When my kids were younger, we always headed to Mexico about this time of year. This summer we will be going later, but warm weather has me missing the tastes of Mexico and thinking about how important food is when we are there. For children learning Spanish, an introduction to some of the snack foods popular in Mexico is a great way to spice up snack time in class or at home and learn some new vocabulary. Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the fall, so keep these snacks in mind as a fun way to explore Mexican culture. Many of these foods are also common in other Latin American countries.
In Mexico, an amazing array of treats is always available and even part of the routine of the school day. During the descanso, kids buy snacks, and food vendors set up outside schools as classes let out. In every tiendita and on the sidewalk, you can get treats from fresh fruit to ice cream to candy and chips.
In general, familiarity with food helps children travel more easily and appreciate the experience of being in another country. It is also really fun to taste new things. Even if you don’t have a trip planned this summer, you can look for some of these classic snacks. Lots of Mexican snack foods are available in supermarkets, online or in Mexican food markets in the US and others are easy to make. A visit to a market or Mexican store is also a great way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15-Oct 15).
These are some of my kids’ favorite snacks in Mexico, but there are many, many more. Explore a Mexican food store. It is a great place to practice a little Spanish too.
Aguas frescas – Fresh fruit water
These fresh fruit waters are a standard drink in Mexico, not a snack. I had to mention them though because they are so easy to make and delicious. You can search aguas frescas and find lots of recipes and videos, or read about how to make aguas frescas on the Tiki Tiki. The Tiki Tiki is a great blog written by a group of Latinas. It is worth a visit even if aguas frescas are not on the menu.
Fruta – Fruit
If you have not tried your pineapple with lime and chile en plovo (powdered chili, but not American chili powder) you are in for a treat.
Tajín is a combination of chile, lime and salt to shake on fruits and vegtables such as mango, pineapple, papaya, watermelon, cantalope, honeydew melon, orange, grapefruit, cucumber, and jicama. Delicious!
Palomitas – Popcorn
Valentina is a very popular salsa, perfect to put on popcorn. Movies theaters have salsa to go on popcorn in Mexico, and Valentina is a common choice at theaters or at home.
Salchichas y jamón – Hotdogs and ham
Cut-up ham or sliced hotdogs with lime and Valentina are another popular snack at home. The kids eat these cold, often with toothpicks.
Elote – Corn
Elote is served with chili, crema, lime, mayonaise and queso fresco. We buy this corn in a plaza, but you can make it at home too. Choose the condiments and put them on a cob of boiled corn, or cut the corn off and put it in a cup. Put layers of the condiments you like in the middle and top it off with more. Fabulous!
Limonada – Limeade
Limonada in Mexico is fresh and made with carbonated water. It is wonderful! You can make this at home using limeade frozen concentrate to simplify the process. This is so easy and a perfect summer treat.
Paletas – Popsicles
Popsicles in Mexico are everywhere and come in an incredible variety of flavors. In the past, a lot of these flavors were not readily available in Wisconsin, but now we can get some of them in our grocery stores too. For a taste of Mexico, try coconut, pineapple, lime or mango.
Dulces – Candy
There are hundreds of kinds of Mexican candy, all very different. Some have chile, especially the dried fruit candies. My girls love tamarindo (tamarind) that way, but if you aren’t a fan of mixing sweet and chili, you might want to start with more familiar tastes.
Mazapán – In Mexico these are often made with peanuts (instead of the almond marzapan). These little round cakes from De la Rosa maybe the most common candy in Mexico. They are everywhere, and if your kids like peanuts or peanut butter they are sure to be a hit.
Carlos V – Pronounced Carlos Quinto, these chocolate bars by Nestle are a Mexican standard. I hate to admit that my kids may have learned the word quinto (the ordinal number “fifth”) from this candy bar.
Galletas – Cookies
As a general rule, Mexican cookies are not as sweet as American cookies and there are many with fruit flavors. Of course, there are also sandwich cookies, lots of coconut and very plain Marías. Companies like Gamesa make assortments that are fun to try, although kids used to American cookies may find them plain. Barritas are also a very typical cookie and come with different fruit fillings.
Cacahuates – Peanuts
Peanuts are one of our favorites snack foods because there are so many different kinds. If you haven’t tried the Japanese style peanuts, be careful, they are addicting! We also love the ones with lime and salt, or lime and chili. They are all excellent!
Papas – Chips
Papas means potatoes, but the word is also used as a general term for chips. It is very common to top chips with salsa, and some individual bags come with little packets of salsa inside. There are dozens of varieties of chips, and Takis are some of my kids favorites. They are rolled corn chips, and they have lots of flavor.
You may also be interested in this post: Hispanic Heritage Month – Resources for Teachers and Parents