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16 Mexican Side Dishes + 3 Tasty Appetizers

There’s something about Mexican cuisine that always intrigued people worldwide. Be it the colors, the spices, or the fantastic aroma, the meals were unique. In fact, even the Mexican side dishes had a distinctive charm of their own. Read on to find the most delicious mexican side dishes to try.

The secret behind Mexican side dishes is they taste just as good as the meal but require a fraction of the effort and time to prepare.

Plus, they can complement most main dishes or be enjoyed on their own, showcasing the versatility of Mexican cuisine. So, do you feel like trying something bold from their side dish repertoire? Let’s begin.

Best Mexican Side Dishes You Need to Try

Best Mexican Side Dishes You Need to Try

There are various Mexican side dishes to choose from. To make it easier for you, we’ve categorized them into a few categories. Here are the main ones:

Mexican Vegetable Side Dishes

Mexican Vegetable Side Dishes

Vegetables are among the top components people try to incorporate into their meals to make them healthier. While many struggle with that, Mexican cuisine effortlessly incorporates veggies into the side dishes. Here are some of the best examples.

Smoky Grilled Vegetables

Smoky Grilled Vegetables – You Can Use Any Vegetables You Enjoy

This recipe is relatively easy because it doesn’t depend on creating something from scratch or mixing several seasonings.

Instead, this recipe’s foundation is how the vegetables you use harmonize with each other over the fire. To get the perfect flavor, use the following:

  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Yellow, green, and red peppers
  • 2 fresh yellow onions
  • A couple of cherry tomatoes
  • Around 2 teaspoons of chili powder
  • A couple of fresh mushrooms (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Here’s how you do it:

Start your recipe by cutting the onions, peppers, and tomatoes into thick slices. Once done, place everything in a large bowl, then add the rest of the ingredients. Mix everything using your gloved hands to ensure all the vegetables are covered with the mixture.

Sear all the veggies on your grill for about five minutes. You can keep them on the fire for a minute or two longer, but not more to keep the veggies firm. If you prefer other veg instead of peppers, for example zucchini, you can modify this recipe to suit your taste.

Mexican Roasted Zucchini

Mexican Roasted Zucchini Are Great in Tortillas

Among the many loved vegetables out there, we can’t say zucchini belongs at the top of the list. It can be rather bland at times and doesn’t always stand out in terms of flavor. However, Mexican cuisine saved it with the following recipe:

  • Around 3 or 4 medium zucchinis (diced)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic (grated to paste)
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh lime juice (from one lime)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

Before you begin anything, preheat the oven to 425° F. Once done, mix all the ingredients in a deep bowl with your gloved hands. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then spread the mixture evenly on it.

Insert the sheet into the oven and let it bake for about 25 minutes or until the zucchinis have a nice golden-brown color. As soon as you remove the pan from the oven, drizzle it with the lime juice and fresh cilantro.

Healthy Mexican Side Dishes

Healthy Mexican Side Dishes

While you can always add protein, vegetables, and fruits to our meals, making them tasty isn’t easy, which drives many people away. Nonetheless, Mexican cuisine excels at balancing flavors and herbs in a way that makes almost anything delicious. Let’s look at some healthy sides.

Calabacitas de Tapachula (Zucchini & Corn)

Calabacitas de Tapachula (Zucchini & Corn)

As you can tell from the odd name, this is a Mexican side dish through and through. It hails from the city of Tapachula in the southern state of Chiapas.

The recipe showcases the regional flavors, highlighting the diversity of Mexican cuisine. Here’s what you’ll need to make this recipe:

  • 1 cup corn
  • 1½ pounds diced zucchini
  • 4–5 poblano peppers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium fresh tomato
  • 1–3 peeled garlic cloves
  • ½ chopped white onions
  • ⅓ cup cilantro (optional)
  • Lime juice (optional)
  • ⅓ cup water (for extra flavor you can switch with vegetables or chicken broth)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

First, line a baking sheet with foil and place the peppers on it. Preheat the broiler in your oven, put the pan with the peppers inside, and turn the peppers every three minutes.

Once charred on the outside (not the inside), take the peppers out and place them in a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let them sweat for about ten minutes. After that, peel each pepper under cold water and throw away the skin, seeds, and stem.

Chop the roasted peppers, add them to the blender with the onion, water (or broth), and garlic, and blend until smooth. Drizzle some oil on a pan and heat over medium heat. Then, add the tomatoes and cook for about three minutes, while stirring, until they turn soft.

Add the corn to the middle of the pan and cook until you notice it changing colors. Finally, add the zucchini, salt, pepper, cilantro, and lime juice, and cook for about three minutes until the zucchini softens.

Slowly pour the poblano puree and cook until the sauce thickens, which can take 10 minutes. Once done, pour it onto a platter and enjoy.

Black Beans and Rice

Black Beans and Rice Are Great in Burritos

So far, we haven’t used black beans in the previous recipes. Nonetheless, this is one of the most vital ingredients in Mexican cuisine. When combined with rice, the result is an authentic and mouth-watering Mexican side dish. Here are the main ingredients you’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro (for garnish)
  • 1 onion (white, yellow, or red)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2–4 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar (or pepper jack cheese)

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven. As the oil heats up, add the bell peppers and onion and cook for about five minutes – the onions will turn translucent. Then, add the corn, black beans, and garlic and continue cooking for another two minutes.

Finally, add everything else – minus the cheese -, and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and let it cook for twenty minutes. When it’s about to finish, add the cheese and stir until it melts, then add the cilantro.

Easy Mexican Side Dishes

Easy Mexican Side Dishes

Trying to prepare an authentic Mexican dish can be tiring. You’ll have to search harder for some spices, ensure their quality, and spend some time understanding the cooking techniques.

Of course, this can leave you feeling overwhelmed. So, to ensure your meal is complete, here are a few simple Mexican side dishes.

Arroz a la Mexicana

Arroz a la Mexicana

Mexican rice, better known as Spanish Rice or Arroz a la Mexicana, is a fantastic side dish that goes with almost anything. Better yet, it doesn’t require that much effort to make, as all it requires is the following:

  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ⅛ cup cilantro
  • 1 medium white onion (or yellow)
  • 1 cup parboiled rice
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots
  • 2 halved and seeded jalapeño peppers
  • 2–4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoon spread

Add the onions, garlic, tomato paste, peppers, ¼ cup water, and ½ teaspoon salt into a blender and mix until smooth. Leave the mixture in the blender, and melt the spread in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the rice and cook until it turns brown.

Pour around 21⁄4 cups of water and the paste from the blender into the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and let it cook until the rice is tender – this can take about 20 minutes.

Grilled Mexican Street Corn (Elote)

Grilled Mexican Street Corn (Elote)

Another recipe that uses corn is grilled street corn, also known as Elote, a popular and mouth-watering Mexican street food.

This side dish features a cone on the cob grilled to perfection and then coated with an amazing sauce to enhance the flavor. Thankfully, it’s not that hard to make as you’ll only need:

  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6–8 medium sweet corn ears
  • 1–3 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup cotija cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder

Before you start the recipe, heat your grills to 400°F and clean the grates. As it’s heating up, whisk the cream, cheese, mayo, garlic, chili powder, cilantro, lime zest, lime justice, salt, and pepper, then set aside.

Place the corn ears directly onto the grill grates and grill until the kernels turn gold. Turn it over until it’s golden all around. When entirely golden, move the corn ears onto a plate, brush the mixture onto them, and enjoy.

Cilantro Lime Slaw

Cilantro Lime Slaw

For a simple, yet zesty and flavorful, recipe, this cilantro lime slaw is a must-try. It perfectly captures the vibrancy and freshness that are characteristic of Mexican cuisine. To create this dish at home, you’ll need the following:

  • Shredded cabbages (a mix of green and purple preferably)
  • Red or green onions (around ½ cup)
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Lime juice
  • Lime zest
  • Fresh jalapeño chilis
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, and thyme to taste

All you have to do here is combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss everything. Take a little bite here and there to add seasoning if needed.

Mexican Side Dishes for Potluck

Mexican Side Dishes for Potluck

If there’s one thing in common in all potluck gatherings, it’ll be trying to impress the people. Everyone brings their delicious meals and wants their bowls and pans empty by the night’s end.

If you have a potluck coming up soon and need the perfect side dish, pick one from the following.

Refried Beans

Refried Beans

Frijoles refritos, also known as refried beans, is one of the best-known classical Mexican dishes. Despite the tricky name, refried beans aren’t fried twice.

The “refried” in the name comes from the Spanish word “refritos,” meaning “well-fried.” Here’s what you’ll need to make this classical side:

  • 1 lb dried pinto beans (preferably not canned ones)
  • 2–4 smashed garlic cloves
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

Prepare the beans by cleaning them and soaking them in water overnight. The next day, strain the beans, add them with garlic and onion to a large pot, and pour the water.

While cooking, add the salt, and continue cooking covered on low heat. Leave the beans to cook for about 60 to 90 minutes with minimum stirring.

When the beans are soft, heat a cast iron skillet with the vegetable oil. Then, slowly move the beans and garlic into the pan. Finally, fry the beans while mashing them, and add as much from the broth as needed for consistency.

Esquites Fritters

Esquites Fritters

If you want your friends and family to enjoy Mexican street corn, but with a unique twist, esquites fritters are the answer. They’re a golden, crispy delight that offers an odd blend of flavors and textures.

Though the huge ingredients list can be scary, it’s not that hard to make. Here’s what you’ll need for the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1–2 grated garlic clove
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • ⅛ cup chopped cilantro

What you’ll need for the fritters:

  • Vegetable oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup buttermilk (room temperature)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1½ cups corn kernels
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 jalapeño seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon cotija cheese (crumbled)

The sauce is the easiest part. All you have to do is place the ingredients in a bowl and combine everything, then set it aside. Regarding the fritters, whisk the cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, chili powder, and pepper in a medium bowl.

Whisk the buttermilk, butter, and egg in another bowl until they turn smooth. Add the corn, jalapeño, and cheese to the second bowl and mix until well combined. Place a large skillet over medium heat, add two tablespoons of oil, and heat it.

Once the oil is ready, scoop a bit of the batter with a spoon and place in the skillet to cook for about two minutes on each side. Move every finished fritter to a paper towel so it soaks in the excess oil.

Black Bean and Corn Salad

Black Bean and Corn Salad

For those who want to impress friends and family but don’t have the time, this black bean and corn salad recipe is an excellent choice. It combines the robust flavors of Mexican cuisine without needing extensive preparation. All you need is:

  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of corn
  • 1 diced avocado
  • ⅓ diced red onion
  • 1 diced roma tomato
  • 1 diced red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1–2 minced garlic cloves
  • Lime juice from two limes
  • ⅓ bunch of minced cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Before you begin the recipe, drain the corn and beans thoroughly. Then, place everything together in a large bowl without avocado. Mix everything until well combined, then add the avocado and gently mix again.

Mexican Sides for Tacos

Mexican Sides for Tacos

Nothing says Mexican cuisine more than Tacos. However, you might want to elevate the experience by adding a complementary side dish or two to make it more authentic. For instance, here are a few you could try out.

Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde

As you can tell by its name, salsa verde is, well, a green sauce. However, besides its striking color, it’s a versatile and tasty condiment in Mexican cuisine. To make this salsa as a dipping for tacos, you’ll need the following:

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2–4 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup cilantro
  • 1 ½ lbs tomatillos (remove the husks)
  • ¼ medium onion (white or yellow)

First, add the olive oil to a skillet to heat up, then add the tomatillos, jalapeño, and onion to cook. Saute until everything caramelizes – this can take about four minutes.

Once done, let the mixture cool a little, then pour it into the blender with the garlic, lime juice, and cilantro. Blend until it turns into a smooth salsa.

Guacamole

Guacamole

Guacamole is one of the most famous dippings worldwide. It’s an iconic sauce that gained popularity due to its irresistible combination of creamy avocados and zesty lime juice. To make guacamole, use the following ingredients:

  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup diced onions
  • 2 roma or plum diced tomatoes
  • 1–1½ teaspoons minced garlic
  • Around 3 avocados (peeled, pitted)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

All you have to do in this recipe is mash the avocados with all the ingredients you have. As you’re finishing up, give it a quick taste to adjust the saltiness.

Pico De Gallo

Pico De Gallo

Salsa fresca, also known as pico de gallo, is one of the most colorful Mexican dishes you’ll see around. The red velvet color of the tomatoes mixed with onions and greens not only pleases the eyes but tantalizes the taste buds.

Pico de gallo requires the following:

  • 1 cup finely chopped white onions
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ¾ teaspoon fine salt
  • 1½ lb chopped roma tomatoes
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 medium seeded and finely chopped jalapeño pepper

For this recipe, all you have to do is chop the ingredients, add them to a medium bowl, and ensure they’re well combined after adding each new ingredient.

Low-Carb Mexican Side Dishes

Low-Carb Mexican Side Dishes

For many low-carb dieters, Mexican food has always been a no-go. This is mostly because it’s full of foods like tortillas, beans, and rice, which aren’t suitable for such diets.

Nonetheless, there are a few hidden treats in the side dishes category that might just suit your low-carb lifestyle. Here are some of them.

Mexican Coleslaw

Mexican Coleslaw on Tacos

This recipe is a low-carb twist on the traditional coleslaw with Mexican flavors. It offers a healthy, tasty, and unique alternative to the classic coleslaw. Below, you’ll find the necessary ingredients:

  • 14-ounce bag of coleslaw mix
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ½ taco seasoning
  • ½ cup diced red pepper
  • ½ cup rinsed black beans
  • ½ cup grilled corn
  • ½ cup minced cilantro
  • 1 finely diced and without seeds jalapeño

Combine the coleslaw mix, red peppers, black beans, grilled corn, cilantro, and jalapeño in one bowl. In another bowl, mix the mayo, sour cream, lime juice, and taco seasoning. Finally, pour the mixture over the salad and enjoy.

Keto Tortillas

Keto Tortillas Can Be Made Using Almond Flour

Tortillas are essential in the Mexican cuisine world. Sadly, being on a low-carb diet means skipping the traditional tortillas made from wheat or corn. However, there’s still a way for you to enjoy tortillas. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 6 tablespoons psyllium husks (not powdered)

Add the almond flour, salt, and psyllium husks in a large bowl and mix well. Then pour the olive oil and warm water and stir.

Leave the mixture to rest for a few minutes, then gently knead the dough and create a ball. Move the ball onto a floured surface into eight small pieces.

Grab each piece, place a parchment paper on top, then roll it out until it’s flat using a rolling pin. Place a large plate on the dough and cut out the edges to have a perfectly round tortilla.

Finally, heat a non-stick pan, lightly oil it, place the tortilla on it, and cook for about two minutes on each side.

Ceviche

Ceviche

Finding a tasty snack that’s also low-carb can be a tad difficult. Luckily, ceviche stands out as a great option in such cases. It’s an odd dish that features seafood “cooked” by marinating it in citrus juice. This is what you need to make it:

  • 1lb deveined large raw shrimp (ensure it’s good quality)
  • 1 large, peeled, and diced cucumber
  • Juice of four limes or lemons
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 small diced red onion
  • 2–3 medium roma tomatoes
  • 2 medium diced avocados
  • 2 diced jalapeño peppers
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup extra virgin oil

Add the shrimp to a bowl, drizzle the lime or lemon juice on top, and leave it in the fridge for about an hour to marinate.

After that, drain the excess juice and chop the shrimp into three to four pieces. Set the shrimp aside and prepare the tomatoes, onions, cucumber, avocados, jalapeños, and cilantro by cutting and dicing.

Then, add everything to one bowl, including the shrimp, and gently mix. To avoid squishing the avocados, add them last. Finally, drizzle with olive oil, season to taste, and enjoy.

Tasty Mexican Appetizers

Tasty Mexican Appetizers – Taquitos

Unlike side dishes, appetizers are there to whet your appetite by setting the stage for something more delicious. They’re flavorful and enticing, and leave you asking for more. When it comes to Mexican appetizers, there’s a variety of options to choose from, such as:

  • Queso Fundido: This is a molten pot of cheese mixed with chorizo and various excellent spices.
  • Taquitos: These are smaller, rolled-up versions of tacos. They also pair wonderfully with guacamole and salsa verde.
  • Sopes: Sopes are thick corn tortillas with odd, raised edges to hold the various toppings they hold. For instance, they can have black beans, cheese, and meats on top

Typical Mexican Ingredients to Use for Sides

Typical Mexican Ingredients to Use for Sides – Tomatoes

If you hadn’t noticed in the previous recipes, there are a few ingredients that Mexicans can’t forgo, whether in the main course or side dish. From herbs to legumes and rice, there are many ingredients you need to keep in stock. Here are the main ones:

  • Corn: Whether grilled or regular, you’ll find corn in various recipes.
  • Tomatoes: Mexican dishes are almost unrecognizable without the redness tomatoes provide.
  • Cilantro: Regarding herbs, cilantro is either used as a garnish or in the main recipe for any Mexican meal.

Mexican Drinks to Serve with Mexican Sides

Mexican Drinks to Serve with Mexican Sides – Agua Fresca

Now that we’ve covered some of the most popular Mexican side dishes, it’s time to explore the drinks. The right Mexican beverage can change how the sides taste and complement the overall meal. Below, you’ll find a couple of drinks that work perfectly with almost any side:

  • Tepache: This is a cold, fermented drink made from the peel and rind of pineapple. To sweeten it, they usually use either piloncillo or brown sugar.
  • Agua Fresca: This name literally translates to “fresh water.” It’s because agua fresca drinks are made with either fresh fruits and veggies, lime juice, water, a sweetener, or maybe some herbs like mint.
  • Ponche: Ponche is similar to hot apple cider, but it contains a variety of tropical fresh fruits and is flavored with spices like cinnamon and cloves. Usually served during Christmas.

Here you’ll find more tasty rice side dishes.

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