3 Super (Food) Reasons to Visit Mexico


photo: Justin Foulkes/Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet’s senior editor, Karyn Noble, shares three must-have superfoods to experience before or after your dream trip to Mexico. 


Mexico’s food scene is sizzling hot right now. It was Anthony Bourdain who gave it major international attention in 2012, when he made a foodie pilgrimage to a Baja street food cart on his TV show No Reservations. And now Scandinavian superchef René Redzepi's six-week Noma pop-up in Tulum sure seals the deal. Why are all the big names in food making Mexico their go-to destination? 

There’s no denying you’ll eat well in Mexico, but there are also some extremely healthy choices you can make. To get the most nutritional bang for your buck, here are three key ingredients to try when you’re there, along with some healthy recipes you can make it home – either before or after your dream trip to Mexico.


René Redzepi has been singing the praises of Mexico’s ingredients on social media for a while now. If he’s not squeezing a fresh mango for all to see, he’s roasting chapulines (grasshoppers). I asked him if he thought Mexico’s avocados were the best in the world. ‘Yes’, he said ‘The criollo from Oaxaca – best I've had.’ There is no greater praise for this fruit, which is high in healthy monosaturated fats and best enjoyed smeared on a taco in the ubiquitous guacamole dip.

photo: subjug/Getty

Do seek out sustainably sourced avocados: those with stickers denoting they are Fair Trade and organic, produced from groups of small farmers, such as the PRAGOR organisation. Given that the western state of Michoacán grows about eight out of 10 of the world’s avocado exports, concerns about environmental conservation are ongoing.

"Do seek out sustainably sourced avocados: those with stickers denoting they are Fair Trade and organic..."

photo: cobraphoto/Getty

Try: Guacamole

The Aztecs were thought to have first whipped up a batch of guacamole between the 14th and 16th centuries. It was originally considered a sauce, deriving its name from the Aztec ahuacatl meaning avocado and mulli, meaning sauce. As most of their diet was relatively low in fat, the Aztecs relied on the buttery goodness of guacamole. When the Spanish invaded Mexico in the 1500s, they found the Aztecs using traditional molcajetes (basalt pestle and mortars) to mash up avocados.

photo: Myles New/Lonely Planet

Recipe: Guacamole

  • ½ red onion, peeled & chopped
  • 1 serrano chile, finely chopped
  • 1–2 tsp sea salt
  • 3 ripe avocados, skinned & destoned
  • 2 limes
  • handful of fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • tomatoes, deseeded & chopped
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Place a quarter of the red onion, half the chile, and the salt into a pestle and mortar. Mash until it forms a rough paste.
  2. Place the avocado flesh into the pestle and mortar.
  3. Use a fork to mash the flesh into the mixture, adding half the lime juice, little by little.
  4. Add the rest of the chile and lime juice, red onion, cilantro and tomato.
  5. Season with black pepper.
  6. Taste and adjust the flavor with more salt, lime or cilantro, depending upon your preference.   

photo: Westend61/Getty

Chia Seeds

These tiny mottled brown and grey ancient seeds are a popular addition to fruity drinks in Mexico. Chia seeds have also been adopted by the fitness fraternity worldwide, due to their Omega-3 fatty acids, which help the heart and brain function. A tablespoon of chia also has more calcium than a glass of milk, so they’re ideal for the dairy intolerant.

"If you see a Mexican coming your way with a big citrus-laden pitcher of dancing seeds, you’re about to feel very happy and hydrated."

photo: egal/Getty

Try: Chia Fresca

Mixed with water, chia seeds were a prime energy source for Aztec warriors, powering their conquests across the region. Mexicans love to make chia fresca by mixing in lemon or lime juice: super refreshing on a hot day. If you see a Mexican coming your way with a big citrus-laden pitcher of dancing seeds, you’re about to feel very happy and hydrated.

Recipe: Chia Fresca

  • 1½L cold water
  • 4 large lemons (about 12 tbsp of juice)
  • 8 tsp sugar/sweetener of choice, such as maple/agave syrup
  • 4 tsp chia seeds
  • lemon slices, to garnish (optional)
  1. Pour the water into a pitcher.
  2. Roll each lemon firmly on the kitchen counter or table for about 10 seconds to help release the juices inside.
  3. Slice the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the water. Taste, then add more lemon juice if you prefer.
  4. Stir in the sugar/sweetener. If using granulated sugar, dissolve it first in a little hot water before combining it with the other ingredients.
  5. Stir the chia seeds into the liquid and let it sit in the fridge for around 10 minutes – enough time for the seeds to become gelatinous.
  6. Before serving, stir the drink in the pitcher to evenly distribute the seeds. Add slices of lemon, to garnish.


The cacao bean was first cultivated by Mayans over 3000 years ago. This raw chocolate wonder of the world is the highest plant-based source of iron. If you’re offered a terracotta mug of Mexico’s medicinal cacao elixir, by all means take it!

"The hot chocolate in Mexico is like no other."

photo: Justin Foulkes/Lonely Planet

Try: Raw Cacao Hot Chocolate

The hot chocolate in Mexico is like no other. While the rest of the world generally uses cocoa powder (which is raw cacao roasted at high temperatures), the traditional Mexican process involves cacao beans that are toasted and ground, then mixed with sugar and cinnamon. This mixture is then patted into chocolate blocks, which are sold throughout Mexico and used to make the sweet, foamy drinks.

Recipe: Raw Cacao Hot Chocolate

  • 8fl oz milk
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 tsp coconut sugar
  1. Add the milk, cacao, cinnamon, vanilla extract and cayenne pepper to a pan and warm.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat before it reaches boiling point.
  3. Sweeten as required with the coconut sugar.

You’ll find more health-boosting recipes like this in Lonely Planet’s World’s Best Superfoods, available to purchase online here.


Ready to visit Mexico? Explore Kind Hotel offers that give back to the local community, or to your favorite charity, here

photo: Shutterstock/Lonely Planet

Karyn Noble is a senior editor in Lonely Planet’s London office and an award-winning freelance writer, specializing in gourmet food and luxury travel. She wrote all the chapter introductions for Lonely Planet’s World’s Best Superfoods and is a big believer in healthy food adventures, whether they’re in the kitchen or on the road.