Budget Friendly Mexican Dishes
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21 Delicious and Inexpensive Mexican Dishes

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Budget Friendly Mexican Dishes
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¡Delicioso!

Mexican food is one of the most popular cuisines in the United States. It's easy to understand why, with its fresh and bold flavors, spectrum of simple to wildly complex preparations, and, not least of all, refreshingly low price point. The cheapest way to enjoy Mexican food, other than being in Mexico, is to cook it at home, which also allows cooks to season and spice to their liking. Shopping at a local Mexican grocery store will yield extra savings.

Related: 23 Traditional Hispanic Foods Most Americans Don't Know About (but Should)

Enchiladas
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Enchiladas

This delicious baked entree is perfect for parties or casual brunches and dinners. For lighter meals, two pieces is a good portion; dinner for hearty eaters requires three for a serving. They're often cooked chicken or a vegetarian substitute in a corn tortilla, smothered in salsa, topped with shredded cheese, and baked.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Related: 25 Indulgent Brunch Recipes for a Weekend Feast at Home

Cemitas Mexican Sandwiches
Cemitas Mexican Sandwiches by bolbolaan (CC BY)

Torta/Cemita

This Mexican sandwich will change the way you think about the ubiquitous lunchtime standby. Start by layering mayonnaise, avocado, jalapeños or chipotles, lettuce, and Oaxaca or mozzarella cheese on a roll. Enjoy as is or heated up in the oven for a toasty crunch. Add some variety with a spot of cooked chicken, leftover steak, sautéed mushrooms, or any preferred filling.

Recipe: The Spruce Eats

Related: 25 Amazing Sandwiches From Around the World

Carne Asada Tacos
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Tacos

Tacos are universally loved, and can be found across Mexico, often featuring delicious regional preparations and ingredients. In many places, a traditional taco is nothing more than a corn tortilla with about two tablespoons of filling made with meat or vegetables, topped with chopped cilantro and onion, and often accompanied by a spoonful of one or more salsas. The cost to make a single taco is roughly 85 cents, and one serving usually includes three tacos.

Recipe: The Wholesome Dish

Related: 30 Cheap, Delicious Ways to Fill Your Tacos

Mmm... Tostadas
Mmm... Tostadas by jeffreyw (CC BY)

Tostadas

This crunchy cousin of the taco is assembled using a flat, fried corn tortilla. The hard shells are easy to find but cost about twice the price of soft corn tortillas, so skip the expense and get a fresher flavor by frying the tortillas at home. Either way, make a classic tostada by spreading 2 tablespoons of refried beans on a tostada; top with shredded Oaxaca or mozzarella cheese, shredded lettuce and sliced avocado; finish with a flourish of cilantro, onion, and salsa. Figure two tostadas for a serving.

Recipe: Simply Recipes

Related: Why Oaxaca Is Considered Mexico's Culinary Capital

Baked Chile Relleno
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Baked Chiles Rellenos

Traditional chiles rellenos are battered and fried, but this version is baked, which saves time, money, and calories. You'll need to cut open the pepper carefully and remove the seeds and veins.

Recipe: Serious Eats

Elotes
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Elote

A popular street snack in parts of Mexico, these ears of corn are a flavor explosion of sweet corn, salty cheese, creamy mayonnaise, and spicy chili. To make them, take a cooked ear of corn (ideally grilled), and dress it liberally with mayonnaise. Then dip it in grated Cotija cheese, and sprinkle it with powdered chili and maybe a squeeze of lime.

Recipe: Cookie + Kate

Related: 29 Must-Try International Street Foods Under $5

steak burrito
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Burritos

Burritos are super filling and satisfying and an excellent way to use up extra vegetables or meat. In general, they're just flour tortillas layered with cooked rice and beans, shredded lettuce, onion, jalapeño, and tomato — and often sautéed vegetables or cooked meat, served with salsa, sour cream, and sliced avocado.

Recipe: The Seasoned Mom

Related: 20 Comfort Food Recipes That Freeze Well

taco salad
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Taco Salad

This healthy spin on a taco takes everything we love about that basic Mexican food and adds a nutritional boost. For a cheap vegetarian meal, substitute hearty greens, such as kale or spinach, for the protein used in a regular taco. Serve with a handful of store-bought tortilla chips.

Recipe: Wholesome Yum

Quesadilla
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Quesadilla

Simple and quick, this Mexican grilled cheese can be made with flour or corn tortillas and are often as simple as putting shredded cheese and chopped jalapeños between two, heated until the cheese melts and served with salsa and sliced avocado. Adding chicken is just the start of how to get creative with the dish. The corn tortillas make a smaller quesadilla, so figure two for each serving.

Recipe: Delish

Tamales
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Tamales

Tamales are easy and inexpensive to make, but also time-consuming. Traditional party fare, they're typically prepared in large batches, with a masa corn mixture and fillings layered on soaked corn husks, rolled like a burrito and steamed for 1 to 1.5 hours. 

Recipe: Genius Kitchen 

Tortilla Casserole
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Black Bean and Corn Salad
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Black Bean and Corn Salad

This is a tasty and light salad that's packed full of protein and fresh vegetables. Raechel Ray makes her version especially colorful with red pepper.

Recipe: Food Network

Molletes
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Molletes

Essentially an open-faced sandwich, molletes are made with warmed bread and topped with various ingredients, such as cheese, sauce, or meat. The traditional bread, bolillo, can be difficult to find unless there is a Mexican bakery nearby. Italian rolls or baguettes can be used instead. 

Recipe: Tablespoon 

Cucumber Botana
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Cucumber Botana

Cucumber can be turned into a tasty appetizer quickly and inexpensively. Start by peeling the cucumber and removing the seeds. Cut the cucumbers into finger sized sticks and arrange on a plate. Top them with a generous squeeze of lime and chili salt, such as Tajin, or your own blend of salt and chili powders.

Guacamole
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Guacamole

This quintessential Mexican dip is one of the more expensive Mexican preparations thanks to the price of the central ingredient: avocados. To keep the cost within budget, use equal proportions of the cheaper (by about half) Dominican avocado and the pricier Hass avocado. 

Recipe: Cooking Classy

Mexican Pizza
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Nachos
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Nachos

Crunchy, cheesy, spicy — nachos have a way of disappearing quickly from any table. The key is to layer the toppings on the chips carefully and evenly so every bite is full of flavor. To assemble, lay out store-bought tortilla chips and top with 1 cup home-cooked black beans, chopped tomato, and onion, and a generous handful of grated cheese; place in a hot oven until hot and bubbly. Serve with sour cream and salsa. For carnivorous crowds, think big and add beef.

Recipe: A Pinch of Healthy

Nopales
Nopales by Yesica (CC BY-NC-ND)

Nopal Salad

Nopales are cactus paddles, often sold fresh in Mexican grocery stores with the spines already removed. They are also sold pre-cooked in jars, with a slightly briny flavor. These cheap vegetables are full of nutrition and have a mild earthy flavor. Cutting them up into chunks to make a tangy salad topped with fresh cheese and onion in a tasty way to work them into your meal. 

Recipe: The Spruce

Related: 22 Quick and Easy Cold Salads for People Who Hate Lettuce

Chips and Salsa
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Chips and Salsa

This pairing is most likely the first edible that comes to mind when thinking about Mexican food. The combination of light corn chips with piquant and spicy salsa is an irresistibly satisfying appetizer or snack, and very easy to make (the salsa, not the chips).

Recipe: Kim's Cravings

Related: 15 DIY Sauces and Condiments to Liven up Multiple Meals

seven layer dip
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Bean Dip

Another party favorite, especially around Cinco de Mayo, this dish is delicious and cheap. This classic recipe for seven-layer dip is a good place to start, but it’s really just a guide. Bean dip can be as few or as many layers as you like, and virtually any add-in works well.

Recipe: Food

Jicama Salad
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Jicama Salad

Jicama is a refreshing root vegetable that has a slightly sweet taste and crunchy texture, kind of like a mix between a potato and an apple. Traditionally if can be served as a snack topped with lime and chili, or made into a crunchy simple salad with other fresh ingredients like citrus and avocado. 

Recipe: Food & Wine