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In various Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants in the US, all of the dishes seem to be made from a limited selection of ingredients. Although potatoes originated America, I never see potatoes in any of the dishes.

  • Are there any Mexican or Tex-Mex dishes that call for potatoes?
  • Is there a reason why potatoes are seldom used with these dishes?
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3 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Potatoes are very popular in some parts of Mexico. When I lived in Guadalajara, potato tacos were common, usually deep-fried. Diced (and possibly pre-cooked) potatoes with some seasoning added to a soft taco shell, then the entire thing fried together until crispy. After frying, such tacos (whether with potatoes or other filling) were cracked open to add lettuce or salsa or whatever other toppings/fillings might be desired, or salsa might be poured over the top, and eaten with a fork.

tacos de papa

One of my favorite local dishes was gorditas, which are basically a double-thick tortilla split at the middle (like pita bread) and stuffed with a filling of choice, and grilled. Diced and cooked potatoes were a common choice, often with beans or cheese as well.

gorditas de papa con requesón

Potatoes are also common in Mexico prepared much the same as they are in the U.S.: Baked, or as french fries, or the ever-popular potato chip. Always with a Mexican flair, usually in the form of extra spicy seasoning or sauces added.

I also had a "Breakfast taco" in Austin, Texas a couple months ago, which had potatoes. So there is some tex-mex food with potatoes, but I think this is probably not as common as it is in true Mexican cuisine. But then, Tex-Mex has never been a very close substitute for true Mexican food :)

My best guess as for why potatoes are not common in Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants in the U.S. is that potatoes are not considered an exotic/exciting enough food/flavor to be considered "special" by most people who frequent such places.

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+1 That is a great answer! –  TFD Mar 17 '12 at 8:45
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While wild potatoes do exist throughout the Americas, they were domesticated in South America, perhaps in what's now Peru. They were a staple in the Incan empire (also in that area), and still are in modern Peru. They grow best in cool, moist areas like those parts of the Andes, so it's not surprising that they never became commonly used in hotter parts of Central America, and especially not in the drier parts of Mexico. So they never had much reason to become common in Mexican cuisine.

They were, however, brought back by Spanish explorers (perhaps from Peru or Columbia) to Spain, where they spread through much of Europe; they then came along to the colonies in North America. This is really the only way they could have made their way into Tex-Mex or Mexican food. I'm not aware of any traditional Mexican dishes using them, though people do of course adapt. As for Tex-Mex, breakfast tacos containing potato and egg (and any number of other things) are quite standard, but I can't think of much beyond that. (People do adapt; I'm sure you can find adapted Mexican dishes with them, but it won't be anything standard.)

Edit: Flimzy's answer mentions a couple specific examples of such adaptation.

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Mexico City is rather high and not too dry so, not surprisingly, ate Tacos con papas on the street.

They were basically a seasoned mash in corn tortillas. What I remember most was the pretty colorful mix of diced bell-peppers in a basket pushed towards me when I got my order. Funny how quiet it got when I loaded up and took the first bite: you guessed it -habenero! Delicious nonetheless even with the top of my scull blown off.

Chorizo and potato, I remember our local SoCal Mexicans enjoying at breakfast...

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Do you know if potatoes were grown and eaten there before European colonization, or even if the potatoes you had were grown there? I suspect tacos de papa were created much more recently, and don't have much to do with the climate of Mexico City. –  Jefromi Mar 16 '12 at 16:31
The climate is quite varied in the vicinity: snowy peaks and spring-time valleys. They grow broccoli on Popocatepetl but the valley heat means it blossoms the same day it is picked. I'll bet they grow spuds; might have had them pre-colombian...? –  Pat Sommer Mar 18 '12 at 2:53
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