Grills are a summer must-have. The smell of the charcoal, the smokey taste of the food, warm weather. It all creates the perfect atmosphere and after all, a grill is an American tradition.
Having friends and family over for a grill-feast is one of the best times you can have. Why is that, you may ask? These events are casual and relaxed, guests don't have to get dressed up. Instead they show up, grab a plate and a drink and the party's started.
You can take your next grill-fest one step further by adding a fun theme. And what's greater than a hot and spicy Mexican-themed grill?
So, get out your sombrero, and grab yourself a Margarita because we’re diving head first into the best Mexican grill ever.
What Makes a Great Mexican Themed Grill?
Throwing a Mexican-themed grill party is a fun way of putting a little hot and spicy twist to a regular grill party. You can make it as simple or as extravagant as you'd like.
Adding a Mexican spice mix to the grilled food gives it character. You can buy a spice blend from any supermarket but you could just as easily make your own. This way you add just the right amount of each spice to make it perfect for your taste.
Cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, cayenne pepper and paprika are just some of the many spices you can add. All of these create a gentle heat but amazing flavor when added to any meat.
The food is only part of it though. If you want to go all out, it's best to get Mexican-themed decorations as well, make your guests feel like they stepped right into a Cinco de Mayo celebration
To make your party even more grand, add some traditional Mexican drinks.
Hot and Spicy Mexican Grilling
If you thought al fresco grilling was a massive thing in America, just wait for your next trip across the border. Mexicans practically live for grilled food. You will find it everywhere you go.
The amazing smell of grilled, smoky meat fills up the streets at night. You won't even know where to start.
Luckily for you, I have listed some of my favorite Mexican grilled foods right here.
The main dish is the center of the occasion, meat is a must here. Whether it’s beef, pork, chicken or fish, we want it grilled to perfection.
Here are three of our favorite proteins, and how to prepare them with a Mexican flavor.
A meat-filled fajita is a must-have if you're throwing a Mexican-themed grill party.
Marinate the steak in some olive oil, adding chili powder for heat, lime for a little freshness and honey to balance it all out. Add your spice blend and throw in some cilantro.
Let the meat sit in this flavor-packed marinade for a couple of hours in the fridge. Then take it out, pat it dry and cut into slices.
Throw some green and red peppers on the grill with your steak. This addition will give another element to your amazing fajitas.
What else makes an excellent fajita? It’s the filling of course. Put a few of your favorite Mexican sauces on the table and let your guests decide.
Try making guacamole, an all-time favorite. Pair this with a sweet and spicy salsa, and make sure you offer guests a big bowl of sour cream. The sour cream is a must for spicy fajitas. It will help to make the heat a little more bearable.
And, of course, don't forget the cheese.
Chicken is a popular grilling choice. It's easy and quick to cook and can taste oh-so-amazing.
Cooking up a Mexican roadside chicken opens up a whole new world of flavors.
Before cooking, rub the bird in your favorite spice blend, mixed with some cider vinegar and a touch of orange juice. This quick marinade will give the chicken a sweet, tangy flavor.
The chicken is cooked whole. Usually, the chef will cut it halfway through so it's flat on the grill. Grilling it this way makes it cook quicker. It’s also easier to determine whether or not it's cooked all the way through.
You can serve the chicken as it is, with your desired sauces and dips. But you could also shred the meat and make tacos, or chicken fajitas.
Spicy Grilled Shrimp
If you have seafood lovers in your circle they will go nuts for these grilled shrimp. Shrimp taste unbelievable when grilled and they’re even better with a touch of Mexican spice. Shrimp are also quick and easy to prepare and you can serve them in lots of different ways.
Create a spicy paste with garlic, salt, and your chosen spice blend. Add some olive oil and lemon juice to lift the flavor. Pour it over the shrimp and blend well.
Let the seafood chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.
When cooking, you can either put the shrimp directly onto the grill or you can line them up on wooden skewers. But remember to soak the skewers in cold water for 30 minutes beforehand, to prevent burning.
Spicy grilled shrimp are great in tacos, fajitas, in salads, and on their own. They are limitless, so let your shrimp-loving guests decide how they would like to eat it.
The protein is only half the story. A plate is not complete without a flavorful side dish. Luckily for us, Mexico has some of the tastiest side dishes you’ll ever find.
Here are some of my favorites:
Corn, or maize, originated in Mexico about 10,000 years ago. From there, this yellow cob-of-goodness has become a worldwide favorite.
Elote is the Spanish name for street corn. In Mexico, they are typically thrown on the grill and eaten on the go.
To make the maize even tastier, after cooking, add some spicy mayonnaise. Then top it off with some cotija cheese. This is a hard, crumbly cheese named after the Mexican town of Cotija.
Stuffed peppers are such a delicious side dish. You can fill them with whatever your heart, or stomach, desires.
A popular choice is a spicy chorizo stuffing. Chorizo is another Mexican specialty. It's a spicy pork sausage that is traditionally made with a real intestine casing.
To make your chorizo stuffing, cut open the sausage casing and squeeze out the filling. Discard the casing and cook the meat with some onion and a sprinkle of your spice mix. The sausage already has a lot of flavors, so you don't need to add too much.
Cut the peppers in half, clean the insides, and fill them with sausage. Top the dish off with your favorite cheese.
You can also make a minced meat filling, or even a cheese or vegetarian stuffing. Peppers are so versatile and delicious.
Once filled, cook them on the grill.
Avocado plays a massive role in Mexican cuisine, just look at the popularity of guac.
My favorite Mexican avocado salad is very rustic. It’s got big chunks of avocados and tomatoes, along with slices of onion.
Mix in some cilantro leaves, lime juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
This salad goes perfectly with any dish. You can even use it as a taco topping. Or add some of it to your enchiladas.
Red rice, also called arroz rojo, is a favorite Mexican side dish.
You start by sautéing white rice in a skillet. When the rice is golden, add onions, garlic, and spices. Next, pour a tomato sauce over the rice with a little bit of warm water, just enough to cover the rice. Then you simply simmer the rice until it’s cooked to your liking.
Spanish rice is the perfect accompaniment to any grilled meat.
If you don't speak Spanish, this translates to "drunken beans." It's a tasty bean dish that is slowly cooked in dark beer and bacon.
It makes a delicious side dish or dip for nachos. It's also straightforward to make. Here's how:
Cut the bacon into small pieces, then cook them in a skillet with a small amount of frying oil. Cut up some onion and jalapeno peppers and throw them in with the bacon to finish off.
When everything looks golden, add the beans and beer. Then, let it slowly cook for a couple of hours.
If you want to save time, you can also use canned beans. This does change the texture and taste a little but it still tastes great.
Delicious Mexican Desserts
With any feast comes dessert, it's a given. And Mexico has some of the most satisfying desserts from across the world.
Here are some of my favorites:
You cannot have a Mexican grill without churros. These deep-fried sticks of deliciousness are another must-have. It’s even better that they are super easy to prepare.
All you’ll need is:
Melt the butter in a deep saucepan. Then add the water and sugar, bring this mixture to a light boil.
When the mix is bubbling, add the flour and then stir. Keep stirring until the ingredients form a dough. Take off the heat and let cool. Once the dough is cooled, beat in the eggs.
When the dough is ready, fry the churros and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Easy.
Cajeta is a caramel sauce that is based on caramelized goats milk. It's like a Dulce de Leche. The sauce originated in the Mexican city of Celaya and this caramel is a specialty in Mexico.
Being that this is a sauce, you can use it for a variety of things. If you like baking or anyone in your family loves to bake, using cajeta as a topping or filling for a cake is super yummy. You can also use it as a dipping for Churros.
Making cajeta is a bit trickier than some of the other stuff we’ve gone over here. But don’t worry, you can easily buy it in specialty stores if you really want to get your hands on some. Or, if you’ve got your heart set on making some, try this simplified recipe:
Combine half the milk with the sugar in a medium saucepan. Let it cook until golden. Stir frequently. Pour the rest of the milk into a new saucepan, add the baking soda and cinnamon stick. Bring to the boil.
Remove the cinnamon, then add the flavored milk gradually to the first mixture.
When everything is combined, cook on a low heat until mixture thickens.
With every great grill comes a supply of drinks. A grill party favorite has to be beer. But when you're having a Mexican fiesta, it calls for some Mexican-inspired beverages.
We all know margaritas taste great, but Mexico has much more to offer.
Here are a couple of great ideas:
Paloma is a fresh, light, fruity drink. You can make this drink from any grapefruit-flavored soda. It's then mixed with either tequila or mescal. Serve on the rocks with a lime wedge.
The Paloma can also be served as a mocktail by replacing the alcohol with club soda. Even better would be to replace it with lemonade or another lemony drink, this will give the drink an extra kick of citrus.
Oranges are in season during the summer, so why not take advantage of this juicy fruit and make pitchers of Tequila Sunrise? It’s guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.
Simply mix orange juice and tequila, then add a little grenadine syrup. The syrup will sink to the bottom, making the “sunrise”.
Serve in a tall glass with ice.
This cocktail can also be kid-friendly. Just don't add Tequila.
Mexican Fiesta Inspired Decorations
To make your guests feel like they are in Mexico, you’ll want to draw some inspiration from the Mexican culture.
Buying or making a piñata is one option, after all, who doesn't like to beat a paper animal until candy explodes everywhere? This is fun for both kids and adults.
But to really take your party to the next level, you should think about small things like colors. Mexico is a very colorful country. Everything from clothes to houses are decorated in beautiful, vibrant colors.
You could decorate the tables with vibrant flowers. Or choose a Mexican tablecloth.
A fun idea could be to ask everyone to wear sombreros.
You cook the food, then lay it all out on a table or two and let your guests feast their eyes and tummies on your Mexican delicacies.
Maybe use a sombrero as a nacho holder. Then place small bowls with salsa, guacamole and other dips around.
Only your imagination, and maybe your bank account, set the limits.
Throwing a Mexican-themed grill is a perfect way to experience something new, maybe even something better.
Good Mexican food gives a perfect balance between spicy, salty and sweet. One of the best things you can add is a little drizzle of freshly squeezed lime. This will lift the dishes, and add even more balance.
Get out your grill and your steaks. Make your mix of spices - you can use it anytime and in any cuisine to give it a taste of Mexico.
Hopefully, you have gotten a little inspiration both on food and drinks. You can always make your own version of the dishes. Grilling is fun, and it shouldn't be limited to recipes.