33 Popular Mexican Foods to Try in Puebla, Mexico
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Puebla is a state that has become something of a media darling in recent years. That’s not to say it wasn’t already one of the most popular destinations in Mexico, especially given that going from Mexico City to Puebla takes just two hours, but it definitely seems to have been ~reinvented~ of late. Trust me, I’m a travel writer. And if you don’t trust me, then trust the guides published by everyone from CNN to The Guardian within the last year or so.
But don’t read them. No, read mine instead.
Anyway, what I (and everyone else) is getting at is that no longer is Puebla ‘just’ a day trip from Mexico City. In fact, it’s a destination in its own right and I am so here for that. Why? Well, because Puebla is full of so many typical Mexican dishes it’s impossible to sample them all in a day. You’ve got your obvious favourites, like mole poblano and cemitas, but many visitors will likely stop there, missing out on many types of Mexican food, including several other great Puebla dishes, antojitos and even drinks.
After all, Puebla has a rich culinary legacy, which combines a dash of French influence with a penchant for using native herbs, like pápalo and epazote, and is topped off with a strong pinch of Middle Eastern inspiration.
OK, I’ll stop. The faux-recipe writing is making even me cringe.
Either way, what I’m trying to say is that Puebla is kind of Mexico’s (cliché ahoy) smorgasbord, mixing techniques, ingredients and flavours from around the world to create delicious Mexican cuisine, thanks to the fact it once served as a major stopping point on Mexican trade routes.
So, now you know why to head there for great food, here are all the popular Mexican foods you need to try in Puebla, Mexico.
33 POPULAR MEXICAN FOODS TO TRY IN PUEBLA, MEXICO
Let’s kick off with a dish that, sort of, kind of, isn’t all that unique to Puebla, but is a favourite in the general central Mexico region within which Puebla finds itself—mixiote. Basically a Mexican take on pit barbecuing, mixiotes are made by wrapping the heavily-seasoned meat filling (typically beef, but sometimes mutton or pork et al) in the outer skin of the maguey plant, which works to give it an extra-special flavour. It’s then placed underground and steamed into tender perfection over the course of several hours, before being served with nopales and potato.
Remember that Middle Eastern influence (more specifically Iraqi and Lebanese) I mentioned in the introduction. Of course you don’t, no one ever reads the introductions, I’m not a fool.
Either way, HERE IT IS, in the form of some delicious tacos árabes. I’m gunna go ahead and assume you’re familiar with tacos in their purest, soft-shelled form; so, imagine that, but instead of being wrapped in a soft tortilla (corn, natch), they’re bundled in a floury Mexican take on pitta bread (pan árabe). The filling is shawarma-esque, spit roasted pork. The pork, obviously, was a twist on traditional kebabs that better suited Mexican tastes.
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PANZA DE RES EN VERDE
Perhaps you’ll struggle to find this in the capital, but in the northern reaches of Puebla, you’ll find panza de res en verde (a.k.a. cow stomach in green sauce) replacing that hangover-busting favourite, menudo (a.k.a. tripe soup). Yum.
I personally wouldn’t eat huitlacoche alone, as it’s more of a filling for dishes like molotes, but you should try and sample some of this traditional Mexican food in Puebla. A type of fungus that grows on corn, it’s better known in English as corn smut, and while it doesn’t sound that appetising, it can be (when prepared correctly) a pleasantly earthy foodstuff.
Molotes, when I tried them for the first time in Puebla, were totally new to me. I’d never even heard of them before. However, they reminded me distantly of the deep-fried quesadillas I’m partial to in Guadalajara, a.k.a. they’re formed with a masa shell which is stuffed with your filling of choice, doubled over and then fried. A mini Mexican calzone, if you will.
Again, I’d not heard of pelonas before I tried them for the first time, but they easily rank up there as one of my preferred Mexican antojitos now. The name pelona literally means ‘baldy’, which is understandable when you take a look at the shiny, dome-shaped bread bun that forms the outer layer of these deep-fried sandwiches. Yes, I did just say deep-fried sandwiches, so you’re either thinking YES or EWW. I, for the record, thought the former when I first heard what they were, and I must say, they’re not as greasy and heavy as you’d imagine—in fact, the fresh fillings of shredded lettuce, crema and the meat and sauce of your choice really balances the whole thing out, while the bread takes on a satisfyingly crunchy texture.
Again, like huitlacoche and mixiote, escamoles aren’t unique to Puebla but they are prevalent. Again, you’ll want to eat these with some sort of tortilla side, base or accompaniment. Oh, what are escamoles? Ant larvae.
The traditional Mexican food to try in Puebla, mole poblano is the iconic plate of the state. If you can honestly only spend one day in Puebla and want to try a super typical Mexican food, this is what you should beeline towards.
(Although…I have to confess that I actually prefer Oaxacan mole over Pueblan mole, because the latter is just a little too sweet for my tastes, given that it tends to use more almonds and cinnamon.)
Having said that, no two moles (even two mole poblanos) will ever taste the same, as everyone has their own twist on the basic recipe base.
Furthermore, there are plenty more moles made across the state of Puebla, so if you’re a true mole aficionado, consider looking out for mole de chilayo or mole verde de Zacapala and, of course, if you just want great sauces (as opposed to moles, specifically), then you need to get your hands on pipián and adobo. The former comes in many variations, whereas the latter is a spicier, more-chili driven sauce.
Pretty much everywhere in Mexico has their own take on enchiladas, the classic tortilla-covered-with-sauce dish that sometimes involves extra toppings and fillings. Puebla is no different. Enchiladas poblanas consist of tortillas soaked in a poblano chili and peanut sauce, which are then filled with cheese, plated, and bathed in more of the aforementioned salsa, before being sprinkled with cheese.
Basically the same concept as enchiladas, enmoladas are stuffed and rolled tortillas that are then drenched in mole sauce.
Swap out the peanutty sauce of enchiladas poblanas and replace it with a spicy tomato sauce instead. Voila! You just made enjitomatadas.
CEMITAS (A.K.A. SEMITAS)
I didn’t understand the hype around cemita sandwiches (sometimes written as semitas) the first time I tried them in Puebla, even though they’re considered one of the most famous Mexican foods. They seemed kind of meh, with too much bread to filling ratio and nothing that special about them.
Don’t listen to the opinions of past Lauren though, because on my second stop in Puebla I ate about four cemitas in three days and LOVED them. They’re made with the famed cemita bread, often described as brioche-esque and topped with sesame seeds. This bun then receives a healthy slather of beans, before being filled with (usually) some kind of schnitzel, stringy quesillo, avocado, onion, rajas or chipotle chilies, as well as what some would consider the most important ingredient of all—pápalo. In fact, if a cemita doesn’t include pápalo, it’s just a bogstandard torta, goes a poplar Pueblan refrain (and ad campaign). The pápalo herb is certainly an acquired taste though, with a flavour not unlike rocket (arugula), albeit more peppery.
Until I sat down to write this post, I actually had no idea that tinga was typical to Puebla, as I’ve tried it in plenty of other places across Mexico, including as far north as Monterrey. However, this typical Mexican food does come from the state of Puebla, and is made from shredded meat (usually chicken, in my experience) doused in a spicy, tomatoey sauce. It’s rarely eaten alone, instead used as a tostada topping, or for filling quesadillas and molotes.
Memelas are, like mole, also prevalent in Oaxaca too. However, if the chance arises, give them a go in Puebla. Made from that Mexican fave, masa, memelas are kind of like a slightly fatter tortilla, served flat with beans, cheese and salsa. They are very similar to (if not the same as) sopes. Simple, but delicious.
Honestly? Chalupas strike me as basically the same as memelas, but smaller and with slight topping variations. Teeny tiny, thick tortillas (fried in lard) are topped with red or green sauce, followed by meat and onion. They are frigging delicious though and can be eaten in one mouthful meaning they pretty much epitomise the term antojitos (little snacks).
Rajas poblanas may be super simple but they are definitely one of my preferred poblano side dishes. Made from strips of grilled corn and poblano chili (that old fiend, he pops up in almost every Pueblan dish), rajas poblanas are served in a creamy sauce and go great with chicken dishes.
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Poblano chili soup is one of my favourites (alongside crema de elote from Toks). Not much needs to be said about this hearty comfort food, which also includes cream, except that once you have a good one, you’ll never be able to go back to store-bought versions.
ARROZ CON ATÚN A LA POBLANA
Don’t necessarily go out of your way to try what is ostensibly a side dish at best but do consider taste-testing arroz con átun a la poblana (a.k.a. rice with tuna and poblano chili, bathed in a savoury, well-seasoned seafood broth) at least once.
CHILES EN NOGADA
Chiles en nogada are a super seasonal and traditional Mexican food, typically prepared when pomegranates are in season. This happily coincides with Mexico’s September 16th Independence Day celebrations, which is perhaps why some consider chiles en nogada to be the national dish of Mexico.
This is only compounded by the patriotic colours present in the dish—the green of the Mexican flag comes from the poblano chili, which is full to bursting with ground meat, raisins and other fruits, while the white is (more or less) provided by the walnut sauce poured over the top and the red component comes in the form of pomegranate seeds. A strangely sweet dish, the sauce is also served cold which can be jarring at first bite, but when in Rome….
Puebla might be best known for it’s savoury dishes, but there are also tons of traditional Mexican sweets you need to try while you’re there too. In fact, some of the most delicious Mexican candies are from Puebla, and the capital city even has the ‘sweet street’ (a.k.a. Calle de los Dulces) to prove it.
TORTITAS DE SANTA CLARA
Tortitas de Santa Clara are the definitive Pueblan dessert, and certainly my favourite. (I might have a sweet tooth, but it craves chocolate not candy, for the most part.) Anyway, tortitas de Santa Clara are…tricky to describe. To me, they’re basically a cross between a cookie and a jam tart, minus the jam. Instead, the filling/ topping is made from dulce de pepita, a.k.a. ground pumpkin seed paste. Sounds gross, but it isn’t. And they were traditionally made by nuns, so you know they must be good.
French toast with a Pueblan twist is the best way of explaining torrejas poblanas, which consists of bread cooked in a sticky sauce of raw sugar and cinnamon, before being served with yoghurt and fruit. Honestly, I haven’t tried it, but I can imagine it working great as an indulgent breakfast dish.
Obviously, churros are not from Puebla, but they are sold a ton in the city centre. Why not treat yourself?
Jamoncillo is another traditional Pueblan candy made with pumpkin seeds. It’s kind of like fudge, to be honest.
If you don’t know what candied fruits are, I can’t help you.
DULCES DE CAMOTE
Mashed sweet potatoes don’t sound like the obvious thing with which to make sweets, but then neither do pumpkin seeds if you ask me. Either way, it works. Pueblans throw in a touch of sugar to their potatoes and serve it up in mini cylinders wrapped in wax-paper.
Research tells me this drink is actually from the State of Mexico; however, it is served up in the state of Puebla too. Typically made from cane alcohol infused with a Mexican fruit known as nanche, chumiate in Puebla swaps out the nanche for capulín, a sweet grape-like fruit.
Nevados are a typical Mexican drink, which at a base level simply combine alcohol and fruit. You can get them in various flavours, ranging from strawberry to vanilla, ‘Opium Dream’ to ‘Ecstasis’. The last two are, uhh, conceptual.
Acachul is a rudimentary wine (some say liquor), made from a fruit of the same name, similar to the aforementioned capulín. You’re unlikely to find this served commercially, so…get yourself a Pueblan friend, I guess? I’ll give you a tip—it’s common in Xicotépec de Juárez, Zacapoaxtla and Acaxochitlán.
Mexican eggnog is the best way of describing rompope, so I’m told. I’ve never had eggnog, it sounds grim. However, I can confirm that rompope is delicious. Made from egg yolks, ground almond, milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and, of course, liquor, it’s a creamy Pueblan favourite.
AGUA DE LIMÓN SEVILLANO
I didn’t get around to trying agua de limón sevillano in Puebla, although I’m assured it’s a typical, refreshing soft drink served in taco restaurants and fondas. It sounds good too, bringing together lemon (lime), sugar, water and evaporated milk.
I tried a pasita on my last visit to Puebla and it was certainly…interesting. It was invented in a bar of the same name in Puebla City, Mexico and that’s still the most traditional place to get your mitts on one, although you should prepare yourself for a unique shot experience. After all, it involves a single raisin and a chunk of cheese, which are supposed to be chewed as you enjoy each sip of the rather strong raisin liquor.
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You’ll likely be familiar with cider, known as sidra in Spanish, but depending where you’re reading this from, you might have very different feelings about it. For me, cider evokes underage drinking in the park and kind of, but not really, enjoying the taste of my appley alcohol. If you’re from the US, cider is, from what I gather, a rather pleasant soft drink.
Well, in Mexico, sidra is made from apples (classic) and typically used in Puebla as a celebratory drink. Some versions are all apple, while others add in red wine. As for where to try it, the town of Zacatlán is the name that crops up time and time again.
Finally, I’ll round out my guide to the most popular Mexican foods and drinks to try in Puebla with yolixpa. Hailing from the north of Puebla state, Mexico, yolixpa brings together a whopping 23 distinct herbs and combines them with aguardiente. Apparently, this is not just a ‘fun’ beverage, but also has medicinal properties too.
Now you’ve read about some of the most popular Mexican foods to try in Puebla, Mexico (including a few bonus drinks!), you might be wondering what’s the most effective way to try some of them on your next visit. Well, if you feel comfortable exploring yourself, you can of course take a self-guided tour and hunt down the dishes you’re most interested in.
Alternatively, you can do as I did last time I went to Puebla and head off on an Eat Mexico Taste of Puebla food tour.
I should add that I was kindly invited to take part in the food tour free of charge, although it usually costs $75 per person.
It’s easy to see why Eat Mexico, founded by the excellent Lesley Téllez, is one of Mexico’s foremost food tour companies and while I can’t comment on any tours beyond their Puebla offering, I can only imagine they all run in a similar way—like a well-oiled machine. We were met by our guide just off Puebla’s zócalo and the fact there were just three of us in the group made it feel like a truly personalised experience.
Along the way, our Puebla-native guide told us various snippets of the history of Puebla, Mexico as she guided as around the hand-picked street food and restaurant options on the itinerary. I won’t reveal just what and where we ate, but I can say that if you want to dive headfirst into some of Puebla’s most traditional Mexican dishes, this is the tour for you.
And, unlike on some food tours where the pacing can seem a bit off, my Eat Mexico tour in Puebla was perfectly scheduled, starting with some antojitos and building to a couple of typical Mexican meals, before winding down, rather logically, with desserts and drinks. Overall, I highly recommend this tour if you want to visit Puebla for a flying visit and are looking to sample as much Mexican cuisine as possible in one day!
Have you been to Puebla? Have you tried some of these popular Mexican dishes before? Did I miss off some essential Pueblan cuisine?! Let me know in the comments!