Cinco de Mayo is one of the highlights of May! And there’s nothing better than celebrating with gorgeous, fresh, flavorful food. Below you’ll find a menu inspiring lineup of my favorite festive Cinco de Mayo recipes.
Cinco de Mayo (or the fifth of May) is the day the Mexican army triumphed over the French at the Battle of Puebla. While not the most famous holiday in Mexico, we Americans celebrate it with gusto, commemorating Mexican culture and heritage while enjoying delicious Mexican cuisine.
The Best Mexican Recipes for Cinco de Mayo
When you think of a Cinco de Mayo menu, what comes to mind? Whatever Mexican foods you like best, I bet you’ll find many things to try in the list below. Get ready to make your Cinco de Mayo menu because you’ll find recipes for everything from salsas to carne asada, pork carnitas to tacos, soups, salads, and so much more.
Pork Carnitas Recipes
Carnitas (meaning literally “little meats” in Spanish) start with a nicely marbled pork shoulder / pork butt that’s cooked low and slow in citrus and spices until it’s fall apart tender and totally delectable. This essential Cinco de Mayo dish brings happiness to the table any day of the year.
- Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork): Want buttery, tender pork without all the fuss? Try this one. The prep time is just 10 minutes, so the only hard part is waiting while the fragrance tantalizes you for hours as it cooks hands-off in your slow cooker!
- Pork Carnitas Tacos: After slow cooking for hours, there should be a nice way to dress up your carnitas, right? Why not turn them into tacos? Nothing is better than piling a warm tortilla high with carnitas and your favorite toppings.
- Easy Pork Carnitas Tostadas: Not a taco fan? Tostadas to the rescue! They're a fun addition to your Cinco de Mayo spread that gives your guests choices on how to pile them high with toppings. Skip the store bought shells and make them fresh at home with this easy Tostada Shells recipe.
- Pulled Pork Nachos: When you have tender bits of pulled pork (carnitas), a wonderful way to enjoy them is with cheese over chips. A festive dish to share with friends.
- Pulled Pork Quesadillas: Mmmm, now these are a crowd favorite. Crispy flour tortillas stuffed with tender pork, melty cheese, warm spices and roasted green chiles. What could be better? Conveniently baked in the oven so they’re piping hot and ready to serve all at once.
- Pulled Pork Enchiladas: Juicy, spicy, and cheesy, these enchiladas are a snap to make with leftover Mexican pulled pork / pork carnitas with this recipe!
Carne Asada Recipes
Juicy, flavorful, and tantalizing before it even hits the table, carne asada, is the key component of so many mouthwatering meals. Who can say no to those grill marks and that juicy pink center?
- Easy and Authentic Carne Asada: It's all about the magic marinade with a trifecta of citrus, fresh garlic and cilantro, earthy cumin, a gentle jalapeño kick, and just the right cut of beef.
- Carne Asada in the Oven: Not grilling season? No problem! It's easy to make this authentic in the oven with a cast iron grill pan or just a baking sheet.
- Carne Asada Tacos: Ready for the next level? These tasty tacos are a winner at any party. Prepare them beforehand, or leave everything on a tray for your guests to assemble just how they like.
- Carne Asada Burrito Recipe: Do your guests have a hearty appetite? This satisfying burrito is loaded with creamy beans, thick avocado slices, melty cheese, and, of course, tender slices of our superstar: carne asada.
- Carne Asada Nachos: You’re going to want to make these nachos—don’t miss my four secrets for perfect, crunchy nachos every time. They are sinfully delicious with ultra crispy chips, juicy chunks of steak and just the right amount of gooey melted cheese.
- Carne Asada Quesadillas: Crispy flour tortillas loaded with steak, cheese, green chiles and spices made conveniently in your oven!
- Carne Asada Fries: What a way to enjoy leftover steak! A lightened up but still decadent version of the American Southwest classic dish. Crispy, creamy oven baked fries, juicy steak, plenty of melted cheese and all of your favorite toppings!
- Carne Asada Steak Salad with Mojo Dressing: When you mirror the marinade flavors as a zingy dressing, you’ve got one magnificent salad on your hands. With fresh greens, tender steak slices, feta, and avocado you’ve got a healthy and irresistible addition to the table.
Mexican Taco Recipes
If there is one quintessential Cinco de Mayo food, it has to be tacos. And the great thing about tacos is how easy they are to customize. You can start with the same basics, and then each guest can make it their own. I like to have several of these delectable choices available.
- Carne Asada Tacos: Tender, perfectly seasoned skirt steak slices cradled in warm tortillas and piled high with toppings.
- Pork Carnitas Tacos: Another great addition to the pack. Melt in your mouth Mexican pulled pork goes amazingly well in a warm tortilla with your favorite toppings
- Shrimp Tacos: Imagine salt and pepper crusted tender shrimp made in just 30 minutes. Serve this on Cinco de Mayo, but also save the recipe for your next Taco Tuesday.
- Grilled Shrimp Tacos: Perfect for summer, these juicy, spicy shrimp are cooked easily on the grill. Just add crunchy cabbage and my creamy, spicy shrimp taco sauce. Sure to be a hit at any Cinco de Mayo celebration.
- Shrimp Tacos with Mango Salsa: A tropical twist on your standard shrimp tacos with succulent shrimp, a wildly flavorful salsa and a drizzle of Chipotle Crema, these are nothing short of irresistible!
- Lamb Tacos: I know, this one steps outside the box, but what a step! Surprise family and friends with this wildly delicious option. Similar to barbacoa, I crafted this recipe to perfectly marry the distinct lamb flavor with a chipotle/lime spice blend. Heaven.
- Pork Belly Tacos: Tacos aren’t just about the ground beef anymore. This Asian/Mexican fusion is another fun twist on the taco. Savory and satisfying with green onion, jalapeño, and a spicy-tangy mayo on top.
- Chorizo Tacos: Spicy chorizo, zingy salsa, and cool crema all rolled up in slightly charred tortillas.
More Mexican Main Course Recipes
Want more variety? Here I have some of the best Mexican dinner ideas I’ve perfected over the years. Serve these alone or as a hearty addition to your overall party menu. And don’t worry, I’ve got your back with tips for cutting down prep and cook times without sacrificing flavor. That way, you can spend Cinco de Mayo celebrating.
- Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas: Make with pre-cooked chicken (I recommend you make your own shredded chicken in your slow cooker - it’s easy!) The green enchilada sauce freezes well so you can make it way ahead of time.
- Homemade Green Enchilada Sauce: Easy, tangy, delicious. While you can buy green sauce at the store, try this easy recipe, and you will never go back.
- Easy Chicken Tinga (Made in One Pot!): Here is a one-pot wonder of a classic Mexican dish. This recipe is ideal for cooks who like to personalize their spice level.
- Chicken Carnitas: A juicy, crowd pleasing and lightened up version of carnitas! So easy to make in your slow cooker.
- Slow Cooker Birria de Res: A few minutes of preparation and several hours of slow simmering with herbs and spices renders the beef fall-apart tender and creates a hearty, flavorful broth that can be eaten as a stew or used as a base for any number of dishes.
- Chicken Tostadas: How about another fun dish that’s easy to personalize? Take this easy chicken recipe from Cinco de Mayo to a regular weeknight. It’s fun, versatile, and I show you how to make bite-size party versions or full size using your own homemade tostada shells.
- Mexican Meatballs: Who doesn’t like a good meatball? These tiny flavor bombs are perfect served party-style with cocktail picks or for everything from a burrito bowl to Albondigas soup.
- Vegetarian Tamales with Green Chile and Cheese: You won’t sacrifice a bit of flavor with these meatless tamales. Discover a rich world of buttery sweet corn, smoky chiles, and smooth jack cheese in every bite.
- Albondigas Burrito Bowls: I love a twist on an old favorite. Instead of soup, the burrito bowl delivers a hearty meal with rice, meatballs, and fresh veggies. All assembled in minutes.
- Spicy Grilled Shrimp: Simple is best. You might be tempted to add more, but trust me, go with olive oil, cayenne, salt, and pepper—grilled perfection.
- Polenta Huevos Rancheros with Asparagus: I know, this is Italian! But trust me, these flavors all just come together. The easy, no-stir polenta brings a hot new take on huevos rancheros.
Mexican Chilis and Soup
I love a good chili on a cold day. If Spring is still holding on in your part of the world, I recommend these hearty soups to help push back the last bits of winter. And if not, these make perfect appetizers to tide your guests over for the main course.
- Pulled Pork Chili: So hearty and thick, your spoon will stand up in this chili! An excellent way to enjoy leftover Mexican pulled pork (pork carnitas).
- White Bean Turkey Chili: Perfect for leftovers, this lean chili pairs tender ground turkey with cannellini beans to give your family a warm, spicy hug. Try it with my easy slow cooker bean-soaking and cooking method before reaching for a can.
- Chorizo Chili: Comforting chorizo cooked with peppers, beans, and corn piled high with shredded cheese, sour cream, fresh cilantro and juicy tomatoes. No one will leave hungry from this ultimate chili bowl.
- White Chicken Chili: This hearty chili is a snap once you’ve roasted your chiles. Creamy, hearty, with just the right amount of spice, you won’t want to stop eating it!
- Albondigas Soup: The secret to success is a water base. When you cook all of the flavorful ingredients together (even the meatballs), you can look forward to a hearty yet light soup—an outstanding Cinco de Mayo recipe.
Soups aren’t complete without a salad to match. Imagine crunching into crisp greens, tossed with fresh veggies, tangy dressings, and juicy meats. Lighter doesn’t mean boring, and I stick to simple with these healthy, but hearty Cinco de Mayo salads.
- Carne Asada Steak Salad with Mojo Dressing: The recipe is so nice, I named it twice. You won’t believe how beautiful the bowl looks after you’ve arranged the avocado, feta, tomatoes, and steak on top. Divine!
- Mexican Street Corn Salad: Delicious in any variety. With this salad, you can add carne asada, shrimp, or leave the jalapeño/cabbage slaw as is for a tempting vegetarian dish.
- Mexican Chopped Salad: Whether it's a sunny day BBQ or a family dinner, this salad brings a touch of zest and color to any table.
- Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette: This dressing brings zesty flair to any dish - a perfect complement to salads, grilled meats, roasted (or grilled) vegetables and more.
Your fiesta isn’t complete without a range of options. All of these are hand-selected to dip well in the chilis, sit happily beside the salads, or pair with your main dishes.
- Mexican Corn on the Cob: No Cinco de Mayo celebration would be complete without elote. The magical blend of chili mayo, cotija cheese, paprika, and perfectly charred sweet corn make this a must-have on your table.
- Rice Cooker Mexican Rice: It's a snap to make this essential Mexican restaurant side dish in your rice cooker! Bursting with flavor and a tasty companion to any main course.
- Refried Black Beans: Refried Black Beans, the unsung hero of many Mexican dishes, may seem simple, but when cooked with aromatic spices like cumin and smoked paprika, they develop a rich and creamy texture that adds incredible depth of flavor and comforting warmth to any meal.
- Mexican Cauliflower Rice: Cauliflower rice is a healthy trend, so why not add it to your spread? With a spot-on texture and the perfect spice blend, no one will know the difference!
- Mexican Cornbread: This moist, crispy edged Mexican inspired skillet cornbread, studded with jalapeños, cheddar, and green onions, can turn a good plate into a great one.
- Easy Homemade Refried Beans: The humble bean takes center stage once again. Never turn to store-bought again after you try these easy creamy, homemade refried beans. (Mash by hand or use your food processor to make this recipe extra quick and easy!)
- Slow Cooker Pinto Beans: Infused with classic Mexican flavors like onions, cumin, and oregano, this recipe offers a satisfying and versatile side dish that's effortlessly prepared in a slow cooker, simmering to tender perfection with minimal attention required.
- Calabacitas: Calabacitas is a traditional Mexican dish made with sautéed zucchini, corn, and peppers, seasoned with aromatic spices, and garnished with cotija cheese, offering a vibrant and flavorful option for a Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Mexican Salsas, Guacamole and Appetizers
Salsas and guacamole are quick to make, and a must for every fiesta. Even if you have no time, grabbing some chips at the store, and whipping up some creamy “guac,” or spicy pico will guarantee a good time.
- Salsa Guacamole: I’ll start with this unique mixture. A friend of mine introduced me to this, and now I can’t stop. The secret to this simple recipe is pico de gallo, ripe avocados, salt and a squeeze of fresh lime. How easy is that?
- Pico de Gallo: This pico won hands down in a showdown of methods. I’ve found that prepping your tomatoes gives the best texture. This pico is balanced, hearty and a snap to make.
- Fire Roasted Salsa: Smoky, fire-charred tomatoes and green chiles meld with fresh elements and a lively mix of seasonings such as garlic, lime juice, cumin, and smoked paprika to create Fire Roasted Salsa. Perfect for any social event, this salsa captures the vibrant essence of Mexican flavors and takes just 10 minutes to prepare.
- Cilantro Lime Crema: Cilantro Lime Crema elevates traditional sour cream or Mexican crema with the zesty kick of fresh lime juice and the earthy depth of cilantro, making it a standout element in both flavor and texture.
- Mango Avocado Salsa: This colorful salsa is perfect for seafood recipes. I love it because it’s chunky, fresh, and good enough to eat by the spoonful. (Check out my mango slicing tips to make it even easier.)
- Mexican Shrimp Cocktail: This is not your average shrimp cocktail. This Mexican version is loaded with plump juicy shrimp and buttery avocado in a spicy, tomato based sauce!
- Lime Crema: Tangy, rich Lime Crema is made in just 5 minutes with 4 simple ingredients. It's the ideal sauce for your Mexican food favorites like tacos, nachos, burritos, quesadillas and grilled meats. It even makes a great salad dressing!
- Virgin Margarita Recipe: A simple, everyday ingredient makes these non-alcoholic margaritas taste like the real thing.