Searching for the best foods in Oaxaca? Want to eat your way through a city that offers the most varied cuisine in Mexico? If you’re serious about digging deeper into what Mexican food is all about, this is the place for you. There are up to 16 indigenous groups living in the state. Each group has its ancient traditions and language. Get your tastebuds ready as we share the best foods to try in Oaxaca. And, most importantly, where you can find it.
Oaxaca is the birthplace of mole. 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 popular mole recipe in Oaxaca is a black mole (negro). And definitely, one of the best foods to try in Oaxaca. 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 delicious foods to try in Oaxaca.
Find the best Mole Negro here: Restaurant Los Pacos – Calle de Mariano Abasolo 121, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Oaxaca
In other Latin countries, empanadas are usually small deep-fried pastries. 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. 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. This has to be on your list of the best foods to try in Oaxaca when you visit. The empanada con flor de calabaza is essentially a fresh zucchini 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: El Mercado de la Merced
3) Tlayudas – the most popular snack food to try in Oaxaca
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. Definitely include tlayudas on your list of the best foods to try in Oaxaca. Nothing beats the smoky crispy tortilla piled with fresh ingredients and delicious spicy salsa. Aslo, don’t forget to squeeze lime on top. You will find tlayuda sold throughout the city, but ask locals where to find the best ones.
Tlayudas Libres serve the best tlayuda in the city. The best part is that they stay open late.
Find the best tlayudas here: Tlayudas Libres – Calle de Los Libres 212, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Oaxaca
This one is a must on your search for the best foods 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 and chili and your choice of meat. The ultimate comfort food!
Find the best pozole here: Cabuche – Miguel Hidalgo 1017, Oaxaca OR Tacos Roy – Pino Suarez 313, Oaxaca centro
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 come with the dish to enhance the 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 definitely makes it to our list of best foods to try in Oaxaca.
Find the best Sopa de Mariscos here: Marisqueria La Red – Bustamante No 200 Centro Morelos, Oaxaca
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 a good tamale vendor, you’re all set! My favourite place to buy them is from the Mercado Benito Juarez. This place was recommended by our Spanish teacher when we asked about the best foods to try in Oaxaca. There are many women in a line selling tamales at this market. Look for them near the Calle Miguel Cabrera entrance. They have them covered in big baskets. Just ask them what fillings they have for the day and eat your way through them all.
Tamales are 100% of the best foods to try in Oaxaca. Find the best tamales here: Mercado Benito Juarez: Oaxaca Markets
7) Carne Asada
I really love a good food experience, and this one is fantastic. Definitely put this one down on your list of best foods to try in Oaxaca.
The Carne Asada Hall is located inside the in 20 de Noviembre market. In the hall, you”ll find meat vendors selling raw cuts of meat. Order your selection of meat from the displayed proteins.
Beef, pork and chorizo are widely available. The vendors will grill it for you once ordered. Move on to the next stall. Order your choice of vegetables that you’d like grilled too.
Find the best Carne Asada here: 20 de Noviembre market, Oaxaca
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.
Find the best Carne Asada here: The Carne Asada Hall in 20 de Noviembre market
Memelas are a popular dish in Oaxaca. Definitely one of the foods you need to try 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 choices include tinga de pollo (spicy stewed chicken), chicharron (pork rinds) or tinga de pollo (spicy stewed chicken).
Finally, the topping. Crumbled queso fresco or quesillo.
You can never stop at just one! A very tasty option for foods to try in Oaxaca.
Find the best memelas here: Mercado La Merced in La Guerita.
9) Quesillo – one of my favourite and best foods to try in Oaxaca
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 really 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, Mercado Benito Juarez: Oaxaca Markets
Yes, tejate is more like a drink. It’s incredibly filling, thick and wholesome too. Perhaps that’s the reason 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 the essential ingredient. It gives tejate its distinctive flavour and creamy top.
Look for this ancient beverage in food markets. Usually, women scoop tejate from large earthenware bowls.
Find the best tejate here: Mercado Benito Juarez
Best Food Tours in Oaxaca
Now that you know the best foods to try in Oaxaca, CLICK HERE to learn other interesting facts about this fascinating destination.
Last, but certainly not least. If you’re planning to travel around Mexico, ensure you’re covered with the best travel insurance policy available. We use and recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance.
How did you like our list of best foods to try in Oaxaca? Have you tried any of them? What would you add to our list of top foods to try in Oaxaca? Let us know in the comments below.
TRAVEL PLANNING RESOURCES
✈️ Flights:Skyscanner and Expedia are the best sites to search for the cheapest flights and great deals from your home country.
🏨 Accommodation:Booking.com, Agoda, andHotelsCombined are the top platforms to search for fantastic hotels and accommodation options at the best price.
🛌 Homestays:Airbnb is an ideal platform to book a local experience. We use Airbnb to reserve entire apartments for long-term stays.
🏥 Travel Insurance: Don’t forget travel insurance! Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. We recommend World Nomads or SafetyWing.
🚌 Transportation: We use BookaWay OR 12Go.Asia to compare and book Bus, Ferry, or Train Tickets.
🐶 Become a House Sitter: Join Trusted Housesitters and enjoy FREE accommodation around the world. 💰 Send Money Anywhere: WISE is the best online account that lets you send money, get paid, and spend money internationally. It’s so easy to use and way cheaper than any bank transfer. 📶 Stay Connected: Airalo eSIM allows you to get connected the moment you land at your destination and you can avoid those expensive data roaming charges. We LOVE this product!
Rach is a self-confessed travelling foodie. Her passion for food and culture has seen her eat her way through 190 countries. She's currently on a big food adventure to visit EVERY country in the world!
When Rach isn't travelling, you can find her at the beach, drinking coffee or wine with friends or chowing down on the best eats around her home city of Melbourne, Australia.