Mexican Shrimp Cocktail recipe
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This Mexican Cinco de Mayo menu goes way beyond the usual tacos and margaritas in case you’re craving something different.

While you may miss the live mariachi music and bottomless bowls of chips and salsa from the cantina across the street—normally such a tempting destination on Cinco de Mayo—this year your options are either curbside pickup, delivery (if you’re lucky), or to take matters into your own hands.

If none of your local Mexican spots are currently open, make as many of the Cinco de Mayo recipes below as you like, crank the ranchero music station, and cue up Zoom for a virtual hang with your best amigos.

You won’t miss the sickly-sweet frozen margarita mix or artery-clogging queso when you have actual Mexican food at home instead.

Related Reading: 11 of the Best Mexican Pantry Staples You Can Buy Online

Drinks

If you really want a margarita, we get it—but we also have lots of other delicious alternatives, including some non-alcoholic options.

Agua de Jamaica

hibiscus margarita recipe

Chowhound

Agua de jamaica, a dark purple, sweet-tart punch, is one of the most ubiquitous drinks in Mexico. Its fruity flavor is easy to replicate if you can track down dried hibiscus flowers. And if you want to spike it, it makes a great cocktail too. Get our Agua de Jamaica recipe.

Horchata

horchata recipe

Chowhound

Horchata, a milky yet dairy-free refreshment made with rice, almonds, cinnamon, and sugar, is the best way to temper any lingering heat from feisty chiles. Get our Horchata recipe. (And yes, this one is good spiked too!)

Paloma

Paloma cocktail recipe

Chowhound

Why does the margarita get the spotlight every Cinco de Mayo? We think the Paloma, a tequila drink made with grapefruit soda, tastes even more refreshing. Bonus: It’s far less work to make, too. Get our Paloma recipe.

Related Reading: The Best Places to Buy Alcohol Online

Michelada

michelada recipe

Chowhound

The salt and lime in this michelada Cubana are just margarita-esque enough for those who aren’t tequila drinkers. Get our Michelada recipe.

Snacks & Starters

Better than your average chips and guac.

Totopos

homemade tortilla chips recipe

Chowhound

Freshly made tortilla chips are the absolute best vehicle for any salsa or guacamole you choose. Get our Basic Tortilla Chips recipe. (If you prefer not to fry, our Baked Tortilla Chips recipe is a good alternative.)

Guacamole Taquero

Guacamole Taquero recipe

Chowhound

If you prefer smooth green avocado dip to chunky, thick guacamoles, then our guacamole taquero, a blended mix of avocado, tomatillos, epazote, and chiles is for you. Get our Guacamole Taquero recipe.

Related Reading: 11 Ways to Gussy Up Guac | 5 Guacamole Mistakes You’re Making

Papalote-Inspired Salsa

Thin Taqueria Salsa recipe

Chowhound

This salsa is an ersatz version of one of San Francisco’s most popular from Papalote Mexican Grill. A combination of roasted tomatoes, chiles de árbol, and pasilla peppers mean you won’t be able to put it down. Get our Papalote-Inspired Salsa recipe.

Elote

Mexican Grilled Corn recipe with Cotija Cheese, Lime, and Cayenne

Chowhound

The classic Mexican street snack of grilled or roasted ears of corn slathered in mayo, sprinkled with cotija cheese, and spritzed with lime juice is never not amazing. Get our Elote recipe.

Related Reading: 11 Ways to Eat Elote When You Just Can’t Get Enough

Mains & Sides

There’s a whole world of tacos, enchiladas, burritos, fajitas, tamales, and quesadillas to choose from (and we love them all), but here are some less common options to consider.

Pipián-Inspired Vegetable Stew

Mexican vegetable stew

Chowhound

For this humble Mexican stew, we took inspiration from pipíans, Mexico’s mole-like sauces thickened with seeds. Make it ahead of time and the flavors meld so they’re even better. Get our Mexican Vegetable Stew recipe.

Mole Casero


If you have time to spare, making mole is well worth it in the end. This richly flavored version is fantastic over anything: meat or poultry; veggies; cheese-stuffed enchiladas…and with just a couple ingredient swaps, it’s easily made vegan too. Get the Mole Casero recipe.

Cóctel de Camarones

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail recipe

Chowhound

In coastal Mexican towns, it’s common to find different versions of shrimp cocktail everywhere. Because the shrimp are poached before they’re marinated, the dish is ideal for those who love the flavors of ceviche but are wary of consuming raw seafood. Get our Mexican Shrimp Cocktail recipe.

Related Reading: The Best Places to Buy Fresh Seafood Online

Ceviche Tostadas

Ceviche Tostada recipe

Chowhound

If you’re making a raw seafood dish, like this Veracruz-style ceviche tostada, be sure to set aside time ahead of your feast so the seafood has sufficient time to marinate. Get our Ceviche Tostadas recipe.

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Mexican Torta with Rajas

Mexican Veggie Torta with Rajas

Chowhound

Mexican sandwiches are serious business, and while this one is as overstuffed and gloriously sloppy as you’d expect, it’s also vegetarian (unless you use refried beans with lard). Get our Mexican Torta with Rajas recipe.

Chiles Rellenos

Chiles Rellenos recipe

Chowhound

These cheese-stuffed poblano peppers in their crisp egg batter are a study in contrasting textures, and another hearty vegetarian option no meat eater would ever turn down. Get our Chiles Rellenos recipe.

Cochinita Pibil

how to make cochinita pibil

Chowhound

For something truly meaty, though, this Yucatán pork preparation is simple but delicious, and if you love carnitas, you need to try it. Get our Cochinita Pibil recipe.

Black Beans with Mexican Beer

Mexican Beer Black Beans recipe

Chowhound

Although these braised black beans are perfect for serving atop tortillas or as a side to any of the mains above, let’s be honest: This recipe is also an excuse to drink a bottle (or two) of Modelo while manning the stove. Get our Black Beans with Mexican Beer recipe.

Arroz Verde

Mexican Green Rice recipe

Chowhound

Our favorite Mexican rice comes with plenty of flavor from poblanos, scallions, cilantro, and parsley—not to mention heat from spicy serranos. Serve it as a side dish with grilled meats or baked Mexican tilapia. Get our Arroz Verde recipe.

Dessert

You may not have room for a postre after such a feast, but these Mexican sweets are so good you’ll be glad to have them around when you are finally hungry again later.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake

tres leches cake recipe

Chowhound

Close out your meal with tres leches cake, a fluffy, sticky dessert laced with dark rum and coconut milk. Get our Coconut Tres Leches Cake recipe.

Churros

Mexican Hot Chocolate and Churros recipe

Chowhound

The classic fried dough batons rolled in cinnamon sugar are simply delicious, with or without rich Mexican hot chocolate for dunking and drinking alongside. Get our Churros recipe.

Mango and Cayenne Paletas

mango cayenne paleta recipe

Chowhound

If you want to end on a lighter note, these sweet and spicy mango ice pops pay homage to the Mexican tradition of serving fresh fruit with chile and lime. Get our Mango and Cayenne Paleta recipe.

Check out all of our recipes for Cinco de Mayo to make your celebration special.

More Delicious Ideas

The Best Mexican Cookbooks for Making Your Favorite Food at Home

Susannah Chen wrote the original version of this post in 2015; it has been updated with additional links, images, and text.

Header image by Chowhound.

Susannah Chen is a San Francisco–based freelance writer. When she’s not cooking or writing, she’s on the hunt to find the world’s best chilaquiles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
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