How Americans Abroad Get Their Mexican Food Fix

How Americans Abroad Get Their Mexican Food Fix

One of my all-time favorite posts from Reddit asks Americans what they miss most since moving abroad. Some people name popular shopping institutions (Target, Wal-Mart, and Costco) and American conveniences (clothes dryers, reliable mail service, and OTC medicines). Most, though, mention the food.

The commenters talk about their regional favorites, like bagels and Whataburger, and national delicacies, like Girl Scout Cookies. But nothing is mentioned more often than Mexican or Tex-Mex food. 

Naturally, I feel like an absolute genius by choosing Mexico for our move abroad. I get to experience a new culture while gaining more Mexican food options! For the many American expats, emigrants, and nomads in other countries, though, I wondered how they were spending Taco Tuesdays. Here’s what they had to say. 

Germany

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Photo Credit: Condesa.

German travel blogger Kitty Maerz finds the Mexican food situation in Germany rather dire after having lived in the U.S. She says there was hardly any Mexican food available at all other than maybe in really big cities until a couple of years ago, but that you’d fare better with Italian, Greek, Chinese, and Thai. She says your best luck will be finding the German versions of nachos, chili con carne, and maybe tacos. For example, she says, chili con carne will almost always have corn in it. 

She recommends Enchilada, a German chain with about 30 restaurants, for your Mexican fix—but mostly for the cocktails and hip atmosphere. She says the most authentic Tex-Mex meal she’s had in Germany was at Condesa, a Mexican fast food joint in Munich that has a Chipotle vibe.

Spain

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Photo Credit: Distrito México.

Maria DiCicco lives in Florida but spends six weeks each year in Zaragoza, Spain: plenty long enough for her to miss Mexican treats from home. She says the main difference between Spanish cuisine and Mexican is the spice—Spaniards rarely serve anything spicy.

She recommends Distrito Mexico, which serves authentic Mexican with a Spanish twist. I noticed a definite Yucatecán influence on the menu with the presence of Cochinita Pibil, the slow-roasted citrus pork dish. She says to expect tapas-style portions of pork nachos and cocktails that give Mexican restaurants back home a run for their money. 

Cepee Tabibian calls her hometown Houston, Texas the Tex-Mex capital and admits it’s her favorite food. During the eight years she’s spent in Málaga, Spain, she’s dreamt of tacos, nachos, queso, and chilaquiles, saying Spain’s dishes consistently fall short.

More specifically, she says the portions are smaller than back home, but the ingredients aren’t as fresh. Like Maria, she says the food just isn’t spicy enough, and she adds that it’s overpriced. She’s found a few quick fixes to tide her over between visits home, but says no one knows how to make here favorite dish—nachos.

Romania

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Photo Credit: Bodega del Taco.

Jennifer Christianson lives in Cluj, Romania, home to 300,000 residents. She notes that the city is small, but modern and business oriented. Nonetheless, she says there are only two Mexican restaurants: Pablitos and Bodega del Taco. The latter is run by a Romanian woman and her Mexican husband, and the food is good, if not super spicy.

Portugal

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Gwen Corrie is an American expat living in the Algarve area of Portugal, and says there are multiple places to find Mexican food, and great Mexican food at that! She thinks it’s because the lush region in southern Portugal provides the freshest of ingredients available, making all dishes—not just Mexican—delectable.

She recommends that, rather than googling “Mexican restaurants near me,” you ask for word-of-mouth recommendations, which she gets from her local expat Facebook group. “With expats of all nationalities in Portugal (the Algarve included), we know how to hook up with each other and share information that will benefit us all,” Corrie says.

Thailand

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Photo Credit: Amigos.

Nomads Brent and Michael have been traveling for six years and love Mexican food. They say you can find it in many places where you find digital nomads, but it’s often just okay. Their favorite spot for Mexican food abroad is in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where they had amazing burritos and tacos at Amigo’s Tex-Mex in Old Town.

Argentina

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Digital nomad Gigi Chow and her world-traveling pups Roger Wellington and Penny Rose live in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The California native definitely misses Mexican food and has tried a number of local restaurants. She says that the meat is naturally high-quality in the South American beef capital, but the salsa is bland and soupy. She’s even been served home fries and a bread basket at different establishments. 

She hasn’t found a favorite but recommends Che Taco. “Overall, I’ve found that Mexican restaurants are trendy or hipster-like here, and I prefer authentic taquerias and mom-and-pop shops that I can find in LA.,” she says.

Another nomad, Brodi Cole, hasn’t found any Mexican food he likes at all! To be fair, his long family trip down the Pan-American Highway to Argentina followed a year living in Mexico, so his tastes are likely refined. He’s also in Buenos Aires, so we’ll be sure to tell him about Che Taco.

Ireland

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Photo Credit: Tequila Jack’s.

American expat Amber Haggerty has lived in Cork, Ireland for three years since moving from Colorado. She started missing Mexican food almost immediately. She says there’s one decent Mexican food joint there: Tequila Jack’s. Amber says, “Unfortunately, the only way I’ve been able to find decent Mexican food is by trying every restaurant—reviews aren’t always reliable because the locals in Cork have low tolerances for spicy food.”

Another major issue is the cheese; she’s only been to a couple of Mexican restaurants in all of Europe that had decent substitutes for cheeses like cotija, monterrey jack, or queso fresco. Usually, she says restaurants just use a sharp white cheddar or feta, which changes the flavor of the dish.

Italy

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Nathan Heinrich is a dual citizen in Northern Italy, which he calls a Mexican food desert. Growing up in California, he knows that he took Mexican food for granted, thanks to the multitude of taquerias and his friends’ authentic home cooking. Now, he’d settle for a trip to Taco Bell or Chipotle, such is the scarcity of tacos, salsa, and guacamole.

Despite the high-quality foods available in Italy, he says the salsa is bland and watery (“more like tomatoes for bruschetta”) and cilantro is unheard of. He’s thankful for delicious avocados from Israel. As for cilantro, he’s growing it himself.

Ashley Bartner agrees. She says she craves Mexican food and has driven as far away as Amsterdam to find it! She describes the food in rural Le Marche as either nonexistent or strange, like replacing salsa with barbecue sauce, so she’s happy to have found a hook up in Germany: a Mexican-German couple who provide tortillas and other homemade items. She says these have to tide her over between trips home every couple of years.

Czech Republic

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Photo Credit: Las Adelitas.

Maggie Turansky has sampled Mexican cuisine around the world, developing her taste for it back home in Arizona and California. In London, she said the food was trendy but inauthentic and overpriced, and it definitely didn’t come with free chips and salsa! In Melbourne, fish tacos are the trend, but still trendy and less accessible.

She was pleasantly surprised living in the Republic of Georgia, where chefs experimented with Georgian/Mexican fusion. She still recommends a restaurant called Pancho Villa in the small town of Sighnaghi.

She found her absolute favorite Mexican food abroad in the Czech Republic. Although the spice level is toned down for local tastes, she says they still hit the spot. Her top choice is Las Adelitas, but she says there are a number of joints to choose from in Prague.

Like many savvy migrants, she also makes her own, stockpiling dried chiles and growing tomatillos, poblano peppers, and serrano chiles.

Japan

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Vivian Vo is a Californian currently living in Okinawa, Japan. She says the prevailing dish there is called taco rice, which is a kind of Tex-Mex/Japanese fusion. She’s not impressed with the tacos there and is craving a burrito, especially. Like Brent and Michael, she also recommended the food in Chaing Mai, Thailand. And, she points out, parts of the U.S. lack decent Mexican food, too. (Sorry NYC!)

Alex Evans lives in Hiroshima, Japan, where Mexican food is almost non-existent. He says  there’s an international store called Kaldi that sells tortillas, pickled jalapenos, and a few other things, but no dried chiles (guajillo, ancho, etc.) and no Mexican or Latin American cheeses. He misses nopales (prickly pear cactus) the most and can’t even find them online.

Bethany Nakamura misses Mexican food the most from her home in rural Japan. All she can find are stale taco shells, cheap salsa, and $6 packs of soft wheat tortilla shells, and they don’t hold a candle to fresh homemade or restaurant Mexican food in America.

Veronica Hanson lives in Tokyo and says that finding good Mexican food is rough there. She’s found a couple of small chain restaurants, but one has lousy food and the other has subpar service. Problems range from sketchy meat to salsa that’s more like marinara. To satisfy her cravings, she packs her suitcase with sauces, spices, and Spanish rice whenever she makes trips home.

Australia

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Photo Credit: Mission District.

Lanie van der Horst moved to Australia in 2020. She says she and her husband are always complaining about the Mexican food there! They’ve been on a quest across Brisbane, trying one Mexican restaurant after the next, but none are good. She’d like to call it quits, but she can’t help getting her hopes up when her husband hears of a great new spot. “To be fair,” she says, “some of the food is fine—it’s just not Mexican.” Like expats in many other countries, she compares the salsa to pasta sauce and says the spice level is off.

Kimmie Conner giggled when she heard that Americans on the hunt for good Mexican food abroad was a common struggle. The southern Californian says she didn’t know what she had until it was gone. The nomad has talked about her cravings extensively on TikTok, reacting to the disastrous food in places like London, where she was served a wrap at a street festival that they called a burrito.

She’s had the most experience trying Mexican food in Melbourne, Australia, where she says it’s touch-and-go. (Check out her review of Mission District). Kimmie says one secret is finding spots owned by people from the U.S., Mexico, or Central America. She also checks the ingredient list to see if it includes the basics. 

Finally, she says to give it a try, even if it’s not so authentic. Asian and European spots rarely make what you’d call Mexican food, but their attempts can still be delicious (as long as they aren’t cold wraps pretending to be burritos!).

United Arab Emirates (& Nepal)

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Daniel Flood is a digital nomad who’s lived in 40 different countries but misses the food from his hometown San Diego. Like others, he learned to enjoy fusions and local foods that remind him of home. One example is a food in Dubai called an akkawi that looks and tastes like a quesadilla, only with olive oil and vinegar in place of salsa. He also recommends a spot in Nepal called Sun Welcome Pokhara: not because of its authenticity, but because of the sweet owners. 

He says he’s also found delicious options across India and in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, but that little compares to his own cooking, like huevos rancheros.

Pakistan

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Digital nomad Adeel Khan describes how Pakistan combines Mexican flavors with the country’s signature dishes and identifies five incredible-sounding favorites he describes as “Pak-Mex”:

  • Tacos combined with Pakistani masalas
  • Burritos infused with local spices
  • Enchiladas with tandoori chicken
  • Quesadillas with paneer and spices
  • Guacamole with chaat masala

Adeel says that the beauty of Mexican food in Pakistan lies in the innovative fusion of two rich culinary traditions that share inspiration. 

Tahiti

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Larissa Rolley splits her time between Chicago and Tahiti and has local delicacies she misses in each location. While she can’t beat Tahiti’s fresh seafood and tropical fruits, she misses Mexican cuisine terribly there, especially on Taco Tuesdays! 

Like other nomads, her solution is to pack a few staples in her suitcase to make tamales along with mole sauce and hot sauce. She says local Tex-Mex ingredients like taco kits are too pricey, but the avocados are divine.

Croatia

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Photo Credit: To Je Tako.

Jennifer spent more than a decade in the Mexican-food heaven of Austin, Texas before setting off on her nomad adventure. She says that the thing she and her husband miss most from home is Mexican food, and that most of Europe is a big miss (especially Italy). Thankfully, she can cook her own, but ingredients are scarce.

She notes that the famed Michelin Guide hasn’t listed a single Mexican restaurant in the eight countries she’s lived in, but has found a decent spot in Split, Croatia called To Je Tako that even has mole. She also says good tequila is hard to find, and mezcal is even harder, so she was delighted to spot it at The Daltonist, a high-end bar in Split. No surprise that the bar has an American owner who brought his love for the tasty spirit.

France

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Photo Credit: Two Amigos.

Caroline Conner is an American expat and wine expert in Lyon, France who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s experienced the dismal Mexican cuisine in London but speaks highly of the options in Lyon. Her Instagram review of Two Amigos touts their “margaritas by the pitcher, nachos, taquitos, and guac.”

Malaysia

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Photo Credit: Chica Bonita.

Lynne Lessard is a Canadian in Malaysia who says her hometown of Ottawa has really delicious Mexican food options. She says there are a few restaurants in Kuala Lumpur, but most leave her underwhelmed. Her favorite Mexican is from the colorful Chica Bonita in the Publika mall for their tacos, guac, and margaritas. 

She has another option there that some American expats would kill for—Taco Bell recently opened in Malaysia, and she says it’s pretty popular.

Turkey

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Kimberly McCauley lives in Istanbul and says that Mexican food there is nearly nonexistent, and that if you do find it, it won’t be anything like what you expect. She says Mexican flavors are one of her most missed foods from the States, and that the food there is a pale imitation. 

Her secret for satisfying her cravings is to ask visitors to stash green chiles or taco seasoning in their checked luggage, so she can fry up a chimichanga or craft an enchilada.

Sweden

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Photo Credit: Chelas.

Emmeline is half-American and lives in Sweden. Although she’s never lived in the U.S., she’s spent a lot of time in Arizona and loves Tex-Mex and Mexican food. Her parents claim they introduced tacos to Sweden in the ‘70s, but she suspects that’s an exaggeration.

She says Stockholm has only recently started to get some good options, and her favorite is the authentic Chelas, which even serves a michelada.

Indonesia

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Katie left New York City to split her time between Bali and Thailand, and she says Bali just can’t get Mexican right. While taquerias offer fun, music, and margaritas, the food doesn’t deliver. It doesn’t help that she lived in Oaxaca, home of the best Mexican food on Earth.

She finds a couple of aspects ironic, like how restaurants will offer regional delicacies like tlayudas on their menu but bring out something more like a Taco Bell crunch wrap, and how Thailand and Indonesia serve such spicy local dishes but bland Mexican food.

Norman Bour is also currently in Bali. He says one of the first Mexican joints he and wife spotted there was in a small seaside town. The nomads have spent years in Mexican food havens like southern California and Quintana Roo, but they find decent options abroad. Like Jennifer, he’s found great food in Split, Croatia.

Norway

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Photo Credit: Freddy Fuego.

Stephanie Giori is an American emigrant in Italy after several years in Norway. Her grandmother is Mexican and her family ate plenty of the cuisine in northern California, whether at home or at local restaurants. Although we’ve heard lots of complaints about Italy, she says the situation in Norway is even worse!

She says that the custom there is to eat tacos on Fridays, and it’s known as fredagstaco. But they don’t eat spicy food, and they incorporate very typical Norweigan ingredients like cucumbers, canned corn, and shredded carrots.

She adds that eating out is rare in Norway because the prices are so high, making it even more challenging to find authentic food. The best she’s found is Freddy Fuego, who specializes in burritos and bowls.

Stephanie wonders if this is why her mom and grandma never visited her in Norway…

On a Cruise

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Photo Credit: Stefano Tammaro / Shutterstock.

Monica Soberman is a digital nomad from Austin, Texas who’s been to 90 countries over the past few decades. She and her husband rarely stay one place more than a month, but she’s an expert at finding Mexican food wherever they go. She’s definitely one to follow, because she says she can find margaritas and mezcal anywhere!

Some of her favorite spots are Tiki Tacos and Takos al Pastor in Madrid, Las Dos Manos in Lisbon, and Taco Taco in Lyon. When she’s not on land, she recommends Pink Agave on Virgin Voyages, which she says is terrific.

 

Jen talks more about how Americans get their Mexican food fix over on our TikTok channel:

@expatsi Can you get good Mexican or Tex-Mex where you live? #digitalnomad #digitalnomads #immigrant #immigrants #expat #expats #mexpat #mexpats #mexicanfood ♬ original sound – Jen from Expatsi

Jen Barnett Expatsi headshot
Co-founder at Expatsi | Website | + posts

Jen Barnett is an expat influencer and co-founder of Expatsi, a company that's helped thousands of Americans on their moving abroad journeys. She created the Expatsi Test, an assessment that recommends countries for aspiring emigrants based on lifestyle data. Jen has an MBA from Emory University with concentrations in marketing and innovation. She's written for BusinessWeek, Health, Cooking Light, and Southern Living. Prior to Expatsi, she created Freshfully and Bottle & Bone—two businesses in the local food space—and spoke at TEDx on being brave. She's moving to Mexico in 2024, along with her husband and co-founder Brett, pitbull mix Squiggy, and three rotten cats. How can she help you move abroad?

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Jen Barnett Expatsi headshot
Co-founder at Expatsi | Website | + posts

Jen Barnett is an expat influencer and co-founder of Expatsi, a company that's helped thousands of Americans on their moving abroad journeys. She created the Expatsi Test, an assessment that recommends countries for aspiring emigrants based on lifestyle data. Jen has an MBA from Emory University with concentrations in marketing and innovation. She's written for BusinessWeek, Health, Cooking Light, and Southern Living. Prior to Expatsi, she created Freshfully and Bottle & Bone—two businesses in the local food space—and spoke at TEDx on being brave. She's moving to Mexico in 2024, along with her husband and co-founder Brett, pitbull mix Squiggy, and three rotten cats. How can she help you move abroad?