Prepare your tastebuds as we share the best food in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Oaxaca is known as a food lovers paradise, one of our favourite cities to eat worldwide!

There are up to 16 indigenous groups living in the state. Each group has its ancient traditions, language, and recipes passed down through generations.

We’ve covered 20 of the most delicious foods from Oaxaca and, most importantly, where you can find it!

Let’s Begin! 20 Recommended Dishes for the Best Food in Oaxaca:

1) Mole

Oaxaca is the birthplace of mole. It is a national dish that is eaten widely across the country and prepared especially during festivals and celebrations.

To explain it, mole is a complex, rich sauce. The main ingredients in mole are herbs, onions, chiles, nuts, spices, seeds, garlic, chocolate and fruit. There are seven variations of mole in Oaxacan cuisine. These include red, green, yellow and black mole.

However, the most famous mole recipe in Oaxaca is a black mole (negro), pictured above. It is an incredibly popular food in Oaxaca, Mexico. 

This mole is the most difficult to prepare because mole negro contains over 30 ingredients. And even unsweetened dark chocolate. Mole sauces are served with pork, turkey, beef or chicken.

My tip: Have warm tortillas on hand to mop up the yummy sauce at the end of your meal. Honestly, mole negro is one of the most unique foods from Oaxaca.

Find the best Mole Negro here: Restaurant Los Pacos – Calle de Mariano Abasolo 121, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Oaxaca

2) Empanada

In other Latin countries, empanadas are usually small, deep-fried pastries. The most common fillings include different meats and vegetables. However, here in Oaxaca, an empanada is a large tortilla stuffed with meat and cheese.

Afterwards, it’s folded in half, then toasted on a comal. It’s also referred to as ‘quesadilla’ in Oaxaca.

Keep your eyes open to find one served with mole amarillo (yellow mole).

Also, don’t leave Oaxaca without trying the empanada con flor de calabaza.

Empanada with flor de calabasa & quesillo

When you visit, this must be on your list of food in Oaxaca to try. The empanada con flor de calabaza is a fresh pumpkin flower topped with quesillo.

It’s served with your choice of salsa drizzled over. Absolute bliss!

Where to find the best foods to try in Oaxaca? Find the best empanada con flor de calabaza here: Tacos del Carmen, Oaxaca Centro

3) Tlayudas – the most popular snack food in Oaxaca Mexico

Tlayudas are the classic street food of Oaxaca. Often described as a Mexican-style pizza. First, a huge crispy tortilla is grilled on both sides over a fire. Then, bean paste and pork lard are spread over it.

And to finish it off, they add toppings of quesillo (Oaxacan string cheese), tomato, soft avocado, lettuce or cabbage for crunch. Of course, you can choose to add meat.

This is my favourite street snack in Oaxaca. Include Tlayuda in your list of foods from Oaxaca you cannot miss.

Nothing beats the smoky, crispy tortilla piled with fresh ingredients and delicious spicy salsa.

Also, remember to squeeze lime on top.

Find the best tlayudas here: Tlayudas Libres in central Oaxaca, Antojitos Dona Ines (I recommend taking a taxi from central Oaxaca in the evening for around 80 pesos each way) OR Comedor Chabelita, located inside 20 de Noviembre mercado.

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4) Pozole

This is a must in your search for the best food in Oaxaca. Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup. The secret ingredient? Hominy.

Essentially dried corn, which locals soak in a mineral bath. This process loosens the hulls from the kernels, softens the kernels and doubles them in size.

The soup is topped with lime juice, cabbage, radishes, chilli and your choice of meat. The ultimate comfort food!

Find the best pozole here: Cabuche OR Tacos Roy – one of my go-to places to eat in Oaxaca. I recommend either Chicken Pozole or the Combination Pozole (Beef & Chicken)

5) Sopa de Mariscos

Sopa de mariscos (seafood soup) is a spicy tomato soup. Imagine soup full of fish, mussels, prawns, and crab. This is a speciality along Oaxaca’s Pacific coastline. Cazuelita is an earthenware pot in which locals cook and serve this goodness.

Wedges of lime and chopped coriander enhance the dish’s flavour. 

There are so many different soups to taste in Mexico. Keep your eyes open for another soup. The sopa de barracoa (braised or stewed beef). It makes it to our list of best foods to try in Oaxaca.

Find the best Sopa de Mariscos here: Marisqueria La Red. This restaurant offers some fantastic ‘Daily Menu’ options for seafood, starting from 130 pesos. They have a location near Zocalo, Central Oaxaca, too.

6) Tamales

Tamales are quintessential Mexican snack food. You can find them all over Mexico. Tamales are made from corn dough. Small packages filled with meat, vegetables and salsa. They’re wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks and then steamed.

The traditional tamales in Oaxaca are a little different from the rest of Mexico. Here in Oaxaca, tamales fillings include mole and pollo (chicken), frijol (beans), rajas (peppers) and chipil (local herbs). I’ve even eaten tamales here with sweet fillings.

Once you find an excellent tamale vendor, you’re all set!

My favourite place to buy them is from the Mercado Sanchez Pascuas.

Tamal Negro from Tamales Cande – A small stand with delicious tamales

Our Spanish teacher recommended ‘Tamales Cande’, a stand inside Mercado Sanchez Pascuas, when we asked where to find the best food in Oaxaca. I enjoyed the Tamale Negro (chicken and black mole) inside; it was fantastic! Sweet, savoury and cooked with love. I highly recommend stopping by here for delicious food.

Tamales are a popular breakfast food in Oaxaca. Read more about our 12 favourite breakfast places in Oaxaca!

While you’re here, order a fresh juice from Super Jugos Angelita, the stand across from the Tamales Cande.

You can also find Tamale vendors at Mercado Benito Juarez in Central Oaxaca.

Look for them near the Calle Miguel Cabrera entrance. The ladies have them covered in big baskets, and There are many women in a line selling tamales at this market.

Just ask them what fillings they have for the day and eat through them all during your visit.

Find the best tamales here: Tamales Cande at Mercado Sanchez Pascuaz OR from Mercado Benito Juarez

7) Carne Asada

Carne Asada Hall in 20 de Noviembre Market

I love a good food experience, and this one is fantastic. Put this one down on your list of the best foods to try in Oaxaca.

The Carne Asada Hall is located inside the 20 de Noviembre market. In the hall, you’ll find meat vendors selling raw cuts. Order your selection of meat from the displayed proteins.

Beef, pork and chorizo are widely available. The vendors will grill it for you once it is ordered. Move on to the next stall. Order your choice of vegetables that you’d like grilled, too.

Order some tortillas, salad and drinks on the side, and walk down to the end of the hall. Sit and wait for your BBQ. The staff will deliver it to you when it’s ready.

It’s worth noting that if you visit the Tlacolula Sunday market in Oaxaca, there’s a huge Carne Asada hall inside it, too! It’s very impressive.

Tlacolula Sunday Markets

I wrote this post about how to get to Tlacolula Markets in Oaxaca; it includes everything you need to know for a recommended cultural experience in Oaxaca.

Find the best Carne Asada here: The Carne Asada Hall inside 20 de Noviembre market.

8) Memelas

Memelas are a popular dish in Oaxaca. Definitely one of the best foods in Oaxaca. And you can eat them anytime, for both breakfast and dinner. Street vendors sell them all over the city.

They’re similar to sopes, another food found at street stalls across Central and Southern Mexico. Vendors grill the memela, a thicker and smaller tortilla, on a comal.

A slathering of pork lard, bean paste, and your choice of topping. Popular options include tinga de pollo (spicy stewed chicken) and chicharron (pork rinds).

Finally, the topping. Crumbled queso fresco or quesillo.

You can never stop at just one! A delicious option for popular food in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Find the best memelas here: Mercado de La Merced from Fonda Florecita or La Guerita.

9) Quesillo – my favourite food in Oaxaca Mexico

Quesillo is the most delicious cheese! It’s stringy, creamy and rich and found everywhere. Find it wound up in layers in the shape of a ball.

This cheese resembles mozzarella. It’s a little salty with a firm texture and pairs perfectly with a cold beer.

You can’t miss this one. It is one of the quintessential foods you must try in Oaxaca.

Find the best quesillo here: Queseria La Milagrosa

10) Tejate

Yes, tejate is more like a drink. It’s incredibly filling, thick and wholesome too. Perhaps that’s why it belongs on this list of foods to try in Oaxaca—prepared using ground maize, mamey seeds, cacao beans and white flower (flor de cacao).

The white flower is an essential ingredient. It gives tejate its distinctive flavour and creamy top.

Please be sure to look for this ancient beverage in food markets. Usually, women scoop tejate from large earthenware bowls.

Find the best tejate here: Mercado Benito Juarez or at Tlacolula Markets.

11) Barbacoa (and Consommé)

In Oaxaca, barbacoa is a traditional slow-cooked meat dish, typically made with lamb or goat, but pork is also used. The meat is marinated in spices and wrapped in maguey leaves.

It is then pit-roasted underground, resulting in tender, aromatic meat infused with smoky flavours. 

Consommé is a mouthwatering soup made from the rich broth obtained during the slow-cooking process of barbacoa meat. 

A bowl of consommé includes pieces of tender meat, along with vegetables such as onions, coriander, and lime on the side. 

I enjoyed a bowl of consommé in one of the small eateries in Tlacolula market accompanied by a couple of tortillas, it was heavenly!

Find the best Barbacoa & consommé here: Mercado de la Merced OR Mercado Municipal Martin Gonzalez, Tlacolula.

12) Tacos el Pastor

The dish has its roots in Lebanese cuisine, brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants, and has been adapted to suit local tastes.

Tacos al pastor is made by marinating pork meat, often from the trompo (a vertical rotisserie), in a mixture of spices, chiles, and achiote paste. The marinated meat is then stacked onto the trompo, similar to shawarma meat. As the trompo rotates, the outer layer of the meat gets crispy while the inside remains tender.

When you order tacos al pastor, the taquero (taco chef) shaves off thin slices of the marinated meat and serves it on small corn tortillas. The tacos are typically topped with coriander, diced onions, pineapple, and salsa. It’s a winning combination!

Find the best Tacos El Pastor here: Tacos ROY

13) Estofado

Estofado in Oaxaca is a stew featuring meat (such as beef, pork, or chicken) cooked in a rich sauce made with dried chillies, spices, and sometimes chocolate.

The Oaxacan version often includes local chillies, tomatoes, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, almonds, and chocolate, giving the dish a unique flavour.

It is simmered and served with rice, tortillas, or bread.

Find the best Estofado here: Many Comedors (eateries) inside 20 de Noviembre Mercado serve this dish.

14) Enchiladas Coloradito

Enchiladas de Coloradito

This is a very popular breakfast dish, and it is packed with flavour!

Enchiladas de la Coloradito are a traditional Mexican dish featuring corn tortillas rolled around a filling (such as shredded chicken or beef) and covered in a delicious red sauce made from dried chillies, tomatoes, garlic, spices, and sometimes chocolate.

They are typically topped with onions, coriander, cheese, and Mexican crema before being baked and served hot.

The name “coloradito” refers to the reddish hue of the sauce.

Find the best Enchiladas Coloradito here: A fantastic little Comedor called Calenda Cocina Oaxaquena; find it inside 20 de Noviembre Market.

15) Chilaquiles

Chilaquiles with salsa verde & cecina enchilada (marinated grilled pork)

Chilaquiles is a delightful Mexican dish featuring crispy fried tortilla strips smothered in a rich and spicy sauce made from chilies, tomatoes, garlic, and sometimes a hint of chocolate.

It’s like a party in your mouth! Toppings include crumbled queso fresco, avocado, onions, and a glorious fried egg on top. Alternatively, you can also choose other toppings to go on top, such as cecina enchilada (pictured above), tasajo (grilled thinly cut beef), or chorizo to name just a few.

This dish is a flavour explosion that’s crunchy, spicy, and utterly satisfying – it’s the ultimate Mexican comfort food.

Find the best Chilaquiles here: Many places serve tasty plates of Chilaquiles inside 20 de Noviembre Market.

16) Tacos Dorados

Tacos dorados, also known as flautas, are a popular dish where corn tortillas are filled with various ingredients, typically shredded meat (such as chicken, beef, or pork), rolled into a cylindrical shape, and then deep-fried until crispy. The result is a crunchy, golden taco shell that encases the tasty filling.

These crispy tacos are often served with toppings such as shredded lettuce, crumbled queso fresco (fresh cheese), diced tomatoes, onions, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream.

I love Tacos Dorados for their satisfying crunch, and the contrast between the crispy shell and the tender filling is great.

Find the best Tacos Dorados here: La Cosecha Organico Market, Oaxaca

17) Chile Relleno

Chile Relleno

In Oaxaca, Chile Relleno is a beloved dish that showcases the region’s rich culinary heritage.

Traditionally, it consists of large, mild chilli peppers (such as poblano peppers) that are roasted, peeled, and stuffed with a delicious filling.

The filling often includes ingredients like picadillo (a mixture of ground meat, fruits, nuts, and spices), cheese, or a combination of both.

Find the best Chile Relleno here: Many places serve tasty plates of Chile Relleno inside 20 de Noviembre Market.

18) Enchiladas Suiza & Enchiladas Verde

Enchilada Suiza is a Mexican dish featuring corn tortillas filled with shredded chicken (or other meats) and covered in a creamy, green sauce made from tomatillos, green chilies, and sour cream.

The dish is baked until the cheese on top is melted and gooey, then garnished with fresh coriander, diced onions, and sometimes more sour cream.

Despite the name, it’s not Swiss, but it’s known for its rich, tangy, and slightly spicy flavours.

Enchilada verde is another version of classic enchiladas, but this one is served with a Salsa Verde. Delicious!

Find the best Enchilada Suiza or Enchiladas Verde here: Mercado de la Merced

19) Torta

Torta with tinga de pollo (spicy stewed chicken)

Sometimes, all you really crave is a good sandwich; and that’s where the Torta comes in! You can choose to enjoy a torta with almost anything on it.

Fried eggs and chorizo, spicy stewed chicken, marinated pork or grilled beef with onions; tortas are a reliable & quick lunch when you’re trying to visit all the fantastic sites in Oaxaca.

Find the best Tortas here: Tortas de Hormiga OR Heladeria del Jardin in the City Centre.

20) Hot Chocolate with Bread

The Oaxacan breakfast of chocolate caliente (hot chocolate) and pan (bread) is a classic and comforting morning meal in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Oaxacan hot chocolate is not the typical sweet, thin drink that many people might associate with hot chocolate. Instead, it’s a thick and rich beverage made by melting chocolate tablets (often made from locally grown cacao beans) into hot milk or water.

Spices like cinnamon or almonds are sometimes added, giving the hot chocolate a unique, delicious twist.

The bread, often referred to as “pan de yema,” is a sweet and eggy bread that complements the richness of the hot chocolate. It might be a simple bolillo (Mexican bread roll) or a more elaborate pastry.

The combination of warm, thick hot chocolate and freshly baked bread creates a perfect balance of flavors and textures—creamy, sweet, and slightly crunchy.

This breakfast is a delicious start to the day and a cultural experience, showcasing the region’s love for cacao and its culinary traditions. It’s a beautiful way to experience the warmth and hospitality of Oaxacan cuisine.

Best Food Tours in Oaxaca

How did you like our list of best food in Oaxaca? Have you tried any of them? What would you add to our list of top foods from Oaxaca? Let us know in the comments below.

Travel Tips in Mexico

Want more inspiration to visit Mexico? Don’t miss these 10 EXCELLENT Reasons to Travel to Mexico and we recommend visiting these top 5 Food Cities in Mexico.

When travelling in Oaxaca, visit Tlacolula Sunday Markets; it’s a fantastic cultural experience. We wrote a complete guide about how to visit Tlacolula Sunday Market in Oaxaca; it covers how to get there by local transport, what to expect there and most importantly, what to eat!

Don’t forget to stay connected with an eSIM for Mexico – convenient, reliable and affordable.

If you’re interested in history, you’ll love to learn more about these 11 Amazing historical places in Mexico you need to see.

If you plan to travel to nearby countries, you need to try these 7 best dishes in Central America and these 10 delicious foods to try in Nicaragua.