Typical cuisine of Jalisco, Mexico

Jalisco is Mexico – Brief guide for the visitor
September 13, 2018

The traditional gastronomy of Jalisco is part of the cultural heritage of humanity declared by UNESCO in 2010. This was due to the historical journey of Mexican cuisine and countryside. A millenarian process that begins from the pre-Hispanic tribes in Mesoamerica and continues today. Many Mexican chefs continue to experiment and create new dishes. We are talking about a cultural syncretism of knowledge, traditions, practices and culinary recipes as well as the production techniques of endemic products such as corn, beans, squash, chili and tomato. The gastronomy of Jalisco is not the only one recognized by UNESCO since it encompasses the entire national territory, where other states stand out, mainly Michoacán, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Tabasco, Yucatán, Chiapas and Veracruz. Even so, because of nationalism and symbolism, the typical dishes of Jalisco have gained popularity nationally and internationally since the late twentieth century. Especially in neighboring countries such as the United States and Canada.

Although the pre-Hispanic tribes of Mesoamerica did not know livestock and their diet was mostly plant-based, many modern dishes from Mexico and Jalisco are prepared with animal meat. This is due to the culinary cultural mix between Indians and Spaniards during the conquest or Viceroyalty. In 1520 when Hernán Cortes arrived and his colonizing army brought with him horses, sheep, pigs, chickens, cows and bulls. That was the beginning of livestock in Mexico. Some products that we consume today in national territory are imported from Europe and were introduced during the conquest; like coffee, tobacco, wheat, cotton and sugarcane. Plantations were created throughout the country taking advantage of indigenous labor, recently converted into slaves. Soon we will try to make a brief cartography of the typical foods of the state of Jalisco, narrating a little of its history as well as the recipes.


The history of the pozole begins with the Aztec empire. It is precisely with the arrival of the Spaniards during the conquest that this dish was discovered, which was consumed mainly by indigenous priests and by Cuauhtémoc himself, the Aztec emperor. In its origins the pozole was prepared with human flesh. It is said that it was probably of the warriors sacrificed in the pyramid of the Sun. Therefore its consumption was more ritual than social. After the Spanish victory and the fall of the Aztec empire, it is said that the Spaniards replaced human flesh with pork that apparently had a similar flavor. Even after these changes the indigenous slaves continued to consume the Pozole. Today we have approximately 20 different versions of the Pozole, and it has to do precisely with the touch and regional flavor of each state. Today it is eaten pork, beef or chicken pozole and seasoned with chiles and herbs from the region. In the case of Jalisco the tradition is the pozole “Rojo” although there is also “Blanco”, which is the color of the broth. It is prepared with pork and dried ground chilies. It is accompanied to taste with lettuce, radishes and chopped onion, oregano, ground piquin chile and a few drops of lemon. This dish is consumed during national holidays, weddings, fifteen years, christenings, Christmas, New Year and in general in family or social meetings, especially in winter as it is consumed hot.


It is consumed mainly in the states of Michoacán, Guanajuato and Jalisco or the Bajío region. The origin of the “Menudo” also comes from the viceregal period. Legend has it that a butcher of the city refused to sell meat to the Indians, offering them only “leftovers” such as giblets and legs, arguing that the meat “was not Indian food” but was exclusive to whites ( Spanish people). After a while the Indians stopped asking for meat and only asked for belly and legs, until one day the maid of a white house asked the butcher paunch and legs. The butcher asked her wondering why she wanted them and she answered: to prepare menudo, of course. Over time the dish became popular and the demand increased. To the point that the Spanish butcher had to increase the prices of the belly and the leg. Nowadays it is traditionally consumed in Mexican cuisine, it is said that it relieves the “cruda” (hangover). The menudo is prepared with garlic, onion, chili and avocado leaves. It is accompanied with corn tortillas or pieces of bread (bolillo or virote), lemon, raw onion, cilantro, oregano or yerbabuena. In Jalisco, the “Red” is customary due to the color of the broth.

3.- Carne en su jugo

This dish from Jalisco is one of the most requested. It is recommended early in the morning or at noon. History makes this dish one of the favorites for “enfiestados” or “crudos”. It is said that it appears for the first time in the market San Juan de Dios in the historic center of Guadalajara. In its origins at the end of the 60s, its creator Roberto de la Torre offered it early in the morning in the neighborhood of Santa Tere as he knew that people came from the drunkenness and his dish was perfect to remove it. Beef, pot beans, bacon, tomato, onion, cilantro, lemon and hot sauce are the perfect ingredients to cure hangover. The meat is submerged in a broth made with green tomato and the juice of the same meat. It is accompanied with freshly made corn tortillas of course. Today, the Santa Tere neighborhood to the north-west of downtown Guadalajara preserves the places with the most tradition to taste this dish: Karne Garibaldi, Kamilos 333 and Las Originales Carnes de la Torre are the favorites of the locals, although you can find this dish in traditional markets and practically any Mexican restaurant in Guadalajara.

4. Birria

The original birria is prepared with goat and emerged during the colonial era. The Spaniards of Nueva Galicia today state of Jalisco, had during the viceroyalty an excess of goats. To get rid of the problem decided to give them to the indigenous slaves as it was considered a tough and poor quality meat. The big surprise was the appearance of the birria. The Indians of Jalisco decided to marinate it and cook it in an underground oven with wood. Thus they obtained a soft meat with excellent flavor. Today each municipality of Jalisco has its own version of this dish. Adding thier own seasoning with elements of the region such as different types of chili peppers, herbs, tomatoes and spices. Even the modern version is prepared with Beef. The meat is shredded and bathed in the broth of cooking that brings tomato, onion, ginger, chili peppers and spices. It is accompanied with corn tortillas, onion, lemon, hot sauce and refried beans. You can find this dish in the traditional markets of San Juan de Dios and Santa Tere, although like the carne en su jugo it is available almost in any Mexican restaurant or place.

5.-Tacos de Barbacoa

These tacos also have pre-Hispanic origin as other dishes that we have mentioned. The current version comes as all Mexican dishes of miscegenation between Spanish and indigenous culture. The original indigenous barbecue is prepared in floor ovens with firewood covered with maguey leaves (agave) and earth. The objective of the barbecue is a slow cooking that leaves the meat tatemada, smoked and very soft. Nowadays, slow cooking is done in metal pots or with steam. The barbecue becomes regional from the time of the viceroyalty and the resources available in each region are used. In the north beef or kid meat is used, in the central highland goat or sheep and in the south of the country chicken and pork. You can also use fish and turkey. The barbecue taco is basically the meat of your preference cooked over low heat, it can be a flour or corn tortilla and it is accompanied like any Mexican taco with onion, cilantro, lemon and hot sauce. The tortilla is browned with oil and the juice of the meat before serving. In Jalisco it is customary to eat it on weekends in the morning, after a good party the night before. You can find this dish in any traditional market, tianguis, taquerías or street stalls.

6.-Torta ahogada

The origin of this famous dish from Guadalajara has several versions. The most accepted says that it was invented by Don Luis de la Torre alias “El Güero” at the beginning of the 20th century. This gentleman sold “tortas ahogadas” (Drowned cakes) in the garden of San Francisco, where now the station of line 3 of the light train is constructed, near the district of the 9 corners. Its ingredients are very simple but tasty. The most important thing is the salted “birote” (bread) that is not available outside the state of Jalisco. Bring a layer of refried beans, pork “carnitas”, onion and bathe in a sweet tomato sauce. Spicy sauce and lemon are added to taste. It is said that when they started the cake (torta) was soaked in very hot sauce, therefore it was very difficult for children and women to eat it. Only true brave people dared to eat it. Nowadays you can prepare it to your liking.


The tostadas are very common in the “tapatía” kitchen. You can find them as a snack in the mexican “Cantinas” or in the family kitchen. The origin is not exclusive to the state of Jalisco, we have tostadas throughout the Mexican Republic. However, the preparation is very particular, using regional elements such as pork, chicken, avocado, chesee, radishes, corn, wheat or flour. For the local version either pork legs, the loin or the “cueritos” (the skin) are used as a portion of meat and it is added a topping of cabbage or lettuce, tomato and chopped onion, chile and lemon. It is a typical food but complicated to eat, have napkins on one side because you will surely get your hands dirty.


Another Mexican dish that is not exclusive to Jalisco but is very popular are enchiladas. Be red or green (depending on the sauce) are very easy to prepare. The base goes back to our main ingredient: The tortilla. Fry the tortilla in oil or lard for flavor, then roll the tortilla with the recommended ingredient, be it bean, chicken or cheese. Bathe in the previously heated tomato sauce and add grated Cotija cheese, cream of milk, onion and cilantro. The recipe can be flexible and like almost all Mexican dishes; They are prepared to the taste of the consumer. It is eaten with a fork and knife to avoid getting dirty. It is said that the fathers of independence Don Miguel Hidalgo, Vicente Guerrero and José María Morelos tried the enchiladas during their trip through Mexico.


There is no documented date for the origin of tacos in Mexico, but it is undoubtedly the most popular and accessible dish for the average Mexican today. This is due to its practicality in physical and economic terms. It’s fast, good and cheap. Its preparation is so simple that it takes you seconds to prepare a taco. You only need corn tortilla or wheat flour. A portion of meat (beef, pork, chicken) or beans, coriander and chopped onions, and your favorite hot sauce. Its origin dates back to pre-Hispanic times, it is said that indigenous men worked all day in the countryside so their wives prepare tacos to carry as they were easy to make and transport. In the viceregal era the Spaniards added the meat to the tacos since it was almost impossible to obtain for the indigenous slaves who did not receive a salary. Nowadays, almost any part of the beef and pork is eaten, such as intestines, brains, eyes, tongue, legs, trunk, skin, spine, rib and head. It was an indigenous tradition to use all parts of the animal and not waste, a custom that is preserved to this day despite the Spanish influence that normally discarded any meat considered of poor quality.


The tamale has been one of the Mexican’s favorite foods for several decades. Its origin is pre-Hispanic like many other dishes. The word comes from the Nahuatl Tamalli indigenous language that means wrapped. It is very easy to make, cooked corn dough wrapped with a natural leaf like corn, banana, bijao, maguey or avocado is used. It can include some stuffing like meat, vegetables, fruits, herbs, sauces, etc. And they can be sweet or salty. Practical elaboration, rich on the palate, but above all accessible to the pocket.

11.-Gorditas and Sopes

The two dishes are basically cousins-brothers. In both, a thick circular base of corn is used. The corn tortilla or base is fried in oil or lard (pork fat). Above the tortilla you can choose the meat or vegetable of your choice, there are many stews and options to choose from. Beef, pork, chicken, beans, slices, sausage, potato, cheese, verdolagas, etc. The difference is that the “gordita” is stuffed inside and the zope carries everything above the corn base. In essence they are the same, a tasty dish, easy and quick to make. Spicy sauce, lemon and onion are added to taste to add flavor.


La Jericalla is the Tapatío dessert par excellence. Maybe because it has a strong resemblance to flan. Its ingredients are similar: milk, egg, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla. They mix, shake and bake for a toasted, creamy and delicious dessert. Its origin dates back to the dawn of Hospicio Cabañas in the neighborhood of San Juan de Dios, in the downtown area of Guadalajara. It is said that the nineteenth century nuns were looking for a food rich in calcium and protein that was of good taste to give to the orphans who lived in the hospice. Over time it became popular until it became one of the favorite desserts.


This dessert is another of the favorites by the tapatíos (citizens of Guadalajara). Although unlike the jericalla its elaboration is more complex. It has a religious meaning and symbolism therefore it is more common to see it during the Lenten season. It is made with salty or dehydrated salted bread (virote), a syrup with piloncillo and grated cheese is prepared. Add pieces of banana, raisins, walnuts, guava and peanuts. Its consistency is smooth and the taste is like aged brown sugar


As if it were not enough in Jalisco there are an infinity of artisanal milk or fruit sweets such as guava, cajeta, cocadas, palanquetas, mango, plum, quince, tamarind, etc. They are simple to find in traditional markets, stores or with street vendors. The sweets are another icon of the Mexican culture.

If you want to try and learn more about the food of Jalisco visit our website and reserve some of our tours with food and / or drink. We also offer tastings assisted by local experts. We work the 365 days of the year.

Fernando Ayala

Sociologist and local guide

Fernando Ayala
Fernando Ayala
Sociologist specialized in History of Jalisco and Agave drinks

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