This post may include affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Hola, amigos! If you’re on the hunt for the best easy Cinco de Mayo recipes, Cinco de Mayo crafts, and gorgeous Cinco de Mayo decorations for your celebration this year, consider this your one-stop shop. Below I’ve assembled everything you’ll need to throw the best dang Cinco de Mayo fiesta around!
It seems fitting that the first holiday after the release of my newest cookbook, Fiestas, is Cinco de Mayo. I mean, what better way to break in a Mexican cookbook that’s based around holidays and celebrations?!?
While there are lots of muy bueno ideas that are cookbook exclusives (so buy the book! 😉), below are dozens of my favorite Cinco de Mayo food ideas plus drinks, homemade decorations, and other fun family traditions for celebrating this beloved holiday. Let’s get started, shall we?
What is Cinco de Mayo?
Many people think this holiday Mexico’s Independence Day, but that’s actually celebrated on September 16th.
Rather, Cinco de Mayo, which literally translates to “the fifth of May,” is a holiday that celebrates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Don’t you just love a good underdog story?
At the time, Mexico was in a lot of debt and the French saw an opportunity to take over the country. However, the Mexican army, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, bravely defeated the French, even though they were outnumbered and outgunned.
Cinco de Mayo has become a popular celebration in the United States, especially in areas with large Mexican-American populationsIt’s a time to honor and celebrate Mexican culture and heritage and to recognize the contributions that Mexican Americans have made to American society.
Of course, no Cinco de Mayo celebration would be complete without delicious food and drinks, so it’s ALSO a great excuse to indulge in some delicious Mexican cuisine and festive drinks!
Popular Cinco de Mayo foods like guacamole, salsa, and tacos, as well as margaritas and Mexican beers are always welcome. So, if you’re looking for a reason to party with some tasty food and drinks, Cinco de Mayo is the perfect occasion! Read on below for tons of fun menu ideas.
Why is Cinco de Mayo celebrated in the United States?
Cinco de Mayo has become a way for Mexican Americans to celebrate their heritage and culture. It’s a day to come together with family and friends and enjoy traditional Mexican food and drink. Perhaps more importantly, it’s also a time to celebrate the rich history and contributions of Mexican Americans to American society.
In recent years, Cinco de Mayo has also become quite commercialized. Many businesses capitalize on the holiday with sales and promotions. However, it’s important to remember the historical significance of the holiday and the sacrifices made by Mexican soldiers during the Battle of Puebla.
As I like to say, make sure to celebrate, but don’t appropriate! In other words, leave that Dollar Store sombrero at home, okay?
Is Cinco de Mayo celebrated in Mexico?
¡Claro que sí! Cinco de Mayo is definitely still celebrated in Mexico, but it’s more of a regional celebration than it is here. It’s also not given the same federal holiday status as it is here in the US!
In Mexico, the day is primarily celebrated in the state of Puebla in Central Mexico, where the famous battle took place. The statewide celebration usually includes colorful parades, historical reenactments of the battle, and, of course, lots and lots of yummy Mexican food and drink.
What is considered traditional Cinco de Mayo food?
While I think you can happily serve ANY Mexican food for Cinco de Mayo, I think the most strictly traditional fare would be dishes that hail from the state of Puebla. Some prime examples of their rich culinary traditions include chiles en nogada, mole poblano, cemitas, and tamales. That said, feel free to dive into any of the dozens of recipes I offer below!
What are traditional Cinco de Mayo colors?
If you’re looking for a color theme, you can’t go wrong with the colors of the Mexican flag: green, white, and red. That said, plenty of other bright, festive colors like pink, orange, and yellow are also 100% appropriate. At the end of the day, if your fiesta is filled with lots of rich, saturated, cheerful hues, you’re doing great!
7 Best Cinco de Mayo Appetizers
Get ready to spice up your Cinco de Mayo party with some delicious appetizers! Whether you’re planning a big fiesta or just a small gathering with friends and family, there’s no shortage of tasty Mexican-inspired bites to choose from.
Guacamole en Molcajete
Make authentic and traditional guacamole and serve with tortilla chips.
Pico de Gallo
This iconic fresh tomato salsa is also called salsa bandera (flag) because it has the three colors of the Mexican flag: green, white, and red making this salsa perfect for Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
Queso Fundido with Mushrooms and Hatch Green Chile
This molten cheese dip is topped with a mouthwatering mixture of sautéed shiitake mushrooms and green chiles. This queso is made with two cheeses (queso quesadilla and queso Oaxaca) combined with an irresistible mixture of sautéed mushrooms and Hatch green chile. If you can’t find Hatch chiles, substitute with Anaheim chiles, which are available in most grocery stores. Serve this queso with warm corn or flour tortillas.
Slow Cooker Pork Tinga Flautas
These flautas are filled with flavorful pulled pork called pork tinga made with pork shoulder, pork chorizo, and a spicy tomato chipotle mixture all slow cooked in a slow cooker.
Coctel de Camarones (Mexican Shrimp Cocktail)
This shrimp cocktail with a spicy cocktail sauce made with freshly chopped red onions, cilantro, and avocados is the perfect light and easy appetizer or healthy lunch, especially during hot months.
Mexican Shrimp Ceviche (Ceviche de Camarón)
Bright, fresh, and bursting with flavor, this Mexican Shrimp Ceviche recipe is sure to become one of your favorite summer recipes. Made with just 11 ingredients and 15 minutes of active prep, this easy ceviche recipe is the no-cook meal of your dreams!
9 Best Cinco de Mayo Entrées
If you want to feast like a king or queen, check out these mouth-watering Cinco de Mayo entrees! From sizzling fajitas to juicy carne asada, there are endless options to choose from. It’s time to gather your amigos and familia, and get ready to enjoy a delicious Cinco de Mayo feast that will have everyone asking for seconds!
Easy Chicken Mole
Holy Mole! This Chicken Mole recipe is out of this world, boasting a thick, rich, chocolate-tinged, mildly spicy sauce. This particular recipe is a fusion of my Grandma and my Mom’s recipes, and if I’m being honest, it is the perfect combination of both. Make some today and enjoy many meals to come.
Grilled Pork Tacos al Pastor with Roasted Pineapple Salsa
Succulent, smoky, and sweet with just the right amount of spice, my easy Grilled Pork Tacos al Pastor are destined to become a grilling season favorite. Made from just 14 simple, easy-to-find ingredients and less than 30 minutes of active time, these pineapple pork tacos are my go-to summer comfort food.
Pulled Pork Enchiladas in Salsa Verde
Tender, melt-in-your-mouth slow-cooked pork, spicy chile sauce-dipped tortillas, and melty cheese combine forces in this amazingly delicious recipe for Pulled Pork Enchiladas. I can’t get enough of them, and I have a feeling you’ll have the same reaction!
Quick & Easy Shrimp Tacos
What if I told you that you can make this gorgeous platter of Easy Shrimp Tacos for dinner in less than 30 minutes? With my tried and true foolproof recipe, you can! Trust me: this tasty, healthy, slightly spicy, Lenten-friendly meal is about to become your new weeknight favorite.
Easy Chicken Enchiladas
You’re about to fall head-over-heels for this deliciously comforting and ridiculously Easy Chicken Enchiladas recipe. Best of all, you only need 8 simple ingredients and 30 minutes to get this gorgeous meal on the table, meaning from-scratch authentic enchiladas are never far from reach. Oh, and just in case you’re extra short on time, I’ve included a few tips for making these easy enchiladas even quicker.
Easy Carne Asada Nachos
Nothing screams Cinco de Mayo like a skillet full of my Easy Carne Asada Nachos, piled high with deeply flavorful bits of steak, hearty black beans, melty cheese, spicy jalapeños and – the pièce de résistance – creamy homemade guacamole.
Easy Slow Cooker Birria de Res Tacos
Making Birria de Res at home is an easy way to pump up the flavor quotient for any number of celebrations, including Cinco de Mayo. Try this trendy authentic Mexican recipe that can be eaten as either new-world tacos or old-world stew.
Caldo de Pollo
Mexican Chicken Soup is medicine for the body AND soul. Filled with lean chicken, whole grain rice, and healthy vegetables, this simple Caldo de Pollo recipe is perfect for healthy Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
Stacked Red Enchiladas (Vegetarian)
These Enchiladas Rojas (also known as Enchiladas Norteñas) are a nostalgic treat that always remind me of my Grandma. Lightly fried corn tortillas are layered with homemade red chile sauce, fresh chopped onions, and shredded cheese for a delicious and traditional dish from Northern Mexico. Ready in just 30 minutes!
7 Best Cinco de Mayo Side Dishes
Don’t forget about some delicious side dishes to complete your Cinco de Mayo feast! From classic rice and beans to delectable street corn, there are plenty of tasty options to choose from.
Elote en Vaso (a.k.a. Esquites)
This is Mexico’s finest street dish, often sold in styrofoam cups.
Cilantro Lime Rice (Better Than Chipotle!)
Cilantro and lime juice transforms plain cooked rice into a lively side that’s an ideal accompaniment for Mexican main dishes.
Mexican Rice Arroz Mexicano
This easy side dish is one of the first recipes my mother learned to cook when she was a little girl. It is a staple in most Mexican kitchens, and has such a wonderful aroma while it’s cooking.
Frijoles de la Olla
A pot of freshly made Mexican frijoles or “frijoles de la olla” is my absolute favorite way to eat beans. The perfect side dish for your Mexican feast.
Slow Cooker Borracho Beans
Very similar to frijoles de la olla, but with the addition of chopped bacon, onion, garlic, jalapeños, diced tomatoes, and beer. These borracho beans are creamy, spicy, and delicious.
Frijoles Refritos (Refried Beans)
Make traditional Homemade Refried Beans just like mom or grandma! Serve them as a side dish with a Mexican meal, as a bean dip served with tortilla chips, or slather them on a homemade flour tortilla for the best bean burrito.
Instant Pot Black Beans
Using the trusty Instant Pot, you can cut down a several hour process into a single hour and completely cut out the soaking process. This recipe for Instant Pot Black Beans is about to be your weeknight savior!
9 Best Cinco de Mayo Desserts
Save some room for dessert because these Cinco de Mayo treats are too delicious to resist!
Pan de Elote Mexicano (Mexican Sweet Corn Cake)
Churros with Mexican Chocolate Dipping Sauce
Dessert Taco Shells
Sweet and crispy taco shells dusted with cinnamon-sugar.
Sopaipillas (or sopapillas) are easy to make, with simple pantry ingredients! Serve them as a dessert with a dusting of cinnamon-sugar and a drizzle of honey.
Chocoflan (Impossible Cake)
Have your cake and eat your flan, too, with a recipe that combines both! This Chocoflan is a rich chocolate cake with an orange hint topped with creamy vanilla and coffee flavored flan is dripping with decadent dulce de leche and sprinkled with crushed walnuts.
Gorditas de Azucar (Sweet Griddle Cakes)
When it comes to making a sweet and simple treat, I love turning to this recipe for Gorditas de Azucar, which translates to “sugar gorditas.” These sweet griddle cakes are basically the Mexican version of a scone or a sweet biscuit, traditionally topped with a dollop of butter or drizzled with dulce de leche, cajeta, or sweetened condensed milk. YUM!
Polvorones (Tri-Color Mexican Sugar Cookies)
If you have visited a Mexican panaderia (bakery) you might have seen tri-color Mexican cookies, called polvorones. Traditional polvoronesare in the shape of a triangle, featuring pink, yellow, and dark chocolate colors. They are tender and lightly crunchy.
Arroz con Leche (Mexican Rice Pudding)
A thick and creamy rice pudding served for breakfast or dessert with warm flavors of cinnamon and plump raisins.
Empanadas de Ate y Queso Crema (Fruit Paste and Cream Cheese Hand Pies)
These hand pies are layered with bright ate de membrillo (quince paste), ate de guayaba (guava paste), and a layer of thick cream cheese.
7 Best Cinco de Mayo Drinks
No Cinco de Mayo celebration would be complete without some refreshing and delicious drinks to enjoy! Whether you’re in the mood for a classic margarita or a refreshing Paloma, or are keeping it sober with some juicy agua fresca, there are lots of lovely libations to choose from.
Citrusy, sweet-tart, boozy, and bubbly, you’re going to love these lightened-up Cantaritos cocktails! Swapping in fresh grapefruit, a splash of agave, and grapefruit-flavored seltzer in place of the traditional grapefruit soda makes a delectable “skinny” cantarito that’s right on time for warmer weather. It’s the perfect Mexican libation for your Cinco de Mayo party!
This guilt-free and flavorful Skinny Margarita is so simple to make with a handful of ingredients – quality tequila, fresh orange and lime juice, and agave nectar.
Classic Frozen Margarita Recipe
When the sun is shining and the weather is sultry, there’s no cocktail I’d rather sip on than a Classic Frozen Margarita. Sweet, tart, boozy, and slushy with a salty rim? That right there is my hot weather love language.
My deliciously fresh Reposado Paloma is about to become your new signature summer cocktail. Featuring reposado tequila, freshly juiced grapefruits and lime, a hint of sweetness from agave and a bubbly club soda topper, this tasty adult beverage has HAPPY HOUR written all over it!
Berry Tequila Rosé Sangria
This refreshing summer drink is part sangria, part berry tequila mojito, part fabulous.
Easy Chelada With Mexican Beer
A chelada is a quick beer cocktail (or cerveza preparada) made with ice, lime, and salt
3 Best Cinco de Mayo Crafts & Decorations
Looking to add some color and festive flair to your Cinco de Mayo celebration? Get crafty and create some fun decorations to liven up your party and make it even more memorable! Crafting with friends and family is just as fun and rewarding as cooking, don’t you think?
Mexican Paper Flowers
With Cinco de Mayo around the corner, these easy-to-make, vibrant, and cheerful Mexican paper flowers are the perfect crafting project. Aren’t they gorgeous?
It wasn’t until we decided to do a gourd craft that we found how versatile gourds could be. Did you know they’re just the perfect little containers?!?
Slow Cooker Dulce de Leche
Send your Cinco de Mayo guests home with a jar of homemade dulce de leche so they can keep the spirit of Mexican appreciation going all month long!
Alright, amigos! There you have it — everything you could possibly need to host the best darn Cinco de Mayo fiesta ever! If you make any of the recipes or crafts above, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on the recipe cards in the posts, leave a comment below, and/or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #muybuenocooking.