Food is the main reason I wanted to visit Oaxaca in the first place. It’s been a place that’s been high on my Mexico bucket list since I moved to Mexico last year and when I finally got there last month it was like coming home. I loved the city and the food even more than I thought I would. This is a list of the best foods in Oaxaca that I ate and all the best restaurants in Oaxaca to enjoy those meals in.
At the bottom is a video of all the delights that I ate while I was in Oaxaca if you want to skip straight to that!
What to Eat in Oaxaca
Okay, I’m starting with the one thing that I probably wouldn’t eat again, but these little grasshoppers are all over Oaxaca and you’ll eventually be tempted to try them. I had a bag of them that was doused in salt and lime and that’s mostly all it tasted of. Until I started chewing. It’s a little, um, dry. Also, a few hours later I found a leg stuck between my teeth. But it was interesting if nothing else!
Okay, now onto the good stuff. There are seemingly endless types of mole to be had in Oaxaca. My absolute favorite that I had was the coloradito in the Mercado 20 Noviembre. There are so many little food stalls inside the market where you can have the different types of mole. I also highly recommend having mole negro, rojo, amarillo (this one is SO good, probably my second fave), and chichilo.
These Oaxacan “pizzas” are one of the most popular street foods in the city. Every market stall in Mercado 20 Noviembre and Mercado Merced sell their version of Tlayudas – simply look for the stacks of large, flat tortillas on the counters. Tlayudas almost always have bean sauce, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, quesillo cheese, and your choice of meat.
Another popular place to try tlayudas in Libres Tlayudas. This little hole-in-the-wall restaurant doesn’t open until 9pm and it’s reputed that cars double park along the street just to get these calzone looking tlayudas. They are crazy delicious and piping hot when they come out. The only thing I thought was a little strange was that they put the meat you want on the outside of the tlayudas.
Tetelas and Memelas from Itanoni
If you only go to one restaurant in Oaxaca, it should be Itanoni. This place is a breakfast and lunch place and I could quite happily eat here for breakfast and lunch every single day. It gets super busy at brunch time so either come early or be prepared to wait for a table. It’s worth it though. Some of the best things I ate here were the tetelas, which are freshly made tortilla hot-pockets filled with joy. I tried the mushroom tetelas and the espirituosa which was a very interesting tasting herb. Almost menthal-like.
Another tasty Oaxacan-style food to try at Itanoni are memelas. These are flat, round tortillas that are topped with different delights. There are tons of different toppings to try – costilla is a local dish that’s worth trying – theirs is delish! Whatever you decide to try, you’re sure to enjoy the different, handmade tortillas. They’re cooked the old-fashioned way in a big, hot clay pot. Watching them is kind of
Whatever you decide to try, you’re sure to enjoy the different, handmade tortillas. They’re cooked the old-fashioned way in a big, hot clay pot. Watching them is kind of mesmerizing.
Breakfast at Mercado de la Merced
Mercado Merced is the SECOND best place in Oaxaca to have breakfast. If you want to stuff your face with bowls of hot chocolate, bread, chilaquiles, and other classic Mexican breakfast foods. Fonda Florecita was my favorite place to have breakfast. Their hot chocolate was so incredible and be sure to try the pan de yema – a sort of stale sweet bread that comes with hot chocolate that you dip into it. It’s perfection.
Other things I loved eating at Mercado de la Merced were entomadas – corn tortillas stacked on top of each other with amazingly delicious sauce, onions and cheese, chilaquiles – corn tortillas topped with different spicy sauces, and tamales stuffed with chicken and mole. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you will eat two tamales. They’re enormous and crazy filling. One was even enough for my never-full boyfriend!
What to Drink in Oaxaca
Tejate is a Oaxacan drink that you’ll see all around the city being sold out of big clay pots. It looks like there’s some weird white stuff floating on top. It’s made with corn maize and the whole cacao seed. It’s super delicious and unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. It’s chocolatey without being sweet. It’s nutty and floraly and the texture is a little weird to get used to at first, but actually really nice. I highly recommend trying it on a trip to Oaxaca.
Chocolate en Agua
Chocolate is everywhere in Oaxaca, and for good reason, it is freaking delicious here. It’s easy to find chocolate drinks around Oaxaca – every market and restaurant serves their own version. You can either have it with water or with milk. I don’t really drink milk (I’m lactose intolerant and also I just don’t really like the taste) but chocolate en agua is no less creamy than any hot chocolate that I’ve ever had in the past. In fact, it’s creamier and richer without being sickly or too sweet. It’s amazing.
Atole is a popular drink around Mexico. It’s traditionally made with corn maize, but it usually made with oats now. I’ve had it a few times before in Mexico City and it’s not my favorite thing. It’s a little bit bland in my opinion. But when I saw it on the menu in Oaxaca, I was intrigued. The one I had was at Comedor Betty in the Mercado de la Merced and it was really nice. Similar to the hot chocolate, it was served with pan de yema to dip in it. It was richer than any atole I’ve ever had before, but still not too sweet. I really liked the texture which was thick and had chunks of cooked oats in it.
Craft Beer from Tierra Blanca
I didn’t discover Tierra Blanca until the second to last night I was in Oaxaca and I’m so bummed it took me so long to find it! It’s such a cool little bar tucked into a restaurant on the outskirts of the city center. They brew their own beers, the prices are reasonable, and the staff are really friendly. They have a small bar menu with some really tasty snacks and sandwiches. Definitely have the dark beer – it’s delicious.
Of course, it goes without saying that you need to sample some local mezcal while you’re in Oaxaca. Los Amantes Mezcalería was one of my favorite little bars to try mezcal. They have different sampler options where you can try three for 180 pesos or 5 for 250 pesos. There are literally dozens of mezcal shops around the city where you can sample different mezcals and buy bottles. Every bar and restaurant serves Oaxacan mezcal, too, so there’s no escaping this delicious tipple.
I don’t recommend coming here at 11:30 after have a few beers at the rooftop bar next door the night before you have to get up for a tour at 8 am (although I do highly recommend going for beers at the rooftop bar next door).
Craft Beer from La Santisima
La Santisima is the most popular craft beer bar in Oaxaca. It’s right in the downtown area near the Santo Domingo Cathedral. It’s a tiny little bar attached to the La Gourmand cafe which is also awesome and I highly recommend trying their homemade charcuterie, breads, and jams. The beers change constantly and even in the short week that I was there, they had three different beers on draft. Be sure to try their own beers and some of the tapas to snack on alongside it.
Video of What to Eat in Oaxaca
Here’s a little video of what I ate in Oaxaca and how much I spent on the different dishes. If you want to see more about life in Mexico and from my trip to Oaxaca you can subscribe to my Youtube channel here.
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