Taco Tuesday is great, but there's a whole big, wide world out there (that doesn't involve a seasoning packet).
There’s nothing wrong with Taco Tuesdays, especially for quick and easy comfort food on a busy weeknight, but there’s also nothing authentically Mexican about most of the stuffed tortillas served up during these casual meals. When you’re ready to ditch ground beef and canned salsa for sopa de chicharrón, crispy chicken empanadas with mole, and fruity paletas for dessert, you won’t necessarily have to hop a plane to Oaxaca or cruise your way to Cabo for the best Mexican morsels. We’ve compiled a collection of the ten best Mexican cookbooks to have you salivating over regional recipes and national treasures alike, all from the convenience of your own casa.
Possibly the most anticipated new cookbook of 2022, Mi Cocina is a love letter to the full breadth of Mexican cuisine from author Rick Martínez, who traversed all 32 Mexican states shadowing chefs of every ilk to learn their favorite local dishes. After more than 20,000 miles of tasty travels, Martínez returned to his own kitchen to relive his personal highlights through 104 recipes inspired by his favorite finds across the country. Punctuated with memories of Martinez’s epic journey through his ancestral homeland, Mi Cocina is as much an adventure in reconnecting with one’s heritage as it is a collection of recipes, achieving that true essence of travelogue-cookbook to which so many aspire but few succeed. A vibrant celebration of food, family, and fun on every page, this is one you’ll return to frequently, even when you’re not cooking.
If you’re a fan of moles (the sauces, not the rodents or spies), you’ve already introduced your tastebuds to one of the hallmarks of Oaxacan cuisine. One of the southernmost states of Mexico’s Pacific shoreline, Oaxaca is loved for its art and architecture but revered for its cuisine, which has often seemed out of reach for American home cooks (the mole you’re most familiar with contains at least 30 ingredients and takes all day to prepare). But no more. In Oaxaca, the Lopez family, who emigrated from Mexico’s culinary capital to Los Angeles and opened Guelaguetza in 1994, shares more than 100 of its time-tested recipes while deconstructing the techniques and preparation of Oaxacan cuisine with simple tips and encouragement that bring the dishes into the realm of more universal approachability (i.e., you got this).
'Mexico – The Cookbook'
From Phaidon’s authoritative collection of national cookbooks, Mexico – The Cookbook is your go-to compendium of Mexican cuisine. With more than 700 recipes organized in chapters from street foods and snacks through drinks and desserts, all the fundamentals of classic Mexican cooking are found here, along with a bonus chapter of signature recipes from “guest chefs,” celebrating Mexican cuisine at restaurants worldwide. Despite the sheer volume of recipes packing the pages, there are still plenty of full-page photos to whet the appetite and get your creative juices flowing, and the comprehensive introduction to Mexico’s culinary heritage provides more than 20 pages of enlightening background to enhance your understanding of both the history and culture surrounding Mexican gastronomy.
'The Mexican Vegetarian Cookbook'
From the same author as Mexico – The Cookbook, The Mexican Vegetarian Cookbook is yet another encyclopedia of essential Mexican dishes from the Phaidon pantheon, this time entirely meatless. Lest you think this would result in a significantly smaller tome, rest assured that there are more than 400 pages of vegetarian recipes and knowledge bound between the boards of this one. And that’s not because someone got creative with natural substitutions or fake meats: Mexican cuisine was predominantly vegetarian for millennia until Europeans brought livestock to Mesoamerica in the 16th century (more on this in the insightful introduction), so there’s a wealth of meatless heritage to share.
This one’s not a purely Mexican cookbook, but isn’t it nice to mix things up a bit now and then? Mezcla, the Spanish word for “mix” or “blend,” is a collection of explosive recipes informed by three world gastronomies: Mexican, Italian, and Brazilian. After sampling some of these dishes, you may never crave pure national cuisines again, thanks to author Ixta Belfrage’s skill at blending ingredients and techniques from across borders, informed by family heritage and personal experience. Meant to inspire the creativity and pure joy that can come from cooking and eating, the book is nearly as photo-friendly as the vibrant dishes within. Recipes are conveniently divided between quick-and-easy for immediate chowing and the more time-consuming and impressive dishes often reserved for entertaining.
'Treasures of the Mexican Table'
You may already be familiar with Pati Jinich from her PBS show, Pati’s Mexican Table, three-time winner of a James Beard Award, but her ode to Mexican cuisine, Treasures of the Mexican Table, brings her favorite recipes comfortably to your own kitchen. After spending ten years drilling into the authentic recipes of her homeland, Jinich selected more than 150 essential dishes, both nationally famous and regionally specific, and diligently tested them in an American kitchen to be sure you’ll have no difficulty sourcing and preparing the ingredients and cooking them to perfection with your own equipment. Each recipe comes with a conversational intro expanding on the dish’s history, cultural use, ingredients, or preparation, often bringing the romance of travel (or at least some wanderlust) to the table, too.
'Tu Casa Mi Casa'
Continuing with television personalities you may already know, Enrique Olvera was featured in season 2 of the Netflix hit Chef’s Table and is so profoundly revered among Mexican chefs that he also represented the entire nation on Netflix’s international cooking competition, The Final Table. While Olvera’s culinary skill far outranks most of our own, the 100 recipes in his cookbook, Tu Casa Mi Casa, are intentionally sculpted for the home cook (i.e., the rest of us) to prepare gorgeous Mexican plates without decades of training and experience. Recipes span the nation, the pantry, and the day, and come complete with step-by-step photo guides when needed.
'The Mexican Home Kitchen'
There’s a reason that dining at locals’ homes is a trendy travel activity today: It isn’t just a way to make some new friends, it’s the best way to taste the true food of a destination. It’s the real, everyday food of a community, not just the top restaurant offering that most only experience on special occasions. Making a meal from The Mexican Home Kitchen may not be quite the same as a home visit, but it’s as close as you can get without crossing the border in person. Packed with the comfort foods Mexican families have been serving for generations, it’s both a hug from the homeland for those who’ve emigrated and an easy introduction to a beloved cuisine for those just starting to explore. And since every family has a picky eater or two, there are plenty of notes for simple adaptations and substitutions throughout.
Mexican cuisine may not be renowned for jaw-dropping desserts, but that doesn’t mean you should skip this course when preparing your own feast. Flan, churros, and tres leches cakes are generally fan favorites, and you can certainly bake or fry these yourself, but you’ll find plenty of these in the cookbooks above. Too often neglected in Mexican cookbooks, though, frozen treats are where Mexican dessert takes on its most intriguing expressions, and it’s not hard to understand why—Mexico gets hot! In Paletas, the queen of Mexican dessert, Fany Gerson, shares her favorite recipes for ice pops (paletas), shaved ice, and aguas frescas (generally sweet drinks typically made with fruit and water). Paletas have only been around since the 1930s, but they’re a staple of Mexican street fare today, and you owe yourself the opportunity to try some at home.
'Mexican Ice Cream'
One more from Fany Gerson to round out your Mexican cookbook experience, Mexican Ice Cream brings you a tradition that potentially dates back to the Teotihuacan (whose civilization was formed in B.C.E. years), when snow was collected from volcano tops and occasionally used to make frozen desserts for very important people (like emperors). Ice cream is common throughout Mexico today and often has a creamier consistency than American ice cream, thanks to the strong influence of Italian immigrants in the early 20th century, but it’s the vast flavor variety that will shake up your home cooking. Mexican Ice Cream offers plenty of traditional flavors, but chapters on modern ice creams, spicy and boozy flavors, and even sauces and toppings (including grasshoppers), are why you’ll find yourself coming back to this book again and again.