Food is a storyteller, especially when you travel. Through food, you can open a door to social habits and traditions while having a direct connection with the local people. We love that connection between food and travel because it’s both exciting and delicious.
Querétaro is beautiful and one of the more secure cities in México to explore. It has delectable
cuisine and rich history. A fabulous combination!
The gastronomy of Querétaro is particularly special because it’s based on products and dishes from its own semi-desert region. Its cuisine has also been influenced by indigenous cultures like the Chichimeca and Hñähñu tribes that lived in the region thousands of years ago. Corn, chiles, cactus, and fruit were foundations of their cuisine.
The Chichimeca people were excellent cultivators, hunters, and gatherers. They cultivated corn, calabaza (squash), beans, and chiles. They were hunters of duck, opossum, wild pig, rabbit, turkey, badger, and tepezcuintle (a large rodent that was plentiful in the area). They eventually raised these animals for consumption. Cactus, wild fruits, a variety of root vegetables, and honey were gathered from the semi-desert landscape that these people called home.
The economy of the Chichimeca was based on bartering, and they did extensive business with different tribes throughout Mesoamerica. Exchanges of leather, sacred objects, ceramics, and blankets were frequently traded between peoples.
Although the Chicimeceas did not have a great variety of food, what they did have was remarkably nutritious. Because they did not have oil, most of the food was roasted or cooked and served with a variety of salads.
The Colonial Era
Another huge culinary influence on the region came in 1531 when Spain conquered the city and introduced its culture into the region. 1531 was the year when the kitchens of two different worlds fused together and created a new cuisine in the city the Spaniards called “Santiago de Querétaro”. What resulted was varieties new of dishes. This is the first time fish, duck, calabazas, and fruit started to be cooked in a saucepan, and the first time the indigenous people began using wooden spoons, pork fat, and other items introduced from Europe.
These new cooking methods and ingredients produced creations that continue to be popular like “Ponche”, a special winter beverage. It is made by boiling a mix of local fruits like tejocote, tuna (the fruit of cacti), capulines (a kind of cherry), ciruela (plums), jocotes, and sugar, which was introduced by the Spaniards. The result is a fragrant, slightly sweet drink that is the perfect addition to winter nights. “Mole Verde” is also a product of this fusion of food-cultures, as is corn cooked with butter, and sweet potato cooked with piloncillo (a type of brown sugar), and milk.
It is also important to note that within these last 25 years, the city of Querétaro has received immigrants from different states of México and each has helped to enrich its cuisine.
Exploring Beyond the City
“La sierra Gorda” (the name given to the mountainous region of Querétaro) also boasts a great variety of dishes most of them of indigenous origins. There are, however, a variety of Mestizo dishes (the mix of indigenous and Spanish culture) that can also be found in this zone. Atole de teja, a hot beverage made with ground sunflower seeds, can be enjoyed for breakfast year-round. Another famous dish is Zacahuil, a tamal stuffed with pork, chicken, turkey, or with different stews, that incorporates the chiles from this area.
The Central zone of the state of Querétaro is home to more Mestizo dishes. Here the Spanish began raising pigs which is how “Carnitas”, a very traditional Querétano dish, was created. During the colonial era, vineyards also began to be cultivated even in the mountainous region. That´s why today in Querétaro, vineyards are the second most important attraction in the state, which boasts more than 30 vineyards as well as an abundance of cheese farms.
Querétaro’s rich food history along with new foods created by the younger generations living in the city offers a wonderful “foody” experience.
Downtown Querétaro is unique! You could begin your day exploring “El Cerrito, the pyramid the Chichimecas built thousands of years ago, and next, find yourself admiring a building built during the colonial times. In the middle of all this walking, you can enjoy the most delicious dishes in Querétaro. Imagine eating a dish that has been prepared in much the same way for thousands of years! By interacting with local people who are eager to tell you their stories and to share their food, you can live a whole new experience. By seeing people in their native environment, you can really get to know their customs.
From the city center, a 30 - 45-minute drive brings you to darling Tequisquiapan. There you will discover charming vineyards where you can drink wine made by local people and experience the unique flavor of a Querétaro wine. Enjoy life for a few moments in the countryside, eating local, organic cheese. While you are enjoying your cheese and drinking wine you will hear fantastic stories told by the owners of these vineyards and farms - their history, and their processes. But more than that. They will transport you back in time with stories of the places, the people that lived there many years ago - all of this while are surrounded by beautiful scenery that only the countryside of Querétaro can offer.
Come visit us, Querétaro will surprise you. Fall in love with its flavors, its colors, its history, its architecture, its people. Discover hidden gems that only those who live there know. Join us for a full-on, fun, local, foodie experience.
Written by David Herrera
Translated by Annamaria Alfonso