A Guide to Oaxaca Gastronomy

When traveling away from home, one of the best things to do is to try the local dishes of your destination. When in a place as full of culture and history as Oaxaca, you may not know where to start.

Popular Dishes

Oaxaca offers a variety of different cuisines, but below, we’ve listed some of the popular Oaxaca foods. Many of these dishes are offered at various restaurants in Oaxaca, some of which aren’t far from historical places in Oaxaca, Mexico, and Oaxaca lodging.


Looking somewhat like a pizza, tlayudas consist of a semi-dried tortilla that is large, usually the size of a plate, and coated with a thin layer of pork lard. The dish is normally topped with some variation of meat, avocados, tomatoes, and refried beans. When it’s cooked on a charcoal grill, it’s folded in half, but it can also be served open-faced.

Huitlacoche Corn Fungus Tacos

Huitlacoche is a corn fungus, and it is very earthy and gives dishes a unique texture. Though it can be found in cans, it tastes much better fresh. In tacos, huitlacoche can be complemented with cheese and tomatoes.


Considered a comfort food in Oaxaca, enfrijoladas are fried tortillas that are served with beans and sauce. Usually, the beans are stewed with the leaves of an avocado plant to add to the flavor.

Memelas (Memelitas)

Similar to a tostada, a memela is a corn round snack that is slightly thicker than a tortilla. It’s toasted on a comal, which is a large flat pan, and it can be topped with anything, from beans to meat, eggs, quesillo, and sauces.

Carnes Asada

In Oaxaca, there is a grilled meats hall called the pasillo de carnes asadas, and it features different kinds of meats seasoned variously. The stand you choose your meat from will grill your meat for you and deliver it to your table.

Chile Relleno

Chile relleno may not be native to Oaxaca, but the dish is so good that various markets in the town offer it. They are fresh poblano peppers that are roasted and stuffed, and some markets offer different variations of the dish.


When you think of empanadas, you normally think of the ones that are filled with savory meat wrapped in dough. While those are just as good, Oaxacan empanadas are more similar to a memela, except with a thinner dough. They can be topped with your favorite ingredients and enjoyed from various stalls, as they are a popular Oaxacan street food.


Chilaquiles can be enjoyed for any meal but are typically offered for breakfast and lunch. They are dishes composed of fried tortilla strips and topped with a variety of toppings; they can be compared to nachos, but with less of a crisp on the chips. They are also commonly served with an egg on top.

Elements of Oaxacan Food

When discussing Oaxacan food, we must also consider the typical elements found within Oaxacan food.


Fresh chiles themselves are served as a side dish with lime and raw onion, and Oaxaca has two types of chiles that are unique to the state. In open-air markets, recently harvested chiles are sold in massive piles, both fresh and dried.


Found in many different dishes, from stews to desserts, Corn is a main staple of the Oaxacan diet. One of the first domesticated corn varieties in the world was found in Oaxaca in 4200 BC. It’s usually ground up to make tortillas or tamales and included whole in stews.


Comfort foods are common in Oaxaca, and beans are the foundation of many of these comfort foods, like enfrijoladas. In Oaxaca, there are close to 25 different varieties of beans growing, and 21 of them are wild.


Cheese is big in Oaxaca, mainly quesillo. It is an unpasteurized cheese that is somewhere between mozzarella and string cheese. It is the star ingredient in many different Oaxaca meals, like empanadas, and is used in abundance.


Oaxaca Mexican food is full of big, delicious flavors, and the cooks are very generous with wild herbs and spices. One of the main herbs used is the peppery hoja santa, which can be found almost everywhere in Oaxaca. Every dish has a mixture of different wild herbs.


Smoke is a large part of cooking in Oaxaca. Sometimes fire is used as the preferred cooking method, and other times it is used as a way to flavor the food. Most walking food has either been toasted, smoked, chard, or roasted; even Oaxaca’s most popular ice cream is made from milk that is burned to the bottom of the pot on purpose to provide smokiness.


Oaxaca is well known for its different moles. A mole is a sauce that is crafted from roasted ingredients that have been ground together and slowly simmered. It is a tasteful, rich mixture that can be included in different meals; Oaxaca has seven different varieties of mole. Some are eaten daily; others are only for special occasions.

Oaxaca is full of different kinds of flavorful Foods amongst its various market stalls, and any food lover is going to enjoy themselves. Some of the best hotels in Oaxaca city have menus full of these delicious items and are close to places with Oaxacan, Mexico food, so you won’t miss out.