29 Recipes That Are Perfect for Any Cinco de Mayo Party

Cinco de Mayo commemorates a regional Mexican military battle, but it has evolved to become an important celebration of Mexican culture in the United States. Here we’ve rounded up some of our favorite Cinco de Mayo party recipes — from queso and guacamole to mango cake and sopapillas.

April 21, 2022
By: Carlos Olaechea

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Plan a Mexican-Inspired Feast

Cinco de Mayo is not a major holiday in Mexico. In fact, it’s even considered a minor holiday in the region where it is observed, Puebla. It actually commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1865 when a small band of Mexican fighters defeated French invaders. It has nothing to do with Mexican independence, contrary to what a lot of Americans may think. It’s kind of the equivalent of Patriot’s Day in the United States. Chances are that if you’re not from New England, you’ve never heard of the holiday, and most people who have heard of it don’t really do much in terms of celebrating it other than mix up a margarita or two and make a batch of guacamole to snack on. The same goes for Cinco de Mayo in Mexico. Nevertheless, Cinco de Mayo has evolved in the United States to become a big celebration of Mexican cuisine and culture, or at least Americans’ interpretations of it. That's why we've rounded up some of our favorite recipes representing both authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex flavors, starting with Marcela's mini flautas. They're hearty and satisfying with their combination of zesty Mexican chorizo and potatoes. The crunchy corn tortillas give way to a soft and savory filling that will make these a hit at any party.

Get the Recipe: Chorizo and Potato Mini Flautas

Machaca

This marinated, shredded beef is perfect for tostadas, burritos, tacos and even sandwiches. Better yet, this recipe makes a big batch so you can easily store some in the freezer and be one step ahead on the night of your party.

Get the Recipe: Slow-Cooker Braised Brisket (Machaca)

Mexican Red Rice

This is a recipe for the Mexican rice you get with entrees at most Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants. It’s a perfect accompaniment to enchiladas, moles, or beans. It can also be made ahead of time and reheated.

Get the Recipe: Mexican Red Rice (Arroz Rojo)

Elotes Asados

Grilled street-style corn is a staple all over Mexico. You will often see the corn being grilled in its husks over fire — but you can achieve great results on a stovetop. This recipe offers options for each. In both versions, you cook the corn in its husks to develop that smoky and sweet flavor that goes so well with creamy mayo, sour cream and salty Cotija cheese, making it one of the most delicious street foods you can find.

Get the Recipe: Elotes Asados

Mole Nachos

Shake things up a bit with these mole nachos, which feature a complex Mexican sauce that includes lots of spices, chiles, and even some peanut butter. It’s a nice alternative to the typical taco meat topping you find on nachos and a more authentic taste of Mexican cuisine.

Get the Recipe: Mole Nachos

Watermelon and Mint Agua Fresca

This fruity and refreshing drink is so simple to make. Just puree cubed, seeded watermelon with a little water in a blender, until smooth. Then, pour over a mixture of muddled mint leaves, sugar and lime slices. Best of all, agua fresca (which can be made with a variety of different fruits) pairs perfectly with just about any Mexican dish you’re serving up.

Get the Recipe: Watermelon and Mint "Agua Fresca" (Fresh Fruit-Blended Water)

Pico de Gallo

Pico de gallo literally means rooster’s beak in Spanish. While stories vary on how this fresh salsa got its names, we can agree that it’s one of the most popular types of salsa in the US. This simple recipe can be multiplied to feed a crowd.

Get the Recipe: Pico de Gallo

Chicken Tamales

Ingrid makes party-perfect tamales easy: Use store-bought rotisserie chicken and jarred green salsa.

Get the Recipe: Chicken Tamales

Chicken Enchiladas

There are few things as comforting as a bubbling dish of enchiladas straight out of the oven. This recipe is a great one to keep in your recipe book as it recreates the flavors of perfect Tex-Mex enchiladas drowned in a tangy red sauce.

Get the Recipe: Chicken Enchiladas

Bunuelos

Marcela’s take on this delicious, deep-fried treat couldn’t be easier: she uses pre-made tortillas. Leave them whole or cut them into any desired shape before frying, then toss in cinnamon-sugar. It’s that simple!

Get the Recipe: Cinnamon-Sugar Crisps ("Bunuelos")

Esquites

Esquites are a popular Mexican street snack of corn kernels with seasonings, sharp cheese, and a creamy sauce. This recipe calls for grilling fresh ears of corn, which aren’t always available this time of year. Fortunately, you can recreate the recipe with frozen corn kernels

Get the Recipe: Esquites

Chicken Flautas with Avocado Cream

Chicken is a favorite filling for flautas, and these flautas are a perfect vehicle for a creamy avocado dipping sauce. You may want to make extra dipping sauce, because your guests are sure to double dip into this velvety condiment.

Get the Recipe: Chicken Flautas with Avocado Cream

Margarita

A classic margarita should have a nice balance of sweet and sour. This particular cocktail won’t lie; most prepared mixes don’t taste as bright and fresh as the real thing — so taking the time to squeeze juice before bartending is key.

Get the Recipe: Margarita

Fresh Crab Nachos

Not all nachos need to feature beef, and this is the perfect example. This recipe from Ina Garten subs the meat for crab, making it a lighter alternative and also perfect for pescatarians. You can also beef it up with some sauteed shrimp.

Get the Recipe: Fresh Crab Nachos

Enchilada Cups

Enchiladas are a great Cinco de Mayo dish, but they can be messy to serve if you’re hosting a cocktail party. This recipe solves that by making toasted tortilla cups and filling them with enchilada-inspired fillings.

Get the Recipe: Enchilada Cups

Tres Leches Cake

This cake originated in Nicaragua but has become hugely popular throughout Latin America, especially in Mexico. If you love super moist desserts, this is the cake for you as it’s soaked in a combination of cream, evaporated milk, and condensed milk.

Get the Recipe: Tres Leches Cake

Chipotle Beef Tostadas

Tostadas are like flat crunchy tacos with a ton of toppings. While they’re usually layered with beans and meat, these combine the beans and ground beef for simple assembly. The topping is also seasoned with smoky chipotle chiles.

Get the Recipe: Chipotle Beef Tostadas

Queso

Queso is a classic Tex-Mex dip and can be just as good drizzled over burritos or enchiladas. This recipe ups the cheesiness by adding cheddar and monterey jack cheese to the mix of processed cheese and canned tomatoes and chiles. It makes for a thicker, richer queso all your guests will remember.

Get the Recipe: Queso

Cowboy Nachos

This Pioneer Woman recipe replaces the ground beef you find in most nacho recipes with brisket, which gives these nachos some heft. It’s paired with some homemade pinto beans with a lot of bacon-y flavor.

Get the Recipe: Cowboy Nachos

Sopapillas

These squares of dough puff up like balloons when you fry them, and they’re one of the most fun things to eat drizzled with honey. But don’t let this recipe stop your imagination. Sopapillas are the perfect vehicle for any type of sauce or topping that you want. Go crazy!

Get the Recipe: Sopapillas

Mexican Salad

The real star of this recipe is the creamy, zesty dressing, which can go on pretty much anything. You can follow Ree Drummond’s salad suggestions or make your own Mexican-inspired salad to have with this irresistible dressing.

Get the Recipe: Mexican Salad

Tamale Pie

Tamale pie is a classic Tex-Mex dish and super easy to make. It’s kind of like a spicier version of shepherd’s pie topped with a cornmeal crust rather than mashed potatoes. It’s something you can assemble ahead of time and pop in the oven right before company arrives.

Get the Recipe: Tamale Pie

Mexican Mango Cake

The beauty of this cake is all in the topping: a luscious combination of mango, cream cheese, and tequila. It’s perfect drizzled over Marcela Valladolid’s vanilla bundt cake, but you can also use the topping as a dip for fruit or even sopapillas.

Get the Recipe: Mexican Mango Cake

Chicken Taco Meat Tacos

This is a great recipe if you like planning ahead or you like having taco filling ready to go in the freezer. It makes a lot of shredded chicken filling and includes instructions for how to freeze and defrost it. You can make this filling weeks ahead of time and simply reheat when you’re ready to serve.

Get the Recipe: Chicken Taco Meat Tacos

Mexican Mini Pizzas

This is a creative way to add some Mexican flavor to your Cinco de Mayo celebrations, and it’s a really simple recipe. It just calls for store-bought pizza dough to which you add crumbled Mexican chorizo and Monterey Jack cheese.

Get the Recipe: Mexican Mini-Pizzas

Purple Paletas

Paletas are Mexican popsicles and can be made out of almost anything from limeade and mango juice to sweet corn and cucumbers. These are made with ingredients that are readily available in most US supermarkets, like grape juice and blueberries.

Get the Recipe: Purple Paletas

Fish Tacos

Fish tacos aren’t just a diet thing. They’re actually very popular along Mexico’s coasts, especially in Baja California. The fish in this recipe is seasoned with ancho chiles, and there are even instructions for how to make your own smooth Mexican tomato salsa.

Get the Recipe: Fish Tacos

Refried Beans

This recipe will come in handy as you plan a Mexican-inspired feast, since refried beans go in so many types of dishes. This recipe has an extra boost of flavor from bacon or ham hocks, so you know it will be extra good on tacos, tostadas, or a seven-layer dip.

Get the Recipe: Refried Beans