No, Mexican food is not your latest TikTok trend

By Noemi Orozco April 9, 2024

Growing up Mexican-American, my culture taught me to abide by the three F’s: familia, fabuloso and food.

Although I enjoy spending quality time with my family and have learned to appreciate the lavender-scented household cleaner as an adult, the plethora of food rooted in my country’s culture has always been the most vital connection to my Latinx identity. However, this wasn’t always the case, as I once tried to trade my culture for Lunchables.

Fast-forward to the rise of TikTok, where more than 600,000 videos fall under #MexicanFood on the app. According to a 2022 study by Datassential, Mexican food is now the most favored cuisine among millennials and Gen Z.

I am relieved that food shaming seems almost non-existent for Latinx food brought into the cafeteria. Still, as I scroll through countless videos to find recipes for authentic Mexican dishes, I am met with misrepresentations of the food I was once shamed for eating made by non-Latinx chefs.

If Latinx food continues to fall victim to cultural food appropriation, how would the origins of our food be remembered by future generations?

A notable example of the internet’s obsession with modifying Mexican meals comes from birria. Initially a stew made from slow-cooked goat meat and dried red chilies, the dish has undergone a heap of transformations. For example, foodies on social media have turned the steamy dish into cheesy tacos, pizza and ramen. Popular American-style Mexican fast-food restaurants like Del Taco and Taco Bell also joined in on the trend by implementing birria on their menus, substituting the traditional goat meat for beef or chicken.

In Mexican culture, the meal is a staple for family events and is typically served at weddings, quinceañeras and important holidays such as Christmas Eve. The flavorful stew leaves no room for unnecessary changes and is the main course alongside corn tortillas, Mexican rice, onion, cilantro and lime.

According to, Birria’s history dates to the 16th century when the Spanish Conquistadors first arrived in Mexico and introduced goats to the state of Jalisco. The goat population rapidly took over the farmlands and ate much of the crops and seeds the natives relied on for food, leading them to famine.

As the Conquistadors grew unfond of the expansive livestock because of its gamey texture and pungent smell, they decided to give the animals to natives. Without shame, the people of Jalisco used native spices and Indigenous cooking methods to create the iconic stew we know today. The Spanish continued to look down upon the dish, deriving the name “birria,” a derogatory slang meaning “worthless” and “useless.”

Birria is more than a food fad; it is a testament to my culture’s perseverance, determination and resilience when faced with neglect.

Without shying away from her Latinx roots, Cal Poly Pomona student Domiana Almusleh embraces her culture by adding flavors she grew up on to her family-owned boba and coffee shop menu, such as mangonada. Also known as a chamoyada, the frozen drink combines ripe mangoes and chamoy sauce and is topped with Mexican spice seasoning Tajín.

“We wanted to add it to our menu to cater to a diverse customer base,” said Almusleh. “The drink lets us add authenticity to our shop and showcase our Mexican heritage.”

Moreover, Mexican classics’ names are being swapped out for more Americanized vernacular.

For example, the grocery store chain Trader Joe’s ripped off beloved Mexican chip brand Takis by overcomplicating the name to Chili & Lime-Flavored Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips. The gentrified rendition repackages their item as “healthy” to make something new from the beloved Latinx snack.

Across online recipe blogs, “Mexican street corn salad” is a direct copy of esquites, corn mixed with mayonnaise ,cotija cheese, lime juice and chili powder sold by my local elotero.

And don’t get me started on the chamoy pickle. As seen on TikTok, the infamous bright red pickle is exactly what it sounds like: a dill pickle dipped in spicy chamoy juice. Those curious enough to try the viral combination can buy a chamoy pickle kit from online candy shops, including the pickle itself, Mexican sweets to stuff the pickle with and a fruit roll-up to wrap it altogether.

A nightmare for Red40 avoiders and a mindless trend for TikTok users, the pickle’s intricate taste has garnered excessive reactions from non-Latinx creators on the app and in a handful of videos pokes fun at the Mexican additions.

No, I am not saying other cultures cannot indulge in Latinx food, as I also appreciate meals from cultures outside my own. However, we should respect and learn about the culture we profit from when doing so.

Feature Image by Nicole Miyoshi

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