3 delicious and authentic Cinco de Mayo dishes

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo is easy these days. Whether you're Mexican or not, we can all indulge in drinks that are better than beer and margaritas or make some amazing Cinco de Mayo piñata cookies.

But when it comes to celebrating Cinco de Mayo with authentic Mexican fare, there's a few dishes you probably didn't know about. Since Cinco de Mayo is actually a celebration of the famed Battle of Puebla that took place on May 5, 1862, traditional Puebla dishes are exactly what you should be cooking. Start with Chiles en Nogada (stuffed chile peppers in walnut sauce that represent the three colors of the Mexican flag), try Empanadas de Camote (sweet potato empanadas, which are served in Mexico instead of their savory counterparts in other parts of Latin America) or serve up Chicken Mole Tacos (chicken tacos served with a traditional pumpkin-ancho chile sauce).


Read more ¿Qué más? 5 Cinco de Mayo drinks better than beer and margaritas.

Chiles En Nogada, a.k.a. Stuffed Chile Peppers in Walnut Sauce (recipe courtesy of Homesick Texan)

Ingredients (For the chiles):
4 medium-sized poblano chiles
2 teaspoons lard or vegetable oil
1/2 pound ground pork
1/4 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 Roma tomato, cored and chopped (or 1/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes, drained)
1 medium green apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and chopped
1/4 cup raisins, chopped
1/4 dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste

Ingredients (For the walnut sauce):
1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts
1/2 cup sour cream
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk, plus more if desired

Ingredients (For serving):
Seeds from 1 ripe pomegranate
Chopped cilantro

1. Roast the poblano chiles under the broiler until blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Place chile in a paper sack or plastic food-storage bag, close it tight and let the chile steam for 20 minutes.

2. While the chiles are steaming, in a large skillet, on medium, heat up the fat and then add the ground pork. Cook until lightly browned (about 5 minutes) and then add the onions. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 2-3 minutes and then stir in the garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme and allspice. Add the chopped tomato, apple, raisins, dried apricots and pecans and add salt to taste. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings.

3. Take the chiles out of the bag and rub off the skin. Cut a slit into each chile, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds and pith. Stuff each chile with one fourth of the picadillo filling.

4. To make the sauce, place the walnuts in an oven set at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove the walnuts, allow them to cool and then rub them to peel off the skin. (Even though it's traditional to completely peel the walnuts, I wouldn't stress too much if bits of skin stay on the nuts.) Place the walnuts in a blender along with the sour cream, cream cheese and milk and blend until a smooth, slightly thick sauce forms. Add the cinnamon and salt to taste. If you prefer a thinner sauce, add more milk.

5. To serve, place a stuffed chile on each plate and pour over it some of the walnut sauce. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and cilantro for garnish. Serve at room temperature.

Empanadas de Camote, a.k.a. Sweet Potato Empanadas (recipe courtesy of Domestic Fits)

Ingredients (For The Dough):
2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
10 tbs butter, cold, cut into cubes
1 egg
1/3 cup ice water

Ingredients (For the Filling):
2-3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 4 cups)
1/2 stick butter (4 tbs), chopped into cubes
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup pecans

Ingredients (Topping):
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt

Put 1 1/2 cups of flour and the salt in a food processor, pulse for a second to combine. Add the butter and process until combined. Add the remaining flour and process again. Move to a bowl. In a small bowl, beat the egg and water together until well combined then add the egg/water to the dough with a wooden spoon. If you add the water and egg with the food processor, your dough will turn out crispy and cracker like.

Form into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 45 minutes, or while you are making the sweet potato filling. 

Preheat oven to 400.

(If you are using leftover mashed sweet potatoes you can skip this next paragraph.)

Place your chopped yams in a large loaf pan, sprinkle the top with cubes of butter. Drizzle with the maple syrup and then top with the brown sugar. 

Bake, uncovered at 400 for about 40 minutes or until the yams are fork tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit. Drain off most of the liquid (leaving about 2 tbs in the bottom of the pan). Mash with a potato masher until mixture until creamy, add the pecans, cinnamon, nutmeg and stir. 

Once your dough is chilled, roll it out to an even thickness on a flowered surface. Cut out 4 inch circles. I don't have a 4 inch circle cutter, so I used a margarita glass. 

Brush the edges of each circle with water. Put about 2 tbs of filling in the middle, leaving the edges clear. Fold the circle over and press the edges together well to make a secure seal. Put three small slits on the top of the empanadas to allow steam to escape. Place on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray (or covered with parchment paper). Brush the top with maple syrup, sprinkle with a small amount of salt.

Bake at 400 for 20-22 minutes or until golden brown. Eat, smile, be thankful.

Chicken Pumpkin-Ancho Mole Tacos (recipe courtesy of Wendy See Wendy Do)

8 cups water, divided
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 bay leaf
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole cloves
6 bone-in, skinless chicken breasts
5 ancho chiles (dried poblano peppers)
4 large jalapenos, halved
1 large onion, quartered
3 Roma tomatoes, halved and seeded
4 whole garlic cloves
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 large bunch cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
16 corn tortillas, kept warm
2 limes, cut into 8 wedges
2 avocados, halved, pitted and flesh sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced 

1. In a medium saucepan, combine 6 cups water, salt, sugar, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and cloves. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring gently. Once the sugar and salt have dissolved, remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a large bowl, add the chicken, and refrigerate, covered, at least 2 hours or overnight.

2. Bring the remaining 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. In a medium heatproof bowl, add the ancho chiles and cover with the boiling water. Weigh down with a plate so the peppers remain under water and let them soak for 15 minutes. Remove and discard the stems when the peppers have softened making sure the scrape off any seeds.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a sheet tray toss the jalapenos, onion, tomatoes, garlic and cumin with 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Roast until nicely caramelized with good color, 25 to 30 minutes.

4. Add the pumpkin seeds to a dry, hot skillet on high heat. Stir often, until the seeds are golden and begin to pop. Transfer to a food processor along with roasted vegetables. Add the soaked chiles, about 2 tablespoons of chili soaking liquid, the cilantro leaves, 2 tablespoons if brown sugar and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the processor. Puree until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed. 

5. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, blot dry with paper towels and put into a large Dutch oven. Pour in the mole sauce and bake, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 55 to 60 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven and transfer the chicken to a cutting board to cool. When cool to the touch, shred the chicken and add it back to the sauce. Spoon the mole into corn tortillas and serve with lime wedges, avocado slices, red onion, and radishes. Garnish with cilantro leaves.  Enjoy!

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How are you going to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this year? What dish will you make for the family?

Images via Homesick Texan, Domestic Fits, Wendy See Wendy Do

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