Here’s What I’m Serving up for Cinco de Mayo This Year

Cinco de Mayo is much more of an American day of revelry than it is in Mexico. One year, long before we had children, my husband and I traveled to Mexico specifically for the holiday, thinking it would be a blast to celebrate…boy, were we wrong. The bartender at our resort literally called us silly Americans before pouring up a few shots of tequila and toasting with us in good fun.

Several years and two kids later, we moved to Southern California where I realized that most of the “Mexican” food I had growing up in central Michigan wasn’t even close to authentic Mexican food. After making some great friends out west, I picked up a few recipes that are a little better than what I was used to.

Regardless what they do in Mexico or in Southern California, we are in quarantine here in Michigan. We need something to celebrate, and Cinco de Mayo includes all of our favorite foods plus margaritas. We are celebrating! Here’s what I’ll be serving up for Cinco de Mayo on Taco Tuesday this year.

Tacos, of Course

Al pastor ready to be chopped up for tacos. Grilled jalapeños and pineapple alongside.

I’ll be making my favorite, al pastor: pork marinated in a chile and pineapple marinade that is just delicious. Authentically, this is spit-grilled on a trompo, (similar to shawarma) and then shaved. I have a lot of kitchen gadgets, but a trompo is not one of them. My family agrees, this recipe is the next best thing. I cannot wait to make this again.

A couple more recipes that are pretty tasty and simple for the at-home cook are this carne asada and this really easy chicken tinga.

Typically, all tacos are served with corn tortillas, but flour works as well. One of my closest Mexican friends taught me this trick for grilling tortillas on the stovetop which we do all the time. Be careful doing this, friends!

Most importantly, make sure to have the proper fixins for your tacos. This depends on the meat, but almost always includes chopped cilantro and diced onions. You may opt to add sliced avocado or queso fresco as well. And, did you know how simple it is to make queso fresco at home? I just made it last week and we are loving it.

Mexican Street Corn (Elotes/Esquites)

Esquites and a tostada with ceviche, guacamole, and queso fresco.
You’ve probably heard of or had Mexican street corn or elotes. It’s hands down, one of the best foods I’ve ever eaten. Typically, corn on the cob (sometimes on a stick) is slathered with butter, mayonnaise, cheese, and spices. This recipe is for esquites, which is the same thing, except not on the cob. Most of the street vendors, or eloteros, we encountered used plain old parmesan cheese in the green shaker bottle, so don’t feel “less authentic” if you can’t find Cotija. You can also chargrill the corn and cut it off the cob; some people add onions, chiles, garlic, and more. This is a simple recipe I learned from friends.
  • 1 pound frozen sweet corn
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • Grated Cotija or Parmesan cheese
  • Chili Powder
  • Tajín (optional)
  • Lime Wedges (optional)

Add corn and butter to saucepan. Cover and cook on medium low for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and reducing heat if needed. You are cooking the corn in the butter so it soaks up the flavor. Once corn is sufficiently butter-soaked, stir in mayonnaise and cook another 5 minutes to heat. Serve in small bowls and top with a generous amount of cheese, and whatever amount of chili powder you prefer. If you don’t like spice, you can use Tajín and/or squeeze a lime wedge over top.

Spanish Rice

  • 1 cup uncooked, long grain rice
  • 3 cups plain tomato juice*
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt butter in saucepan and add onions and garlic, cooking 5-7 minutes over medium heat, until translucent. Add rice and stir to coat with butter. Allow to cook several minutes until  it is just starting to brown. Add tomato juice and salt, cover, and cook on low simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. *More authentic recipes use a couple tablespoons tomato paste and chicken broth instead of tomato juice.

Crockpot Refried Beans

  • 1 lb dry pinto beans
  • 1/2 of a yellow onion
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic (or more)
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons bacon grease (optional)

Place beans into crockpot and cover with 8 cups water. Quarter the onion and halve and deseed the pepper. Add veggies, garlic, and seasonings to crockpot. Cook on high 6-8 hours. Drain excess water and remove veggie pieces. Stir in bacon grease and allow to cook on high another 30 minutes. Use a potato masher to make these into restaurant-style of refried beans. My family likes to skip the mashing.

To make these very quickly and easily on the stovetop, use a 15 ounce can of pinto beans, drained. Add 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, salt to taste, and 1 tablespoon bacon grease. Mix together and heat. Again, the choice whether or not to mash is yours.

It’s time for a fiesta!

Typically, I’ll also serve up an appetizer plate with ceviche (I could eat this for a meal alone), guacamole, salsas and cremas. If you’re able to get over to E & L Supermercado, you should be able to find your dried chiles for the al pastor, delicious tortillas, and everything else you may need. I highly recommend picking up some salsa verde and crema Salvadoreña. Then, all that’s left to do is grab a margarita!

Do you plan to celebrate Cinco de Mayo? What’s on your menu?

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Jessica Lukenbill
Here at Detroit Mom, I am surrounded by an awesome community of women who have helped me find a place where I feel I truly belong. I’m a proud foodie who keeps crazy busy with cooking and canning, gardening, decorating, craft projects, and more. My husband of 19 years is Jason, and we have Gwenna, 11, and Larson, 7, as well as a silver Lab named Indy. We have lived in New Hudson for almost four years now. Mid Michigan is home for me, but after my husband graduated college, we spent 16 years moving around his home state of Indiana. Just prior to moving back to Michigan, we lived in Southern California for three years, exploring and extreme-adventuring with our kids to every beautiful outdoor location we could find. We are the family that spends more weekends away than at home, and our kids are master-level road-trippers. Most of our summers are spent at the lake, where I'm convinced it's not a proper summer without a dip in the water every day from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Reach out and say hi sometime!


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