8 foods you don’t want to miss in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

There’s no better way to dive into a culture than by sampling the local cuisine. Here are a few of the top most adventurous foods to try in and around Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Sampling mezcal in a gourd in Oaxaca Mexico

Sampling mezcal in a gourd in Oaxaca Mexico

1. Chapulines: Crunchy, toasted and spiced grasshoppers are delicious in tacos or on their own as a quick snack. Take a food tour with Gina’s Walking Tours for an introduction to these crispy critters or buy some in Benito Juarez Market and experiment with them as topping for your favourite dish.

Toasted chapulines ( grasshoppers) in market in Oaxaca

toasted grasshoppers in Oaxaca market

2. Tamales de Tichinda: These warm tamales are stuffed (and accompanied) by fresh black clam-like mollusks. Look for them near the Colotepec River or try them in the towns surrounding Chacahua Lagoons National Park. You can also see them for sale on Saturdays at the Benito Juarez Market.

3.  Salsa de Chicatanas: At the beginning and end of the rainy season, locals gather baskets full of flying ants as the insects escape from their flooded nests. The black ants are then toasted on a clay grill called a comal and then ground in a molcajete to make salsa de chicatanas, a treasured spring delicacy. The ants are so prized you won’t often find them in the market so your best bet is to search out a salsa cooking class with The Mexykan where you’ll prepare and sample a variety of salsas. Or, befriend one of the local chefs such as Chef Quetzalcoatl Zurita  who specializes in Oaxacan cuisine at his restaurant Almoraduz near Playa Principal.


salsa de chicatanas ( ants) Photo Credit The Mexykan

salsa de chicatanas ( ants) Photo Credit The Mexykan

4. Cuitlacoche: This unique black corn fungus is so revered for its earthy flavour that it’s known as the Mexican truffle. Appearance-wise, the delicacy may be as appetizing as a lump of coal, but the black gold fetches top dollar in local markets.

pollo cuitlacoche alberto Ramiro Flickr

Looks a bit like a scene from Alien – it’s pollo cuitlacoche with photo by Alberto Ramiro Flickr

5. Mezcal: There’s a reason that artisanal mescal, tequila’s quirky cousin, is steadily earning its place on bar shelves worldwide. While tequila production is restricted to only one type of agave, skilled Oaxacan mescaleros craft mezcal blends using up to 20 different types, resulting in subtle nuances in flavour ranging from citrusy to smoky. For an adventure in Puerto Escondido, try a shot of Don Franco, a potent local  liqueur. Or, join the Spirit of Oaxaca Mezcal and Beer Lover’s Cultural Tour, taking place on November 1, 2014 and sample mezcal de pechuga, crafted by suspending a raw chicken breast over a vat of mezcal, in communities in the valleys on the way to Oaxaca City.

Mezcal production in Oaxaca

Mezcal production in Oaxaca, Mexico

6. Nopal: Visitors are likely to raise an eyebrow when first spotting the prickly plant on the menu, but nopal cactus is one of Mexico’s most iconic ingredients.Try it for yourself at the market, where you can watch Zapotec vendors remove the spiky spines, peel the rind and then stack the shiny paddle-shaped leaves to go. With its delicate, tangy flavour, cactus is versatile.

nopal in Puerto Escondido's Benito Juarez Market

Shop for nopal in Puerto Escondido’s Benito Juarez Market

7. Mole: This staple, which can refer to a variety of traditional sauces, takes hours to make and is a must-have at any Mexican celebration. Though Oaxaca is known as the Land of Seven Moles, if you’re forced to choose just one, go for the mole negro: a rich, spicy and smoky-sweet sauce made from tomatoes, almonds, raisins, chocolate, plantain and chilis, including the rare chilhuacle variety, grown only in southern Mexico.

8. Paletas: Icy paletas, made by freezing purified water with sugar and fruit, offer a quick and delicious way to cool off in the heat. Expect to find watermelon, guava and mango along with exotic creations like gooseberry or jicama with chili and gardenia petals.

Fresh fruit paletas or popsicles in Oaxaca Mexico

Fresh fruit paletas or popsicles in Oaxaca Mexico

As if that’s not enough culinary adventure, I heard from a reader that it’s also worth trying  ants eggs (escamoles) cooked with Epazote in tacos. And ,  the worms used for the worm salt toasted in tacos or to rim a glass for a mezcal cocktail. I’ll report back on those experiences in an upcoming post. Be sure to subscribe to A Taste for Travel blog to receive it in your in-basket. .

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Showing 7 comments
  • Lesley Peterson

    Yes to nopal, mezcal and paletas and a huge NO!! to ant sauce and worm salt. Eek! Oaxaca is an adventure in so many ways.

  • Judy Colbert

    Thanks for the wonderfully thorough descriptions. Although I try a lot of things, I’m probably going to stay away from the grasshoppers and ants and other things that used to crawl around.
    Great piece!

  • sherel

    Like to have a little ole nopal chased with a mexcal round about now!

  • tomaso

    I won’t eat them if they don’t eat me but am willing to be pickled in mezcal

  • esperanza

    Since I have eaten (inadvertently) a variety of insects in my lifetime I think the nopal would suit me just fine. I’m sure there are many adventurous (with cast iron stomachs) souls out there, though, who would love to try some of these novel taste treats.

  • Wandering Carol

    Fun post. Mole, yes. Insects, no. I’m okay with the corn fungus, and I did eat brain for breakfast once in Mexico. Once was enough.

  • Sand In My Suitcase

    The mezcal is pretty potent stuff! (We’ve tasted it in Mexico.) The fruit popsicles look more refreshing (and easier on the head).

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