In a perfect world we would all be permanently on vacation, sipping a refreshing cocktail by the ocean, flaunting a fresh tan and a carefree attitude on the beaches of Mexico. But in the real world, life is a little more complicated and a little less relaxing. But in celebration of Cinco de Mayo it’s time to cook up some relevant Cinco de Mayo food that will make you feel like you’re chilling out in Mexico, even if it’s only for a short mealtime.
Before we dive into some mouth-watering recipes, let’s discuss what Cinco de Mayo is all about. Cinco de Mayo—or the fifth of May—celebrates Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, during the Franco-Mexican War. Ironically, this date is actually “a relatively minor holiday in Mexico,” but on the flip side, “in the United States Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations.” Mexican culture is honored with everything from parades and mariachi music to food festivals and parties. And while we can’t really help you with the first two, we can certainly help on the food front. Here are 10 Cinco de Mayo recipes that will make you feel like you transported to Mexico (even if it’s only for dinner time). Let the fiesta begin!
1. Pan-fried Bean Burritos
This vegetarian dish is so good you’ll probably be grabbing for this plate as much as any other option on the table. The ingredients are fairly typical for a Mexican recipe (bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, refried beans, Serrano chile, lime juice etc.) but what makes this dish stand out is that once the burrito is assembled you pan-fry the wrap, resulting in a crispy burrito that is crunchy on the outside and ooey gooey delicious all over.
Read Related: The Story Behind Cinco de Mayo
It wouldn’t be much of a fiesta without good guacamole, now would it? Whether you prefer your avocado dip chunky or smooth, mild or spicy, there is a recipe out there for you. This concoction is one of our favorites—it’s simple yet full of flavor. The key is to find perfectly ripe avocados, and don’t skip the hot sauce. And if you prefer more of a kick you can increase that quantity or add in chopped jalapeño peppers.
3. Baja Fish Tacos
This is Cinco de Mayo food 101. Name one thing that goes better with an ice-cold beer or a margarita than fish tacos. We couldn’t think of something either. Fish tacos just scream Cinco de Mayo and make you feel like you’re lounging on the beach with an ice cold drink and zero worries. These tacos aren’t necessarily the healthiest option (hello, fried fish) but they taste AMAZING. The beer-battered fried fish mixed with the cabbage slaw and chipotle sauce is the perfect combo of crunch and spice.
4. Red Chile Short Rib Tacos
Tacos are a must-have when it comes to Cinco de Mayo food. Not just because they are delicious, but they are also fun to eat. Some tacos are simple and some take a bit more effort to prepare…this recipe falls under the second category. Yes, it takes a few hours to get the short ribs and sauce in order before you can dig into these tasty tacos, but the work is worth the reward. Your guests will be blown away, and you’ll be pretty happy too once you take that first bite.
5. Roasted Poblano Quesadillas
Cheese quesadillas aren’t just for kids (though we know many kids would beg to differ); they can be very grown up when you add roasted poblano peppers. This combination of charred and sautéed peppers mixed with melted cheese is Cinco de Mayo food at its best.
6. Chicken and Green Chili Enchiladas
These enchiladas look as good as they taste thanks to the melted cheese and enchilada sauce on top. And they are easy to make too. You can prepare the chicken ahead of time by grilling or roasting (or buying a rotisserie chicken, if you’re so inclined), then all you need to do is assemble and bake. The green chilies, cilantro and enchilada sauce add a ton of flavor, and in only 30 minutes you get to dig into a piping hot piece of Mexican heaven.
7. Lean Green Lettuce Tacos
If you’re looking to serve something a bit more diet-friendly but you don’t want to sacrifice flavor or fun, try these green lettuce tacos. This recipe combines ground beef, sautéed veggies, lime juice, cilantro and tomato sauce into a tasty mixture, which you then serve in a lettuce wrap topped off with anything from cheese to salsa. This dish is easy, yummy, healthy and fun.
8. Tres Leches Cake
With so many tasty dishes (and drinks) to choose from, don’t forget to leave room for dessert. After all, Mexican cuisine offers some of the creamiest, best desserts around. Tres Leches Cake is the big front-runner on the sweet end of the spectrum; the key ingredients, of course, are condensed milk mixed with evaporated milk, whole milk and heavy cream, which you then pour over the warm vanilla cake. Did we get your attention yet?
9. Red Wine Sangria
If you’re on the hunt for perfect Cinco de Mayo party ideas, seek no more. We’re big fans of any cocktail that you can whip up ahead of time, and it actually tastes better the longer it stews. This sangria is easy to make, perfectly fruity but not too sweet, beautiful to look at and even better to drink. Plus you can mix it up and let it sit in a pitcher for a couple of hours (or better yet, overnight).
If you think that a margarita is the only tequila cocktail to serve at a Cinco de Mayo party you are sorely mistaken. The Paloma might actually be Mexico’s most popular tequila drink, and this spin on it uses fresh grapefruit juice, simple syrup, club soda and, of course, tequila. It is refreshing, balanced, and so pretty to sip.
Photo 4 courtesy of Food Network.com