7 Mexican Foods That Aren’t Strictly Mexican

There’s a skeleton in the sugar skull closet: many foods that are widely accepted as Mexican are, in fact, not of Mexican origin at all.

Mexican. Food. Chances are you’re in love with the colorfully diverse cuisine of Tierra Azteca just like the rest of us. And how could you not be? Along with beautiful music, landscapes, and craftsmanship, wonderful food and drink specimens are some of Mexico’s greatest gifts to the world.

But there’s a skeleton in the sugar skull closet: many foods that are widely accepted as Mexican are, in fact, not of Mexican origin at all.

Staples such as margaritas and hard-shell tacos were technically both born in the U.S., so basically, Taco Tuesday is a lie – albeit a delicious one. Check out these seven other Mexican dishes that didn’t originate from Mexico.

1. Burritos


Wait, does this mean Los Angeles gets to take credit?! They’ll never let us live it down! Photo: @bestfood_aroundtheworld / Instagram

We can hear your burrito dreams bursting. Blasphemy you say, but hear us out. While they may not be directly Mexican, feel comfort in knowing their influence is undoubtedly Mesoamerican.

Some say they were introduced by farmworkers in California’s Central Valley while others claim it was a man who sold them from his donkey in Ciudad Juárez (the word *burrito *itself means, “little donkey”).

Regardless they first appeared on menus during the 1930s at an eatery in Los Angeles, California, called El Cholo Spanish Cafe. Hopefully, the guac didn’t cost extra.

2. Churro


Mexico, you may want to send China a hand-written ‘thank you’ letter. Photo: @allrecipes / Instagram

These delicious cinnamon dough pastries may be a staple for fairgrounds, as well as Mexican food carts and trucks, but their history begins across the globe in Asia.

Churros started as a savory donut from China known as youtiao, before Portuguese sailors brought them home where they spread to Spain, Europe, and, eventually, Mexico.

3. Tacos al Pastor


They are called shepherds’ Tacos—kind of on us for not putting that together. Photo: @barcelonainspira / Instagram

You can order tacos al pastor in many Mexican restaurants, taquerias, food trucks, and kitchens, but this style of strategically marinated meat got its inspiration from Arab and Lebanese “shepherds," (which translates to pastor in Spanish), who immigrated to Mexico. While they typically made theirs from lamb, the Mexican variety uses pork.

Now that you know that, doesn’t pastor have a strong resemblance to shawarma?

4. Salsa


Mexico nabbed the recipe from its Southern neighbors? Typical neighbor behavior! Photo: @muchugs / Instagram

Sorry folks. More bubbles to burst. Found both in and outside of Mexico, salsa’s roots trace through Central and South America. You’ll find salsa roja, salsa verde, and pico de gallo in Mexico, mojo in the Caribbean and Cuba, chimichurri in Argentina, and many more depending on the region.

5. Calaveras


Is nothing sacred!?!?! Photo: @calaveradodontchilla / Instagram

These colorful sugar skulls are most popular during the celebrations of Dia de los Muertos and All Souls’ Day.

While the holiday blends Mesoamerican traditions with Catholic and ancient Celtic roots, the process of making sugar art comes from Italian missionaries who introduced the technique in the 17th century.

6. Rosca de Reyes


Ugh, we should have known it’s just fruitcake in disguise! Photo: @iingriidmoriin / Instagram

Made with fruits such as candied orange peels, figs, and cherries, this traditional sweetened bread gets served on January 6, in celebration of the Epiphany or Dia de Reyes.

Predominantly observed in Spain and throughout Europe, many Mexicans and Mexican-Americans take part in the festivities as well, but whatever you do, just don’t swallow the baby Jesus trinket hidden inside.

7. Fajitas


At least, they were designed by Mexicans. Photo: @agavenyc / Instagram

Your friends make them, your favorite Mexican restaurant sells them, and Mexicans sizzle up batches too—but fajitas are completely Tex-Mexican.

Dating back to 1930s Texas, fajitas were grilled on campfires by Mexican farmhands using the throwaway beef cuts included in their pay. The word itself didn’t even appear in print until 1971. Not long after, fajitas began popping up in several Mexican restaurants. By the 1980s, fast casual restaurants caught on to the cost-efficient trend and hadn’t looked back since.