4 Inspired Mexican Dishes to Add to Your Rotation

Straight from the pros.

December 13, 2019

We've partnered with Cacique®—family-owned makers of authentic Mexican ingredients like cheeses, cremas, and chorizos—to highlight what's on the forefront of Mexican cuisine, from plant-based takes on classic recipes to the regional dishes you can expect to see more of in 2020. Here, expert chefs, a food writer, and mixologist share their go-to recipes and tips for bringing these Mexican food trends into your kitchen.

Hey, again. The last time we met, I was fresh off a panel discussion all about "What's Next in Mexican Cuisine," starring an impressive lineup of culinary voices. Turns out, there are a ton of ingredients, dishes, regions, and cooking techniques we can expect to see and learn more about in the upcoming year.

Naturally, all this talk piqued my interest. So I asked the panelists to share a few of their favorite recipes that highlight some of the top trends and predictions for 2020—like a plant-based update on a classic dish, a smooth tequila cocktail that showcases outstanding Mexican ingredients, and more.

Bill Esparza's Chorizo Brefas Tlayuda

"My Chorizo Brefas Tlayuda came out of my experience growing up Mexican-American," says Bill Esparza, a James Beard Award-winning food writer. Inspired by the dishes that continue to emerge from Mexico and gain popularity in America, the tlayuda—a Oaxacan dish—consists of a large corn tortilla with toppings, like refried beans, queso fresco, sliced avocado, and more.

"Brefas is how our grandparents pronounced breakfast," Bill explains, "and it reminds me of my grandmother, who spoke to me in Spanglish long before I even heard that term." That's why his rendition features a fried egg on top (though really it's good any time of the day).

"I live in Hollywood, which is one of Los Angeles' Oaxacalifornia (the name Oaxacans call California due to the large number of Oaxacans living here) enclaves," Bill says. "Eating tlayudas is one of the many privileges of living here," he adds. "Most of my markets are Latino markets, even the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, which has Latino farmers selling products picked by Latinos. It’s a celebration of Mexican, Oaxacan, and Latino cultures in L.A."

When trying this dish at home, there's one tool Esparza says will definitely come in handy: a spackling knife for making the chicharrón de queso (the melty-fried cheese you'll add to the tlayuda). "These knives are a favorite among taqueros," he explains, and you can easily pick one up at a local hardware store. He also adds, "If you can’t find tlayudas in your region, a tostada will work just fine."

In addition to the increasing popularity of Oaxacan food in America, Esparza is "excited about the growing number of Mexican spirits and cocktail bars featuring creative and flavorful creations using mezcal and other Mexican beverages," he says. "Mexico has so many ingredients for bartenders and mixologists to explore, and it’s beautiful to see that coming to fruition."

Thomas Ortega's Beef Short Rib Birria Quesatacos

If you've ever had trouble deciding between a quesadilla and a taco, meet the quesataco, which basically combines the two in a corn tortilla. "It has become a popular dish served on taco trucks all throughout Los Angeles in the past two years," says Thomas Ortega, the chef behind Amor Y Tacos and a handful of other restaurants in California.

This quesataco's meaty filling is a spicy, smoky stew called birria that hails from the Mexican state of Jalisco. "Traditionally made from goat meat or mutton, but occasionally from beef or chicken," says Ortega, this recipe calls on beef short ribs.

It also shows off a range of native Mexican ingredients—like epazote leaves, Mexican marjoram, and more—which he predicts will continue to become more and more widely available. "I feel trends in 2020 are going to go back to original dishes that show off the wonderful chiles and herbs of Mexico, while executing them perfectly by adding a modern flare."

Claudette Zepeda's Celery Root and Potato Taquitos

"This dish was inspired by the trend of vegetables being used more heavily in dishes that are typically meat-centric," says Chef Claudette Zepeda. "We’ll be seeing a lot more deep vegetable flavor in our food, with use of more unconventional ingredients," she explains. Case in point: These crispy taquitos are filled with a creamy celery root and potato puree, and served atop a radish salad dressed in limey vinaigrette for a burst of freshness.

While this dish is simple enough to pull off for lunch, dinner, or even a snack, Zepeda has one tip for anyone giving taquitos a try: Be mindful about the level of moisture in the filling. "You can always add liquid, but removing it is hard," she says. "Too much moisture will be bad when you fry it because the filling will seep out and potentially pop in the fryer."

She also offers up a great piece of life advice for home cooks, and travelers too: "My wish is for people to branch out of the ordinary dishes and perhaps try something they've never heard of. Go for adventure instead of the usual suspects!"

Alex Valencia's Mexican Coffee

This list wouldn't be complete without a cocktail, right? Luckily Alex Valencia, the bartender behind La Contenta in New York City, has a great one: his Mexican-inspired take on a traditional coffee cocktail.

"This is my interpretation of the Irish Coffee, but Mexican," he says. "What I did—adding tequila—is simple, but makes for a great cocktail you can enjoy chilled in the summer and hot in the winter." For him, the drink represents how Mexico has both the ingredients and talent needed to become a top destination for world-class cocktails.

This cocktail's other Mexican-inspired twist comes from an ingredient you typically find exclusively in savory dishes: crema Mexicana (it's similar in consistency to crème fraîche, but has a more neutral taste). Shake it up with a bit of hot water and xantham gum (a thickening agent) to create a silky-smooth foam that's used to top the finished cocktail. It's a light, creamy complement to the drink's bold tequila and coffee flavors.

Which dish are you most excited to try? Tell us in the comments below!

We've partnered with Cacique®—family-owned makers of quality Mexican cheeses, chorizos, cremas, and more—to celebrate what's next in Mexican cuisine. From plant-based recipes to traditional cooking techniques, we're excited to show you how to bring these delicious Mexican food trends into your kitchen.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Dee Gonzalez
    Dee Gonzalez
  • RyanArroyo
Erin Alexander is the Brand Partnerships Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.


Dee G. December 20, 2019
Do you know that this food is not only Mexican food?? Do your research and you will find that Coutries like Guatemala,Costa Rica,El Salvador & many Central American countries make this can of food & much more..
RyanArroyo January 11, 2020
Like what pupusas?
RyanArroyo January 11, 2020
Tell me a little more about the Central America food