Tacos topped with sliced cactus.
Is your mouth watering yet?
If you’re visiting Mexico, you’re in luck because it’s a gastronomic paradise. Much of the food is grown locally and spices rule, so the food choices? ¡Excelente! (Excellent!)
Or maybe you just want to order like a pro at your favorite Mexican restaurant where you live.
Either way, we’ll show you how to get that palate-pleasing comida (food) on your plate. In this post, you’ll find the Mexican Spanish phrases to order delicious, authentic food just the way you want it.
Read on and we’ll give you the terms to fine-tune your food talk!
What You’ll Hear in Mexican Spanish
Mexican Spanish is typically referred to as Latin American Spanish because it differs from Spanish spoken in Spain. Some Spanish restaurant phrases work in Mexico but they’ll only give you the foundation for ordering.
The vos (singular “you”) form isn’t used all over the country, though you may hear it to the south. And instead of vosotros to refer to the plural “you,” you’ll hear ustedes in its place.
On the street and in shops, you’re bound to hear a fusion of Spanish and English. Many words and phrases are a slangy combination of both languages.
And if you’re jonesing to get a better grip on your Spanish—while eating like a local!—maybe taking a language course while you’re in Mexico will help you build your skills on a full stomach.
Tasty Authentic Mexican Foods to Try
Mexican recipes are handed down from generation to generation. If you want authentic Mexican food that hasn’t been Americanized, look for small restaurants. Many are family-owned and their indigenous recipes rely heavily on the same staples their ancestors used, including chiles and corn.
There are some dishes you should be on the lookout to try. They won’t be hard to find!
- Tortillas, both corn and flour, are handmade fresh daily in a tortillería, which is often a home where there’s a room set aside for tortilla making.
- Quesadillas are tortillas that are filled, usually with cheese but sometimes meat as well, before being grilled. Street vendors often offer them con grasa (deep fried).
- Mole is the sauce that accompanies many meals, often just set in the center of the table to be spooned over your plate.
It’s a generic term that can refer to any number of sauces, most of which are a combination of some kind of fruit, chiles and spices that’ve been dried, ground together and then simmered with water or broth to form a thick paste. Sometimes Mexican dark chocolate is added to mole.
- Carne adobada (marinated meat) may be on the menu. It’s generally pork (although any meat can be used) that has been marinated in a red chile sauce and spices before it’s cooked.
- Sopa azteca is also called tortilla soup and is a tomato broth served with fried tortilla strips floating in it. Sometimes it’ll contain meat but most often it’s vegetarian.
- Plantains are abundant in Mexico and served in countless ways! And although they resemble the bananas we’re accustomed to seeing in our supermarkets, they’re very different and must be cooked before being eaten.
They can be fried, baked or even sautéed with butter and sugar to make a dessert that’ll have you ordering seconds. Try the plantains. You won’t be sorry!
- And speaking of desserts, churros are a must not only after dinner but also for casual snacking. They’re sold by street vendors and make the perfect crisp, cinnamon-covered take-along to hold you over while you’re sightseeing.
Mexico’s well-known beverages are tequila, made from the blue agave plant, and horchata, a sweet rice-based drink that’s served chilled. If you’re looking for a cerveza (beer) to go with your meal, chela or cheve are the slang terms for beer in Mexico.
How to Order Food in Mexican Spanish with Gusto!
So now you’re up to speed on speaking like a local. And you’re in the know about your food options.
What’s left? Time to order up your comida (food)!
Deciding Where to Eat
You may order from un puesto, a street stand where food is sold. Or you might head to un restaurante (a restaurant).
In either place, you may want to take your food with you. If you do, ask for it para llevar (to go).
Tacos para llevar, por favor. (Tacos to go, please.)
Talking to the Waiter or Waitress
In a Mexican restaurant, you’ll be served by either a joven (waiter) or a señorita (waitress). If you need something extra during the meal, use those terms to get their attention.
When you peruse the menu you may or may not see prices listed. It’s okay to ask, “How much does it cost?”
¿Qué precio tiene? (Literally, “What price does it have?”)
You’ll be asked ¿Gustan algo de tomar? (Would you like something to drink?). Notice that in Mexico, they don’t use beber (to drink) to ask the question. Maybe now’s the time to put your beer slang to good use!
Una chela, por favor. (A beer, please.)
It’s considered rude to say ¿Qué? (What?) if you don’t immediately understand the waiter when you’re ordering. ¿Mande? is a slang way to ask someone to repeat something if you need to hear it again.
Placing Your Order
The server will also ask ¿Qué vas a querer? (What would you like to order?)
Ordering is pretty informal in most eateries. There are a few easy options for structuring sentences and once you get them down you’ll be able to place an order anywhere. For example:
Me da dos tacos con salsa de maíz, por favor. (I’ll get two tacos with corn salsa, please.)
Saying Voy a querer… (I’ll have…) works well, too.
Traer (to bring) is a very common way to make a request.
¿Me traes una quesadilla con… ? (Bring me a quesadilla with…?) will be understood.
Tacos are a Mexican staple food, and there’s a lot of vocabulary just for ordering this dish and the accompanying fillings and toppings.
Tacos are tortillas filled with meat, vegetables, cheese and beans—any combination of fillings works!—before being closed tightly for ease of eating. They can be enormous or finger-food sized, depending on how stuffed the tortilla is.
Aside from mixing up the fillings, there are a variety of toppings to choose from so there’s really no “standard taco”—each can be unique. Some toppings that are readily available are onions, fresh cilantro and avocado sauce.
Guacamole is thicker than avocado sauce and pico de gallo (sometimes called salsa fresca) is a mixture of chopped onions, tomatoes, cilantro, chiles and lime juice. Salsa, the type most Americans are used to seeing, comes in either verde (green) or roja (red) varieties. Sometimes spicy corn or cactus salsa is on the menu, as well.
Once you’ve chosen the basic taco fillings, you’ve still got choices to make. You might request yours a few different ways:
- Con crema, por favor. (With cream, please.) The crema (cream) isn’t sour cream like Mexican restaurants in the U.S. usually use, but a thinner cream that’s milder and just a little bit sour.
- Con nopales, por favor. (With sliced cactus, please.) or Con refritos, por favor. (With a layer of refried beans, please.) These will definitely add some oomph to your taco!
If your server asks ¿Con verduras? he’s not asking if you want vegetables but whether you want cilantro and onions on the taco.
¡Sí! (Yes!) is usually my answer to that question!
When the food arrives, Mexicans, along with all Latin Americans, say ¡Buen provecho! There’s no perfect translation but it’s right up there with the English invitation to “Enjoy your meal!”
If you still look hungry, you may be asked if you want more of whatever you’ve ordered. Here’s your cue to ask for second helpings from your waiter: ¿Dame otro? (Want another?)
Describing Your Meal
No meal is complete until the compliments for the food are offered.
In Mexico, food is described favorably as rico (rich), so a smile and ¡Qué rica comida! (What rich food!) or ¡Qué ricos tacos! (What rich tacos!) will show your appreciation.
¡Deliciosa! (Delicious!) is also a super way to indicate you enjoyed the food.
And with all the amazing food choices available in Mexico, you’re bound to say this a lot!
Order with Confidence and Eat, Eat, Eat!
Now that you’ve got the whole ordering process down, there’s only one thing left to do.
And remember, no one’s counting calories here, so enjoy every morsel!
Mexico’s food is way too fabulous to pass up!