7 “Mexican” Dishes No One Eats In Mexico

Since the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire in the early 1500s, Mexican cuisine has referred to an amalgamation of Mesoamerican recipes with native staples such as corn, beans, tomatoes, avocados and chili peppers, with Spanish introductions – livestock, dairy products and old world herbs and spices. Los Yanquis took what they liked about this fusion and adapted it to their own taste by adding their own ingredients.

The result? More ground beef, yellow cheese, wheat flour and canned vegetables – ingredients rarely used within Mexico’s borders. Still, it didn’t stop there. Traditions and classic recipes went even further, eventually giving way to Mexican food that was widely available in the United States. The thing is, Americans also decided to make some adjustments to staple dishes like the infamous California burrito and much of the Tex-Mex cuisine, like puffy tacos and refried beans in almost every meal.

We’ve put together a list of some the most Americanized Mexican dishes that are a bit lost in translation and are never actually eaten in Mexico to this day. Keep reading and you’ll find that your local taqueria isn’t as authentic as you once thought… And for more, don’t miss 7 Hawaiian Foods No One Eats in Hawaii

1

Nachos

Nachos

Nachos

Nachos were invented in Piedras Negras, Mexico, in 1943. Does that make them authentically Mexican? Not really. This staple of a bar meal was offered by a restaurant’s maître-d after a group of women—the wives of American soldiers stationed at nearby Fort Duncan—wanted something to eat after discovering that the restaurant had already closed for the evening. All he had access to were tortillas (which he cut into triangles and fried), cheese (which he melted over the fried triangles), and pickled jalapeño peppers, which he used as a garnish. The versions you see around the world today are a far cry from this, with ground beef, pulled pork, sour cream, guacamole and an inappropriate amount of yellow cheese.

Try chilaquiles for a similar but more traditional Mexican dish. Generally served for breakfast, they are made with quartered corn tortillas, lightly fried and braised with salsa, then topped with scrambled or fried eggs. No beef, no cream and no cheese means a huge reduction in calories, and the addition of eggs provides the fat-burning nutrient choline.

2

Burrito Bowls & Taco Salads

Taco salad

Taco salad

Fast-causal chains like Chipotle and El Pollo Loco set the tone perfectly for some of the American-influenced, so-called “Mexican food” we know today. Dishes such as burrito bowls and taco salads actually contain many common Mexican ingredients, such as rice, beans, meat, salsa and guacamole, but they are not native to the country at all. The first sighting of the taco salad was in Dallas, Texas in the 1960s, Mexican food expert Gustavo Arellano reports in his column for OC weekly. Fritos founder Elmer Doolin started serving a crunchy, edible tortilla-like shell filled with ground beef, beans, sour cream, and cheese and called it the Tacup. Its creator and mastermind eventually expanded to Fritos’ Disneyland restaurant, Casa de Fritos, where the dish gained immense popularity, eventually shaping the delicious, adaptable meal we can easily pick up on a regular basis in the US today.

If you’re looking for a more authentic dining experience, try a plate of Mole with rice and beans. Mole was originally named for the pureed sauce that the chicken component of the dish is soaked in, mole poblano, which includes both chocolate and chiles to create a sweet and spicy flavor palette. You may notice that the recipe varies from restaurant to restaurant, but that’s true of most Mexican dishes across the board.

3

Fajitas

Fajitas with sour cream on the tortilla

Fajitas with sour cream on the tortilla

“Fajita” means “little bar”. Despite the name, fajitas are practically as American as apple pie. (Incidentally, apple pie was eaten in Europe for hundreds of years before the Mayflower arrived, but that’s another story.)

Fajitas were first mentioned in print in 1971. They were inspired by the ingredients of Mexico, but would have been foreign to most people living south of the Rio Grande. The tip that the dish is not muy authentico is the white flour – not corn – tortillas served alongside the meat and vegetables.

Instead of eating a fajita, try cochinita pibil if you want a meaty Mexican dish. It is a slow roasted pork entree that requires marinating the meat in lemon juice, coloring it with annatto seed, and roasting it while wrapped in a banana leaf. Similar to fajitas, cochinita pibil is accompanied by corn tortillas and side dishes such as pickled red onion, refried black beans, and habanero chiles.

RELATED: 4 Tortillas With the Lowest Quality Ingredients, According to a Dietitian

4

Chili con carne

bowl of chilli con carne

bowl of chilli con carne

“Chili with meat” is the translation, and although you may think they are Mexican dishes, this stew of ground beef, tomatoes, beans, spices, chili peppers, sour cream and cheese is 100% fugazi. It was created by Texan settlers. Is chili con carne really that bad? Provided the meat is lean, grass-fed and you don’t over-garnish it with cheese and cream, no. The version you find in restaurants and diners? Yes. Is the dish authentic Mexican? Creo Que No.

A more authentic Mexican meaty stew to try as an alternative is rebocado, a slow-cooked pork, chilli, and peppery purslane stew enjoyed with warm tortillas.

5

Burritos

smothered burrito

smothered burrito

In the US, burritos have grown out of control and grow to about the size of a newborn. Generally, they’re stretched to the confines of a tortilla with rice, veggies, beans, cheese, sour cream, and, for breakfast, eggs, sausage, and pretty much anything else you can think of. The name means ‘little donkey’ and the giant variety we know today is generally believed to have been invented in the US by miners, cowboys or farm workers of Mexican descent.

The burrito we’ve come to know isn’t authentic Mexican, but something similar exists in Mexico. They are called tacos de harina and come from provinces in the south of the country. Not only are these packages thinner and smaller than the American version, but they typically contain only two or three ingredients: a meat or seafood base, with perhaps rice, beans, white cheese, or peppers.

RELATED: The Unhealthiest Restaurant Tacos — Ranked

6

Ask

ask with fries

ask with fries

You will find Mexican food Americanized with a generous application of melted or grated cheese. But it’s not just the amount of cheese gringos add to “Mexican” food that would make aficionados of authentic Mexican cuisine say, “¿Qué diablos es eso?It’s also the type. Cheddar cheese comes from the village of Cheddar in Somerset, England. England, as you recall, is some distance from Chihuahua. The soft yellow cheese loosely derived from cheddar, which is often referred to as “queso.” could not be more different from the white, nuanced, tangy cheeses of Mexico that offset the heat of the peppers.

There are several varieties of authentic Mexican white cheese, each with its own unique flavor profile. These include queso blanco, queso Oaxaca, queso panela, añejo, chihuahua, and cotija, just to name a few. They range in taste from mild to strongly flavored and aged. For example, queso blanco has fewer calories and much less fat and cholesterol than cheddar.

RELATED: Qdoba just launched a Queso-scented candle for all you cheese lovers out there

7

Chimichangas

chimichanga

chimichanga

The year was 1922. The place Tucson, Arizona. Monica Flin, the owner of an eatery called El Charro, accidentally dropped a pastry into a deep fryer. That was the birth of the chimichanga – unless you believe Woody Johnson, who said the chimichanga was his brainchild. In 1946, he put some burritos—which you’ll remember aren’t authentic Mexican in the first place—into a deep fryer at his restaurant in Phoenix.

Whichever version you choose, you’ve no doubt noticed that Tucson and Phoenix are on the US side of the border. A healthier, more authentic dish is fish tacos with roasted tomato salsa.

A version of this story was originally published in August 2022. It has been updated with new information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *