Ask our founder, Aida Mollenkamp, and she’ll fully admit that she’d eat Mexican food daily and never tire of it.
We’re partial to a little variety in our food, but one thing is for sure: we adore Mexican breakfast foods.
What Is Mexican Breakfast?
Before we dive in, let’s make one thing clear: most Mexicans have a simple breakfast of a pastry and coffee (or even just a juice) upon waking, and then they eat something more substantial around midmorning during the time known as almuerzo.
What Is The Difference Between Desayuno and Almuerzo?
If you took high school Spanish, you might have learned that Desayuno is breakfast and almuerzo is lunch. That is true in many Spanish-speaking places but not most of Mexico.
Think of it like Desayuno (the first meal of the day) as more like a quick bite or continental breakfast, while almuerzo is when the heartier, brunch-worthy dishes come out.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, most of Mexico uses the word comida to refer to lunch (yes, they also use it in the more traditional sense to mean food), and Cena remains the word for dinner.
What Are Traditional Mexican Breakfast Foods?
Now that we’ve established what meals of the day we’re referring to let’s talk about our favorite foods to eat during those times of the day.
These days in Mexico (especially in Mexico City restaurants), you can get all kinds of creative non-traditional breakfasts (think: açai bowls and French toast). However, most of the time, we still crave traditional Mexican breakfast foods because they’re that good.
And truth be told, throughout the country, you’ll find the classic Mexican breakfast foods served at a cafe or a Fonda (i.e. a small family-owned restaurant that usually serves breakfast or lunch).
Here are what are, in our opinion, the best traditional breakfast dishes you’ll come across when you travel to Mexico:
Pan Dulces Y Cafe
If you’re going to go classic on your breakfast habits, then have a pastry and coffee upon waking. The most famous breakfast pastries are a category of sweet breakfast pastries known as pan de dulce.
Like the Mexican answer to croissants, there are various sugary pieces of bread. Some of the classics are conchas (shells), bigotes (mustaches), orejas (ears), and besos (kisses). We’re partial to the brioche-y, sugar-coated conchas or shells, which are topped with sugar patterned in a manner that resembles a shell.
Know that there is great variation in the quality of conchas out there, with the worst being dry and tasteless, so be sure to ask locals to get the best pastries around.
Tamal Y Atole
Even more classic than conchas y café? Having a tamal with some atole. If you head to a market (or many a street corner) before noon, you’re sure to run into a tamale vendor.
The most classic way to eat it is to have a steaming hot tamal and the old-school masa-based drink (almost like a soupy porridge) known as atole. It’s a surefire way to warm up on a cold day in winter, but be warned that it’s so filling you’ll likely skip both almuerzo and comida.
If there’s one classic Mexican breakfast food that’s Insta famous, it’s chilaquiles. In case you haven’t had them before, chilaquiles is a breakfast dish which, at its most simple, is made up of totopos (tortilla chips) that are tossed with salsa (usually tomatillo or a red salsa) and then garnished with crema, Cotija cheese, and some onions.
Classically you’ll find chilaquiles offered as Verdes, rojos, or divorciados (as in red and green salsa but served side by side and not mixed) though many people take artistic license, with one of our favorites being the beet chilaquiles from Alma Verde in Tijuana.
On the streets of Mexico City, it’s common for vendors to sell a torta de chilaquil wherein they stuff a bolillo roll (similar to a French roll) with chilaquiles, and garnishes, and send you on your way.
Beyond the fact that it’s considered a rural breakfast one would eat before working a long day, it’s unclear where huevos rancheros originated. But the dish’s popularity speaks for itself since you’ll see huevos rancheros served at many cafes. And though there are numerous places to get huevos rancheros, not all of them are great.
At its most basic, good quality huevos rancheros should have a crisp tortilla topped with fried eggs and a salsa cruda — as in the salsa made with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, serranos, lime juice, and also known as salsa Fresca or pico de gallo.
What separates the good huevos rancheros from the bad are the crispiness of the tortilla (we like it almost like a tostada), the depth of flavor in the salsa (watery is not acceptable). We give bonus points for serving it with legit frijoles de olla (pot beans cooked with herbs and chiles).
Huevos Con Rajas
Another seriously simple breakfast dish but also seriously delicious is huevos con rajas. Translating to “slices or strips,” rajas are sautéed poblano chiles, onions, and garlic that are finished with a touch of crema or Mexican sour cream. That whole mixture is crave-worthy when served along with some quality tortillas, but the breakfast answer is to have it mixed into a scramble along with a good deal of salsa.
Huevos Con Machaca
When we lead our trips to Baja California, one of the most common egg-based breakfast dishes we’re offered is huevos con machaca (aka machaca con huevos). A spiced, shredded dried beef that hails from northern Mexico, machaca is super common when traveling in northern Mexico. A very popular breakfast or brunch dish in the region is machaca with eggs. It’s said to have originated as a breakfast for the miners of Chihuahua state and is a seriously hearty breakfast dish.
Technically memelas are antojito (aka masa-based snacks) that hail from Oaxaca so that they can be eaten any time of day. However, if you go to a cafe during the mid-morning, you’ll often see these griddled masa cakes on the menu.
Think of memelas as bigger than sopes and thicker than tortillas and served topped with Oaxacan cheese, beans, lard, or a mix of all three. No matter the topping memelas are a must-try when you travel to Oaxaca.
First of all, there are two definitions of molletes — in Spain, the term refers to a type of bread, whereas molletes Mexicanos is an open-faced sandwich. Kind of like a distant relative of Italian bruschetta molletes can be topped with an assortment of ingredients.
Classically, molletes are said to come from northern Mexico, where they were traditionally topped with beans, cheese, and chiles. These days you’ll see almost every cafe in Mexico City offer molletes, and they can have all sorts of toppings like ham, bacon, salsas, and eggs.
Aguachile is like a cousin to ceviche, which hails from the state most known for its seafood, Sinaloa. The reason it’s breakfast food? Because it’s a go-to for many a Sinaloan Cuando Esta Crudo or when they have a hangover. The more time we spend in Mexico, the earlier we find ourselves ordering aguachile though we have yet to test its validity as a hangover cure!
What other Mexican food do you turn to for breakfast? Let us know in the comments below!
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