20 Mexican Christmas Food: A Cooking Guide

by Ella

Christmas in Mexico is a feast for the senses, with a symphony of colors, aromas, and flavors that reflect the country’s rich culinary heritage. From traditional dishes passed down through generations to regional specialties that vary across the diverse landscapes, the Christmas table in Mexico is a celebration of family, community, and the vibrant spirit of the season. In this extensive exploration, we embark on a culinary journey, unraveling the festive tapestry of flavors that define Christmas in Mexico.

20 Mexican Christmas Food

1. Tamales: A Christmas Staple

No Mexican Christmas is complete without tamales, savory parcels of masa (corn dough) filled with a variety of ingredients, wrapped in corn husks, and steamed to perfection. Tamales are a labor of love, often prepared in large batches, making them a symbol of shared effort and communal celebration. Fillings range from traditional options like pork with red chili sauce to sweet tamales filled with cinnamon and raisins. Tamales are enjoyed throughout the Christmas season and are a staple on La Nochebuena.


2. Bacalao a la Vizcaína: Salted Cod Extravaganza

Bacalao a la Vizcaína, or salted cod in a Basque-style sauce, is a culinary legacy from Spain that has found a special place on Mexican Christmas tables. The salted cod is soaked to remove excess salt, then cooked in a rich tomato and chili sauce, often flavored with olives and capers. This dish brings a touch of sophistication to Christmas Eve feasts, showcasing the fusion of Spanish and Mexican culinary traditions.


3. Pozole: Hominy Goodness for Christmas Eve

Pozole, a hearty soup made with hominy, meat (usually pork or chicken), and seasoned with a variety of spices, is a quintessential Mexican dish enjoyed during Christmas festivities. The dish has deep roots in pre-Columbian Mexico and is often associated with celebratory occasions. Served with an array of condiments such as shredded lettuce, radishes, and lime, pozole is a comforting and festive option for Christmas Eve dinners.


4. Ensalada de Nochebuena: Christmas Eve Salad

Ensalada de Nochebuena, or Christmas Eve Salad, is a colorful and refreshing dish that adds a vibrant touch to the holiday table. The salad typically includes ingredients like jicama, oranges, beets, and pomegranate seeds, creating a festive medley of flavors and textures. The combination of sweet, tangy, and crisp elements makes it a delightful accompaniment to richer and heartier Christmas dishes.


5. Romeros: Sweet Tamales for Dessert

For those with a sweet tooth, romeros are a delightful Christmas treat. These sweet tamales are filled with ingredients like cinnamon, vanilla, and anise, creating a delectable dessert option. Romeros may also include nuts, dried fruits, or chocolate, adding layers of flavor to the sweet masa. Served with a hot cup of atole (a warm, masa-based beverage), romeros are a cherished part of Mexican Christmas dessert traditions.

6. Buñuelos: Crispy and Sweet Delicacies

Buñuelos are thin, crispy pastries that are deep-fried and coated in cinnamon sugar. These sweet treats are a Christmas favorite in Mexico and are often enjoyed with a hot cup of chocolate or café de olla (spiced coffee). Buñuelos may vary in size and shape, but they all share the irresistible combination of a crunchy exterior and a tender, sweet interior, making them a beloved part of the holiday season.

7. Pavo Relleno: Stuffed Turkey Extravaganza

While turkey is a common centerpiece for Christmas dinners around the world, in Mexico, it takes on a distinct flavor profile with the preparation of pavo relleno, or stuffed turkey. The stuffing often includes a mixture of ground meat, nuts, fruits, and spices, creating a savory and aromatic filling. Roasted to perfection, pavo relleno is served with a variety of side dishes and sauces, making it a festive and flavorful option for Christmas celebrations.

8. Colaciones: Christmas Sweets and Confections

Colaciones are a variety of sweets and confections that are synonymous with Christmas in Mexico. These treats, often made with ingredients like nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, showcase the skill of Mexican confectioners. Alfeñiques, a type of sugar paste shaped into intricate figures, and camotes, a sweet potato-based confection, are popular colaciones enjoyed during the holiday season. These sweets add a touch of sweetness to the Christmas festivities.

9. Atole and Champurrado: Warming Beverages for the Season

Atole and champurrado are warm, comforting beverages that take center stage during the Christmas season. Atole is a traditional masa-based drink flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, and often sweetened with piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar). Champurrado is a thicker, chocolate-infused version of atole, creating a rich and indulgent beverage. These warming drinks are enjoyed during Posadas, La Misa de Gallo, and other Christmas gatherings.

10. Capirotada: Bread Pudding with a Twist

Capirotada is a unique Mexican twist on the classic bread pudding. This festive dessert layers slices of bolillo (a type of bread) with ingredients like cheese, nuts, and dried fruits, all bound together by a sweet syrup made with piloncillo and spices. Capirotada is often associated with Lent but makes its appearance during Christmas as well, adding a delightful blend of textures and flavors to the dessert table.

11. Alegrias: Amaranth Seed Delights

Alegrias are traditional Mexican sweets made from amaranth seeds, honey, and sometimes peanuts. Shaped into bars or discs, alegrias are not only delicious but also a nutritious option. These treats, with their earthy and nutty flavors, are enjoyed during the Christmas season and are often included in gift exchanges. Alegrias showcase the ingenious use of indigenous ingredients in Mexican sweets.

12. Chiles en Nogada: A Patriotic Christmas Dish

Chiles en Nogada is a culinary masterpiece that embodies the colors of the Mexican flag—green, white, and red. This dish features poblano chilies stuffed with a mixture of ground meat, fruits, and spices, topped with a creamy walnut-based sauce, and garnished with pomegranate seeds and parsley. Traditionally associated with Mexican Independence Day, Chiles en Nogada also makes a special appearance during Christmas, adding a touch of elegance to festive meals.

13. Sopes de Pavo: Turkey Sopes for Christmas Eve

Sopes de Pavo are a festive twist on the traditional Mexican street food, sopes. These thick cornmeal patties are topped with shredded turkey, refried beans, lettuce, cream, and salsa. Sopes de Pavo make a hearty and flavorful addition to Christmas Eve dinners, allowing for creative customization with various toppings. This dish highlights the adaptability and creativity inherent in Mexican cuisine.

14. Candied Fruits and Nuts: Calaveras de Azúcar

Calaveras de Azúcar, or sugar skulls, are an iconic element of Mexican Christmas celebrations, particularly during Dia de los Santos Inocentes. These colorful and intricately decorated sugar skulls are not only visually striking but also hold symbolic significance, representing the cycle of life and death. Calaveras de Azúcar, along with candied fruits and nuts, are commonly exchanged as gifts and enjoyed as festive treats.

15. Salsa Verde and Salsa Roja: Flavorful Accents

Salsas, both verde (green) and roja (red), are essential accompaniments to many Mexican Christmas dishes. Salsa verde is made with tomatillos, green chili peppers, and cilantro, while salsa roja features tomatoes, red chili peppers, and other flavorful ingredients. These condiments add a burst of freshness and heat to a variety of dishes, allowing individuals to customize their meals according to their spice preferences.

16. Camarones a la Diabla: Devilishly Spicy Shrimp

Camarones a la Diabla, or Devil’s Shrimp, is a spicy and flavorful dish that adds a bold kick to Christmas feasts. Shrimp are cooked in a fiery chili sauce, often featuring ingredients like garlic, tomatoes, and chili peppers. This dish is not for the faint of heart, showcasing the love for bold and intense flavors that characterizes many Mexican culinary traditions.

17. Mezcal and Ponche: Spirited Libations for Christmas Cheer

Christmas celebrations in Mexico are often accompanied by spirited libations that add a festive touch to the festivities. Mezcal, a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the agave plant, is enjoyed in various cocktails and straight sips during the holiday season. Ponche, a warm and fruity punch, is another popular Christmas beverage made with seasonal fruits, spices, and sometimes a splash of spirits. These libations contribute to the convivial and celebratory atmosphere of Christmas gatherings.

18. Cazuelas: Family-style Christmas Feasts

Cazuelas are large, communal pots filled with an array of ingredients, creating a family-style feast for Christmas celebrations. These hearty stews often feature a combination of meats, vegetables, and spices, simmered to perfection. Cazuelas bring people together, encouraging communal dining and fostering a sense of togetherness during the holiday season.

19. Chocolate Caliente: Hot Chocolate with a Twist

Mexican hot chocolate, or chocolate caliente, is a beloved beverage during the Christmas season. The preparation involves dissolving a chocolate tablet in hot milk, often with the addition of spices like cinnamon and vanilla. The result is a rich and velvety hot chocolate with a depth of flavor that sets it apart. Chocolate caliente is enjoyed on its own or as an accompaniment to sweet bread or pastries, creating a comforting and indulgent experience.

20. Tequila-Infused Desserts: A Spirited Finale

As the Christmas feast reaches its climax, tequila-infused desserts make a spirited appearance. From tequila-lime pie to tequila-soaked cakes, these desserts showcase the versatility of Mexico’s signature spirit. The addition of tequila adds a unique depth of flavor and a festive touch to traditional desserts, providing a spirited finale to the Christmas culinary journey.


Christmas in Mexico is a time of culinary abundance, where tradition, innovation, and regional diversity converge on the festive table. From the labor-intensive preparation of tamales to the rich and aromatic flavors of pozole, each dish tells a story of cultural heritage, family ties, and the joy of coming together to celebrate the season.

As we savor the flavors of Feliz Navidad, it becomes clear that Mexican Christmas cuisine is more than just a collection of dishes; it is a reflection of the country’s history, its people, and the enduring spirit of celebration. Whether indulging in the sweet warmth of atole, the fiery kick of camarones a la diabla, or the comforting embrace of chocolate caliente, the Christmas table in Mexico is a testament to the country’s culinary richness and the joy of sharing festive moments with loved ones.



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