The Familia Kitchen Guide to the History, Food and Drinks of Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo

Including 18 favorite Mexican recipes to serve at your celebration with friends and family

No matter who you are or where your family is from, Cinco de Mayo is el dia de fiesta when we’re all invited to celebrate our neighbor to the south, the homeland of the largest U.S. Latinx population, and the general awesomeness of all things Mexico.

Cincos tend to go like this: it’s spring in the U.S., el sol is out (🤞🏽), and family and friends gather. The tunes get turned all the way up, and the Mexican comida and tequila start flowing. It’s time to raise a glass … to what? How many of us know what we’re celebrating?

What is the meaning of the fifth day in May—historically? Do Mexicans in Mexico celebrate it, too, or is it just an U.S. excuse to drink lots of tequila? How did Cinco get started in the U.S.? Is it like St. Patrick’s Day, when everyone is extended a Mexican abrazo for el día? And what comidas and bebidas should we make to serve an authentic feast for those coming over? So many questions.

Glad you asked.

Familia Kitchen is on it. We dug into the history and talked to our favorite Mexican cooks and friends here in the States and back in Mexico. Here is what happened one fateful May 5, why it matters, and what to drink and eat in celebration this and every Cinco de Mayo. Que viva Mexico.

The History of Cinco de Mayo in Mexico

We turned to Familia Kitchen Contributing Editor Karina Corona to dig into the significance of Cinco and what Mexicans in Mexico think about the day. As she reports here: ”Long story short, the dia de fiesta now known as Cinco de Mayo was a major win for Mexican independence and a big L for the Napolean-era French army.

But, of course, there’s more. ”The full story, however, is a bit more dramatic. In order to paint a full picture of why this holiday is celebrated, we first have to travel back in time to the late 1800s,” writes Karina about May 5, 1862 in the Mexican town of Puebla—and what it means for us today.

Read the entire thing here, or click here:

Cinco de Mayo by karina
This article on the history of Cinco takes us back to 1862, when the Mexicans ran the French out of Puebla.

Honor the History and Let the Cinco Celebration Begin

Now that you know why we’re celebrating, what should you drink and eat in Mexico’s honor? We dug into that, too. Below are Familia Kitchen’s favorite Cinco de Mayo dishes, ready to be made and served to your family and friends—albeit in smaller fiestas this year, as we continue to put safety primero. But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate all that the dia means, right?

To toast the Mexicans’ fight for their country, authentically, let’s start with traditional bevs. Not yet sure what to mix up for your Cinco gathering? Here are 4 classic cocktail recommendations from our community of cooks:

Los Drinks of Cinco de Mayo: 4 COCKTAILS

A plato of traditional Mexican comida goes best with a Mexican beer and/or anything with tequila, like one of these below three margaritas or the refreshing paloma.

Alcoholic Lime Margarita with Tequila and Sea Salt
MariCarmen’s Classic Margarita with Triple Sec is our Familia Kitchen go-to.

1. The Classic Margarita—From Our Tequila Expert MariCarmen

We love margaritas here at Familia Kitchen, so por favor trust us when we tell you this is a guaranteed-great receta for a classic and easy-to-make margarita from our favorite Catadora, MariCarmen Ortíz Conway, a globally renowned tequila expert. And we mean expert, as in certified Tequila Expert,™ a certification from the Cultura y Capacitación del Tequila, A.C. “This is a VERY successful margarita,” says MariCarmen. “Always.”

margarita mezcal
Ana’s margarita adds jalapeño-infused mezcal for next-level oomph. We’re all in.

2. Mezcal Margarita With Cucumber and Jalapeño

“I love mezcal in my margarita,” says Ana González Quaid, Familia Kitchen co-founder. “It gives the margarita this incredible smoky depth and a lot more oomph. I love the flavor of mezcal.” We are big fans of her recipe.

margarita healthy
Naihomy’s Healthy & Delicioso makeover of the margarita keeps things natural and lower calorie.

3. Naihomy’s Healthy & Salud!-able Margarita

Familia Kitchen Healthy & Delicioso editor Naihomy Jerez ditched simple syrup and Triple Sec and went back to the margarita essentials for natural flavor: fresh lime and orange juice. Add your favorite tequila and a dash of sparkling water and you’ve got yourself a bebida that’s good and good for you in this saludable margarita.

Paloma recipe tequila
MariCarmen’s classic paloma is a sparkling, refreshing drink with tequila blanco and grapefruit.

4. Paloma Perfecta

Paloma means dove in español, beautifully capturing the sparkling lightness of this grapefruit and tequila cocktail, another favorite here at Familia Kitchen. “The paloma is a thirst-quenching tequila cocktail that’s very easy to mix and serve. A favorite drink from Mexico, it is equally popular worldwide and one of the best ways to show off a great tequila,” writes MariCarmen of her must-try recipe.

La Comida of Cinco de Mayo: STARTERS

It all depends where you are. On the menu at classic Cinco celebrations in Puebla, Mexico—where General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the French army in 1862—are traditional dishes, like mole poblano and chicken tinga. In the States, we tend to gravitate to Mexican dishes that traditional and accessible like guacamole. Here are several favorite family guac recipes sent to us by the Familia Kitchen community.

5. Classic Guacamole With One Secret Ingredient

The secret ingredient in MariCarmen’s amazing guacamole is abuela cooking at its most homey.

6. Guacamole Crostini With Onion and Bacon Jam

guacamole crostini
Adding onion and bacon jam to guacamole on crostini makes this guac extra festive.

7. The Double Treat: Guacamole and Pico de Gallo

guacamole pico de gallo
Bex’s recipe for pico de gallo and scrumptious guac are sure to kick your fiesta up a notch.

8. Salsa Verde for Your Favorite Tacos

salsa verde
Homemade Salsa Verde with Cilantro and Tortilla Chips

9. Because You’ll Need Chips for Those Dips: Make Totopos

totopos tortilla chips
Mexican totopos take your guacamole and salsa to the next level.

La Comida of Cinco de Mayo: MAIN DISHES

10. Baja-Style Fish Tacos with Tilapia, Pineapple and Chipotle Sauce

tilapia fish tacos
Is there anything better than the creamy taste of Baja-style fish tacos with caramelized pineapple?

11. Slow-Cooked Beef Barbacoa Tacos

beef barbacoa street tacos
These savory beef tacos are slow-roasted for maximum flavor and time spent with your Cinco guests.

12. For Your Vegetarian Friends: Veronica’s Almost-Vegan Taco Bowl

Veronia's almost vegan taco bowl with jackfruit
Veronica’s taco bowl uses jackfruit instead of meat and packs on the sabor.

13. Green Chicken Enchiladas to Make Your Cinco Soar

enchiladas verdes
Serrano chiles and 10 tomatillos are the key to this time-honored family recipe.

14. The Chicken Tinga That Won One Family’s Mexican Tostada Cookoff

Jorge Tostada Tinga Tostada
Charred and peeled poblano chiles helped Jorge win his family’s tostada cookoff with this recipe.

15. If You Want to Go All Out: The Mole Recipe Contest Winner

mole mexicano
Try the recipe with guajillos and peanuts that won Familia Kitchen’s Mexican Mole Recipe Contest!

La Comida of Cinco de Mayo: DESSERTS

A sweet treat at the end of your Cinco de Mayo feast sends everyone home full and happy. We offer three classic postre recipes that we received from one Mexican and two Puerto Rican cooks: margarita pie, flan and tres leches cake. The last two Boricua recipes are for desserts served and loved in Mexican homes, and we humbly offer them as menu ideas for Cinco feasting.

16. Maria’s Easy Margarita Pie With Tequila

margarita pie tequila
Got 10 minutes? Make Maria’s margarita pie With tequila—then freeze overnight

17. It May Be Boricua, but This Flan Will Wow Your Cinco Guests

Marisa Flan Familia Kitchen
In nuestra experiencia, everyone love a great flan. Use a jigger of tequila añejo instead of rum to honor the day.

18. Tres Leches Cake—the Most Rich and Delicioso Cake

Tres Leches
Leave out the coconut milk in this recipe and you have a classic Mexican tres leches cake.

How did we do? Did we not incude your favorite Cinco de Mayo recipe?

Let’s fix that. You are officially invited to submit it to us at Familia Kitchen so that we can showcase your family-famous Mexican national feast Cinco dishes.

For more Cinco de Mayo authentic inspiration for memorably great food and drink—btw, comida and bebida are our two favorite Spanish words (and they also rhyme, which, of course, we love)—take a spin through our Latinx treasury of more Mexican families’ favorite recipes at

Photo: Moussa81

Got a question or suggestion?

Please rate this recipe and leave any tips, substitutions, or questions you have!

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *