Mexico is such a vast country that there are many different traditions celebrated over the festive period. And a great way to distinguish between the regions and traditions is the variety of dishes which are served at this time of year. From the Yucatan to Baja California, each state brings something unique to the dinner table when families come together to eat on the evening of the 24th, Noche Buena. Here is our guide to five of the most popular foods in Mexico during the festive season. And don’t forget, it’s a strong Mexican tradition to heat up the leftovers and continue eating the next day, the ‘recalentado’.
As in many other countries around the world, turkey, ‘pavo’, is a staple dish at Christmas in Mexico. But what you probably didn’t know is that pavo is actually native to Mexico! It is often filled with a delicious stuffing before being roasted and then taking center place at the dining table. A Mexican twist might be to serve it with mole, a traditional sauce from Puebla and Oaxaca which has many ingredients including chilies and chocolate. A popular replacement for turkey is stewed salted codfish, bacalao, which was brought over when the Spanish first arrived in Mexico.
A popular side dish is a bowl of romeritos which are wild, green vegetables with small leaves, not dissimilar to rosemary but with a subtler aroma. Traditionally eaten in the central states of Mexico over Christmas and Lent, this vegetable is usually served boiled with shrimp either in a stew or in tacos. Romeritos can also be served covered with mole sauce! They are many other interesting side dishes which will feature at a Christmas dinner in Mexico such as spaghetti with a creamy sauce, mashed potatoes and an apple salad with dried fruits!
Another great option as the main meat dish for the Christmas dinner is pork, lomo, cooked in a spicy sauce which makes for a great leftover sandwich the following day. Many Mexicans actually prefer to eat lomo, as opposed to pavo, at Christmas time. In Yucatan, it’s popular to cooked the thinly sliced pork with orange juice and colorful spices with a traditional Mayan cooking method.
If you’re choosing lomo over pavo, a great way to serve it can be as the filling of tamales which are like corn dumplings steamed in banana leaves. Tamales can take a long time to prepare so they are often saved for special occasions such as Dia de Muertos and Christmas. Many family members can take part in the preparation of the tamales as a Christmas tradition.
No Mexican Christmas is complete with the delicious drink, ponche. This is a warm punch made with fruits such as hibiscus and tamarind, sugar and spices such as cinnamon. You can smell this drink as soon as you arrive at a Christmas party! Many households will have a steaming pot of ponche throughout the days around the Christmas celebrations as it is deliciously fruity and warming for the coldest time of the year.