Authentic Mexican food is vibrant, delicious, fresh and fun. It is also colourful, spicy and uses an amazing array of chillies, both fresh and dried. Many ingredients are readily available everywhere, such as tomatoes, limes, coriander, red onion, avocado, and corn, and specialty ingredients are becoming more readily available in Australia and elsewhere.
1 Jul 2008 - 9:00 AM  UPDATED 31 Mar 2021 - 11:30 AM

Among the staples of Mexican food are beans and corn. Corn is used to make masa, a dough that is then turned into tortillas and tamales, whereas beans and corn feature prominently in many dishes.

Mexican cooking is packed with flavour; among the herbs and spices that give it its distinct kick are a variety of chillies (fresh, dried, smoked and pickled), alongside oregano, coriander (known as cilantro in North America), cinnamon and cocoa. Garlic, onions, lemons and limes are also used generously.

Mexico’s six regions vary considerably in terms cuisine due to key differences in geography, climate and ethnic makeup. For example, the north of Mexico is known for its beef, goat and ostrich production. In the Yucatan, food tends to be sweeter and less spicy and achiote is the most common seasoning, whereas the Oaxacan region is known for its savoury tamales and mole sauces. Popular dishes of Central Mexico include carnitas (braised or roasted pork) and pozole (a pre-Columbian meat stew.) Southeastern Mexico cooking has a Caribbean influence due to its geography and is known both for its fish dishes and spicy vegetable and chicken dishes.

There’s a common perception that Mexican food is both spicy and heavy but, in fact, true Mexican food has both a depth of flavour – with its combination of savoury and earthy flavours – and a fresh lightness from its generous use of fresh herbs, vegetables and citrus. In most of Mexico it would be very unusual to put cheese in tacos, enchiladas or tostados, for example, and if it were used it would be a Mexican panela cheese (a smooth, fresh, white cheese).

Mexican food in Australia has long been far more of the "Tex Mex" variety, but this is slowly but surely changing.


View our Mexican recipe collection here.

Chicken chimichanga with green tomato salsa

Mexican Food Safari recipes
Green mole (mole verde) with pork

Try this recipe for tender pork cooked in a beautiful, fresh green mole, ingeniously coloured by the pumpkin seeds, vegetables, green chillies and herbs. Serve with Mexican rice and corn tortillas.

Tomato salsa (pico de gallo)

Its simplicity makes this Mexican favourite a great all-purpose tomato salsa. It should be made on the day using the freshest ingredients. Vary the recipe by adding diced avocado for extra colour and flavour.

Tortilla soup (sopa de tortilla)

There's a nice depth of flavour in this soup, which comes from the roasted tomatoes and onion, and from the raisin-like dried chillies called pasilla. Strips of crunchy, fried tortillas are added to the soup just before serving. Feta is not a traditional ingredient in this recipe, but it makes a good substitute for Mexican cheese.

Guacamole dip

This perfect, simple guacamole uses the best avocados mixed with fresh chilli, coriander, onion, tomato and lime. Guacamole should be made just before serving.

Yucatán barbecued chicken (pollo pibil)

The lovely orange colour and mellow flavour of this barbecued chicken comes from achiote, a spice paste made with annatto popular in the Yucatán region. Serve this chicken and salsa inside corn tortillas. The marinade can also be used for prawns – simply marinate green prawns in the same way as the chicken, thread them onto bamboo skewers and cook on a barbecue with a little olive oil for just a few minutes.

Food Safari's hot chocolate
Food Safari's tamales

Tamales are a snack adored by Mexicans. They are a simple combination of corn and a spicy ancho chilli sauce with chicken. This recipe uses chicken stock in the corn masa adding even more flavour. These are so good you won't be able to stop eating them!

Mexican essentials
Featured businesses: Mexican
Contact the businesses featured in the Mexican episode of Food Safari.
Tips: Mexican
These expert tips will help you achieve the perfect balance of flavours.
Utensils: Mexican
Find out which special utensils you’ll need on hand during cooking.
Key ingredients: Mexican
Make sure your kitchen is stocked with these essential ingredients.