11 Recipes for Cinco de Mayo Food Festivities

Even though Cinco de Mayo is a relatively small holiday in Mexico, it has exploded in popularity in the U.S. in recent years. The History Channel says this is because in the 1960s, Chicano activists wanted to raise awareness of the holiday and its significance. The date, May 5, marks the victory of Mexican forces over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The victory had symbolic importance, raising the morale of the Mexican troops, and the resistance movement during the Franco-Mexican War. In Mexico, celebrations are held — especially in Puebla — but it is not a major or bank holiday. In the U.S., Cinco de Mayo continues to be a celebration of Mexican culture through food, festivals, parades, and events. In that spirit, here are 11 recipes to make for your own Cinco de Mayo food festivities.

Source: iStock

1. Refried Beans

Simplify your life and free up stove space by making your refried beans in the slow cooker. With this AllRecipes.com recipe, the crock pot does all the work, cooking the beans for 8 hours.


  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • 3 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
  • ½ fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 5 teaspoons salt
  • 1¾ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cumin, optional
  • 9 cups water

Directions: Place the onion, rinsed beans, jalapeño, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin into a slow cooker. Pour in the water and stir to combine. Cook on high for 8 hours, adding more water as needed. Note: if more than 1 cup of water has evaporated during cooking, then the temperature is too high.

Once the beans have cooked, strain them, and reserve the liquid. Mash the beans with a potato masher, adding the reserved water as needed to attain desired consistency.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

2. Enchiladas

Recipe Girl wants to have you dishing out beef enchiladas, and we see no reason not to to follow this easy recipe. It makes six, 2 enchilada-sized servings.


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1½ cups diced onion
  • 1½ cups (about 2 medium) finely diced zucchini
  • 12 corn tortillas, heated or fried in oil to soften
  • 2½ cups enchilada sauce, canned or homemade
  • 3 cups cheddar jack shredded cheese
  • Serve as desired with: shredded lettuce, avocado, cilantro, and sour cream

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with nonstick spray. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add ground beef; break apart with a spoon or spatula to crumble the meat. Sauté the meat on medium heat until browned (about 5 minutes.) Tilt the pan and spoon the fat out of the pan; discard. Remove cooked meat to a bowl.

Return pan to medium heat and add onion and zucchini. Sauté until just softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan and add to the meat mixture; set aside. Add ½ cup of sauce to the prepared pan. Spread it around so it coats the entire bottom of the pan.

Assemble the enchiladas: Place tortilla on a work surface. Spoon ¼ to ⅓ cup of the meat mixture down the middle. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of cheese on top of the meat. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of sauce on top. Wrap the tortilla around the filling tightly and place it seam side down in the pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling until you have finished filling 12 tortillas. Place the tortillas side by side in the pan.

Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the top of the stuffed enchiladas. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and take off the foil. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top; return to the oven and let the cheese melt. Serve immediately with desired condiments

Source: iStock

3. Horchata

Beverages for Cinco de Mayo tend to not be kid-friendly affairs, but that is not the case with horchatas. There are many ways to make this creamy drink, and this take from Pati’s Mexican Table uses cinnamon and vanilla to flavor and sweeten.


  • 2 cups long or extra long white rice
  • 3 cups hot water
  • 1 cinnamon stick, (ceylon or true cinnamon, if you can)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • Ground cinnamon to sprinkle on top, optional

Directions: Place the rice in a bowl and cover with hot water. Roughly crumble a piece of true cinnamon into the rice mix and let is all sit and rest anywhere from 2 to 8 hours outside of the refrigerator.

Place half of the rice mixture in the blender with half of the milk and vanilla and blend until smooth, then strain into a pitcher or container. Place the other half of the rice mixture in the blender with the remaining milk and the sugar, pure until smooth, and strain into the same pitcher or container.

Stir well and serve over ice cubes or place in the refrigerator until it is cold. Serve with more ice cubes to your liking, and sprinkle some ground cinnamon on top if you wish.


Source: iStock

4. Grilled Skirt Steak with Tomatillos

For a break from the usual fajitas and enchiladas, make Gourmet‘s grilled skirt steak that doubles up on the tomatillo flavor and serves between 4 and 6 people. What’s Cooking America explains that tomatillos are staples of Mexican cooking, and it is “meatier” than your typical tomato.



  • 4 pasillas de Oaxaca (dried smoked chiles), wiped clean
  • 1 pound fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed, then quartered
  • 1 cup packed cilantro sprigs
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon molasses (not blackstrap)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil

Steaks and tomatillo salad

  • ¼ cup vegetable oil, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1¾ pounds skirt steak, halved
  • ½ pound fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

Directions: Slit chiles lengthwise, then stem and seed. Heat a dry heavy skillet over medium heat until hot, then toast chiles, opened flat, turning and pressing with tongs, until more pliable and slightly changed in color, about 1 minute. Cover chiles with hot water in a bowl and soak until softened, about 20 minutes, then drain.

Purée chiles, tomatillos, cilantro, garlic, brown sugar, molasses, cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt in a blender until smooth, about 1 minute. Heat oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then cook salsa, stirring occasionally, until slightly thicker, 5 to 8 minutes.

Prepare a grill for direct-heat cooking over hot charcoal. Whisk together 2 tablespoons oil, cumin, 1½ teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper, then coat steaks. Oil grill rack, then grill steaks, covered only if using a gas grill, turning once until grill marks appear, 4 to 6 minutes total for medium-rare. Let steaks rest on a cutting board, loosely covered with foil, 10 minutes.

While the steaks rest, make the salad. Thinly slice tomatillos and toss with cilantro, shallot, lime juice, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Cut steaks into serving pieces and top with salsa and salad.

Source: iStock

5. Cilantro Lime Quinoa With Black Beans

For a vegetarian and gluten-free side dish, turn to Joyful Healthy Eats and this quinoa dish. It serves around 6 people, and can be made paleo by omitting the beans.


  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon of lime zest
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 3 roasted garlic cloves, smashed or smeared
  • 1 (15 ounce) can of low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper

Directions: Bring water and quinoa to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until all the water is gone. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork.

Next add lime zest, lime juice, smashed garlic cloves, and low sodium black beans. Toss together. Next add chopped fresh cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.Toss to combine everything and serve.


Source: iStock

6. Grilled Salmon Salad Tacos with Mango Pico de Gallo

Duo Dishes has a salmon taco salad that brings the wow factor in terms of taste and presentation. You’ll have enough food for 4 small taco bowls from this recipe, which can be a side, or main dish.



  • 4 small flour tortillas
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • ½ pound salmon, skin on
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon mustard powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon chipotle powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ⅓ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more for seasoning
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 medium shallot, halved
  • 1 medium celery stalk, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • Lettuce leaves

Pico de Gallo

  • 1 medium mango, peeled and diced
  • 2 vine tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
  • Zest of ½ small lime
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh lime juice

Directions: To make the tortilla shells, lay four small bowls or ramekins, upside down, on a large baking sheet. Spray the rounded outside of the bowls well with cooking spray. Set aside.

Wrap the flour tortillas in lightly dampened paper towels and microwave until they just begin to soften, approximately 20 to 30 seconds. Do this in 5 to 10 second increments. Once warm, quickly lay them on top of the bowls, pressing the edges down to help them stick. Spray the tortillas again.

Slide the baking sheet into an oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the shells brown evenly. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Carefully lift the shells off the bowls and set on a cooling rack to cool completely. As the shells cool, mix the paprika, mustard powder, garlic powder, chipotle powder, oregano, cumin, and salt together until well-incorporated. Using all of the spice mix, coat the entire fish, not including the skin side. Press the spice mix into the fish to help it adhere.

Coat the grill pan with vegetable oil and set over a medium high flame. Once the pan has heated, place the fish, skin side up, into the middle of the pan. Cook for 5 minutes without moving the fish. Flip over and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from the pan, or continue cooking to your preferred level of doneness. While the fish cools, finely dice one of the shallot halves. Place the diced shallot and celery into a bowl with the sour cream. Flake the fish away from the salmon skin and add the meat to the bowl. Mix well.

For the pico de gallo, mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Season to taste with salt. Layer lettuce in the bottom of each taco shell, then add a scoop of the salmon salad. Top with a bit of the mango pico de gallo and serve.

Chicken Fajita, bell peppers

Source: iStock

7. Flavorful Fajitas

Taste of Home wants to leave your tastebuds tingling with this chicken fajita recipe. Make this meal — which serves six — for lunch or dinner on Cinco de Mayo.


  • 4 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1½ teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
  • ½ medium sweet red pepper, julienned
  • ½ medium green pepper, julienned
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 6 flour tortillas (8 inches), warmed
  • Shredded cheddar cheese, taco sauce, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream

Directions: In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 2 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, and seasonings; add the chicken. Seal and turn to coat; refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.

In a large skillet, sauté peppers and onions in remaining oil until crisp-tender. Remove and keep warm. Discard marinade. In the same skillet, cook chicken over medium-high heat for 5 to 6 minutes or until no longer pink. Return pepper mixture to pan; heat through. Spoon filling down the center of tortillas; fold in half. Serve with cheese, taco sauce, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. Yield: 6 servings.

Source: Thinkstock

8. Flour Tortillas

No tortillas at home? No problem. Follow this recipe for 16 tortillas from The Café Sucré Farine and you’ll have the freshest flour tortillas possible. They can also be made in advance and heated in the microwave.


  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup warm water

Directions: Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the dough hook attached mix dry ingredients until well-combined. Add oil and water with mixer running at a medium speed. Mix for 1 minute, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl. After about 1 minute, or when mixture comes together and begins to form a ball, decrease mixing speed to low. Continue to mix for 1 minute or until dough is smooth.

Transfer from mixing bowl to a well-floured work surface. Divide dough in half, then in half again. Continue until you have 16 fairly equal portions. Form each piece into a ball and flatten with the palm of your hand as much as possible. If dough is sticky, use a bit more flour. Cover flattened balls of dough with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes before proceeding.

After rest period, heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Roll each dough piece into a rough circle, about 6-7 inches in diameter, keep work surface and rolling pin lightly floured. Don’t stack uncooked tortillas on top of each other or they will get soggy. When pan is very hot, place one dough circle into pan and allow to cook about 1 minute or until bottom surface is lightly browned in places and starting to bubble a bit. If tortilla is browning too fast, reduced heat a bit. If it’s taking longer than a minute to see golden brown spots on underside of tortillas, increase heat a bit.

Flip to other side and cook for about 30 seconds. You want the tortilla to be soft but have small golden brown spots on surface. Remove from pan with tongs and stack on a plate till all tortillas are cooked. Allow to cool completely if not using right away, When cool, tortillas can be placed in a large zippered bag or plastic container. They will keep well at at room temperature for 24 hours or can be frozen indefinitely

Source: iStock

9. Guacamole

The Mexican restaurant Rosa Mexicano shares its guacamole recipe online, so even if you aren’t near one of its locations on Cinco de Mayo, you can still enjoy the raved about guacamole.


Chile paste

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped white onion
  • 1 firmly packed tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeño, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or as needed

Additional ingredients

  • 3 medium ripe but firm Hass avocados (about 8 ounces each)
  • 3 tablespoons diced tomato
  • 2 firmly packed tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped white onion
  • Salt if necessary
  • Tortilla chips and/or fresh corn tortillas

Directions: To make the chile paste, grind the onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and salt together in a molcajete (mortar and pestle) until all the ingredients are very finely ground. Alternatively, use a fork to mash all the ingredients to a paste in a wide hardwood bowl.

Cut each avocado in half, working the knife blade around the pit. Twist the halves to separate them and flick out the pit with the tip of the knife. Fold a kitchen towel in quarters and hold it in the palm of your “non-knife” hand.

Rest an avocado half cut side up in your palm and make 3 or 4 evenly spaced lengthwise cuts through the avocado flesh down to the skin, without cutting through it. Make 4 crosswise cuts in the same way. Scoop the diced avocado flesh into the molcajete. Repeat with the remaining avocado halve.

Source: iStock

10. Margarita Cake

If your Cinco de Mayo plans include sipping margaritas, you’ll have most of the ingredients on hand for this AllRecipes.com 10-inch bundt cake. If you do not have a 10-inch bundt pan, you can find a substitute based on volume here.


  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package orange cake mix
  • 1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ⅔ cup water
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup tequila
  • 2 tablespoons triple sec liqueur
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon tequila
  • 2 tablespoons triple sec liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan. In a large bowl combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil, water, lemon juice ¼ cup tequila, and 2 tablespoons triple sec. Beat for 2 minutes.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes; remove to rack and pour glaze over cake while still warm.

For the glaze: In a small bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar with 1 tablespoon tequila, 2 tablespoons triple sec, and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Mix until smooth.

Source: Thinkstock

11. Margarita

Keep the margarita ball rolling and your cake down with a classic, simple margarita. Cooking Channel’s version is served on the rocks, with a salted rim.


  • 1½ ounces silver tequila
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • ½ ounce fresh lime juice
  • Splash simple syrup
  • Salt rim

Directions: Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake until cold and strain into a chilled salt-rimmed glass.

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