Oaxaca Food

Oaxaca food is well known for a variety of specialties, including chocolate, moles, chapulines, tamales, and tasajo, each unique to the regions. Variations in the local cuisine is due to the deviations in grown fruits and vegetables acclimated to each area and the available livestock and harvested seafood. In addition to food, Oaxaca is known for an alcoholic beverage called mescal, the drink often mistaken for tequila, which contains a small larva at the bottom of each bottle, a necessary ingredient for the unique flavor; it is distilled from the maguey plant and has been in production in the Oaxaca highlands since the colonists first arrived. Look for any of these dishes along the Oaxaca beaches and on Day of the Dead celebrations.

Traditional Oaxaca Dishes

Traditional Oaxaca Dishes
Traditional Oaxaca Dishes

Foodies will find paradise in this coastal beauty, where food is cooked over a slow fire to the peak of perfection. Specialties to look for on the local menus include tejate, a delicious beverage formulated with maize and chocolate; tamales, a Oaxaca specialty wrapped in banana leaves; guajalote (turkey); and conejo (rabbit). There are alos dozens of local veggies, such as nopal (a cactus plant often called the prickly pear) and corn of many varieties. Chapuline is a favored dish in several parts of Mexico, including and especially Oaxaca, small grasshoppers that are fried and seasoned with salt, chili pepper, and lime. These are often used in meals, such as tacos, or consumed as a snack, like peanuts. Like beef jerky, tasajo is a cured beef, dried and salted, used in many local dishes.

Oaxaca Cheese

Oaxaca Cheese
Oaxaca Cheese Image: La.Catholique (flickr)

So named for the region in which it was first churned, Oaxaca cheese or queso Oaxaca is a semi-hard white cheese with a stringy quality, derived from the complicated production process of stretching and folding, similar to mozzarella. Used in a variety of dishes, Oaxaca cheese is molded into a several different shapes to suit the use of it. Oaxaca cheese is well known for its melting texture and mild flavor; it is often used to balance sharper flavors in meals or on cheese platters.

Oaxaca Chocolate

Oaxaca Chocolate
Oaxaca Chocolate Image: davehighbury (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0

Chocolate is more than a dessert item in Oaxaca; it is part of the lifestyle, part of the culture. It scents the air of the region along with other merging smells from the city and nature. Before colonists arrived, cocoa beans were used as currency.  Notice the barrels and barrels of the beans in shops and stalls. Visitors will not find manufactured chocolate candy bars in Oaxaca. Instead, it is presented as a more indigenous product and in the local cuisine, such as the famous moles, beverages, and main dishes.

Mole Sauces

Mole Sauces
Mole Sauces

Oaxaca is known as the Land of the Seven Moles, noted for the seven varieties of moles that originate here; mole negro, colorado, amarillo, verde, chichilo, coloradito, and mancha manteles. Each of the mole sauces imparts a different color and flavor, depending on the herbs and ingredients used to make it. The most famous of the Oaxaca moles is that known as mole negro, which is a thick dark sauce derived from chocolate, chili peppers, garlic, onions, and other herbs, including a distinctly flavored plant called hoja santa (sacred leaf).

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