BEST FOOD IN PUEBLA, MEXICO
Located on the east side of two volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, and a short two-hour drive from Mexico City, you’ll find Puebla, Mexico’s fourth-largest city. Puebla is one of our favorite cities in Mexico for many reasons, vibrant colorful streets, Baroque architecture, and the beauty of the zocalo comes to mind, but the mouthwatering Poblano cuisine is at the top of the list.
So what makes the food in Puebla so special? Poblano food is recognized because of its fusion of indigenous and international ingredients. This mix of flavors is the result of being a stop along a former Spanish trade route connecting Mexico City and coastal ports in Veracruz.
We went to Puebla knowing we wanted to sample the goods. This list is a combination of our own research and recommendations from Rebecca, our friendly Airbnb host who happens to run a small tourism company called Tu Destino es México. Here are the best things we ate and drank in Puebla and where you can find them!
Antojito comes from the word antojo, which means “whim”. So the direct English translation of antojito would be “little whims”, adorable right? One of the best things about Mexico is walking around and eating on a whim. You can usually find them on the street or inside hole in the wall eateries.
Maybe you’ve heard of these before or had a chalupa at Taco Bell, but in Puebla, they’re entirely different. Chalupas are deceptively simple and super satisfying. Imagine watching a woman throw small masa tortillas on a hot comal and frying them in a spoonful of manteca de cerdo (pork fat). She alternates between dousing them in red and green chile sauce and topping them with shredded meat and fresh onion. Hungry yet?
You can find these little discs of joy at a street food stall behind El Parián, where five of them will set you back 15 pesos. Otherwise, you can try them at Comal.
This antojito is fun to eat because it’s extra crunchy and should be eaten on any Puebla food tour. These half-moon shaped hot pockets are filled with an array of meats, veggies, or cheeses. The crunchy shell is a mixture of corn masa and wheat flour that’s deep-fried in oil.
Molotes come with salsa and cream. Our personal favorites are the tinga (shredded chicken) and huitlacoche (an edible mushroom that grows on corn). However, not all molotes are equal, some are bland, oily, and underwhelming. Make sure you try them at the right place.
We recommend the molotes at Antojitos Acapulco (see map below).
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When Lebanese and Iraqi immigrants came to Mexico in the 1920s they brought their foods and flavors with them. Popular in Puebla, tacos arabes are more like shawarmas or a Mexican gyro of sorts. The pork is marinated with salt, pepper, garlic, parsley, and oregano then cooked on a spit. Instead of a tortilla, these tacos are served on pan arabe, similar to pita bread. What you end up with is a perfect marriage of Arab and Mexican flavors. In other words, it’s really fucking delicious.
Be sure to try one con queso at Taqueria Viviana or Tacos Arabes Bagdad Centro (as seen on Ugly Delicious on Netflix).
Cemitas are a Puebla original. They’re like a torta on steroids! The difference is in the cemita roll, made with eggs and speckled with sesame seeds, resembling brioche. You can find several variations, but normally it has milanesa (breaded cutlet), slices of ham, strings of quesillo, sweet n’ spicy chipotle peppers, avocado, and papalo (a pungent Mexican herb). We’re suckers for sandwiches, and these bad boys are HUGE. You’ll be full for hours!
For the traditional experience go to Cemitas las Poblanitas and be sure to add the pickled veggie mix or try our favorite contemporary vegetarian version at Moyuelo.
Pelonas are sandwiches with shredded beef, lettuce, refried beans, and cream. What makes a pelona different than any other sandwich? The bread is pan-fried in manteca de cerdo until it’s crispy. The name pelona comes from the smoothness of the bun that resembles a person’s shiny bald head. The contrast of the warm bun and the cool cream is what makes it memorable. Pour some salsa on that baldy and enjoy!
You can try one at Antojitos Acapulco.
You’ll need a fork to eat this sandwich. Chanclas are made with white bread, have beef or chicken inside and are submerged in a tangy red chili sauce. Eating this gives you the same heartwarming feeling that lasagna does. Chanclas (meaning sandals in Spanish) are named this way because they always come in pairs, like flip flops.
Try chanclas at Los Tamales de Lupita (see map). The food here is crazy cheap, but this place has weird hours. It seems to be open in the evening and is worth walking by a few times until you’re lucky enough to eat there. People line up for her legendary tamales.
Mole Poblano is the quintessential Mexican dish. In Spanish, mole means sauce and poblano refers to the famous pepper native to the area. The legend goes that 300 years ago, nuns in the Santa Rosa convent were preparing for the visit of an archbishop. Improvising with what they had available, they slow-cooked a mixture of dried chili peppers, nuts, spices, and chocolate in a pot, serving it over turkey. Other versions of the story claim that the chocolate and spices accidentally fell into the pot while it was simmering. Either way, the archbishop was happy with his meal.
This sauce highlights the fusion of indigenous and European flavors that create the national dish of Mexico. It can take days to prepare and require up to 30 ingredients. Grandmas and mothers pass down their recipes from generation to generation. Mole is usually ladled over baked chicken or enchiladas and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Chiles en Nogada
This historical dish is associated with independence day. It contains a poblano chili stuffed with picadillo (stewed meats, fruits, and spices) topped with a creamy walnut sauce (nogada), then sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and fresh parsley. The colorful red, white, and green ingredients represent the flag of Mexico. Never in my life have I had anything like it!
You can find it year-round, but its best in August and September when walnuts and pomegranates are in season and the festivities commemorating Independence day begin.
Try Chiles en Nogada at El Mural de los Poblanos.
Enchiladas a los tres moles
Isn’t it pretty? This Puebla specialty is perfect for when you feel like trying a few different flavors. You’re given three enchiladas, each with a different topping: pipián verde, pipián rojo, and mole.
Made in prehispanic times, pipián predates mole and supposedly it was even enjoyed by the Aztec emperor Moctezuma. Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) make up the base of this sauce and give it a thick and gritty consistency. There are many variations of pipián depending on what region of Mexico you’re in. In Puebla, pipián verde consists of tomatillos and green chile and pipián rojo comes from guajillo chiles and peanuts.
Try this beautiful tri-colored delight at Comal across from the Cathedral or at El Mural de los Poblanos.
Here are some traditional desserts and candies you should try in Puebla. You can find these on Avenida 6 Oriente nicknamed Calle de los Dulces (“Sweet Street”). There are several shops selling sugary things.
Not exactly sure how to explain these, but they’re chewy bite-size candies similar to bread pudding with a thin layer of jam inside them. Not my favorite of the bunch, but still worth trying.
These traditional treats come from sweet potatoes and resemble tootsie rolls. They’re nice and chewy but not super sweet.
Tortitas de Santa Clara
This was our favorite of the traditional candy from Puebla. We developed an addiction to them over the two weeks we spent in the city! The nuns from the convent of Santa Clara created this masterpiece. It’s a cookie-like miniature pie with a crumbly crust and pumpkin seed icing.
Hidden inside of Puebla’s oldest bar you’ll find a sweet raisin flavored liqueur served in a shot glass, with a chunk of soft white cheese and a single raisin on a toothpick. Sure it sounds weird, but it’s damn delicious.
Try it at La Pasita, a quirky nostalgic bar that first opened in 1916 as a grocery store, but is now a cantina with a wide variety of shooters to sample. There are two locations within the historic city center, both owned by the same family.
The original La Pasita is at Avenida 5 Oriente on the corner of Callejón de los Sapos, it’s open from 12:30-5:30 on weekdays. The second bar is near the Cathedral and it opens from 2 to 9 on weekdays. (See the map below).
This drink reminds me of being back home next to a fire at Christmas time. Snow is falling outside, I have slippers on, and everything feels cozy. Available at La Pasita, try it if you like spiked egg nog. You can also find bottles of it for sale on Sweet Street. Buy a bottle to sip in your pajamas!
If you like pineapple than you’ll love Tepache. This mildly boozy drink comes from fermenting the rinds of pineapples and adding brown sugar, cinnamon, and sometimes clove. It’s easy to find in local markets or make at home. It’s juicy and refreshing. If you’re living life on the edge, do as the locals and add a beer to make it stronger!
Try it at El Mercado la Acocota.
We hope this post gave you an idea on what some of the best Puebla food is, be sure to eat some tacos arabes for us! We can’t wait to go back…
Have you tried any Poblano foods? Any place you recommend we try on our next trip?