Dining out in Mexico should undoubtedly be part of your Mexican itinerary. Great street food is plentiful and cheap, but don’t forget about cooking in Mexico.
Mexican cuisine is consistently listed in the top ten globally, appreciated especially for rich pozoles, moles, and a dish called cochinita pibila (pork filling used in tacos, tortas or on its own). However, there comes a time that you realize that restaurant fare in most countries tends to lack vegetables and crunch, and Mexico is no exception.
Plus, travel can be stressful and physically demanding.
To keep your energy high and your digestive system straight in a land where si no pica, no sabe (if it isn’t hot, it doesn’t have any flavor), it pays to be able cook up a few simple meals with familiar ingredients between more exotic forays into Mexico’s bold cuisine. Cooking in Mexico may look a bit different to what you’re used to at home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t whip up some of your favorite dishes.
Keep reading for our tips on cooking in Mexico, including a few healthy foods to add to your menu on your days off from adventuring.
Related read: A Complete Guide to Vegan Travel in Mexico
Cooking in Mexico: What to expect
The healthiest vegetables available at outdoor markets are zucchini, chayotes (a form of squash), sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, tomatoes, spinach, nuts, nopales and beans. You can also find an endless variety of fruits in Mexico, the most healthful being grosellas negras (a type of black currant), avocado, apples, bananas, grapes and papaya (eat the papaya as Mexicans do, with a little chili).
Kitchens in rental apartments are rudimentary, but most will have some type of heat source. Don’t be shy about asking for a knife, cutting board, a skillet and similar basic enseres de cocina if you’ve paid for a kitchen. Mexico is the most gracious country in the world. Hosts will typically bend over backwards to accommodate you, or lend you some of theirs. If not, they’re cheap to buy.
It also helps to join a food market tour to learn more about the local ingredients and how to cook them – here’s one in Cancún and one in San Jose del Cabo.
Healthy food you can cook in Mexico with minimal fuss
Here are a few ideas for delicious meals to cook in Mexico.
See also: How to Avoid Food Poisoning in Mexico
Sweet potatoes, a Super Food, do well microwaved and can be stuffed with chopped nuts or dates (datiles) and butter.
Saute some sliced veggies to go with take out food
Saute sliced red peppers, onions and poblano peppers with a little garlic for a tasty side dish to accompany carry-out tacos. Make a quesadilla by sandwiching the mixture between two flour tortillas with a bit of cheese or chopped cilantro and flipping it on a hot skillet. Serve with fresh avocado.
Make a vegetable soup
Soups are soothing and hydrating, even in warm weather. Saute a variety of your favorite vegetables with some garlic, add boxed broth and cook for 20 minutes.
Make a veggie pasta
Saute some zucchini and garlic and toss into 8 ounces of pasta (keeping the ratio of vegetables to pasta high) and top with a grated hard cheese (in general, the harder the cheese, the less fat it has).
Start the day out light
Breakfast is the best time to try nopales, which are delicious in scrambled eggs. Nopales are light, assist in digestion and are anti-inflammatory. Oatmeal is popular in Mexico too (avena) which tends to be served with a lot of milk. Yogurt is easily-found. Look for sin azucar (no sugar added) or natural. Your intestines will thank you.
Drink your milk
The brand Lala has particularly high-protein milks that are available in grocery stores and OXXO convenience stores found all over Mexico. Mexican cuisine is for carnivores. Don’t forget how easy it is to boil an egg for protein instead.
Cook up some beans
Rentals usually provide a biggish soup pot. Cook up some beans. At times, you might want to add a cup to delicious carry-out foods such as pozoles (a stew made with hominy) to give it more fiber.
In the kitchen
Give yourself more time to prepare your food in unfamiliar, tiny kitchens. Cut and measure all the ingredients before you start. If working in close quarters, clean up as you go.
There’s a certain sense of satisfaction that comes from feeling in control of your diet when you’re traveling. Cooking gives you that control and will help you maintain maximum energy to explore this colorful, passionate country.
Turn on some music, go slow and enjoy the experience.
For more tips on traveling in Mexico, check out:
The Lazy Expat: Healthy Recipes That Translate in Mexico cookbook offers over 150 healthy, easy to prepare dishes for travelers, including ingredient translations for shopping. Available on Amazon.com in paperback and ebook.