9 Traditional Mexican Christmas Foods

Three King cake (Rosca de reyes) from México
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Christmas is a time when family and friends get together to celebrate. Food plays a big part in any Mexican Christmas celebration. In Mexico, it is customary to have a family dinner late on Christmas Eve (Noche Buena). Here are some foods traditionally eaten at Christmastime in Mexico, either at Christmas Eve dinner or during the festivities leading up to Christmas, such as Las Posadas. If you're in Mexico for Christmas, be sure to sample these festive dishes, and if you can't be in Mexico for the holidays, you can add a Mexican touch to your celebration by including some of these foods.

01 of 09

Ensalada de Noche Buena

Ensalada de Buena Noche, with jicama.
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The combination of colors of the Mexican Christmas salad makes it particularly festive. This salad usually contains lettuce and beets, but other ingredients vary according to location and the chef's preference and may include apple, carrot, orange, pineapple, jicama, pecans or peanuts, and pomegranate seeds as a garnish. Mexican Christmas Salad is served at Christmas Eve dinner.

02 of 09


Typical food known as tamales.
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Tamales are prepared corn masa which may have a variety of different fillings. They are wrapped in corn husks (or occasionally banana leaves) and steamed. Because tamales are time-consuming to prepare, they are a special holiday food that is only made a few times throughout the year, in large batches, often with many family members assisting in parties called tamaladas.

03 of 09


Bacalao a la Vizcaina
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As Christmas approaches, bacalao (dried salted codfish) starts showing up in markets and grocery stores throughout Mexico. This dish of European origin has become a standard component of a traditional Mexican Christmas feast. Bacalao a la vizcaina is a popular recipe in which the cod is stewed with tomatoes, capers, olives, and potatoes, but it may be prepared in various ways.

04 of 09


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A green leaf vegetable with small leaves, this plant resembles rosemary, for which it is named (although its flavor is not at all like rosemary!). Romeritos are often served as romeritos en revoltijo, with shrimp cakes doused in mole. This dish is also served during Lent.

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05 of 09


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Pozole is a hominy soup made with pork or chicken seasoned with chile and garlic. It is served with shredded lettuce or cabbage garnishes, thinly sliced radishes, avocado, oregano, and lime wedges. It makes a hearty meal in large batches, making it a great party food. Besides being a popular choice for a Christmas dinner, it is also served during Mexican Independence Day or Cinco de Mayo parties.

06 of 09


turkey breast
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Turkey is native to Mexico and is another popular choice for a Mexican Christmas Eve dinner. The Christmas turkey may be roasted or served with mole, a rich sauce made of ground chiles, and other ingredients.

07 of 09


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Served with a hot drink, buñuelos make an excellent treat on a cold night. This crispy fried treat is like a sweet tostada sprinkled with sugar or doused in syrup. In Oaxaca, there are special stands set up at Christmastime selling buñuelos and atole. After enjoying the sweet fritter, you make a wish and throw your clay plate on the ground, where it smashes to bits. This tradition is said to spring from a pre-Hispanic festivity in which all the dishes were broken at the end of a calendar cycle.

08 of 09

Ponche Navideño

Ponche Navideño
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Mexican hot fruit punch is made with tejocotes (Mexican hawthorn), which look like crab apples but have large pits and a unique flavor. Guavas, apples, and other fruit are added, and the drink is flavored with cinnamon and sweetened with piloncillo. This is a wonderfully warming beverage, whether taken with or without piquete (a splash of alcohol).

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09 of 09

Rosca de Reyes

Rosca de Reyes
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This sweet bread is a treat mainly associated with King's Day (Día de Reyes), which is celebrated on Jan. 6 but may start appearing in Mexican bakeries around Christmastime. There's a small figurine of a baby baked inside, and the person who gets the slice with the baby in it has to bring the tamales for the next occasion, which is Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas).