Food from Mazatlan, Mexico

The Tastes of Mazatlan, Mexico

When browsing the extensive list of lunch or dinner options available in the Valley area, many people consider choosing Mexican food. However, people in Arizona know their Mexican food, and many are looking for a more genuine Mexican meal compared to the fast food fare often offered. For more than a decade, our team at Backyard Taco has provided high-quality and authentic Mexican food to our amigos across Arizona. We know how much our local community members crave authentic and traditional Mexican meals, yet some others may be unsure about what this actually means.

To understand the meaning behind authentic Mexican dishes, it’s important to know that our Backyard Taco founders, Ruben and Marisela, lived in Mazatlan, Mexico, where they would serve tacos to their friends and neighbors from their backyard. These tacos were inspired by the unique flavors and ingredients found in Mazatlan and Sinaloan cuisine. We’d like to share why this makes our restaurant distinct from other taco restaurants.

The History of Mazatlan Cuisine

Mazatlan is home to cenadurias, which are restaurants that serve traditional Mexican meals from late afternoon until evening (or until the restaurant runs out of food). When prepping for opening, staff would prepare the food at home before taking it to the restaurant to finish the process. In fact, it’s not just the types of foods that make Mazatlan cuisine different, but how the food is prepped, as well. Most cenadurias today operate at the front of the house rather than on the streets.

Overall, these restaurants serve similar dishes, with a few differences here and there. Many of these dishes have come to Arizona by way of Backyard Taco, and we love sharing them with our amigos here.

Why Mazatlan Cooking Techniques?

Our owners are committed to serving authentic Mexican food that Abuela (Grandma) would have made. What was once a small shop in the backyard selling fresh tacos eventually grew to multiple locations in Arizona. Regardless of your diet or preferences, there is a taco on the menu that anyone can enjoy. Plus, our dedication to serving Mazatlan flavors extends to the Mazatlan tradition of embracing local, in-season, and fresh ingredients.

Not only do our founders hail from Mazatlan, but it makes perfect sense to continue to use their cooking techniques due to our proximity to the region. In the 1800s, indigenous people from Mexico would trade products and information with people in Arizona, as the state of Sonora borders our state to the south. Directly south of Sonora is Sinaloa, which is where the city of Mazatlan is located. We continue to use the ingredients the Mazatlan people used for their dishes, as our main goal is to provide Arizonans with a simple yet real Mexican experience.

Types of Foods From Mazatlan

We’d like to dive deep into how we craft these fresh and “Mexcellent” dishes. That starts by discussing the specific ingredients we use, as well as the process for how we prep and serve them.

Mesquite Grills

You may be wondering what “mesquite” means, as well as why we use mesquite flavors in our cooking.

Mesquite Grilled Mexican Food

Mesquite trees are native to Mexico, and the pods that grow on these trees quickly became a popular cooking ingredient among Native Americans. A vegan and gluten-free food, mesquite is a flavoring that can be added to steak, chicken, vegetables, and more. The flavor itself has been described as smoky and bold.

Because of how unique this ingredient is and because it hails from Mazatlan, we incorporate mesquite flavors into our cooking. Just as cooking food over a mesquite grill infuses the flavor into the meats and vegetables, using mesquite flavors creates an even more impactful infusion. This allows all of our food to integrate with the smokiness of mesquite, giving you a true taste of what food from Mazatlan tastes like.

Grilled Onions and Jalapenos

Mesquite Grilled Onions and Jalapenos

Grilled onions and jalapenos cooked over mesquite grills have been popular ingredients since the beginning in Mazatlan, and many are unaware of why that is.

As mentioned, using a mesquite grill for these foods is a key way to enhance their overall flavor, even though these foods are considered side items. Onions and jalapenos are versatile foods, meaning they pair well with many dishes. While Mexicans have used various chiles and vegetables throughout time, jalapenos are by far the most common here in Arizona. The name means “from Jalapa,” as Jalapa, a city in Guatemala, began cultivating this chile and using it in cuisine. The spiciness and heat were popular among Mexican people, and this is still true today.

Our team at Backyard Taco grills jalapenos and onions over mesquite grills for another important reason. When food is cooked, its chemical composition changes, which allows the flavor and its intensity to be adjusted. Onions are usually chopped or dried, but grilling them along with jalapenos mellows and deepens the flavors. The new flavors that come about can pair with many Mexican dishes, and because grilling onions and jalapenos is a staple in Mexican cuisine, it adds authenticity to the cuisine.

Beef and Chicken

Mesquite Grilled Meat

Beef and chicken (known as carne and pollo, respectively) are frequently used in authentic Mexican food. In Mexico, these are notable for how they are prepared. Dishes such as enchiladas, tacos, gorditas, and tostadas regularly incorporate these two meats. The way meat is prepared matters when creating dishes, as making one may require a different preparation method than other dishes. Normally, beef and chicken are scrubbed, trimmed, and set to simmer. Later, they are marinated in salt, pepper, and vinegar before being sauteed in lard or another fat prior to serving. However, meat for tostadas is not marinated and sauteed.

This small difference is one way you can tell if the Mexican food you’re eating is authentic. Another is the incorporation of mesquite in the grilling and seasoning process.

Papas Locas

Papas Locas

One of the most unique dishes we feature here at Backyard Taco are papas locas, which directly translates to “crazy potatoes.” While we put our own little spin on the dish, these actually originate from Mazatlan! Potatoes themselves have been a staple in Mexican cuisine since the 1500s, as Spanish explorers would cultivate them from Peru and other South American countries.

Papas locas begin with a potato roasted in foil, then split and mashed with butter, cheese, and sour cream. What really makes this dish stand out from other potato dishes is how we fill the open cavity in true Mazatlan style – with beans, meat, garlic, cilantro, and more. Finally, the top of the dish receives guacamole or hot salsa to finish it off.

Our mesquite grills and expert Mazatlan chefs properly cook the meat so it’s both fresh and bold before it’s your turn to add as many toppings as you desire to the final product.


Cabbage Mexican Food

While not exclusive to Mazatlan, cabbage is a versatile and nutritious food added to many of our authentic Mexican dishes. The food probably originated sometime in 4000 BCE, when the Romans would use cabbage as a healing agent. Fast forward to around the 14th century, when cabbage was used regularly in many cuisines, eventually making its way to Mexico.

Since cabbage can be found almost anywhere (likely because it’s so versatile and easy to work with), many Mexican dishes, including those in Mazatlan, include it regularly. Cabbage is most often used in side dishes such as coleslaw, casseroles, soups, and more, but we use it in place of other crunchy greens to add a crisp, fresh element to our dishes. Many Mexican restaurants in the United States opt for lettuce to fulfill this role, and while lettuce can be nice, we prefer cabbage for multiple reasons. Not only is it more nutritious, but it is authentic to Mexican cuisine.

Many of our quesadillas, burritos, and bueno bowls feature cabbage as a topping option, so if you’re looking for a traditional and healthy meal, be sure to give it a try!

Street Tacos

Mexican Street Tacos

The dish is in our name, and we take pride in providing authentic street tacos to our customers. With that said, our street tacos are guaranteed fresh and made with traditional ingredients and methods.

Many taco restaurants have opened up across the nation, many of which are more of a fast food option. Fast food taco restaurants often serve their tacos dressed in nacho cheese or crunchy taco shells – but not Backyard Taco. Authentic street tacos are unfried and perhaps a bit smaller than you might expect, though they are designed to hold the toppings in place. However, the main difference is the use of corn (or maiz) tortillas, not flour.

Also, it’s important to recognize that Backyard Taco street tacos are not the trendy fusion tacos served by many other new businesses in the area. Our tacos do not use ground beef, salmon, lobster, tofu, or quinoa; instead, we opt for chicken, pork, and beef in all the authentic Mexican preparations. Using our mesquite grills allows the tacos to take on bold flavors until they’re cooked to perfection, all while retaining flavorful juices and spices.

For an authentic street taco full of flavors from Mazatlan, we encourage you to stop by Backyard Taco for your fix.

How to Tell If Your Mazatlan Dishes Are Authentic

When you stop by for a hearty meal at Backyard Taco, we can assure you that you’re eating a simple, authentic meal that you would find in Mazatlan, Mexico. While we’ve already noted the features of Mazatlan-area cuisine to look for in our delicious dishes, like mesquite grilling, fresh beef, pork, and chicken, and more, here are some other ingredients you can use to determine whether what you’re eating is authentic.


Believe it or not, cheese was only recently added as a staple food in Mexican cuisine. However, the types of cheese that are used in your dishes can still help you determine if what you’re eating is authentic.

For example, some fast-food Mexican places may use yellow cheeses and liquid cheese toppings in their dishes. If you want something more true to Mexican cuisine, you should check to see if the cheeses used are cotija, queso fresco, queso blanco, and more. While cheese can be found in Mazatlan cuisine, the type of cheese used genuinely matters, as the flavors of these cheeses pair more naturally with Mexican ingredients.


Salsa can be a key component in an authentic meal from Mazatlan. Salsa should be made with fresh produce and Mexican seasoning, and it can be served either smooth or chunky. Every salsa is different, as it varies from chef to chef, and you’ll find a variety of Mexican salsas at our fresh salsa bar.

Meats and Their Preparation

We’ve covered the importance of authentic meats and their preparations, but it’s so important we need to mention it again. You may have heard of “Tex-Mex” food, which is essentially an American version of Mexican dishes, and one way to tell if you’re eating Tex-Mex versus real Mexican food is the meat. Ground beef is often found in Tex-Mex dishes, but you won’t see this in authentic Mazatlan dishes. Meats are instead marinated with herbs and spices in order to create a flavorful and tender filling for our tacos. These meats can include carne asada, chicken, birria, pork, and more.

Come See Us at Backyard Taco Today!

Backyard Taco

What started as a small gathering in the backyard has turned into multiple authentic taco restaurants here in Arizona. While we know how common taco restaurants are across the nation, our dishes are nothing like this Americanized version of Mexican foods – no crunchy shells or nacho cheese here! From the way the foods are prepared to what ingredients are used, authentic food that you would find in Mazatlan can be nutritious, memorable, and tasty.

If you’re craving authentic Mexican food dishes you would see in Mazatlan, we encourage you to visit us at Backyard Taco. Our founders were originally from Mazatlan, and they brought their techniques with them when moving to Arizona. To learn more about the various Mazatlan-inspired dishes we offer or to inquire about catering services, contact Backyard Taco today.

We look forward to serving you soon amigos!