37 Cinco De Mayo Recipes To Boost Your Celebration

Cinco de Mayo is similar to St. Patrick's Day in that it's not nearly as big a deal in its native land as it is here in the U.S. Contrary to popular belief, this holiday isn't Mexicos Independence Day (this takes place on September 16), but instead commemorates a Mexican victory over France in the Battle of Puebla. While the battle was won, the war was lost – a second, less-celebrated Battle of Puebla took place the following year, and this rematch found the French victorious.

Even if Cinco de Mayo isn't a major Mexican holiday, it's been adopted as a day when those of us north of the Rio Grande celebrate our southern neighbor. A highlight of any such celebration, of course, is to acknowledge the delicious influence that Mexico has had on our food. So all-pervasive has this influence been over the past century, in fact, that sometimes it's hard for us to tell where authentic Mexican cuisine ends and Tex-Mex (or, in the case of sopapillas, New Mex-Mex) takes over. While we've tried to choose recipes that actually have origins in Mexico as opposed to the U.S., we can't guarantee absolute authenticity in every case. What we can promise, however, is that each and every dish on this list is ¡muy sabroso!

1. Tres Leches Cake

Every party, no matter how small, needs one thing: cake! There are some who'd argue that booze is the only true party essential, but we beg to differ since cake is something that can be enjoyed by young and old as well as people who plan to operate motor vehicles. For a Cinco de Mayo celebration, you can't do better than a Mexican-style tres leches cake. If you like, you can even top the whipped cream frosting with sliced strawberries and green-colored sugar to dress your dessert in the colors of the Mexican flag.

Recipe: Tres Leches Cake Recipe

2. Classic Mexican Corn Tortillas

Many a Mexican recipe starts off with corn tortillas, the fresher the better. If you live near a Mexican market you may be able to get tortillas that have been made the very same day, but another way to ensure freshness is to make them yourself. Impossible, you say? Not at all, as long as you have some masa harina, water, and salt. While your tortillas may not be as symmetrical as the store-bought kind, they'll have a rustic charm all their own and you'll feel quite a sense of accomplishment from making them.

Recipe: Classic Mexican Corn Tortillas

3. Homemade Tortilla Chips

Even if you're not quite up to making your own tortillas, you can always take a few baby steps in that direction with these DIY chips, instead. All you need to do is to take a package of store-bought tortillas and coat them with a thin layer of oil. (While this recipe calls for avocado or coconut oil, you can actually use any cooking oil you have on hand.) Cut the tortillas in wedges, salt them, bake them, then put them to use for dipping and other chip-like things. You could even make this recipe with flour tortillas in place of corn ones and swap out the salt for sugar. This way, you'd have sweet chips perfect for dessert nachos or dipping in chocolate sauce or honey.

Recipe: Homemade Tortilla Chips

4. 30-Minute Chilaquiles

If you get overly enthusiastic about chip-making and wind up with a surplus, you can always use them up in a delightful breakfast dish called chilaquiles. Toss the chips in warm salsa, then top them with fried eggs and pile on sliced avocados, cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, pico de gallo, or similar toppings. While this recipe does start off with the homemade kind of chips, you can always make it with store-bought ones as a shortcut.

Recipe: 30-Minute Chilaquiles

5. Quick And Easy Guacamole

So ubiquitous is guacamole at Tex-Mex restaurants that it almost seems as if it might be an American invention. As it turns out, though, everyone's favorite chip dip dates back to the Aztecs who called their avocado sauce ahuaca-mulli. The pre-Columbian version of the dish contained little more than avocados, tomatoes, onions, and cilantro, and those very same ingredients are in our recipe, as well. We've also added a little lime juice and salt, though, to bring it more in alignment with 21st-century tastebuds.

Recipe: Quick And Easy Guacamole

6. Best Michelada

If you'd like to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with an adult beverage, you could go super-simple with a Mexican beer, but if you have a few minutes to spend and the necessary ingredients on hand, we'd suggest upgrading to a Michelada, instead. This drink is basically a beery Mary as it's made by mixing beer with tomato juice, lime juice, hot sauce, and other seasonings. Here we're even adding a Tajin rim to the glass to make for a tasty decoration.

Recipe: Best Michelada

7. Easy Horchata

Should you prefer a non-alcoholic Cinco de Mayo libation, horchata is a lovely Mexican drink made from rice and almonds. While this might sound a bit unusual to the uninitiated, anyone who's tried it will tell you this rich, sweet beverage tastes like the best rice pudding you've ever had. No need to miss out on this treat even if you're lactose-intolerant or dairy-free, as you can still enjoy it by swapping out the milk for a plant-based version (almond or coconut would work particularly well).

Recipe: Easy Horchata

8. Slow Cooker Al Pastor

If you know a few words of Spanish, you may be aware that "al pastor" translates to "shepherd-style," but these trendy tacos are made with pork. What gives? Shouldn't they be called "al porquero," instead? Well, probably, but the name pays homage to the way Lebanese immigrants in Mexico spit-roasted lamb, which served as the inspiration for al pastor. That's right, this Mexican-slash-Middle Eastern mashup was an early classic of fusion cuisine, one that dates back to the '30s. Wherever it comes from, we know exactly where it's going: Over the lips and past the gums, look out stomach, here it comes!

Recipe: Slow Cooker Al Pastor

9. Authentic Mexican Shrimp Ceviche

When we think raw fish, we generally picture a Japanese dish like sushi, but ceviche is a Latin-American version that's equally delicious in an entirely different way. Ceviche, unlike sushi, isn't exactly raw, though, as instead the fish – or, in this case, shrimp – is pickled in something acidic like lime juice. Yes, it's completely safe to eat, since the acid essentially "cooks" the seafood. Here we're dressing up our ceviche Mexican style with onions, tomatoes, jalapeños, and cilantro. Open a bag of chips for dipping and you'll have a perfect party dish.

Recipe: Authentic Mexican Shrimp Ceviche

10. Colorful Pan Dulce Conchas Cupcakes

We'll start off by admitting that these pan dulce conchas are a bit labor-intensive due to the fact that, unlike typical cupcakes, they're made with yeast dough. They're also not nearly as sweet as you might expect – far more concha than cupcake, this recipe actually makes mini sweet breads that are baked in a muffin pan. Even if you don't find these conchas to be sufficiently dessert-like for party purposes, they can make for a visually stunning side dish.

Recipe: Colorful Pan Dulce Conchas Cupcakes

11. Classic Margarita Cocktail

Is the margarita a Mexican cocktail, or isn't it? We don't know for sure, as there are competing origin stories that take place on either side of the border. Still, whether it was first created in Tijuana or Texas, this drink is a staple at Cinco De Mayo celebrations all over the U.S. so we'd be remiss to leave it off our list. This recipe is for a somewhat sweeter version than the original cocktail since it adds agave nectar to the classic 3-ingredient blend of tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice. If you have no agave nectar on hand but you like a sweeter 'rita, you can use simple syrup instead, or you can just go old-school and leave out the sweetener.

Recipe: Classic Margarita Cocktail

12. Carne Asada

While a lot of Mexican (or Mexican-ish) recipes call for ground beef, a special Cinco de Mayo meal for a very small gathering or solo celebration deserves steak, instead. While you could certainly use this carne asada to make tacos or burritos, you may also want to enjoy the juicy beef on its own with a side of beans and rice and perhaps just a dab of pico de gallo.

Recipe: Carne Asada

13. Authentic Mexican Red Rice

What gives Mexican rice its reddish color? No big surprise: It's tomatoes. This recipe actually gets a triple dose of tomatoey goodness from diced tomatoes, tomato broth, and a tomato-flavored bouillon called caldo de tomate. Where you live might impact whether the last-named ingredient is easy to come by, but if you can't find it where you shop, you could certainly substitute chicken, beef, or vegetable bouillon, instead.

Recipe: Authentic Mexican Red Rice

14. Fast Mexican Black Beans

As long as you have canned black beans on hand, you'll always be able to whip up a quick and tasty side dish for a Mexican meal. Here we're doctoring up the canned beans with sauteed onions and garlic, then seasoning them with chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika. A spoonful of tomato paste brings some extra flavor as well, while chopped cilantro adds contrasting color. You could also squeeze in some fresh lime juice as its citrusy tang pairs perfectly with black beans.

Recipe: Fast Mexican Black Beans

15. Classic Pico De Gallo

Pico de gallo is a condiment of many names as it is also known as salsa fresca and salsa cruda. The latter two names refer to the fact that the ingredients for this salsa are not cooked, but the first term actually translates to "rooster's beak." There are various theories as to how this name came to be – there are those who feel that the bits of tomato and pepper look somewhat like chicken feed, while others think that serrano peppers (which are often used instead of the jalapeño called for here) resemble this part of a chicken's anatomy. However pico de gallo earned its moniker, this thick and chunky salsa makes a great topping for meat, rice, and beans.

Recipe: Classic Pico De Gallo Recipe

16. Air Fryer Tortilla Chips

Of course one of the best ways to put your homemade pico de gallo to use is as a chip dip. No chips on hand? As long as you have tortillas and an air fryer, you can always make your own. Cut the tortillas up into chip-shaped wedges, give them a light coating of oil and salt, then air fry away until they get nice and crispy. This might take between 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how thick your tortillas are, but check on the chips often to make sure that they don't burn.

Recipe: Air Fryer Tortilla Chips

17. Easy Arroz Con Leche

Arroz con leche is Spanish for "rice with milk," but what it really is, is rice pudding. Our recipe makes for an especially sweet, rich, and creamy version of the dish as it's made with sweetened condensed milk in addition to whole milk. While the pudding shown here is topped with a simple sprinkling of cinnamon, for a special occasion like Cinco de Mayo you could top it off with whipped cream, nuts, and/or sliced berries to give it a more festive appearance.

Recipe: Easy Arroz Con Leche

18. 5-Ingredient Mexican Street Corn

Street corn, aka elote, is so trendy that elote-flavored this, that, and the other thing are popping up at grocery stores such as Aldi and Trader Joe's. Rather than serving something elote-flavored for Cinco de Mayo, though, why not go with the real deal? If fresh corn is in season where you live, all the better. But if not, you can make this recipe with frozen corn on the cob instead. Cook the corn any way you like (you don't have to grill it unless you want to), then slather it with butter, mayonnaise, cheese crumbles, and seasonings. If you're feeling really crazy, you could even coat it with crushed Takis.

Recipe: 5-Ingredient Mexican Street Corn

19. Caldo De Pollo (Mexican Chicken Soup)

Will caldo de pollo do as much good for the common cold as the more basic type of chicken soup is reputed to do? We don't know if it will make for a better cure, but the jalapeno peppers will help to wake up your taste buds. Plus there's lime juice bringing some much-needed vitamin C. Even if you're in perfect health, this soup is tasty enough to feature in your Cinco de Mayo celebration. Serve it as an appetizer for a multi-course meal, or pair it with a salad for something light.

Recipe: Caldo De Pollo (Mexican Chicken Soup)

20. Easy Quesadillas

We need to start off with a disclaimer here – this recipe, while it makes pretty amazing quesadillas, is not nearly as easy as the name might imply. The simplest quesadillas, after all, consist of nothing more than store-bought tortillas filled with shredded cheese. Here, however, we're actually making flour tortillas from scratch, then filling them with carnitas. Still, if you're willing to put in the time and effort, these made-from-scratch quesadillas will make for a pretty impressive Cindo de Mayo appetizer. Overachievers take note: you'll get bonus points if the carnitas and pico de gallo are homemade, too (scroll up for recipes).

Recipe: Easy Quesadillas

21. Sweet And Spicy Mangonadas

So popular is the mangonada here in the U.S. that this spicy Mexican smoothie has made the transition from being a taco truck specialty to a featured menu item at chains like Baskin-Robbins and Dutch Bros. It's pretty easy to make at home, though, and if you use frozen mango chunks, you won't even have to wrestle with preparing this often hard-to-peel fruit. Sweeten the mango puree to taste with sugar or honey, then add some lime juice and chamoy. Finish things off with a sprinkling of Tajin, then lift a glass of this brightly-colored beverage in a toast to Cinco de Mayo.

Recipe: Sweet And Spicy Mangonadas

22. Frozen Margarita Cocktail

If you prefer a boozier frozen libation, there's always the frozen margarita. Sure, the drink was actually invented in Texas, but the cocktail is a Tex-Mex classic that features prominently in many north-of-the-border Cinco de Mayo celebrations. This particular recipe is made with the standard tequila-triple sec-lime juice trio, although it also includes agave syrup for extra sweetness. Sugar will work if you don't have the stuff, though, or you can simply omit the added sweetener since the triple sec helps to sweeten the drink.

Recipe: Frozen Margarita Cocktail

23. Authentic Mexican Tamales

Tamales are a Christmas must-have for some families with Mexican roots, but they also appear on other holidays, as well. The reason the dish may be more of a special occasion food than an everyday one is that it does take some time to make. Still, this recipe breaks down every step for you from preparing the masa dough to cooking the ancho chile-spiced pork filling to filling the cork husks and steaming the tamales. You'll need to set aside about half a day to make the tamales. But think of how proud you'll feel when you serve up this super-authentic dish for your Cinco de Mayo dinner.

Recipe: Authentic Mexican Tamales

24. Healthy Guacamole With Pomegranate Seeds

The colors of the Mexican flag are red, white, and green, and coincidentally (or not), so is this delightfully different spin on guacamole. The green is from the mashed avocados, of course, but here the vibrant red color comes not from tomatoes but from chopped red onion and pomegranate arils. As for the white, that comes from queso fresco crumbled over the top. If you can't find this type of cheese, though, feta makes a pretty good substitute.

Recipe: Healthy Guacamole With Pomegranate Seeds

25. Corn In A Cup (Elote En Vaso)

Elote in its on-the-cob form is fun to eat but does tend to be somewhat messy. Elote en vaso, however, is something you need not fear to dish up at an indoor gathering even if you have light-colored carpeting. Vaso, you see, means cup, although you'll probably want to serve this corn salad in bowls, instead. Doing so means that you can go as wild as you wish with mayo, sour cream, cheese, and hot sauce, and maybe even add a few extras like bacon bits, green onions, and crushed Flamin' Hot Cheetos. Pile the toppings on as you please, since there's no need to worry about them sticking to the corn.

Recipe: Corn In A Cup (Elote En Vaso)

26. Barbacoa

While barbecue has Caribbean roots, it seems that the dish made a pitstop in Mexico before arriving in the U.S. The Mexican version is called barbacoa, and in order to cook it in the truly authentic style, you'll need to dig a large pit, then toss in a whole pig, goat, or cow wrapped in leaves. If you think your HOA might frown on such activity, though, or you don't even have a yard in which to dig, then you might prefer our oven-braised version made with store-bought beef.

Recipe: Barbacoa

27. Classic Paloma Cocktail

What's the national cocktail of Mexico? If you guessed the margarita, try again. It's not even the michelada but is instead a far simpler drink called the Paloma. To make this Mexican summer refresher, all you really need to do is to open a grapefruit soda and add a shot of tequila. Here, however, we're making a fancier version with grapefruit juice and seltzer and dressing it up with a salted rim and a citrus wedge garnish.

Recipe: Classic Paloma Cocktail

28. 5-Ingredient Copycat Taco Bell Bean Burritos

While it may be hard to believe that the words "Taco Bell" and "authentic" could ever belong in the same sentence, it's actually not all that far-fetched. Many fast-food burritos these days are Mission-style Chipotle-esque monsters that bear little resemblance to the Mexican version of the dish, but this copycat version of a Taco Bell value menu item is a far better approximation. This minimalist burrito is simply a tortilla rolled around beans and cheese, which makes it not only more authentic than an overstuffed burrito but much more economical, as well. Keep this in mind if you're planning to entertain a whole crowd for Cinco de Mayo but would prefer not to spend half your paycheck on groceries.

Recipe: 5-Ingredient Copycat Taco Bell Bean Burritos

29. Easy Refried Beans

If you want your bean burrito to be authentic, there's one more step you could take besides leaving out any rice, lettuce, tomatoes, and guacamole, and that is to make your own refried beans. It's really not difficult to do, especially if you start with canned pinto beans. All you need to do is saute some onion and garlic, season the beans, and then cook them just one time – there's actually no need for re-frying since canned beans are already cooked.

Recipe: Easy Refried Beans

30. Albondigas

While we typically think of meatballs as an Italian dish (or perhaps a Swedish one, if we like to shop at Ikea), Mexico, too, has its own version. These albondigas are made from ground beef and rice and seasoned with a blend of spices and herbs including cilantro and mint. They're then cooked in a tomato broth along with half a garden's worth of vegetables to make for a hearty but not too spicy one-pot meal.

Recipe: Albondigas

31. Slow Cooker Birria De Res Tacos

Birria tacos are a trendy food hall favorite, but you can also make them at home if you're willing to put in the necessary prep work. The actual cooking takes place in a crockpot so that's pretty hands-off, except for the part in the middle where you have to stop and make the sauce. Once you're done, though, you'll have 5 pounds of deliciously seasoned meat. Go ahead and invite all the neighbors to your Cinco de Mayo fiesta, since you'll have enough birria tacos to feed a whole crowd.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Birria De Res Tacos

32. Chalupas

Taco Bell may love to make up words like Quesarito and Enchirito, but chalupas are actually not one of the chain's creations. The Mexican version of the dish isn't quite the same as Taco Bell's, though, as in its basic form it consists of nothing more than a plain circle of fried dough that closely resembles Navajo fry bread. Chalupas are neither sweet nor savory but can be topped with just about any filling you like. Go full-on Chalupa Supreme with taco beef, cheese, and sour cream, or use strawberries and whipped cream to make dessert chalupas, instead.

Recipe: Chalupas

33. Chicken Enchiladas

Mexican menus include a number of variations on the rolled tortilla with fillings, but enchiladas are one of the simpler ones since you don't need to fold them up origami-style to keep the fillings in, nor do you need to fry them. Instead, you just roll flour tortillas around a filling of cheese or meat – here we're going with shredded rotisserie chicken. A panful of enchiladas is then baked in a spicy (or not-so-spicy) sauce to make for a meal that's as enjoyable to eat as it is easy to prepare.

Recipe: Chicken Enchiladas

34. Easy Enchilada Sauce

What is the difference between salsa and enchilada sauce? Technically enchilada sauce could be considered a type of salsa, as that word is simply Spanish for "sauce." As we generally understand the term, though, salsa is different from enchilada sauce in that it's more tomato-forward, thicker, and is usually eaten cold, while enchilada sauce is thinner and is usually eaten hot. Enchilada sauce doesn't necessarily include tomatoes, either, although our homemade version does. While this sauce is, of course, perfect for enchiladas, you can also use it on tacos, burritos, or even scrambled eggs or burgers.

Recipe: Easy Enchilada Sauce

35. Melt-In-Your-Mouth Mexican Wedding Cookies

You might think that Mexican wedding cookies are named for the fact that they're all dressed up in bridal white, but these powdered sugar-coated confections are actually something that people serve at weddings in Mexico, go figure. We feel that these nut-studded goodies are equally suitable for Cinco de Mayo festivities, as well, but they're so simple to make that you may want to bake several batches. That way, you can have them on hand whenever you feel a cookie craving coming on.

Recipe: Melt-In-Your-Mouth Mexican Wedding Cookies

36. Huevos Rancheros

Start off your Cinco de Mayo celebration early with a Mexican breakfast dish. Huevos rancheros in Mexico may be as simple as corn tortillas topped with fried eggs and smothered in a type of cooked salsa known as ranchero sauce. If you'd like an even heartier breakfast, though, you can also add beans (whole or refried), avocados (sliced or mashed), cheese, sour cream, cilantro, or pretty much anything else you might put on a taco.

Recipe: Huevos Rancheros

37. Margarita Mocktail

While there are many who feel that Cinco de Mayo won't be complete without a margarita or two, there are also numerous people of all ages who prefer booze-free celebrations. You might think that these two groups would be mutually exclusive, but that need not be the case since non-alcoholic mixed drinks, aka mocktails, have been having quite the renaissance lately. Some of these drinks may be made with zero-proof spirit substitutes, but others, such as this nonalcoholic margarita, make use of creative alternatives that aren't meant to imitate the missing booze but instead add a different element. In this recipe, grapefruit brings the astringency that would otherwise come from tequila, while orange extract takes the place of triple sec and lime juice plays the part of itself.

Recipe: Margarita Mocktail