Oaxaca, Mexico

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Oaxaca Cuisine | What to Eat in Oaxaca

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Oaxaca Cuisine

The variety of dishes in Oaxaca is a direct reflection of its incredible geographical and cultural diversity. Oaxacan cuisine is meticulously prepared, colorful, varied, and above all, intense in its flavors and aromas. Suffice to say that seven types of "mole" sauces are from here, as are the largest known tortillas, called "tlayudas", along with two icons of the Mexican breakfast: "entomatadas" and "enfrijoladas". Here, anything, even ants and grasshoppers, can be made into a delicious, nutritious meal.

Whether you start the day off with a coffee or a hot chocolate, make sure it was made in Oaxaca, and prepare yourself for an exciting culinary adventure! 

The Seven Mole Sauces

Mole Oaxaqueno

Just like the colors of the rainbow, the seven Oaxacan mole sauces are a symbol of the cuisine. Each one of them has ingredients that give it a distinctive taste and color. From the spiciest varieties, like the black mole, to the sweetest, such as the strong red-colored mole, without forgetting the green, the chichilo, or the yellow mole with its dough balls, all are authentic Mexican dishes. 

Famous Tamales Oaxaquenos

Tamal Oaxaqueno

Hand-made from corn-based dough, that is then filled and wrapped, tamales are a dish that you just have to try during your visit to the city. The variety of fillings available is simply jaw-dropping, and includes everything from different kinds of mole, sliced jalapeno peppers, beans, sweetcorn and chipilin, to sweeter fillings and sauces. 



Tlayudas are popular snacks that consist of partially fried or toasted large tortillas, topped with beans, "asiento" (unrefined pork lard with pieces of ground pork rinds), cabbage or lettuce, chicken, jerky, or cured meats.  

Birthplace of Quesillo

Quesillo Oaxaqueno

Quesillo is a standard bearer for Oaxaca, which came about as a fortunate mistake made when making cottage cheese; the result was this exquisite cheese, with its iconic elastic consistency and round, braided form. It is originally from the municipality of Reyes Etla, which is about 15 minutes from the state capital. It is used to prepare delicious quesadillas, empanadas, and even to accompany the tlayudas. 


Mezcal Oaxaqueno

Produced by craftsmen, Mezcal is a drink extracted from agave or maguey. It can be "anejo" (mature), "reposado" (aged), clear, or "de pechuga" (a variety with a sweet, fruity taste, which earns its name from being fermented with chicken breast), depending on the time it is stored in oak barrels, which in turn give it its distinctive flavor. Nevertheless, the most well-known and traditional variety is mezcal with a Mezcal worm, which is red or transparent in color.

Other Drinks

Tejate Oaxaqueno

The variety of drinks available is very diverse, ranging from fresh flavored water made from lime with chia seeds, black-seed squash, almond and prickly pear, and walnuts, or "tejate" (made with corn and cacao). Other beverages include hardened sugarcane "atole" (a corn-based drink) and "champurrado" (a popular chocolate-based drink). 

Traditional Desserts

Oaxacan candies and desserts

The delicious Oaxacan desserts include snow-cones made from mamey, sapota, sapodilla, escontria, cheese, corn, and even mezcal. Equally famous are "arroz con leche" (rice pudding), "bocadillo de garbanzo" (chickpea bites) and regional candies like "nenguanitos" (pastries made with brown sugar and butter), "cocadas" (coconut candies), "nanches en dulce" (candied nanches), "marquesote" (sweet bread), "lechecilla" (a kind of sweetened milk) empanadas, and "rosca de yema" (a type of cake).

20 de Noviembre Market

Almost all of this market is dedicated to the sale of food and drink, which is why it is the ideal place to buy regional fruits and vegetables, exquisite quesillo, "chapulines" (grasshoppers), corn chips, chocolate, and dried shrimp, as well as jerky and dried meat. Here you can also see numerous stalls selling freshly-prepared typical specialty dishes.

La Casa de la Abuela

La Casa de la Abuela in Oaxaca

This typical restaurant is located on the second story of a corner building in the main plaza and is a tradition in the city. The establishment specializes in typical specialty dishes, with highlights being three of the seven kinds of mole. From the window you can admire wonderful views of San Felipe Peak and the colorful activity of the heart of the city.

Las Tlayudas de Libres

Las Tlayudas de Libres in Oaxaca

The "tlayudas" are the specialty of this traditional establishment, which has been open for more than 60 years and is frequented both by locals and tourists. The pig's trotters, "tasajo", beef jerky, and dried meat are also very popular with diners. 

Los Danzantes

Restaurante Los Danzantes in Oaxaca

This restaurant occupies the rear courtyard of a restored 16th century mansion close to the Santo Domingo Cultural Center. The dishes are made with classic local ingredients and contemporary creations, blending modern and traditional cuisine. The establishment stands out for its artisanal mezcal made at the Los Danzantes Distillery.

Las Aguas de Casilda

Las Aguas de Casilda in Oaxaca

A visit to Oaxaca isn't complete without a trip to this iconic place to enjoy one of the refreshing drinks made here. A tradition since 1890, Las Aguas de Casilda is famous for its rice based drinks, called "horchata", such as the variety made with almond, prickly pear, black-seed squash, chia seeds, and peach, as well as for its diverse array of refreshing combinations, including pineapple and lime, or soursop and prickly pear. 

Las Nieves de la Soledad

Nieves de la Soledad in Oaxaca

Located in the Socrates Garden, next to Templo de la Soledad (Temple of Solitude), these snow-cone stalls are famous meeting places for locals and visitors alike. Some of the most popular flavors include the iconic "beso oaxaqueno", "beso de angel", "beso zapoteco", which are all mixes of fruits and vegetables, along with sweetened milk, mamey, mezcal, and nanche, to name but a few.

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