Information about the best street food in Mazatlan
Beverages | Burritos | Ceviche Tostadas | Chicken | Churros
Corn-on-the-Cob | Fish-on-a-Stick | Fruit and Juice Carts | Gorditas
Hot Dogs and Corn Dogs | Papas Locas | Quesadillas
Tacos Carne Asada | Tacos al Pastor | Tamales | Tortas
Before you drop into a fast food restaurant for "cheap eats" -- which actually aren't cheap at all at fast food franchises in Mexico -- consider Mazatlan Street Food!
Eating street food in Mazatlan is an economical and delicious dining option that is a part of life for most Mazatlecos of all economic classes -- and a real culinary treat for savvy tourists and ex-pats.
Our street food encompasses a very wide array of dishes and menus, from simple delicious meals served by individuals from tiny carts -- or even sold by families out a window of their house -- to semi-permanent sidewalk restaurants with plastic tables that are set up and taken down daily, and which can offer a range and quality of meals that rival or exceed the menu at many "regular" restaurants with interior seating.
Food carts are present in most Mazatlan neighborhoods, and are particularly plentiful in the older sections of Mazatlan such as Centro.
It is difficult to point to specific street food vendors for a number of reasons -- the two most important being that many of the carts don't have readily visible names and they are often set up in slightly different locations -- so we offer this general guide to finding the best street food in Mazatlan.
Three Street Food Tips
Popularity (almost always) = Good!
Probably the best guide to the best street food in Mazatlan -- or anywhere in the world -- is simply to look for popular vendors. If a particular cart is crowded, that seller has earned a reputation among the local population for offering superior food. It is also worth noting that popularity brings rapid turn-over of product, which means that your food is fresher, bringing us to...
Don't be scared to experiment
Generally speaking, you can forget about the scare-tactic advice you may have read in some guide books (or from well-intentioned friends back home, most of whom have probably never been to Mexico) about supposed sanitation issues at Mazatlan street food carts.
Carts are inspected for cleanliness and the Wisdom of The Crowd -- the regular local patrons -- pretty much assures you that a popular street food vendor is serving clean food.
If he wasn't he a) wouldn't be popular and b) probably wouldn't be in business.
Of course: use common sense.
Heat -- like the flame charring your mouth-watering carne asada -- kills germs. Is the hot food being served really hot?
You can see with your own eyes the general appearance of the cart, and whether or not the raw food looks fresh: there is no more "open kitchen" than a street food cart!
Don’t worry about the dishes -- either you will be served on styrofoam or, almost always, your plate will be wrapped in a disposable plastic bag.
What if I'm a Vegetarian?
To be blunt, it can be difficult to be a vegetarian anywhere in Mexico, and Mazatlan is no exception to this generalization.
Obviously, if you are a Pescetarian you're home free: you've got some of the best seafood on the planet -- bien provecho!
If, however, you keep to stricter vegetarian practice, things get tougher. Meat and meat-derived ingredients like pork or beef-based lard -- are pretty much ubiquitous in Mexican food.
That being said, street food can actually be used to assemble healthy, filling and inexpensive meals that meet most vegetarians standards.
To begin with, Mazatlan fruit stands and juice carts offer a beautiful variety of completely meat-free frutarian dining options.
Secondly -- and without presuming to get into the complicated details of the eating practices that fall under the general term "vegetarianism" -- many Mexican foods can, at least in theory, be prepared without meat.
Some simple examples of vegetarian dining choices in Mazatlan are burritos (bean); quesadillas (cheese); papas locas (without the meat part of the filling); and torta sandwiches (again, without the meat part of the filling).
And pretty much any flavor of vegetarian can have a slammin' Churro for dessert!
Thirdly -- if none of the above are acceptable -- there is a straightforward solution if you have a place to cook: go grocery shopping!
Mazatlan offers many grocery shopping options ranging from small local "Abarrotes" to full-blown supermarkets and even a range of explicitly organic produce and fruit vendors.
Consider reviewing our listings of places to buy groceries and -- for those not fluent in Spanish -- downloading the .pdf of our list of nearly 200 words that are useful for grocery shopping!
mazatlantoday.net also has a page about dining out vegetarian in Mazatlan that lists a number of restaurants that offer vegetarian menu items and are adept at preparing regular menu items for vegetarians.
There is no more typical Mexican street food than the Burrito! Constructed by filling a large soft tortilla and folding the result to completely enclose the filling, the burrito is one of the original "take-out" foods in Mexico.
The word burrito means "little donkey" in Spanish, and first appears in print referencing food in the late 1800s in the Diccionario de Mexicanismos, where it was identified as a food typical of south-central Mexico and the Yucatan, and was described as being filled primarily with meat and beans.
Consumption of burritos spread rapidly within Mexico and northward -- it began being referenced in cookbooks in the United States in the 1930s -- and variations have become popular in many countries throughout the world.
At its simplest, the filling is nothing but beans: a Bean Burrito. The most common second filling ingredient is carne asada -- char grilled beef steak.
After that, the sky is really the limit. Mazatlan street food cart burritos can contain deshebrada (shredded slow-cooked flank steak); pork (sometimes Al Pastor -- see below); cheese; diced onions; potatoes; diced green peppers and chile. They are usually served with hot sauces -- both red and green -- and sometimes sour cream.
Hard corn tortillas topped with seafood ceviche -- a delicious concoction of fresh raw fish and other seafood marinated in citrus juices such as lemon or lime and spiced with some combination of chilli, cilantro, onions, avocados, tomatoes, carrots and salt.
Shrimp, octopus, squid, tuna, and mackerel are commonly found in Mexican ceviche. The finished tostada is often topped with thin wedges of ripe avocado.
The origin of ceviche is disputed -- some believe South America, others Central America, and still others see a connection to traditional foods from Arab countries -- but its popularity throughout Latin America today is unquestioned.
There are, of course, potential issues associated with eating raw seafood anywhere, but because of our daily-fresh seafood, Mazatlan is a perfect place to enjoy ceviche -- whether at a street food vendor or in a regular restaurant!
One note of caution: Many medical information providers and doctors advise women to avoid ceviche during pregnancy, and that is no-doubt sound advice.
Chicken is a mainstay of Sinaloa cuisine and Rosticerias can be found throughout the city.
Street chicken is usually grilled or roasted with charcoal and served with sides of roasted onions, refried beans and / or guacamole and salsa.
At its very best -- and per Sinaloa tradition -- the chicken can be rubbed with spices or other flavorings before cooking.
Your street cart chicken may also have been marinated in salsas that can include chile, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, vinegar and / or orange juice. Smokey and tasty street food!
If you want to try a more upscale version of classic Sinaloa roasted chicken we suggest Gustavo's Kitchen Rosticeria at Benito Juarez 2704.
A Churro is a fried-dough pastry -- basically a hot-dog shaped donut with ridges that is fried and eaten bathed in powdered sugar and, sometimes, cinnamon.
The surface of a Churro is ridged because it is extruded from a churrera, a caulk-gun-like cooking device with a star-shaped nozzle.
Much like crinkle-cut french fries, the ridges create more surface area and, therefore, more space to retain delicious oils.
Street food cart churros are extremely popular in Mazatlan -- it just doesn't get delightfully greasier than this!
Video of Churro making from a cart in Centro at the corner of Aquiles Serdan and Miguel Hidalgo
A popular street food throughout Mexico, street-cart Corn-on-the-Cob is certainly popular in Mazatlan!
The corn is somewhat different from what Canadians and Americans are used to -- typically slightly smaller and generally not as sweet as north-of-the-border produce.
The street corn is usually served coated with butter, chili powder and lemon or lime juice or, alternatively, a mixture of sour cream or maynnaise mixed with chili powder and garlic. When salted and sprinkled with ancho chili powder and crumbly dry cheese they are so-so good!
Usually the corn is boiled in-husk and, sometimes, charred on a grill.
The finished product is served on a stick and condiments are added upon request by the cook or are available separately or mixed in a cup. There is even a prepared Chili-Salt-Limon product sold in Mexico, but maybe that takes the fun out of it?
The Spanish word for corn is Elote ("Ay-loh-tay") -- it's a good one to remember!
Want fresher fish than fresh Mazatlan ceviche? Go down to the beach (Playa Los Pinos is usually a good choice) and have the fisherman grill you some tasty medallions of just-caught white fish.
They will -- as the name implies -- be served on a stick. Perfect with just a little lime juice or hot sauce!
Also often available on the beaches are just-caught shrimp bagged to take home -- or sometimes grilled for beach eating -- and fresh-shucked oysters.
There are many fruit stands and carts scattered throughout Mazatlan, and they are a great place to get a cheap cooling snack -- or make an entire street food fruitarian-vegetarian meal.
Because the produce is grown locally -- and largely organically, whether it meets that designation in a technical sense or not -- fresh fruit from Mazatlan fruit stands is really fresh and wonderfully flavorful. For just a few pesos you can get a substantial quantity of fresh sliced fruit -- some of which is considered exotic gourmet fare in Canada or the United States.
Many of these stands -- or vendors selling out of their houses -- offer fresh squeezed fruit juice, which is guaranteed to ruin your future experience of carton-packed juices back home!
Video of fruit juice cart El Bagazo which has served fresh squeezed orange juice in the Mazatlán Centro Historico since 1987!
A gordita is a corn cake made with cornmeal and stuffed with cheese, meat or other fillings. It is similar to a pasty and can include pork, chicken, shredded beef, chorizo (hot sausage), carne al pastor, nopalitos (cactus), rajas (sauteed chile strips), potatoes, eggs or picadillo (ground meat usually mixed with tomatoes, onions, diced potatoes, olives and -- sometimes -- raisins).
The best street food gorditas are exactly what a gordita should be: crisp on the outside and savory-soft and warm inside. Make sure to top your street cart gordita with something fun like salsa verde or roja, some shredded cabbage, finely diced onion, a bit of salt or a generous squeeze of limon. Or all of them!
To begin with, Mazatlan street cart hot dogs aren't what Americans and Canadians are used to from back home -- but a lot of tourists and ex-pats become seriously addicted very quickly!
Beef hot dogs are rare in Mexico. Virtually all hot dogs in Mexico are some combination of turkey, chicken and pork.
Mazatlan street cart hot dog vendors usually grill these 'dogs wrapped in bacon, adding a savory flavor to the basic product.
Once the hot dog is perfectly grilled -- and the fresh baked bun is ready -- the fun really begins.
Toppings for your Mazatlan street hot dog include, but are not necessarily limited to: cheese, jalapeno peppers, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, onions (diced or grilled), tomatoes, salsa, sour cream and guacamole. Some of these constructions look like small footballs when completed.
The perfect massively high-calorie snack -- all for about 20 or 25 pesos!
In Mazatlan corn dogs are often referred to as "banderillas" (Bahn-deh-ree-yaz) because they look similar to the barbed darts used in bullfights to anger the bull.
While there is nothing specifically Mexican about Corn Dogs -- beliefs about their origin vary, but what is clear is that they were invented in the United States sometime in the 1920s -- Mexicans definitely love their Corn Dogs, and they are a popular street food in Mazatlan.
Street carts that serve corn dogs do, however, offer a wider range of condiments that you're probably used to at the state fair, including all of the spicy Mexican favorites that would be used on other street food they sell.
"Papas Locas" -- Crazy Potatoes -- is a generic term for a very Mexican form of potato preparation, and a very popular street food throughout Mexico.
A large potato is roasted in foil. After roasting, the potato is split and mashed within its skin with butter, sour cream and usually queso fresco -- fresh cheese.
This much is more-or-less familiar to Canadians and Americans. What comes after is not. The next step is up to the cook's imagination -- what to fill the waiting cavity with: grilled beef or pork, bacon, beans, onions, garlic, cilantro -- pretty much you-name-it -- and then top the bulging spud with anything from mayonnaise to hot salsa to guacamole.
Mazatlan street cart Papas Locas are inexpensive, really delicious and tremendously filling.
If you want to try an upscale version of Papas Locas in a real restaurant before hitting the streets, consider Paparadise Potatoes Boutique at Angel Flores 500, on the corner of Belisario Dominguez in the Centro Historico -- can you say Lobster Potato?
Most Americans and Canadians are familiar with quesadillas because they -- like the ubiquitous nachos -- are what pretty much any restaurant up north includes on its menu as generic "Mexican" food.
The basic quesadilla is nothing more than a soft flour tortilla topped with melted cheese and folded to form a half-moon shape and heated until the cheese begins to melt (sort of a Mexican grilled cheese sandwich) -- and you can certainly get that simple quesadilla in Mazatlan, whether at a street food cart or in a regular restaurant.
What can make a quesadilla really interesting is what is added to the basic cheese / tortilla combo, particularly various meats (carne asada, pork pastor, chicken and -- especially in Mazatlan -- fish or shrimp being the most popular), or beans.
Try topping your quesadilla with green or red salsa, chopped onions, guacamole or sour cream -- you won't be sorry you did!
What could a taco more perfectly contain than Carne Asada -- grilled beef steak?
At its most basic you only need the steak -- usually skirt steak -- flame and a taco.
But that doesn't even begin to describe what the best carne asada tacos can be.
To begin with, the skirt steak can be marinated / brushed with a sauce. Typically, Mexican carne asada taco marinades tend to contain some mixture of chile, cilantro, cumin, garlic, citrus juice (lime, lemon, grapefruit or orange juice) and salt.
You're probably not going to get to order a custom marinade from your street taco vendor and, experience has shown, that your choice of most highly recommended vendor and favorite street taco will probably hinge on his / her particular marinade.
Then, of course, you need to choose your taco itself: flour (harina) or corn (maize)?
Typically served from street carts garnished with a wide range of other items like diced (or grilled) onions, avocado and cilantro.
The best Carne Asada street tacos are well known to go well with either green (verde) or red (rojo) sauces, salsas and avocado sauce.
Al Pastor Tacos are filled with delicious pork cooked on a vertical rotating spit, much like gyros, that is wrapped in a a soft flour or corn taco.
The pork is often marinated before cooking in an annatto sauce, and the meat-stack on the spit usually contains layers of pineapple, or diced pineapple is added to the finished taco.
Al Pastor preparation in Mexican cuisine originated in Central Mexico.
While opinions vary, adoption of the Al Pastor style of cooking was likely a result of interaction between indigenous and Spanish-descended populations with spit-grilled meat preparation techniques brought to Mexico in the late 1800s and early 1900s by the nearly 100,000 Arabic-speaking immigrants -- primarily Lebanese -- who migrated during that period.
Street food cart Pastor tacos are often served with guacamole, pineapple wedges, chopped onions and green or red salsa.
In many ways Pastor prepared pork is a sophisticated version of BBQ, and delivers a distinct tangy barbecue flavor that is truly delicious.
Video of Tacos al Pastor
The Tamale long pre-dates the Spanish conquest of Mexico. It is certain that the Mayans ate them at feasts as early as 1200 BC, and some scholars believe that Tamales originated in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 BC!
A tamale is a traditional Mexican "fast food" made of nixtamalized corn (corn soaked in limewater and hulled -- essentially Hominy) that is that is made into dough, combined with a filling and steamed or boiled in a corn husk wrapper.
Street cart tamales in Mazatlan are not just Fast Food, they are a comfort-food-of-choice for many Mazatlecos and are eaten at all times of day.
A tamale has three parts: the corn husk wrapper (a fully bio-degradable version of food packaging: you do not eat it!); the dough; and the filling.
The dough -- "Masa" -- is made by taking the overnight-soaked corn, grinding it while wet, and combining it with a bit of salt and sufficient additional water to achieve the desired consistency.
Typical tamale fillings in Mazatlan are pork, beef and chicken combined with spices, hot salsas or mole. Sometimes seafood, diced potatoes and / or onions, roasted vegetables, garlic, beans and cheese are also used as filling ingredients. Tamales are usually cooked in large batches, and our street food carts serve them from steaming covered pots called Tamaleras.
Not strictly on the street, if you're in Mercado Pino Suarez you might want to check out MazTamales (Local C88, Telephone 669 668 2947) -- open from 8am until 7pm every day except Sunday...yummy!
A torta is a sandwich served on an oblong roll, called a bolillo.
There are many types of tortas, and the fillings can include several different types of meat or fish garnished with peppers, onions, and cheese. In some cases eggs -- or a mixture of eggs and vegetables -- are included in the sandwich, and vegetarians can usually get a meat-free torta from any of the street carts.
A Mazatlan street food torta favorite is the Cubana -- an everything-style torta usually made with pork, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, chilies and mayonnaise.
Super-sloppy, tasty and fun.
With all this eating -- some of it fairly salty -- you'll want something to drink, and Mazatlan street food carts usually have quite a few choices.
The general term for soda pop is Refrescos, and in addition to Coke -- now available in a sugar-free version, not just reduced sugar -- Pepsi in Mazatlan offers a variety of locally produced soda pop products as well as carbonated orange drinks like Fanta.
For something a bit different try a carbonated apple cider -- Manzanita -- or a Jimaica drink which is a delicious and refreshing sweet burgundy-colored tea made from Jamaica flowers that is served cold.
Our street carts also often sell a popular local Sinaloa soft drink, Toni Col, a soda made in El Rosario (one of our recommended Mazatlan Day Trips), which is vanilla flavored and highly popular -- especially in Western Mexico.
So what if you want something that doesn't come in a bottle?
Agua Frescas can be anything from fruit flavored water drinks to mashed sweetened rice mixed with ice water. Agua Frescas from street carts are made with purified water and ice cubes. Agua Frescas are the perfect antidote for a hot day!
Here are a few of the options...
Licuados are a true Mexican treat. Licuados are blended drinks similar to smoothies usually made from rice milk (or cow milk), vanilla, and cinnamon. Sweet and refreshing, Licuados are served from many food stands, carts, and at shops devoted only to selling them.
Tuba is a traditional drink made of coconut milk, palm sap and chunks of apple and nuts served over ice. This is a very common street cart / vendor item, and you’ll see street sellers carrying a pole over their shoulders with a gourd on one end and a bag of ice and cups on the other. Refreshingly sweet on a hot day!
Horchata is a deliciously sweet blend of rice milk, vanilla and cinnamon.
Tamarindo is found throughout Mexico at street carts and food vendor counters. Tart and refreshing, it is made with Tamarind pulp, sugar and water, and is served with ice cubes.
Raspados Don't forget the Raspado (note the distinctive Raspados de Concordia highly mobile cart pictured at the top of this page)!
A Raspado is simply a Mexican snow cone: shaved ice flavored with the intensely sweet syrup of your choice.
It is worth noting that -- while many cultures have their own versions of snow cones -- local legend has it that the very first Raspados were made in Concordia, Sinaloa, one of our shortest and easiest day trips! The flavor is purported to have been a caramel-plum blend -- which sounds awfully good, don't you think?
The difference with a Mazatlan raspado is this: the syrup used to flavor the ice is usually home-made with real fruit, not the high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavoring and Red Dye number whatever that would flavor your snow cone at an American amusement park.
Its a completely different sno-cone experience, and just perfect on a hot day!
• If you want to sample a particularly reliable Mazatlan raspado cart (Frutas Naturales!) we suggest Raspados Isaias, the blue cart located in front of the Basilica on the edge of Plaza Republica in the Centro Historico. They're open from 9am until 9pm every day!
Are you still thinking about North Of The Border Fast Food?