Saboreando Comida: A Taste of Traditional Día de Los Muertos Cuisine


Audrey Menzies

A collage of a variety of Mexican foods, both traditional and non-traditional, enjoyed throughout Audrey Menzies’s trip to Isla Mujeres.

Audrey Menzies, Co Editor-In-Chief

Isla Mujeres is a 15 mile Long Island off the coast of Cancun. While the island is a popular tourist destination, it is also home to a large local population filled with local family restaurants with tons of traditional cuisine. Throughout my trip, I had the privilege of trying many traditional dishes and being invited into people’s homes to taste Día de Los Muertos cuisine.

Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is the celebration of both life and death and a chance to show love and respect for family members who have passed on, according to KHOU.

Desayuno (Breakfast)

Chilaquiles topped with chicken and salsa Verde from Ruben’s cafe in Isla Mujeres. (Audrey Menzies)

On the island, one of the most common breakfast items is Chilaquiles. It is a base of handmade tortilla chips topped with your choice of protein (eggs, chicken, beef, octopus, shrimp), followed by crema, cheese, onions, and soaked in your choice of red sauce, Chile Verde, or Mole.

Pancakes with local fruits from Rubens cafe, and Crepes topped with homemade chocolate sauce and fresh local fruits. (Audrey Menzies)

This is one of my all-time favorite meals, and it is not something I would eat in the U.S. for breakfast. However, while visiting Mexico, it was the best way to start my day. I also enjoyed other things for breakfast like crepes, fruit bowls, and some of the best pancakes I’ve ever had. The island also had a great selection of handmade juices with locally grown fruits, sold markets. My favorite fruits were the handmade horchata and Jamaican, which is a pressed hibiscus flower made into a drink.

Comida (Lunch)

For lunch, most days, I enjoyed tacos or absurd amounts of guacamole. These tacos are very similar to the street tacos you would find at local restaurants like Don Antonio’s or San Antonio’s. I enjoyed the tacos and salsas that came along with them. One of the differences between these tacos and the ones we find at home is pickled onions. Though a small addition, pickled onions added such a pop of flavor that I enjoyed.

Chicken street tacos topped with avocado, pickled onions and lettuce from Picus in Isla Mujeres. (Audrey Menzies)

Cena (Dinner)

For dinner, Isla Mujeres had a plethora of different options at all the restaurants I visited. From ceviche to pasta, the island was not going to let you leave hungry and unsatisfied. My favorite dinner meals were chili Verde enchiladas, flautus and much more. One of my favorite meals from the whole trip was in a local woman’s kitchen.

A company called Cultura Cruisers seeks local incredible cooks who are willing to invite people into their homes. On this tour, our tour guide José leads us via golf cart to many different people’s houses. We enjoyed many different foods and desserts. One of the things we had was called “Mukbil Pollo” which was a dish that almost resembled a pie. It was filled with chicken, eggs and many other things. After filling, it is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked underground. This meal is only enjoyed during Día de Los Muertos, so it was a privilege to be able to enjoy it. Another traditional Día de Los Muertos meal is called “Pan de Muertos.” This is a bread pastry that is topped with sugar and one can often find large ones on top of deceased loved ones’ shrines as an offer to them when family visit during Día de Los Muertos.

Local woman rolling maize to complete her Mukbil Pollo before wrapping it in banana leaves. (Audrey Menzies)

Visiting Mexico during Día de Los Muertos was so special and something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. Following COVID-19, the island had to shut down, so it was nice to see the island go back to normal conditions. It was so amazing to watch the celebrations take place and enjoy many traditional dishes during the holiday.