10 Traditional Mexican Dishes (and where to eat them in Puerto Vallarta)

Mexican restaurants offering traditional Mexican dishes can be found in pretty much every city in the world, and they all swear and vouch that their food is as authentic as it gets.

However, having lived both abroad and in Mexico for many years, we guarantee – no matter how renowned and fancy your local Mexican restaurant is, you’ll have better tacos (or any other Mexican dish) in the family-owned restaurant across the street from your Mexican Airbnb. 

With that said, here we share with you the absolutely must-try Mexican dishes, and where to eat them in Puerto Vallarta. 

Best Mexican Seafood Dishes

Mexico has a huge coastline, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that seafood is a staple of Mexican gastronomy. There are tons of dishes to try, but these two  absolutely should be on your list. 

Tostada de Aguachile

lamara- lamara aguachile

Aguachile is a dish pretty much limited to Mexico, reportedly originating from Sinaloa. Aguachile translates to “chili water” so as the name implies it’s seafood cooked in chillies. The types of chilies can vary, but chiltepines, local to Sinaloa, are one of the primary varieties. Other popular options include serrano and jalapeño peppers.

In general, the most common type of aguachile is made with shrimp, cucumber, onion, and lime juice. The chilies are usually blended with water to create the marinade.

Tip: most fresh seafood (ceviche, aguachile, etc) restaurants are lunch only. Plan accordingly, as most places will be open only from 12-6pm.

Where to eat tostadas de aguachile in Puerto Vallarta

Pal’Mar Seafood – Pal’Mar is a neighborhood staple in the Zona Romantica, with great seafood dishes and burgers. They have a few aguachile options, our favorite being the aguachile macho: green tuna or shrimp aguachile with cucumbers, red onions, pepper, coriander and pork rind. Delicious!

Lamara – this is a daytime seafood place that specializes in ceviche and aguachile tostadas. They also have an amazing cocktail list, extensive craft beer selections, and a well-thought-out wine list packed with fresh white wines

Baja Style Fish Tacos

must-have mexican dish - baja style fish tacos

The most classic fish tacos, served in soft tortillas and topped with cabbage and salsas. You can select between grilled or battered and fried. 

Tip: fried fish tacos are the absolute perfect pairing for orange wines. The medium acidity and bruised fruit characteristics of the wine pair beautifully with the fried fish.

Where to eat Baja style fish tacos in Puerto Vallarta

Maria Baja – awesome seafood restaurant with delicious gourmet salsas. 

Canto Palmares – a beachfront restaurant with great views of Los Arcos and delicious seafood. It gets pretty crowded on the weekends.

Traditional Mexican Breakfast Dishes

Tacos de Birria

traditional mexican dishes - tacos de birria

Birria is a traditional Mexican dish specifically from our state of Jalisco. Birria tacos feature tortillas filled with the stew’s tender meat. The tortillas are dipped in the thin layer of fat that floats to the top of the birria, then filled with meat and thrown on the griddle, giving them their Instagram-worthy look and addictively crispy exterior.

Tip: tacos de birria +  consomé + a coca-cola = a guaranteed hangover cure 

Some established restaurants have added more elevated, gourmet versions of birria to their menus, but the true experience is to have it in one of the many stands around town.

Where to eat tacos de birria in Puerto Vallarta

Nearly every neighborhood will have a stand. These are two of our favorites:

Tacos de Birria Alex 
Tacos de Birria Chanfay 


traditional mexican breakfast dish - chilaquiles

Chilaquiles are THE most popular Mexican breakfast dish – there is a reason chilaquiles are in every single breakfast restaurant menu in Mexico.

Where to eat chilaquiles in Puerto Vallarta

River Café –  a Puerto Vallarta institution. Awesome food, great views and breeze from the Cuale River

Mi Cafe – a great neighborhood spot

Regional Traditional Mexican Dishes 

traditional mexican dish - chile en nogada

Chile en Nogada

Chile en nogada is a dish traditionally associated with the September Mexican independence celebrations (el Mes Patrio).

It consists of poblano chiles filled with picadillo (a mixture usually containing shredded meat, aromatics, fruits and spices) topped with a walnut-based cream sauce, called nogada, and pomegranate seeds, giving it the three colors of the Mexican flag: green from the chili, white from the nut sauce and red from the pomegranate.

Tip: it’s an almost impossible dish to find a wine pairing for. When in doubt, always go with a dry rosé wine

Where to eat chile en nogada in Puerto Vallarta

Red Cabbage Cafe – It’s a seasonal dish, so make sure to call ahead 

Torta Ahogada

traditional jalisco dish - torta ahogada

Another traditional Mexican dish specifically from our state of Jalisco. A torta ahogada (or ‘drowned sandwich’ in English) is a Mexican sandwich made from a crusty bread roll that’s filled with pork carnitas and red onions. It’s dipped in a red chile sauce and served with fresh lime wedges

Where to eat torta ahogada in Puerto Vallarta

Tortas Ahogadas Tony – it’s in the name of the business, and it’s all they do – they even bring the bread (called birote salado) directly from Guadalajara 

El Puerco de Oro – they do a pork belly version of torta ahogada that’s killer

Cochinita Pibil

traditional yucatan dish - cochinita pibil

Cochinita pibil, a traditional slow-roasted pork Mexican dish originally from the Yucatán Peninsula, is intricate and complex.

Cochinita means baby pig, so true cochinita pibil involves roasting a whole suckling pig. Pibil is a cooking technique that involves wrapping the meat in banana leaves, marinating it in sour orange and achiote – a sweet, slightly peppery red sauce made from annatto seed – and baking it in a hand-dug barbecue pit in the ground for several hours. The meat becomes tender and flaky, with a subtle smoky flavor, and is generally served with tortillas.

Real cochinita pibil is not spicy, but it has a uniquely sweet, earthy aroma imparted by bitter oranges, achiote, charred garlic, and other spices.

Tip: whenever you’re in a yucateco restaurant, start the meal with a sopa de lima – another classic must-try from the Yucatán

Where to eat cochinita pibil in Puerto Vallarta

Merida Grill – the only restaurant offering 100% Yucatán cuisine in Puerto Vallarta 


traditional mexican dish - pozole

Pozole is easily one of Mexico’s most iconic and beloved traditional Mexican dishes. Pozole is a mix between a soup and a stew, nearly all pozoles contain the base ingredients of pork, garlic and large hominy kernels (cacahuazintle), plus the added extras of shredded lettuce, hot sauce, diced onion, thinly sliced radish, a healthy squeeze of lime and avocado. It’s often served with tostadas and crema.

Where to eat pozole in Puerto Vallarta

Cenaduria Chepina – all cenadurías (small-family owned restaurants that offer comfort Mexican food) will have pozole in their menus, but this is our favorite

Tacos al Pastor

Hailed by many as the best dish in the world, tacos al pastor is a must when in Mexico. 

Where to eat tacos al pastor in Puerto Vallarta

Pancho’s Takos – the longest line for al pastor tacos you’ll even wait in. But it’s totally worth it! 

Las Güeras Taqueria – a great neighborhood spot, just a few blocks from Pancho’s tacos and no lines 

Tacos al Pastor Sonorita – great tacos, with locations in Zona Romantica, Versailles and Nuevo Vallarta 

Mole Poblano

traditional mexican dish - mole poblano

Mole is a dense sauce made from a unique mixture of chocolate and hot peppers. This provides a rich, unique and complex topping for a variety of dishes.

Mole Poblano takes an average of 20 ingredients, but 30 ingredients is not unheard of, and some mole recipes contain 10 different varieties of chiles alone.

Other ingredients include peanuts, almonds, fried bread, plantains, lard, sugar, bittersweet chocolate, cinnamon, cloves and many more. Mole Poblano is usually served over chicken or turkey with a side of rice and salad.

Where to eat mole poblano in Puerto Vallarta

Mole de Jovita – your 1-stop option to try 3 different moles. You can’t go wrong!

Keep learning more about Mexican gastronomy with our other articles: Best Wine Bars in Mexico City, Award-Winning Mexican Wines and our 10 Favorite Full-Body Mexican Red Wines

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Keep learning more about Mexican gastronomy with our other articles: Best Wine Bars in Mexico City, Award-Winning Mexican Wines and our 10 Favorite Full-Body Mexican Red Wines

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