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What To Know About Mexican Street Food

Posted by Emily Cummings on 3/15/18 1:01 PM

ILP Mexico

It’s no secret we love all the food there is to eat in Mexico, so we want to make sure all volunteers know the right lingo and get to taste our favs.

A semester abroad in Mexico means you will have lots and lots of time to see (and eat) tons. I mean, you could go for a week or so, but actually living there gives you a chance to delve into the culture and make friends with the cuties who run your local Mexican bakery. Honestly, the food might be one of the best parts about living in Mexico. 

Have a couple of questions about life here? Check out this about volunteering in Mexico We have info about what a typical day looks like and other answers to your questions. 

Foods To Know In Mexico

  • Elote
  • Sopes
  • Empanadas
  • Ceviche
  • Mole
  • Tortas
  • Tamales 
  • Churros


This is corn on the cob, but way more delicious. Corn is roasted with butter and some mayo, and topped with cojita cheese and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. You'll often see this offered from street vendors, so go ahead and give it a try.

ILP Mexico


Sorta of like thick tortilla or corn cake, Sopes are open faced, topped with meat, cheese, and veggies. YUM.

This is not to be confused with sopas ... which means "soup" in Spanish (and also delicious and worth a try). 


Deep fried little pastry pockets stuffed with a bunch of different fillings — you can get ‘em stuffed with cheese, meat, veggies or even potatoes. 

ILP Mexico


Marinated seafood that actually is technically raw, but is slightly cooked by bright citrus juice, like lime. Usually served up with cilantro and avocado and found around your favorite beaches.  Head's up, you'll want to get this at a reputable restaurant since you are dealing with fish. Eating this at a nice restaurant is going to help ensure you have fresh seafood. 


You’ll find this thick earthy sauce topping a few dishes; some moles are made with chocolate and are dark and slightly sweet, while others are lighter in color and are more spicy. Mole originated in Oaxaca which is a major city in southern Mexico.

ILP Mexico


Say “hi” to the Mexican sandwich. It really can be anything on a bun, but usually you’ll find it spread thick with beans, some sort of protein like chicken, chorizo (a spicy sausage), pork and a couple of other toppings like salsa, avocado, cheese, and veggies. 


Tamales are steamed, made up of a paste made from corn and a filling, usually meat or cheese. Order up a bunch of kinds and taste-test your favorites with your ILP group. 

ILP Mexico


I have a feeling you're already well aware of the deliciousness that is a stick of fried, sugary dough, better known as a churro. The best part about churros is that they're SO cheap in Mexico. If you find a churro vendor on the street it's definitely worth digging in your pocket for spare change for a little treat. 

PSA: You can find churros and ice cream. I repeat ... CHURROS + ICE CREAM!

mexico churros and ice cream@joejoeywilson.png

Food Words To Know In Mexico 

Just so you know, you don’t have know a word of Spanish to be an ILP volunteer, but if you want to learn basic Spanish, we think knowing these foodie terms will help you out, especially when you're staring at a menu that's in Spanish: 

Chicken - Pollo 
Pork - Puerco
Al Pastor - Marinated Pork  
Jamon - Ham 
Beef - Carne de Vaca  
Ground meat - Molida
Crema - Sort of like sour cream, but not as tangy 
Soup - Sopa 
Huevos - Eggs
Pan - Bread 
Queso - Cheese

ILP Mexico

It might be helpful to print off this sheet to help you when you’re ordering your favorite dishes while volunteering in Mexico.  Who knows? After a couple of weeks, you might be a regular at your favorite taco stand and be able to order up a couple of tacos and a tall glass of aqua fresca in Spanish.

Pst: If that sounds like a dream come true, let’s make it happen! Come teach English part-time in Mexico with International Language Programs  — you’ll have lots of free time, weekends off and vacation days during your semester abroad; plus, 3-5 month living in Mexico gives you tons of time to try all of these dishes. 

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Topics: Mexico, Hidden Gems

Exploring The World For Over 25 Years

Hi! We are ILP, a non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. Check out our tips for making the most of your time traveling and living abroad.

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