Street Vendors in Mexico: History, Products, and How to Choose the Right Stall

Are you wondering about the history and products of street vendors in Mexico? Read on

Samping food from street vendors in Mexico is a must no matter where you are in the country! 

Mexico is famous for its incredible food, but you don’t have to dine in at a restaurant to taste the best that Mexico has to offer. 

Check out this guide to learn everything you need to know about street vendors in Mexico including the best dishes to order!

Street vendor in Mexico
Craving some delicious Mexican street food? There’s plenty to try on your visit to Mexico! – Photo from Canva

History of Street Vendors in Mexico

A huge movement of street vendors selling Mexican food started after the Spanish took control of the Aztec Empire centuries ago.

Since the 1500s, vendors have set up stalls selling all kinds of food. 

However, street vendors have always been targeted by local governments who want to displace them and get them off the sidewalks. 

As a result, street vendors in Mexico have to pay a fee to be on the sidewalk.

In some areas, the stalls are also inspected to ensure they are paying taxes and following health regulations. 

Types of Street Vendors: What are street vendors called in Mexico? 

👉🏻 Tianguis and mobile markets (mercados sobre ruedas)

Tianguis are mobile vendors that set their carts up in informal markets. Markets usually happen on a certain day of the week and you’ll see the same vendors every time the market is open. 

Mobile street food in Mexico
Mobile vendors often have colorful designs in Mexico

👉🏻 Concentrations

These stalls are usually located at the entrances of heavily populated areas like metro stations. They sell food sometimes, but more often, they sell electronics and clothing. 

👉🏻 Bazaars (plazas comerciales)

These vendors work in indoor food markets. They usually open early in the morning and close late at night. They have individual stalls where they make and sell their products. 

close-up of a street shop selling woolen scarfs and hats.
Check out the bazaar in Mexico! Food is not the only option here, you can shop for this beautiful clothing too! – Photo from Canva

👉🏻 Individual or small groups of stalls on any sidewalk

You’ll see these vendors seat up their market on a street corner either solo with a few other carts. Even though their carts are mobile, they usually stay in the same place since their customers know where to find them. 

Is street food in Mexico safe?

As with any street food, you should be cautious and ensure the vendor practices safe food handling practices. Overall though, street food in Mexico is very safe

It’s always a good plan to watch the street vendor prepare your dish to see how they handle the food.

Seller pouring paprika
Though street foods are guaranteed safe to eat, be cautious about picking the right stall. – Photo from Canva

Red Flags to Avoid from Street Food Vendors in Mexico

One of the top red flags is Mexican vendors that don’t wash the fruits and vegetables. All fresh produce needs to be washed thoroughly before consumption.

Make sure they are also not handling food before washing their hands. After touching raw meat or money, vendors should wash their hands before touching the next item.

You should also stay away from vendors that leave the meat out in the sun as it can quickly grow bacteria. 

Vendors cutting pineapples
Make sure the vendors handle your food correctly. – Photo from Canva

Must-Try Street Foods in Mexico

🌮 Tacos

This is the most well-known street food. Mexican street vendors usually sell them on soft shells with meat, onions, and cilantro. 

Street tacos Mexico City
Street vendors selling tacos, one of Mexico’s most famous dishes!

🌮 Tamales

Tamales are corn dough cooked in corn husks. They are usually filled with meat and cheese. The corn dough will be taken off before eating. 

🌮 Tortas

Try tortas for a great little sandwich with refried beans, avocado, and cheese. 

Torta ahogada
Mouth-watering tortas! A must-try street food in Mexico. – Photo from Canva

🌮 Sopes and Gorditas

These two are the same in many ways as they are both made from fried corn dough. Gorditas are often thicker with a single filling while sopes are thin and stuffed with meats, vegetables, and sauce. 

🌮 Tostadas

This amazing dish is a toasted tortilla topped with beans, meat, cheese, salsa, and guacamole. 

🌮 Quesadillas

A well-known Mexican street food, quesadillas are tortillas filled with meat, cheese, and sometimes vegetables. 

Quesadillas with dips
One of the food delicacies Mexico is known for, quesadillas! – Photo from Canva

🌮 Elotes

If you’re a fan of corn on the cob, try this charred corn topped with chili, garlic, and cheese. 

🌮 Churros

This is a Mexican street food favorite that you probably already know. It’s dough that has been fried and then covered in cinnamon and sugar. 

Churros food stand
Churros is a Mexican street food that is famous all over the world! – Photo from Canva

🌮 Licuados

On a hot day, try this smoothie made with milk and fruits. If the vendor makes it with ice, ensure the ice is clean!

🌮 Chicharrónes

This Mexican street food is found in bite-sized pieces or one large piece. It’s deep-fried pig skin. Most vendors put lime juice and chili sauce on the skin before serving. 

🌮 Raspados

Raspados are shaved ice served with sweet syrup on top. It’s great on a warm day for dessert!

Shaved ice with syrup
Wanna beat the heat in Mexico? Try out raspados! – Photo from Canva

🌮 Birria

This amazing soup is made with goat meat, garlic, herbs, and chilies. 

🌮 Huaraches

Make sure to try this corn tortilla topped with pinto beans, meat, salsa, cilantro, and onions. 

🌮 Tlacoyo

Tlacoyo is a thick tortilla stuffed with cheese and other toppings. It’s usually fried or toasted. 

A tortilla topped with cheese! Tlacoyo - one of the street foods that street vendors in Mexico sell you must-try!
Craving a tortilla with a twist? Try out a tlacoyo with cheese! – Photo from Canva

🌮 Flautas

Flautas are a must-try. They’re made with tortillas filled with shredded chicken or meat and then fried until crispy. 

🌮 Camotes

Try these candied sweet potatoes topped with cinnamon and cloves as a side dish or the main course. 

A mountain of camotes on the food stall
Candied camotes anyone? – Photo from Canva

🌮 Elotes and esquites

Elotes is corn on the cob while esquites is corn served in a bowl. Either way, it’s usually made with mayo and cheese. 

Other Products in Mexican Street Markets

Not all street vendors and open-air markets sell food. Many of the vendors sell clothing, electronics, fabric, tools, and tons of other things! 

In large markets, the vendors are usually grouped together according to what they sell making it easy to see where you need to go depending on your shopping needs. 

Souvenir shops
Check out other goodies you can buy on Mexico’s streets! – Photo from Canva

Effects of COVID-19 Restrictions on Street Vendors in Mexico

Like many other countries, Mexico tried to limit social interaction and gatherings in public spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, street vendors rely on working in often crowded places where they can get enough customers to make a living. 

Some street vendors continued to sell their items despite rules and regulations telling people to stay home. 

This is why it’s all the more important to try and support local street vendors while on vacation in Mexico as they really suffered during the pandemic restrictions. 

Street Vendors and Their Inclusion in Urban Planning

Especially in larger cities, street vending in Mexico has been displaced because of the emergence of new buildings and shopping malls.

Many vendors are fighting this as they depend on open spaces to make a living. 

Urban planning is less of an issue in rural areas, so street vendors have more freedom in where they sell in smaller cities. 

FAQs about the Street Vendors in Mexico

What are Mexican fruit carts called?

Mexican fruit carts are often called fruterias. They mainly sell fruits but also might sell smoothies and drinks. 

What are the Mexican carts called?

Many of the carts selling food are named taquerias. This is because the first street vendors in Mexico usually sold tacos. 

How much do street vendors in Mexico make?

The average income of a street vendor in Mexico is about $150 a month. 

What is common street food in Mexico?

Some of the most-eaten street food in Mexico includes tacos, tamales, and churros. 

Why is street food so popular in Mexico?

Mexican street food is popular because it’s easy to find and is much cheaper than dining in at a restaurant!

What do Mexicans call street tacos?

In Mexico, you’ll hear street tacos and other food sold by vendors called “antojitos.” It means “little snack” or “little craving.” 

Tacos plate
Tacos! Overloaded with meat and spices! – Photo from Canva

Final Thoughts: Street Vendors in Mexico

Trying cuisine from street vendors in Mexico is the best way to eat amazing food, get to know locals, and support the economy!

Not to mention street food is much cheaper than what you’ll find in a restaurant or hotel. 

If you’re heading to Mexico, make sure to stop by a street food cart for tacos, churros, or a delicious bowl of birria!