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 when it comes to our food but one things for sure: we adore Mexican breakfast foods.
Before we dive in, let’s make one thing clear: most Mexicans simply 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 may remember that desayuno is breakfast and almuerzo is lunch. That is true in many Spanish-speaking places but not in the majority 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 stays as the word for dinner!
Traditional Mexican Breakfast Foods
Now that we've established what meals of the day we're actually referring to, let's talk about our favorite foods to eat! These days in Mexico (espeically in Mexico City restaurants) you can get all kinds of creative non-traditional breakfasts (think: açai bowls and French toast) but most of the time we still crave the traditional Mexican breakfast foods because they're that good!
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 simply 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 a variety of these sugary breads. Some of the most classic 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 in order 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 along with the old school masa-based drink (that's almost like a soupy porridge) known as atole. It’s a sure fire 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 both red and green salsa but served side by side and not mixed) though many people take artistic license with one 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, 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 not clear where huevos rancheros originated. But the dish's popularity speaks for itself since you’ll see huevos ranncheros served at a good deal of 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 fhuevos 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) and 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 addictive 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 huevo). A spiced, shredded dried beef that hails from northern Mexico, machaca is super common when you’re traveling in northern Mexico and 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 an antojito (aka masa-based snacks) that hail from Oaxaca so they can be eaten any time of day. However, if you go to a cafe during midmorning, you'll often see these griddled masa cakes on the menu. Think of memelas as bigger than sopes and thicker than a 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 are 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 and it hails from the state most known for its seafood, Sinaloa. The reason it’s a 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 and 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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