Brush up on a little culinary history while getting ready to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. We explore the most classic Cinco de Mayo foods, plus we give you 10 amazing recipes to add to your fiesta repertoire.
CINCO DE MAYO FOOD HISTORY
This cheesy tower of crisp tortilla chips (called totopos in Mexico) is now a classic of the American snacking experience. Nachos were allegedly created in 1943 in Piedras Negras, Mexico, by Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, then maître d’hôtel at the Victory Club Hotel. Finding himself with hungry guests and nothing to serve them, Nacho whipped up a snack of tortilla chips cut into triangles and topped with shredded cheddar and jalapeno peppers….and a culinary legend was born. Today, all you need are tortilla chips and imagination to make spectacular nachos – like Nachos with Homemade Taco Meat and Sriracha Cheese Sauce by The Weary Chef.
This handy little dish has actually been around for a while…like a few centuries. Before the Europeans actually came to the New World, the people of Mexico were eating tacos. And why not? There’s a lot to love about these folded tortillas. Starting with the fact that you can load them up with just about any filling. From beef to pork, veggies to seafood, the mighty taco is the vessel of culinary dreams. There are many traditional taco recipes out there, so we were psyched to find two great options for this Cinco de Mayo, including one for our vegan friends: Fresh Fish Tacos by The Organic Kitchen, and Vegan Street Tacos by The Vegan Road.
In America, it’s not a real Cinco de Mayo party unless there’s guacamole! This green dip can be found in almost every American table during Super Bowl Sunday, but it’s actually a dish that even predates modern Mexico and goes as far as the Aztecs. Fun fact: some Europeans used to call the guacamole a “salad of alligator pear”. The basic recipe for guacamole starts with ripe avocados mashed into a soft paste, but inventive and delicious guacamole recipes abound. Add a little bit of heat, a dash of lime, and some imagination, and you can make a killer guacamole – like this Guacamole recipe by Skinny Taste.
Also called “queso flameado” – literally, “flaming cheese” – queso fundido is Mexico’s answer to fondue. Made with melted cheese and chorizo, it typically also has a nice amount of spice and is served bubbling hot with soft tortillas or tortilla chips. It’s said to have originated in Northern Mexico, very close to the border with the American Southwest, which explains why today queso fundido is as ubiquitous in El Paso as in Juarez. So grab your favorite melting cheeses and go over to What’s Gaby Cooking for her incredible Poblano Queso Fundido recipe.
Mexico has practically made an art out of cooking with the tortilla, and the cheesy quesadilla is another great example. Made of a corn or flour tortilla, a quesadilla is filled with cheese (and other favorite ingredients), folded, cooked until the cheese is melted and delicious, and served with salsa, guacamole or sour cream. Combining Cinco de Mayo food and booze, we give you this fabulous Margarita Chicken Quesadillas with Margarita Guacamole recipe by Half Baked Harvest. Si, de nada! (that means ‘yes, you’re welcome!’).
Some say burritos originated with Mexican cowboys, yet others maintain it actually got its start in California. It’s a true Mexican-American dish! Whatever the case, what’s certain is that burritos are rolled-up, oversized tortilla goodness. A burrito uses a wheat-flour tortilla, which unlike the taco, which is just folded, in a burrito the tortilla is wrapped around the filling of choice. Whether for lunch, dinner or breakfast, a burrito is a great choice for a Cinco de Mayo food celebration. Need some burri-inspiration? Try this filling Sweet Chili Sausage and Black Bean Burritos by Vikalinka.
Pico de Gallo
Is it a sauce, is it a salad, is it a side dish?! Ay, Dios mío! Don’t worry, all you need to know is that Pico de Gallo is amazing. Whether as a topping or a dip, you’ll find this chunky salsa accompanying many Mexican dishes, which makes it essential for a true Cinco de Mayo fiesta. Pico de Gallo (‘rooster’s beak’ in Spanish) is basically just diced tomatoes, white onions, and HOT chile peppers. Use it to top nachos, to fill tacos or burritos, or serve it with tortilla chips. Bonus: the colors of the ingredients are the same as the Mexican flag. We found you a great Pico de Gallo recipe with a twist, by A Teaspoon of Happiness.
Thought not technically a Cinco de Mayo food, How could it be a fiesta without a Margarita? One of the many stories about the birth of this cocktail goes back to 1938, when dancer Marjorie King walked into Carlos “Danny” Herrera’s restaurant and asked for a drink. The problem? Ms. King was allergic to all spirits…except – you guessed it! – tequila. That’s just one of the many legends behind this citrusy concoction, but what we do know for certain is that a classic Margarita recipe includes tequila, triple sec, and lime juice – salt or sugar-rimmed glass, optional! We wouldn’t just include any old boring Margarita recipe, so how about this Jalapeno Citrus Margarita by Keep It Simple, Sweetie? Zesty, spicy and boozy!
Mexican Hot Dogs
What? Hot dogs are not Mexican you say? You got us, but we decided you had to try these Mexican Hot Dogs With Chipotle Cream by Damn Delicious. The perfect combination of the great ingredients of Mexican cuisine with a true American classic. Cinco de Mayo meets Cuatro de Julio (4th of July!)!