The Best Food Markets in Mexico
Check out this list of the best food markets in Mexico I’ve visited!
Food markets, or los mercados, are one of my favorite things to see and experience in Mexico or pretty much any country I visit, for that matter. If there’s a food market in a city, I want to check it out!
Food markets can tell you a lot about a destination’s food scene and are the perfect place to practice your new language skills with zero judgment! Los mercados in Mexico are an especially great place to discover new foods, and if you’re inspired you can go and pick up the ingredients to try and make it yourself at home! Doing your shopping at a food market and cooking at home is especially good if you are trying to save money on an extended trip and is one of the many benefits of slow travel.
One of my favorite things about visiting open-air markets, though – especially ones in Latin America – is the experience of sheer sensory overload. For me, the sensation is very similar to walking through a casino. The flashing lights and screens, music bubbling from slot machines, and smokey air can be overwhelming.
However, in a market, instead of lights, you have colorful, sometimes exotic fruits calling you to try them. Instead of music, the local artisans enthusiastically invite you to look at their wares. Yes, the air is still smokey, but instead of cigars and cigarettes, it’s food being cooked to perfection. Reminiscent of navigating through rows of slot machines, you’ll find yourself squeezing along narrow aisles, trying not to disturb overflowing baskets of chilies and spices.
While this may not sound pleasant for some, this is my food paradise, and even if I walk away empty-handed, my brain has had a nice little snack. Yum!
Luckily for those who aren’t city-lovers, these giant carousels of scent and color are not only found in Mexico City but usually in any substantially sized town in Mexico. So here is a small list of some of my favorite markets around Mexico:
Food Markets in Mexico City
As the second-largest city in all of Latin America, it’s no wonder why there are so many food markets in Mexico City. To feed a metropolis of over 8.9 million requires a LOT of food. With so much demand it's no wonder the city has some of the best food in the world. Read my blog on How to Find the Best Food in Mexico City to learn how CDMX has rightfully earned the "City of Food" moniker.
Now, even though, you are in a big city and can easily find the basics in the chain supermarkets like Walmart or Chedraui, I prefer to purchase my fresh veggies from street vendors or local food markets. The produce I see at Mexico City food markets is fresh and reasonably priced in most cases.
However, if it’s not clear you speak Spanish and you look like a tourist, you might get a not-so-special “special price” on your produce. It’s a good idea to shop around, talk to a few sellers, and figure out if you’re getting a good deal on that bag of apples!
Also known as La Havana by locals, Mercado Medellin is an excellent place to dip your toes if you’ve never gone to large markets before. The vendors here are used to international visitors, and many will accept cards if you find yourself out of cash.
With its huge variety of Latin American food options to try and endless stalls overflowing with vegetables, fruits, and other goods, you will have a hard time not finding what you’re looking for at Mercado Medellin.
While most markets in Mexico City are typically a place to shop for groceries, some mercados, like Mercado Roma, offer an “upscale” food court experience. I put upscale in quotations simply because it’s still a casual dining experience but maybe less so than other mercados throughout the city, where you might want to dress more conservatively.
If you’re looking for something a little different from the usual fare you’ll find around the city, Mercado Roma is the place. While it does have Mexican food options, it also hosts many international restaurants, bars, and even a barber and tattoo shop.
Talk about one-stop shopping! However, I would save drinks for after the tattoo.
This is one market I have not visited yet but it is supposedly renowned for being a foodie market supplied by local producers around Mexico City.
Since its opening in 1902, the market has had a long and interesting history. If you’d like to read more, you can visit the official Mexico City website, which tells a little bit more about the history of Mercado de San Cosme.
Food Markets in Oaxaca City
Oaxaca City is another city in Mexico renowned for its top-notch cuisine. While it's not hard to find good food in Oaxaca, it certainly has a targeted audience. If you love mole and mezcal, this is the food city you’ve been searching for!
However, as someone who is unfortunately not a mezcal lover and allergic to a common ingredient in mole (sesame seeds, called ajonjolí in Spanish), I have to find different ways to feed my foodie soul.
Unfortunately, I did not make it to the largest mercado in Oaxaca, Mercado de Abastos, but here are a few places I did visit!
Mercado Benito Juarez
Mercado Benito Juarez, located in the center of Oaxaca City, hosts a wide variety of different vendors. However, on my visits to this market, a few sellers stood out: the mezcal, the mole, and the bread vendors. All three display an over-abundant and mind-boggling amount of product.
Piles of mole of every color in the rainbow. Rows and rows of bottles of mezcal, from the little 2oz bottles up to gigantic magnums of the stuff. And every shape, size, and type of bread or baked good you can imagine. This market will not just give you choice-paralysis but a choice-coma.
Okay, okay! Maybe I’m being slightly dramatic, but this place is perfect if you’re looking for a place to taste-test different mezcals and purchase local, hand-made souvenirs.
Mercado 20 de Noviembre
Mercado Benito Juarez and Mercado 20 de Noviembre might be confused as the same market since they sit next to each other in the center of Oaxaca City; however, they are two different “vibes,” shall we say?
Mercado 20 de Noviembre is where you will find one of my favorite food experiences in Oaxaca: the Pasillo de Humo or “smoke alley”.
El Pasillo de Humo is a long hallway lined with large charcoal grills where vendors will cook you a few different kinds of meat:
Tasajo or Cecina: a thinly cut and aged steak
Chorizo: spicy pork sausage
Tripa de res: beef intestines
There are a few others here and there, but these three are the main ones you will see. Everyone sells and cooks the same thing, so don’t be afraid to choose someone at random and order. When I went, my boyfriend ordered us tasajo and chorizo and some mixed grilled veggies and a salad. However, the grilling is the main attraction here, so that I would have maybe skipped the (sad-looking) salad.
Our food also came with giant tortillas, and after watching and learning from a group of locals near us, we figured out how to eat our meat basket. It was simple: use your hands and make tacos 🤗
And, wouldn’t you know it, it was hands-down one of the best meals we had in Oaxaca City!
Food Markets in Puerto Escondido
Puerto Escondido, located in the State of Oaxaca, is a smaller beach town on Mexico’s Pacific coast. Though it is well-known to surfers who flock to Zicatela and other point breaks along the coast, it is still relatively unknown to your average traveler and has a more “hippie” vibe.
While you won’t find large resorts and nightclubs or even a Mcdonald's within six hours' driving distance, you will find some of my favorite mercados in Mexico! Puerto Escondido food markets are where you will find the city’s best restaurants, fresh produce, and some very interesting meat selections.
While I enjoy the fresh, organic produce and the little handmade crafts sold here, what keeps us coming back is the row of restaurants at the back of the market with a great view of Zicatela beach and the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
There is nowhere else you can get such great views and even better food.
Mercado Benito Juarez
For those serious shoppers and home cooks looking for the best ingredients in Puerto, you must go to the Mercado Benito Juarez, and no, this isn’t the same one mentioned in the section on Oaxaca City 😝
With so many places named after Benito Juarez, he must have been pretty influential! And especially so if this market is any indication.
Located in Puerto Escondido’s city center, Mercado Benito Juarez is home to many fantastic food and craft vendors and, most importantly, has the best butchers in town. If you’re a meat-eater, go early in the morning for the freshest cuts and catches of the day. There are separate aisles for chicken, seafood, and red meat.
If you lean more towards the veg/vegan side, you might be glad to know that the butchers are kept pretty separate from the veg and handicrafts areas. And you won’t be disappointed with the selection either! There are endless amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and spices to choose from.
One of our favorite restaurants is located at Benito Juarez, too: Comedor Juanita. Not only is the food great, but the staff is incredible and always have a smile on their faces. I heavily recommend the shrimp tacos; they were some of the best I’ve had in Mexico!
If you’re looking for the best food markets in the world, you are in plentiful supply in Mexico! Whether you’re a voracious meat-eater or looking for the perfect souvenir to bring home you are sure to find a market that is well-suited to your tastes and needs as every market is unique.
I hope this list gives you a good idea of what to expect from los mercados in Mexico. I will continually update date the list as I travel around and explore more of these crazy vibrant food markets. Stay tuned!