The best Jalisco food from across the state

Traditional Jalisco Food: 43 Authentic Mexican Dishes

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Jalisco food includes a diverse array of traditional Mexican cuisine. The Jalisco State Travel Board uses the hashtag #JaliscoEsMéxico because so much of what Mexico is known for internationally is rooted in the history, traditions, and food of Jalisco.

Guadalajara is the capital of the state of Jalisco and has a wealth of both modern and traditional foods. There are 11 more regions in the state with distinct geography, agriculture, and cultural heritage.

In this article, we will travel to Puerto Vallarta and the Región Costa-Sierra Occidental. The town of Tequila is located in the Región Valles, and we all know what is famous out that way. Lake Chapala is split between the Región Surest and the Región Ciénega. And who can neglect the Altos Region famous for agriculture and beautiful people?

One of the best ways to explore traditional Jalisco food is to visit the town fairs. Every town has a festival celebrating local traditions and agriculture.

It is a generally accepted fact that Mexican food is worth traveling for. Jalisco food culture is a big part of the reason that people love visiting this country.

There are traditional foods in Jalisco that are nearly impossible to find anywhere else. A torta ahogada in Los Angeles just isn’t the same.

An Overview of The Best Jalisco Foods

This is the second version of my article on the traditional foods from Jalisco. The first draft wasn’t very good. In the last five years, I have traveled extensively through Jalisco and had the opportunity to meet some very inspirational chefs.

Jalisco has a profound culinary tradition. Many of the regional specialties are hard to find. Every year, fewer traditional cooks are preparing typical Jalisco food.

I love the fact that these recipes tell stories about off-the-beaten-path destinations. Jalisco is full of history and the food that we enjoy today is the product of human culture. There are stories of adversity, triumph, and celebration.

Maru Toledo and Fabian Delgado are two of my favorite chefs/cultural anthropologists who emphasize the lost culinary traditions. There are tortas ahogadas everywhere but we should support local businesses in the far corners of the state that don’t see as much tourism.

Visit a new town and order food that you are unfamiliar with. Jalisco is an amazing place to experience and these are just a few of their stories.

Traditional Jalisco Foods

These are edible stories about my travels throughout the marvelous state of Jalisco, Mexico. I hope you enjoy and catch the travel bug.

1. Borrego al Pastor – Rustic Barbecued Lamb

Borrego al pastor is one of the most treasured dishes to come out of conflict. It is a very simple preparation of lamb that requires little more than an animal and some wood for the fire.

In the 1920s and 1930s Mexico had a civil war that pitted the atheist president, Plutarco Elias Calles against the Catholic church and their followers.

Calles’ draconian laws restricted mass, outlawed religious celebrations, and resulted in the deaths of many Catholics by overzealous federal troops. Armed groups of country folk fought back against Federales enforcing the Calles Laws and large swaths of Mexico broke out in war.

Borrego al pastor was a dish that the Cristero soldiers would prepare while hiding from the Federales in the forests. It takes little more than a fire, a stake and an animal to feed a large group of people.

Today, borrego al pastor is usually prepared in a simple ‘oven’ made of an enclosed fire pit. A small wall, three feet tall, surrounds a fire pit reflecting the heat of the fire. The lamb is placed on a long rebar spike that goes into the ground so that the lamb is just above the flames of the fire. It is lamb cooked on an open fire.

Where to find borrego al pastor

Tapalpa was one of the first places to commercialize the traditional dish in country-style restaurants. Today, eating borrego al pastor at El Tonga Restaurante Campestre is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Tapalpa.

Tlaquepaque, in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Region, is another place that prepares a lot of borrego al pastor. El Abajeño restaurant specializes in the dish.

My favorite place to eat borrego al pastor is at the Expo Ganadera (Farm Animal Festival) in October.

2. Pescado Zarandeado – Grilled Whole Fish

Grilled whole fish in Barra de Navidad

Pescado zarandeado is a popular dish throughout much of Mexico but the regional style in the southern coast of Jalisco is worth traveling for. The fish is prepared on the grill and the origins date back to prehispanic times.

In Barra de Navidad, a pescado zarandeado is basted with a chile adobe, achiote and soy sauce mix and served with pieces of fried banana. It is delicious to eat the banana with the savory fish but even better to add lechera and finish them as dessert.

Where to eat pescado zarandeado

There are a number of excellent restaurants to eat pescado zarandeado in Puerto Vallarta but I love Barra de Navidad. It is one of the finest beaches in Jalisco with a long history and great food.

Restaurante Colimilla is located in the Laguna de Barra de Navidad and is technically in the state of Colima. However, the state line runs right through their restaurant so if you sit at the tables on the sand you will be eating pescado zarandeado in Jalisco.

3. Moles & Pipiánes

The first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions the word mole is either Puebla or Oaxaca. It should be known that moles are made throughout Mexico and have prehispanic origins. The Spanish word mole comes from the Náhuatl word molli which means ground. Many of the best moles are ground on a stone metate.

Mole is a group of sauces that is usually made with chiles and spices, and thickened with bread.

In Jalisco, almond mole is a delicious recipe from the Valles Region. In the southern part of the state near Sayula and the Colima Volcanos, they make a red mole tatemado that goes particularly well with pork.

Pipián is sometimes considered a class of mole that uses squash seeds as its base. The pipián sauce is often green because of the spices used. It can be both a simple, three-ingredient sauce or an elaborate, multiple-stage process.

Where to eat mole in Jalisco

Mole is available across the state of Jalisco and Mexico for that matter. I recommend attending an event that Maru Toledo throws at her ranch. She is working to preserve some of the most unique moles in Mexico by documenting oral tradition before it is too late.

Maru Toledo operates a ranch outside of Ahualulco de Mercado in the Valles Region of Jalisco.

Another mole that I loved is served at El Zaguan Restaurant in Etzatlán, Jalisco.

If you are looking for a gourmet experience, Xokol Restaurant in Guadalajara often makes labor-intensive moles and pipianes. They prepare many traditional Jalisco food recipes that you will love.

4. Pachola

Pachola Jalisco food from El Sacramonte Restaurant

Pacholas are seasoned ground beef patties that are often served with a light tomato sauce. Every time my wife is making hamburgers I think they look like pacholas.

Traditionally, pacholas were ground using a stone metate. Today that is a lot less common.

Where to eat pacholas

Pacholas are a very common dish to be made at home. One restaurant in Guadalajara that serves them is the iconic Sacromonte Restaurant in the Colonia Americana neighborhood.

5. Pescado & Camarón Embarazado

Pescado embarazado traditional Jalisco food

Without a doubt, pescado embarazado has to be one of the most iconic Jalisco foods on the list. Those things are addictive and one is never enough.

Puerto Vallarta is famous for its lovely beaches and there are vendors out anywhere there are lots of beachgoers.

Beach vendors bring a small ‘anafre’ style grill down to the beach and start grilling up a storm of fish and shrimp on a stick. They are basted with an adobo marinade, grilled, and sold to tourists while they are still warm. On many occasions, after tasting the first one, the tourists will head over to the grill to buy a handful of the tasty treats.

Where to eat camarones embarazados

Anywhere on the beach in Central Puerto Vallarta and along the Banderas Bay. It is less likely to see food vendors on secluded beaches.

6. Birria de Pescado

Jalisco is a very devout place. During the Catholic celebration of Lent, it is common for many people to abstain from consuming meat. Some people give up meat all lent long while many others just abstain on Fridays.

Birria de Pescado is a traditional Jalisco food typically prepared during Lent.

Historically, birria de pescado was made with fish taken out of Lake Chapala. Today, the lake is horribly polluted, and everyone I spoke with recommended avoiding the catfish and carp that come from the lake. Industrial pollution from the Río Lerma caused this dish to fall out of favor.

Where to eat birria de pescado

There is a little bit of competition between who makes a better birria de pescado: Jamay or San Luis Soyatlán. I have close friends that are from Ocotlán that swear the best birria de pescado is from Jamay, on the east side of Lake Chapala. In Jamay birria de pescado is made with catfish (bagre).

My favorite birria de chivo is from Birrieria Aceves in Mercado de Abastos. Rogelio’s family is from San Luis Soyatlán on the far west side of Lake Chapala. His family has been making birria for 85 years. When I asked him about birria de pescado he laughed at Jamay and catfish saying his dad make an amazing birria de pescado with huge carp. However, he won’t eat fish out of Lake Chapala anymore.

7. Birria de Chivo

Goat leg birria in Guadalajara Mexico

Birria is Jalisco’s solution to the overpopulation of an invasive species. Goats were introduced to the Americas by the Spanish in the 16th century and the population reproduced quickly in the new land.

The Spanish did not care for goat meat because it tends to be gamey and tough if not cooked properly. It was often food for the military and sailors because they were smaller and easier to take care of than beef.

Spanish cooks were cooking goats for hundreds of years before making it to the new world. However, it was the Native cooks who added chiles and tomatoes while slowly roasting the meat.

The entire animal is used and nothing is thrown away. A traditional birria restaurant is a great place to try new cuts of meat for the first time. The way they roast the meat for long periods makes the liver and kidneys much more mellow than I have tried in the past.

The original recipe calls for goat meat but people make birria out of just about any protein you can imagine.

Where to eat birria de chivo

I have written extensively about the top birrierias in Guadalajara and the best birria in Mexico.

Exploring the far reaches of Jalisco, birria is something that I always look for. Tepatitlá, Mazamitla, Tamazula de Gordino, Ameca, Acatlán, Sayula, and Cocula all have excellent birria.

Sometimes you will be driving down the free road and see a hand-painted sign announcing birria on Sundays. Take the invitation. A lot of these families have been making this dish for generations.

8. Tamales

A huge pot of Jalisco-style tamales

I think it is funny that I didn’t like tamales growing up in San Diego. The gringo version of tamales is all dough and not enough filling. It only took me a few months of living in Jalisco to realize the error of my ways.

Tamales are about as diverse as Mexico. They change from region to region but also from family to family.

Where to eat tamales

I recommend going to the local church to look for tamales. Here in Guadalajara, there are a couple of brick-and-mortar places that specialize in tamales but the churches are much more traditional.

9. Galletas de Nata

Nata is the milk fat that separates from the milk after boiling. It is a delicacy in the ranches and not as easy to find in the city.

Galletas de nata are rich sweet crackers or cookies that mix wheat flour with natas.

Where to eat galletas de nata

In my experience, Talpa de Allende is the best place to buy galletas de nata. I am sure you can find excellent galletas de nata all over Jalisco but Talpa is magical. We found this little factory on the road into town and fell in love with this style of cracker.

10. Frijoles Charros & Frijoles Puercos

Frijoles charros Jalisco food

Frijoles charros is the Jalisco-style of adding a pork product to the beans. Beans are served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner however there are many different variations of how they may be served.

When serving beans with at the carne asada event, it is common to add a pork product like bacon or sausage to the broth. It really kicks it up a notch.

11. La Torta Ahogada

Love it or hate it the Torta Ahogada is probably the most emblematic dish in Guadalajara. There is something about the sourdough bread, birote salado, that makes this sandwich really hard to replicate in other parts of the world.

The birote is filled with different parts of carnitas pork. That includes loin, pork belly, chicharrón prensado, and stomach (buche), among others. Jalisco-style carnitas are different from Michoacan-style carnitas in that they are usually a little dryer and have a pink coloring added.

The sandwich is garnished with shredded cabbage, pickled onions, lime, and a spicy chile de arbol at which time it is drownded in tomato sauce.

There are two different types of tomato sauces used to make torta ahogada: cooked and raw. It is a matter of personal preference but you should try both while you are in Guadalajara.

Visitors will have a hard time eating the sandwich. The first question is always, “How do I eat this?” The tomato sauce softens up the hard birote bread so that is can be broken up with a spool.

Locals prefer to eat the sandwich out of a plastic bag. They mix all the ingredients up in a bag and bite a corner off of the plastic so they can suck the sandwich out like a smoothie. This is actually the easiest way to eat a torta ahogada without getting sauce all over the place. It is a messy sandwich so be careful.

Where to eat tortas ahogadas

The real question is where can you find good birote salada bread? The torta ahogada is something that you don’t want to eat tortga ahogada

Tortas Ahogadas El Profe Jimenez

Calle Andrés Terán 841, Villaseñor, Guadalajara

Tortas Ahogadas José El de la Bicicleta 

Calle Gante 150, Las Conchas, Guadalajara

12. Tacos de Barbacoa

Tacos de Barbacoa Omar Carlos
Tacos de Barbacoa Omar Carlos

Guadalajara’s taco de barbacoa is unique. Not to be confused with the lamb dish that is typical in Hidalgo and Mexico State, the Guadalajara style barbacoa is made with stewed beef, tomatoes, and chiles.

These tacos carry a double tortilla. The inner tortilla soaks up the juice from the meat and the outer tortilla is fried crispy on the comal.

A lot of the restaurants will serve you a little cup of broth to go with your tacos. Tacos de barbacoa are exclusively served in the morning and early afternoon and I have yet to find a nighttime barbacoa joint.

Where to find tacos de barbacoa

Tacos Juan
Calle José Clemente Orozco, Santa Teresita, Guadalajara

Tacos Charlie
Av Naciones Unidas 5040, Jardines Universidad, Zapopan

Omar Carlos Restaurant
Av. Manuel Clouthier 1682, Mirador del Sol, Zapopan

Tostadas de Pata

Traditional Soups From Jalisco

As I was eating a bowl of soup in Mercado de Abastos thinking about all of the wonderful types of soup I enjoy in Jalisco. Have a look at my favorites!

13. Caldo Michi – Seafood Soup with Japanese Influence

Caldo Michi Jalisco food in San Juan de Dios Market

Caldo Michi is a Mexican fish soup that is prepared in areas around Lake Chapala and Lake Pátzcuaro. In Guadalajara, Mercado San Juan de Dios has a particularly good version with some Asian elements.

Michi comes from the Náhuatl word ‘michin’ or fish. Historically, the caldo michi was made from carp and catfish found in the highland lakes of Mexico. Lake Chapala has been polluted to such an extent that many people prefer not to eat the fish from those waters.

Where to eat caldo michi

There is a small town on the Jalisco/Michoacan border called San Antonio de Rivas that has a very good version. Hacienda San Antonio Restaurant is just a few mintues outside of La Barca, Jalisco, and has a great caldo michi. This was a recommendation by Lalo Villar of La Ruta de la Garnacha.

San Juan de Dios Market in Guadalajara has several vendors specializing in caldo michi. Make a loop of the second-floor food court in San Juan de Dios. Look for the food stall selling caldo michi with the most people. Most likely it will be Caldo Michi Javier. The place is excellent.

14. Coaxala

Coaxala from Tuxpan Jalisco food

Coaxala is a prehispanic dish made with liquified corn masa, chicken, chiles, and tomatillos. It is the same nixtamal corn masa that is used to make tortillas and a myriad of other dishes.

Traditionally, this simple dish was served at festivals and special events. The earliest preparations were made with wild turkeys.

Where to find Coaxala

In front of the railroad station in Tuxpan, Jalisco is famous restaurant that sells coaxala all year.

15. Pozole

Pozole at La Morenita del Santuario, Guadalajara
Pozole at La Morenita del Santuario

Pozole is a favorite traditional soup not just in Guadalajara but all across Mexico. There are a number of regional styles or colors, but what remains constant is the large-grain corn cacahuazintle (hominy) and pork.

In Guadalajara, most of the pozole is white or red depending on the types and quantity of chiles that are used to flavor the broth.

The corn is treated with an alkaline solution that breaks down the cellular membrane of the corn and makes it easier to digest and tasty! Accompanied by various cuts of pork, lettuce, onion, lime, and a spice chile de arbol sauce.

Found in markets, cenadurias (traditional restaurants), street side food stalls, and on special occasions, you should try pozole in a couple of different places to find your favorite.

Where to find pozole in Jalisco

Cenaduría Doña Guille
Calle Jaime Nunó 1032, Mezquitan Country, Guadalajara

La Morenita del Santuario Centro
Calle Pedro Loza 527, Zona Centro, Guadalajara


16. Pozolillo

Jalisco-style Pozolillo

Pozolillo is a style of corn soup that is more local to the state of Jalisco and isn’t seen in restaurants often. It is often a homemade soup that is easier to make than pozole.

Rather than using large-grain cacahuazintle corn that has been cooked in a lime solution, pozolillo uses standard corn. The broth is made from chicken and tomate verde (tomatillo).

Where to try pozolillo

This is a dish that I eat with my mother-in-law. She makes for my family in the United States every time we are there. It is simple and delicious.

If you don’t have a Mexican mother-in-law, try visiting Las Flautas. There are locations in both Mexico City and Guadalajara. I often order pozolillo at the Las Flautas location in Chapalita .

17. Menudo

Menudo is something that most people in the United States are not accustomed to eating but that you should definitely try. It is a soup that is made out of beef stomach and chiles.

The most common cuts of tripe are honeycomb and trotters. If you are not sure about the cuts of meat then try just a broth and doctor it up with oregano, onion, lime, and some spicy chiles.

Menudo has a reputation as a hangover cure.

Where to find great menudo

I have a whole section on menudo on my best breakfasts in Guadalajara article. Menudo restaurants are a great place to explore the traditional foods of Jalisco.

Menuderia Chela
Calle 2 4-202, Comercial Abastos, Guadalajara

Menuderia y Carnes Asadas Alfonso
Calle 2 4, Comercial Abastos, Guadalajara

Menuderia La Familia Doña José
Av. Xochitl 4593, Prados Tepeyac, Zapopan

18. Carne en su Jugo

Carne en Su Jugo, Kamilo's 333, Guadalajara, Jalisco
Carne en Su Jugo, Kamilo’s 333

Beef, bacon, and bean soup that’s surprisingly good. There are three of the local favorites all on the same block of Calle Garibaldi in the Santa Teresita neighborhood.

Karne Garibaldi has a world record for fast service and feels a little more corporate. Kamilos 333 has a rustic Mexican vibe going on with a huge parking lot out back.

De la Torre feels a little more home-style. They are all excellent representations of the style.

Where to find carne en su jugo

Kamilos 333
Calle José Clemente Orozco 333, Santa Teresita, Guadalajara

Karne Garibaldi
Calle Garibaldi 1306, Santa Teresita, Guadalajara

De La Torre
Calle Garibaldi 1347, Santa Teresita, Guadalajara

19. Crispy Fried Tripe in Tomato Broth

Crispy fried trips Jalisco-style

Tripe is one of my favorite kinds of Jalisco food. It isn’t something that you see often because it requires a lot of work to clean before it can be cooked.

In Argentina, this kind of crispy fried tripe is called chinchulines. In Mexico, they are often served in tacos. Jalisco has the tendency to serve them in a bowl of tomato broth much like the torta ahogada.

Jalisco food is often served with lots of sauce. This is another example of a dish that is common across Mexico that has been adapted to the local market.

Where to eat crispy fried tripe

Tripitas Don Ramón is a destination. People come from all over Guadalajara and Jalisco to eat here. The last time I ate there I published a picture on Instagram and one of my favorite chefs responded by saying that it is a local treasure.

Another one of my favorite food bloggers recently published a list of the top 10 best tacos de tripa in Guadalajara. I’ve only been to a few but if you want to get a taco hit me up.

Best Traditional Jalisco Drinks

There are a number of distinctive beverages that you will want to try while visiting the area.

20. Pajaretes

Pajaretes are a traditional Jalisco beverage made from raw milk, and alcohol, and flavored with the likes of chocolate, coffee, sugar, or cinnamon.

This is one of the prime examples of ranching culture in the state of Jalisco. In order to safely drink pajaretes, you need to be close to farm animals. They are usually made with cow’s milk but goat’s milk is often substituted depending on what the farm raises.

It is important to be careful when drinking unpasteurized milk because it can go bad quickly and the alcohol is often adulterated. In 2020, the local media called pajaretes “bebida de la muerte” because 25 people died from drinking them.

Where to find pajaretes in Jalisco

It is estimated that there are 100,000 small farms in Jalisco that sell pajaretes. Considering the quality issues of raw milk and cane alcohol, I would recommend looking for a respectable establishment.

In Tlaquepaque, every year at the farm animal festival there are pajaretes prepared every morning. These are the healthiest animals in the state of Jalisco surrounded by professional ranchers and veteranians.

Additionally, I loved the pajaretes in Tapalpa. We stayed at a ranch called Hípico Diamante that prepares pajaretes every morning for their guests. Besides having some beautiful animals, there are no worries about serving contaminated alcohol. It is a wealthy resort. They aren’t going to try and save a few bucks by buying bootlegged liquor.

21. Tejuino con Nieve de Limón

Tejuino is the bomb. It is a lightly fermented corn drink that is usually served with a scoop of lemon ice. Nixtamal corn masa is mixed with water and piloncillo sugar and left to ferment for about a week.

The resulting beverage is not alcoholic but it is not uncommon for people to prepare a tejuino with a beer or even a shot of tequila.

Where to find tejuino

The tejuino carts are seen all over the city especially in the summer months before the rain.

Do not hesitate to stop the tejuino man and get a cup of that sweet corn beverage. You won’t be disappointed.

22. Tuba – Fermented Coconut Palm Juice

Tuba is a beverage that is most often identified with the state of Colima but is very popular in coastal Jalisco as well. It originates in the Philippines but so do the coconut palms that are prolific in Mexico.

The beverage is essentially the sab of the coconut palm. At the top of a mature palm, the flow bud is cut and tied to a recipient where the sap is collected.

Tuba can be consumed fresh or lightly fermented. It is served with ample ice and garnished with peanuts.

Where to find tuba

The best place to find tuba is on the Camellon de la Tuba in Colima. In Jalisco, tuberos (tuba salespeople) can be found on the boardwalk. They are dressed in traditional campesino white linen clothing with a large gourd used to store the beverage.

23. Cantaritos and Cazuelas

Wherever you find distilled agave spirits you are going to find cantaritos and cazuelas. These are iconic mixed drinks from Jalisco that usually use tequila but can easily substitute a raicilla or a mezcal depending on where you are.

The recipe calls for fresh lime, orange, and grapefruit juice mixed with Squirt and a little bit of salt.

A cantaro is a clay jar that was commonly used to hold the water in a kitchen. In the old days, the water had to be boiled to make it safe for human consumption. A cantarito is a play on that clay water jug, but this one is filled with a cocktail.

Feel free to order one without alcohol. They are great no matter what!

Where to find the best cantaritos

Unfortunately, there are a lot of horrible cantaritos in Tequila, Jalisco. The main plaza is full of tourist traps selling tequila and soda, and calling it a cantarito.

Do yourself a favor and head to Cantaritos el Guero in Amatitan. They are just 10 minutes down the road from the main plaza in Tequila and recognized as the best option in the region.

 24. Atole and Champurrado

Atole

During the cold months in Mexico is is common to see both atole and champurrado for sale. They are nutritious, versatile, and delicious hot beverages. However, it is important to choose a vendor that is selling a natural version that is made with the traditional process. The industrial version is filled with sweeteners, artificial coloring, and artificial flavors.

The history of atole goes back more than ten thousand years to the earliest domestication of corn.

Atole is the nixtamal corn masa that is mixed with water and turned into a beverage. It is served think and piping hot. It is often flavored with fruit and spices. We love guava champurrado during Christmas time.

Champurrado is one of the many classes of atole. It takes atole as a base and flavors it with chocolate.

Where to find atole and champurrado

Atole and champurrado are often found at street vendors that sell tamales. I recommend looking for atole outside of a popular church.

25. Rompope

Rompope

Rompope is like a Mexican eggnog that is a favorite around Christmas time. It is an alcoholic beverage made out of emulsified egg yolks and cream.

The most common flavor is vanilla but you can find a variety of different flavors. The best rompopes are found in the pueblos surrounding Guadalajara where they have the best ingredients.

26. Sangrita

Sangrita is a traditional chaser for tequila in the Lake Chapala region of Jalisco. Some people compare sangrita to a bloody mary mix but there is no horseradish in sangrita and it is sipped after the tequila, not mixed with tequila.

I worked at a bar in Guadalajara that made their own sangrita. There are tons of different variations but this is the version that I like the best.

At the bar, I was usually mixing up several one-liter containers of sangrita. I would start by mixing about 2/3 tomato juice with 1/3 orange juice.

Guadalajara has a special type of bitter orange called a naranja agria. The streets are lined with these trees. If you are using sweet oranges from the markets, I would also add some lime juice to your mix. If you are using naranja agria, no lime is needed.

Add:

  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Tobasco to taste
  • Salsas negras (Jugo Maggi and English Worcester Sauce)

Shake, refrigerate, and serve in a shot glass next to a tequila. Some people at the restaurant would ask for a banderita of shots of tequila, sangrita, and lime juice.

Distilled Agave Spirits From Jalisco

Just about everyone is familiar with tequila and the blue agave but what most people don’t realize is that this is just a tiny sample of the agaves that are used to make distilled spirits.

Jalisco is famous for agave fields but most people only try one kind of agave that usually goes through an industrial process of fermentation and distillation.

27. Mezcal

There are several ways to define mezcal. Today, there is a legal definition with an appellation of origin and intellectual property rights.

Etymologically, the word ‘mezcal’ comes from the Náhuatl word for cooked agave.

Today, most experts consider mezcal to be a parent category including all agave spirits made in Mexico.

Where to try mezcal and other agave spirits

If you are interested in learning more about the cultural significance of the agave plant and all of its distilled products, I highly recommend visiting Pedro Jimenez in Mezonte. Pedro gives guided tours and classes about the culture of distilled agave spirits. He is one of the foremost experts in this part of Mexico.

Mezonte. Destilados Mexicanos de Agave
Calle Argentina 299, Americana, Guadalajara

28. Raicilla

The communities around Mascota, San Sebastián del Oeste, and El Tuito have been making raicilla for centuries. A blend of wild agaves is harvested from the mountains, and using an ancestral process turned into a distilled spirit.

29. Tequila

Fortaleza Tequila tasting

Tequila is a class of mezcal that originates from Jalisco. Historically, it was called vino de mezcal or mezcal de Tequila.

Over the years, tequila developed a unique style for the process and ingredients. Steam ovens became more common than pit ovens. The Weber blue agave was the favored sugar that grew prolifically in the region.

It wasn’t until recently that a regulatory council started to use trademark protection to keep cheap foreign imports from using the name “tequila” on spirits that had nothing to do with Mexico or Jalisco.

Today, there are strict regulations on who can use the name tequila and how that spirit may be made and where it may be made.

There are still a lot of styles of tequila. They just need to be approved by the Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT).

Where to drink tequila

The best place to drink tequila is at an artisanal distillery. There are dozens of great tequila tours from Guadalajara. If you have a car, the tours of the Tequila Valley are even better.


Typical Candies & Jalisco Desserts Food

Considering the ecological diversity in the state of Jalisco it seems like every town has its own unique candy. Candy is made out of a number of plants that are incredibly bitter or sour before adding sugar.

The typical candies from Jalisco, while still packed with sugar, tend to be less industrially processed than the candies in the United States. There is more fruit and nuts than the candies that I grew up eating.

30. Jericalla

Jericalla de Guadalajara
Jericalla de Guadalajara

It’s a Mexican creme brulee. There is a cool story about a nun from Jerica, Spain what would make this dessert for the orphans in the Hospicio Cabañas in the 19th century. Don’t worry about the burnt top, that is exactly how they are supposed to look. In fact, the more burnt the better.

31. Nieves de Garrafa

Nieves de Garafa Chapalita
Nieves de Garafa Chapalita

There is a ton of great ice cream in Guadalajara but one particular place stands out. Nieves de Garrafa Chapalita has a little different style than the rest.

They serve both milk and water-based nieves but they are using an old-fashioned production style that employs rock salt and blocks of ice.

The temperature of the ice cream is not as cold as if it were held in a freezer which makes the texture a lot softer. This place is a local favorite!

Where to find nieves de garrafa

Nieves de Garrafa Chapalita
Tepeyac 1207, Chapalita, Zapopan


32. Churros and Hot Chocolate

Churros are another Guadalajara favorite that can be found all over Latin America and Spain. There is something special about restaurants that have been around for years, spanning generations.

La Bombilla is one of those special restaurants and if you don’t believe me, you should believe Guillermo Del Toro. He often visits Churros La Bombilla when he comes to visit.

Where to find churros in Jalisco

Churros La Bombilla
Calle López Cotilla 751, Moderna, Guadalajara


33. Buñuelos

The buñuelo is a tradition that dates back to the Spanish era. In fact, you can still find buñuelos in the South of Spain.

Essentially the buñuelo is a fried wheet flour dough with an orange or guava glaze. Some of them are hand stretched and some are cut into intricate shapes before being fried.

Look for the street vendors selling buñuelos around Christmas time. They can tell you some awesome stories about the old days.

Where to find buñuelos in Jalisco

In Guadalajara, buñuelos have been sold in front of the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe for centuries.


34. Roll de Guayaba

Roll de Guayaba
Roll de Guayaba

The Guava Roll is my favorite candy typical of the region. It is a super sweet Mexican fruit roll-up that is stuffed with a coconut cream sauce.

Not all of the guava rolls have the coconut cream filling but you should ask for the ones that do. There are guava trees all over Guadalajara and when the fruit is in season the entire town smells like guava candy.

Where to find roll de guayaba

Mercado de Abastos in Guadalajara is a great place to buy roll de guayaba. If you happen to be in Talpa de Allende, you can visit the factories.


35. Dulce de Leche: Cajeta Quemada

The regional version of Dulce de Leche is made in Sayula, Jalisco with unpasteurized cow’s milk and lots of sugar. The dessert is sold in a distinct wooden package that you break apart to use as a spoon.

36. Fruta Cristalizadas

Fruta cristalizada is a unique way to candy fruit that is used almost exclusively in Mexico. The preparaation is different from European-style candied fruit.

Much like the nixtamal process for making tortillas, fruta cristalizada employs the use of an alkaline lime solution to break down the cellular walls of the fruit. This allows the sugar to be more thoroughly incorporated into the fruit.

Where to find fruta cristalizada

Fruta cristalizada can be found in all corners of Mexico. In Jalisco, the town of Jalostotitlán has a particularly profound tradition of making this kind of candy.

37. Ate de Membrillo

There are dozens of different types of ate but in Jalsico, the ate de membrillo is one of the most popular.

Ate reminds me of a fruit roll up in a different shape. The fruit is boiled with sugar, pureed, and shaped into molds.

Membrillo is a quince fruit which is much like a pear. They are originally from the area around Iran, Armenia, and Turkey but were brought to Mexico during the Columbus exchange.

Try the ate de membrillo because it is the local specialty but buy a bar of the guava ate too. I am crazy about guava. My parents took me to Hawaii when I was a kid and I still remember that first glass of guava juice.

38. Raspados

Raspados Moron, Guadalajara
Raspados Moron, Guadalajara

This is the Mexican version of shaved ice. Sugary sweet fruit syrups are mixed with ice that is shaved off of a huge block.

Where to find raspados

Raspados Moran
Av. Manuel Acuña, Providencia, Guadalajara

Raspados Jalisco
Calz. Independencia 137, Zona Centro, Guadalajara

Important Ingredients From Jalisco

39. Birote Salada

The birote salada is a type of bread that is similar to a baguette in shape but it has a crunchy exterior texture. The taste is salty because of the salinity of the local water and the altitude of the metropolitan region.

The dough is left to ferment for one day making it a sour dough class of bread. The birote is perfect for tortas ahogadas because the crispy exterior holds up to the salsa that it is bathed in.

Birote salado is also used to make lonches like the famous Lonches Amparitos in Downtown Guadalajara.

Where to try birote saldo

Anywhere they are selling tortas ahogadas will have a good birote salado.

In Downtown Guadalajara, across the street from the Central Vieja, there is a street stand famous for selling traditional local bread including the birote salado.

In the Santa Tere neighborhood, there are a bunch of biroterías selling freshly baked bread. Birotería Gomez is a great option for bread and agua fresca.

40. Quelites

Quelites are an important class of ingredients that date back to the period of original history. For thousands of years, quelites were complementary herbs that grew in the cornfield.

Some people estimate that are around 500 species of edible quelites. In English, wi might call quelites bitter greens and they include things like verdolagas, chaya, pápalo, epazote, quintonil, and hoja santa.

Quelites typically have a high nutritional content but were considered to be poop people’s food. Today, there is a resurgence in the appreciation of these ingredients for their flavor and cultural value.

Where to try quelites

Xokol Restaurants in Guadalajara is one of the best places to try quelites. They have a wonderful selection of heirloom varietal Jalisco food that is prepared in a fine dining atmosphere.

Chef Fabian Delgado of palReal usually has some quelites on his menu as well. The quelite taco is a great place to start.

41. Pitaya

The pitaya marks the change of the seasons in Jalisco. It is an incredibly delicate cactus fruit that only ripens in the hottest months of springtime before the rains start.

Pitaya vendors start to show up in Guadalajara around April with baskets of the sweet multicolored fruit. It is a very labor-intensive process to remove all the spines from the fruit. they look like sea urchins just covered in spines.

During the season, ice cream shops make popsicles, agua fresca, and ice cream out of the pitayas. Traditional cantinas make pitaya cocktails. I can easily put down a bag of ten large pitayas and want more. It is one of my favorite seasonal fruits in Jalisco.

Pitaya season comes to an end with the first rain. The cactus is like a sponge and the fruit swells with water making them tasteless after the rains. It is a short but sweat season.

Where to find pitaya in Jalisco

The capital of pitaya production is in Amacueca, Jalisco which is on the road to Tapalpa. They have a pitaya eating contest and a pitaya festival.

In Guadalajara, the pitaya vendors set up shop in the Plaza de las 9 Esquinas.

42. Chile Yahualica

Chile Yaualica is a special type of chile that originates in the north of Jalisco. It is a chile that has been spread across the world but retains a unique flavor in its home. Some of the finest salsas in Mexico are made with chile Yahualica.

43. Charales – Tiny Lake Fish

Locally known as charal or charales, chirostoma is a genus of small fish from the Lerma River basin in Mexico which includes Lake Chapala and Lake Pátzcuaro.

They are caught in fine nets that could be considered a type of folkloric art. The charales are laid out to dry until they become crispy. They are served with chile and lime and eaten as a snack.

Where to find charales

Charales are sold along the banks of Lake Chapala, specifically in the town of Chapala and Ajijic. They can be found in Guadalajara but they are usually better when they are close to the source.

Lake Pátzcuaro in Michoacán is another place where charales are traditionally eaten.

Final Thoughts On Traditional Jalisco Food

I think that Jalisco is the most underground food destination in Mexico. Lots of people have eaten fish in Puerto Vallarta. Fewer people have tasted the moles of the Valles Region or the birria de pescado in Jamay.

Jalisco food is as diverse as the state is. The unique ecosystems support different types of agriculture which give rise to different regional dishes.

In June of 2023, three more towns in Jalisco were designated as pueblos mágicos by the National Tourism Board. The pueblos mágico in Jalisco are a great place to start exploring the culinary traditions of the region. There are some fantastic experiences.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and learned something new about the wonderful state of Jalisco. See you next time.

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