What Is Cinco de Mayo Really and How Do I Celebrate It?

what is cinco de mayo really and how do i celebrate it?

While Cinco de Mayo isn't Mexican Independence Day (September 16), which it is often confused as being, it is a day to celebrate Mexican and Mexican-American culture. And that means food. Lots of Mexican-inspired food.

Cinco de Mayo is actually a celebration of the Mexican army's unlikely victory over the stronger French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Although in Mexico the holiday is primarily celebrated within the state of Puebla itself, in America the day has taken on a wider significance. 

As a celebration of Mexican-American culture, we enjoy chile con queso and enchiladas with our margaritas. However in Puebla, the gastronomical capitol of Mexico, the foods prepared are more likely to include traditional dishes such as chiles en nogada or mole poblanos.

However you celebrate, we've got the recipes you need to help you plan your Cinco de Mayo party!

Roasted Tomato Salsa

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Roasting the tomatoes and chiles caramelizes their natural sugars and brings out their sweetness, while fresh lime juice and garlic give this addictive salsa a bright, fresh punch. Make sure to get plenty of tortilla chips!

Roasted Salsa Verde

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The perfect accompaniment to rich foods like carnitas tacos, this fresh green salsa uses bright tomatillos and mild poblanos for its base. It's the yin to salsa roja's yang.

Taqueria Guacamole

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With only three green ingredients (avocado, lime juice, cilantro), this guac is stripped down to the essentials. And in this case, simpler is better. It'll transport you straight to a taqueria, or to a beach in Mexico with your toes in the sand and a cold beer in your hand...ahhh. The stuff dreams are made of. 


Chile con Queso

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We've heard a rumor that some of our friends in various parts of the country call this heavenly stuff "cheese dip," and in our humble opinion, that's just wrong. It's queso. And it's a main food group. Skip the processed cheese product and go for the real deal—it's worth it. 

Chorizo Queso Fundido

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A variation on the lovely theme of melted cheese, this queso is prepared in a skillet. It's hardier and thicker than the more dippable version. Chorizo, a Mexican sausage, bulks it up and gives it its spicy, savory flavor. 

Frijoles Borrachos

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These beans are a natural remedy for any ailment of the body or soul. The broth is what makes them so good—it's as delicious a soup as any. Pro tip: they're better the next day after sitting in the refrigerator over night, and they make the best refried beans when fried in a little bacon fat. 


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These are almost guaranteed to be better than any tacos you can go out for. Marinated, slow cooked, shredded and broiled, these carnitas are packed with flavor, tender, and just crispy enough. Pair with salsa verde for a perfectly balanced taco.


Coffee Marinated Flank Fajitas with Pico de Gallo

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Fajitas are one of the ultimate party foods! These fajitas are packed with flavor from a strong coffee marinade with molasses, cumin, and garlic, which translates into an irresistable caramelized sear on the grill. Pico de gallo is the go-to fresh salsa that absolutely makes this dish.

Barbacoa Tacos with Two Sauces

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Barbacoa translates to 'barbecue,' and while the beef ribs are braised, they do get a nice kiss on the grill for flavor. The reserved cooking liquid combines with puréed chiles to make an insanely tasty chile sauce. These pair perfectly with salsa verde as well.

Avocado Chicken Enchiladas

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Homemade enchilada sauce can't be beat! Neither can the combination of chicken, avocados, melted cheese, and sour cream. These enchiladas can feed a crowd, or be frozen before baking to pull out whenever you're ready.


Chiles en Nogada

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This traditional dish originated in Puebla, the site of the 1862 battle between the Mexican and French armies comemmorated by the Cinco de Mayo holiday. It's often served on Mexican Independence Day, September 16th. Picadillo filled poblanos are covered in a creamy sauce traditionally made with walnuts (this recipe uses pecans), and topped with cilantro and pomegranate seeds, evoking the colors of the Mexican flag.

Hopi Blue Corn Tortillas

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If you're a hardcore DIYer, or want to taste some of the best tortillas you've ever had in your life, you'll want to make this recipe. The beautiful purple-bluish color comes from blue corn flour, wich, when combined with a dash of nutmeg, gives these a distinctive flavor as well. Use these for barbacoa tacos or coffe marinated flank steak fajitas to really take them up a notch!


Classic Margarita

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While the origins of this iconic drink are disputed, one thing's for sure: we're glad someone thought it up! The perfect ratio between silver tequila, fresh lime juice, and orange liquer, these margaritas are sure to start the party! Pro tip: substitute agave syrup for sugar; it's less cloyingly sweet.



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Another tequila cocktail that prominently features fresh citrus juice, this one couldn't be simpler: it's just tequila, grapefruit juice, and soda. Pro tip: substitute mezcal for tequila; it's a similar spirit also distilled from agave, but it's far smokier and earthier. Think scotch:whisky=mezcal:tequila.

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