[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]
Cinco de Mayo commemorates Mexico's victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. In other words, it's a day for celebrating Mexican heritage and independence. Here in the US, it's also a day for eating awesome Mexican-style food and drinking delicious Mexican-inspired cocktails. From nachos, guac, and salsa to enchiladas and chile verde, we've got all the recipes you need to complete your Cinco de Mayo feast. Scroll through 'em all or jump straight to the section of your choice from the index below!
Ultimate fully-loaded nachos [Photograph: Robyn Lee]
Are nachos a traditional Mexican dish? Not exactly. But were they invented in Mexico? Oh yes they were. Most importantly, they're supremely delicious, whether we're talking ultimate, fully loaded nachos, their vegan counterpart, or this hot and spicy Texan rendition. Not enough options? How about these green chile chicken nachos, instead?
Salsa doesn't have to come out of a jar. Scratch that: salsa really shouldn't come out of a jar. How else will you get the freshest pico de gallo? Or capture the most flavorful roasted tomato salsa out there? You can also give your salsa a Columbian twist with a tomato- and onion-packed ají, or go sweet 'n' tart with this version starring charred tomatillo and yellow pepper. Want something even sweeter and just a little hot? This peach salsa with pickled red onions and serrano chiles is the dip for you. Or switch things up with a bloody Mary inspired take, replete with punchy horseradish and an umami-packed dash of Worcestershire sauce. For something a little more smoky and earthy, we've got an ancho-chipotle salsa with chocolate and fried almonds, instead.
The best basic guacamole [Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]
No Cinco de Mayo would be complete without a big bowl of guacamole. But we're not talking just any guacamole—we've got the best basic version avocados can make. Pulverized aromatics, unevenly mashed avocados for textural contrast, and an overall emphasis on simplicity are the cornerstones of this recipe. But that's far from the end: dress it up with charred corn, black beans, and scallions, give it some heat in a chipotle and orange rendition, or go coastal with this Old Bay and crab-packed guac.
When we say queso, we mean melty cheese sauce of the gooey, tangy, bright orange variety. There's the classic nacho-worthy sauce or a fully vegan (but no less delicious) option. But that's not even counting variations studded with chorizo, mushrooms, and onions, seasoned with the best taco flavors, styled after Philly cheesesteaks, or full-on packed with, well pretty much everything.
Appetizers and Sides
If a few big bowls of guac and salsa aren't doing it for you, throw some chorizo-stuffed poblanos on the grill. As for stellar sides? You can't go wrong with a big platter of mayo, chili powder, and cheese-slathered sweet corn (aka elotes). Or whip out the fryer for some patacones (fried green plantains) to soak up some of the heat. As for the salad front? Go funky and tart with some slaw-like curtado or walk the sweeter side with a deconstructed take on elotes otherwise known as esquites—a garlicky, citrus-dressed corn and jalapeño salad you'll want to spoon on pretty much everything.
"Taco" might as well translate to "the most delicious stuff piled onto a toasty corn tortilla." But to get a little more specific, let's talk the very best crunchy fried fish tacos. Frying aficionados will also swoon for a vegetarian take with fried avocado, topped with chipotle cream, cabbage, and pickled red onions. Or mayhaps this crispy potato and chorizo iteration will do the trick. For traditionalists, we've got lengua (tongue) tacos or the smoky aroma of chicken tinga. Cooking for a big party? tacos de canasta (basket tacos) are a special variety of taco sold by bicycle vendors in Mexico that are made in advance and only get better as they sit. These are the potluck tacos you've been waiting for.
From tortas to pambazos to cemitas, Mexican sandwiches are some of our favorites. We talking classic milanesa-layered Pueblan cemitas and their New York counterparts, loaded with lettuce, tomato, and perfect refried beans. But let's not do disservice to the torta, whether stuffed with avocado, queso Oaxaca, black beans, and pickled jalapeños, chorizo, fried eggplant, or mushroom and spinach.
[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]
From a hearty real-deal tortilla soup to super-easy pressure cooker chicken chile verde, you'll need a centerpiece to your Cinco de Mayo feast. We've also got enchilada recipes galore: a pressure-cooker chicken version, a creamy chicken rendition, or even its vegan spinach and hominy cousin. Want to pile on the cheese? Go for a tomatillo-chicken quesadilla, instead. Craving seafood? These clams with chorizo and tequila will do you just fine.
[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]
Start with a margarita made right. Then, if you're looking to branch out, consider one of these excellent tequila drinks. Curious about mezcal, tequila's smokier, earthier cousin? Here are nine cocktail recipes to get you started.