Difference between Spanish and Mexican Food

Spain and Mexico are two very different places with diverse cultures, heritage and ways of living. When the Spanish conquered the Americas, it affected the culture of what came to be known as Latin American countries, but those countries also had their distinctive ways of living, eating and behaving that did not change. Even though the Spanish rulers governed Mexico for years and introduced a lot of their ways to the Mexican people, since independence from Spain, Mexico has managed to develop its own cultural interests and cuisine. After so many years, there are many aspects to local cooking in Mexico that are an amalgamation of two cultures: there is a Spanish influence but there is also a distinctive, traditional native cuisine.


Spanish food vs Mexican food
Paella mixta – an example of Spanish cuisine

Spanish cuisine is a way of preparing varied dishes that is enriched by the culinary contributions of the various regions that make up the country. Its cuisine is influenced by the people who came and lived here over the centuries such as the Romans, the Arabs, the Persians as well as the Indians, which makes Spanish cuisine an amalgamation of various cultures and ingredients.

Tacos made with carnitas filling
Tacos made with carnitas filling – an example of Mexican food

Mexican cuisine is mainly a combination of native Mesoamerican cooking with European cuisine, and has many Spanish elements following its conquest by Spain in the 16th century. The basic staples are native grown foods, such as corn, beans and chili peppers.

Spanish food vs Mexican food

What is the difference between Spanish and Mexican food? There are many people who believe that Spanish conquest and rule in Mexico for so many years has left a lasting influence on Mexican culture and cuisine. Even though it might be true to some extent, it is necessary to understand that there is a vast difference between the cuisines of the two countries, and this difference is highlighted by the geographical location and climatic conditions of the two republics.

The biggest difference between Spanish and Mexican food is that of the main ingredients that are used in cooking. Spanish foods are more Mediterranean and they make use of shellfish, paella fish, shrimps, potatoes, eggplant, and olive oil while Mexican dishes use large amounts of chili peppers and tortillas along with meats like beef, chicken and pork.

Another thing which sets Spanish and Mexican cuisine apart is the making of tortillas which is equally popular in both cultures. While tortillas in Spain are made with eggs, tortillas in Mexico are made with corn flour.

Overall, Mexican food is more spicy and some of the popular Mexican dishes contain the hottest peppers in the world which include habanero peppers and chipotle along with chili powder, garlic, and cloves which increase the spice content of the dishes, whereas Spanish food is milder in flavor. Even though they use peppers, in lesser quantity, Spanish dishes rely on more added ingredients that give a good taste and aroma to the food like saffron instead of using spice to give flavor and aroma.

There is also the difference of seasonings that are used in both types of cuisines. Mexican dishes use a lot of cilantro but it is used sparingly in Spanish dishes because it is not very commonly available in Spain.

Mexican and Spanish desserts are also very different. While  Mexican desserts are made with flour, like muffins, pastries, and cookies, Spanish desserts are made with rice. Even flan, which is a commonly served dessert in both countries, is made in different ways.

Comparison Chart

Spanish food Mexican Food
Spanish food is milder in taste and relies on added ingredients to give flavor and aroma to food. Mexican food is very spicy and makes use of various types of peppers and chili to add flavor.
Spanish dishes use more fish, shrimps and vegetables like potatoes, as well as olive oil. Mexicans are more inclined towards using pork, chicken and other types of meat.
Spanish food is considered a Mediterranean cuisine, with influences from the Middle East, and uses a lot of garlic. Mexican food is more about beans and tortillas and they form the base of any dish or diet.
Spanish tortillas are omelets, made from a thick egg mixture and containing vegetables. Mexican tortillas are thin flat breads made from corn flour.


This video will help you further understand the difference between Spanish and Mexican food and how they can be distinguished from each other, keeping in mind the different cultures of the two countries.