. This herb adds a bitter taste to the beans. Also, it turns the color of beans into grey/green. Enfrijoladas is an excellent way to taste it, a semi fried tortilla dipped in beans and covered with cheese and cream. In Oaxaca, we always use black beans with most of our meats, but it’s common to add Hierba de Conejo to them.

Huitlacoche

Huitlacoche is the corn fungus. It is blue-black and is called The Black God. The taste of this fungus is pretty similar to a mushroom flavor, a little bitter. This fungus is a big problem in some countries around the world. However, in Southern Mexico, it’s a widespread food, and in some places, farmers grow only corn with Huitlacoche. 

You can find it raw on the markets or as a Guisado (main meal) in many places, so you can eat it on tacos, Memelas, or Omelettes.

Caldo de Piedra

The Caldo de Piedra (Stone Broth) is an offering to women, is a way to honor them. This ancestral broth comes from San Felipe Uzila, in the Papaloapan region of Oaxaca, where the Chinanteca people live.

Women are not allowed to cook it. The main reason is that this is an offering to them but also because fishing is an only-men activity. The best time during the year to cook it is during spring because the river has a significant amount of fishes and shrimps, and it’s easier to find the right place on the river bank to cook it. 

The way to cook this broth is with hot stones. They have to select carefully the kind of stone they use, if they use the wrong one, it can break or explode. The reason why is because they need to hit the rocks for 2 hours, at least. If it’s not a good rock, I will not resist the high temperature. 

Once they have all of the ingredients, they put them on a Jicara, a bowl made from a dry pumpkin. Everything is raw with some water, and then they add the hot stones. In 3 minutes, stones cook everything, creating a visual spectacle.

Chocolate

One of our favorite Oaxaca Food is Chocolate. But, curiously, we don’t eat it as a dessert, we drink it in breakfast or with Mole.

In Oaxaca, it’s easy to find stores where you can get artisan Chocolate freshly made. The ingredients are Cocoa Beans, Cinnamon, Almonds, and Sugar. The way to make it is on a mill or Molino. The first step is ground Cocoa Beans, Cinnamon, and Almonds. In this first step, we get a dark bitter liquid. On the second step, you add sugar, depending on if you want it bitter, semi-bitter or classic is the amount of sugar you need to add. In the end, the final product is a warm powder, since it’s warm, you can mold it to make your own chocolate bars. 

The traditional way to drink it is as hot cocoa, accompanied by Pan de Yema, a bread that people prepare with a lot of egg yolks and no liquids as in water or milk. Also a very traditional must-try in Oaxaca.

Seven Moles

Oaxaca is famous because of its Seven Moles:

  • Black Mole
  • Coloradito
  • Red Mole
  • Yellow Mole
  • Green Mole
  • Estofado
  • Mole de Olla

Each Mole is different from the others, but all of them are delicious. The difference between one and other is the ingredients you use to cook them.

The traditional way to eat them is topping a piece of chicken and with a side of rice for the Mole Negro, Coloradito, Mole Rojo, and Estofado. For the Mole Verde, Amarillo, and Mole de Olla, they look more like a thick broth with veggies and meat. The Moles are one of our Oaxaca Food highlights because it can take up to two days to prepare them, and the most popular celebrations to eat them it’s during weddings, Quinceañeras, funerals, and birthdays.

Extra. There’s a controversial debate where some people say that the seventh Mole is Chichilo, instead of Mole de Olla, we don’t care, it’s also delicious.

Carnes Asadas

The meats you can find on an Oaxaca grill are: 

  • Tasajo. Thin cut beef meat.
  • Cecina. Adobo marinated pork meat.
  • Chorizo, Guajillo and pork sausage.
  • Tripe. Cow intestines.

The condiments we use to eat with the Oaxaca grilled meats are guacamole, salsas, grilled onions, grilled peppers, and hand-made tortillas. Another popular way to find those grilled meats is served with Tlayudas. 

We recommend you to stop at Mercado 20 de Noviembre to experience the best Oaxaca grilled meats in Oaxaca.

Chiles Rellenos

Chile Relleno is a stuffed pepper. In Oaxaca, we use Chile de Agua, an endemic pepper of the region. On the other hand, around Mexico, Chile Poblano is more popular.
This Pepper is stuffed traditionally with picadillo, which is pork or chicken ground meat mixed with carrots and potatoes. Then it’s battered and finally fried.
The perfect condiments are rice, beans, and hand-made tortillas.

Nieves

Nieve is one of our favorites desserts because it’s a delicious way to refresh yourself. Nieve means Snow in English. It is made with fruit juice, mixed with water or milk, and freeze in steel pots.
The most popular flavors are “Leche Quemada with Tuna,” Leche Quemada is burnt milk, and Tuna is prickly pear. The mix between the smoky Leche Quemada and the refreshing Tuna makes it the perfect match. Don’t get confused with Tuna fish, which is a totally different thing.

Tejate

Also known as the drink of the Gods. Tejate is an ancestral drink from Huayapam, a village 20 min away from Oaxaca City. The ingredients on this cold drink are Cocoa beans, a flower called Rosita de Cacao, wood ashes, Mamey pit, and corn. Once they grind all the ingredients, they mix them with their hands in a big clay pot, adding cold water. Only women can prepare this ancestral drink.
Remember to stop and drink your tejate on a Jícara. Give it a chance to “La Flor” or the corn on top of your drink.

We hope when you visit Oaxaca, you can taste all of those delicious meals and drinks. You won’t get disappointed, and for sure, your tummy will want more delicious food. 

If you don’t know where to start, you can also take our Walking Food Tour that will take you to discover and taste those traditional foods in the most iconic markets, and you will be able to Become Local for a Day.

Betsy Morales

Betsy Morales

I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Oaxaca. In the iconic Benito Juarez market, my family has owned a food business there for over 20 years, and right there is where I grew up