Traditional Foods to Enjoy on Cinco de Mayo

traditional foods to enjoy on cinco de mayo

Wondering what traditional foods to eat and enjoy on Cinco de Mayo? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Cinco de Mayo, also known as Battle of Puebla Day, is celebrated each year on May 5th to honor the day that the Mexican army defeated the French army in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. 

It is often confused with Mexico’s Independence Day, but they are two different events and Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated in September.

How is Cinco de Mayo Celebrated?

Over the years it has become a popular tradition for us in the United States to commemorate the Mexican culture. 

Many cities celebrate with parades, festivals, events, music, dancing, and of course some delicious Mexican food and drinks.

Traditional Cinco de Mayo Foods

When it comes to Mexican food, we’re not talking about grabbing some of those hard filled taco shells with a little beef and some cheese or iceberg lettuce from the popular Mexican fast food chains! 

We are talking about more traditional Mexican foods that are full of delicious flavors and fresh ingredients! If you are wondering what those might be, here are some examples of traditional foods we should be enjoying on Cinco de Mayo.

traditional foods to enjoy on cinco de mayo

Mole Poblano

Mole Poblano is a dark sauce that is served over meat and is probably one of the most consumed dishes in Puebla for Cinco de Mayo. Many also consider at the official dish of Cinco de Mayo. It originally came from Puebla and is made with toasted chiles and a combination of old and new world ingredients to create a delicious sauce with a bit of a kick to it. 

The classic sauce uses a variety of different chiles, and you can mix and match your favorite chilies to help control how spicy it is. 

Traditionally, Mole Poblano is made with:

  • Ancho chiles to give the sauce a smoky flavor.
  • Mulato chiles, also known as dried poblano peppers, are a dried pepper that give it a mild spice.
  • Pasilla chiles are a dark chili that is used to add a bit of heat and more of a dried fruit flavor.
  • Chipotle chilis are jalapeno peppers, just dried and are the spiciest chiles that are used.
  • Guajillao chlies are large and thin and have natural earthy flavor with a bit of sweetness to them and make the list as the 2nd spiciest chile used in the recipe.


Chalupas are a popular Poblano street food and are often served at most Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Traditionally, chalupas are a thick tortilla that is fried and topped with shredded meat, onion, salsa, and queso fresco.


Served with homemade corn tortilla chips, guacamole is an appetizer dish that you can serve to friends and family at your Cinco de Mayo celebration. 

It is also an easy to make dish made with fresh ingredients. Serve it as an appetizer with tortilla chips or you can use it as a topping for your favorite Mexican dishes.

Homemade Salsa

A good homemade salsa will often be found at everyone’s Cinco de Mayo celebration or gathering. Made with fresh tomatoes, veggies, and spices, salsa can be used as a dip or as a topping on your favorite Mexican dish.


We mentioned above that fast food tacos are not traditional Mexican food, but homemade tacos that are made with a variety of different flavors and spices are traditionally found in Mexico and can be served on Cinco de Mayo.

Authentic tacos typically use soft corn tortillas and are filled with marinated meat that is cooked on a griddle or cast-iron skillet, fresh cilantro, onions, and soft cheese. Many add a spicy homemade salsa or guacamole topping to the tacos as well. 

You will notice that here in the United States, we make our taco with mainly flour tortillas in hard- or soft-shell form. We also top our tacos with lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheese and other non-traditional ingredients. Some aspects are similar but for a really authentic taco, leaving out all of the extras is a huge part of it. 

traditional foods to enjoy on cinco de mayo


Tamales are often a favorite dish that is served but not because of the reasons you think. While tamales are a traditional Mexican food, the reason for serving the tamales is because it becomes a family affair as everyone comes together to make the authentic tamales. 

Don’t forget the drinks! These are some of the most popular drinks that are served at Cinco de Mayo celebrations.


Micheladas are made with a combination of Mexican beer, tomato juice, hot sauce, lime, and salt like the Bloody Mary. 


Spanish for “dove,” the Paloma is one of the most popular tequila drinks in Mexico. It is typically prepared by mixing grapefruit juice with tequila and served on the rocks with a wedge of lime for garnish.


Traditionally make with lime juice, tequila, and triple sec, margaritas are a popular choice when it comes to the drink selection at Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

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