What is Jalisco style? [moved from Texas board]

In San Antonio, and probably other parts of Texas there is an abundance of “Jalisco style” Mexican restaurants.

25 Answers

  • Graig May 19, 2021

    Jalisco is a large and heavily populated Mexican state. It includes Guadalajara (Mexico’s 2nd biggest city) as well as Puerto Vallarta on the coast. In my travels there, the best regional food came from “campestre” style restaurants. These are huge restaurants that seat hundreds, even thousands of people on Sundays for family dinners. Most cook in big open fire pits. My favorite food from these is birria. Birria is a pit-roasted version of goat or beef. I prefer the goat. It can be served wet (meat in a thick soup) or dry (with a consomme on the side). You also receive tortiallas, refried beans, and some salsas. If you like, they’ll place a teuila bottle on your table. It will be marked where the previous table left off drinking, and you pay for how much you drink below the marked line.

    • mojoeater May 19, 2021

      Jalisco is also the region where everything called ‘Tequila’ is produced. Nothing produced outside Jalisco, no matter the quality or percentage of blue agave, can be called Tequila. It is instead called by the more broad term, Mezcal.

      • cristina May 20, 2021

        Mojo, tequila and mezcal are *not* the same liquor by different names. Tequila is, as you said, produced primarily (but not entirely) in the state of Jalisco. A small amount is legally produced in the northwestern part of Michoacan. The ONLY plant that renders tequila in the distilling process is the Weber blue agave. Mezcal is distilled from other plants. The distillation process of both liquors is similar, but the product rendered is very different.

        As to Jalisco-style cooking: IMHO, the restaurants mentioned by the OP will probably include the recipes learned by their owners in their home state, Jalisco. As Graig mentioned, you’ll probably find a lot of birria. Like Graig, I prefer the version made with goat, which is not pit-roasted, as Graig says, but is instead cooked overnight in a rich liquid that includes water, beer, chiles, and other spices. That cooking liquid becomes the consomme in which the meat is served (or which is the side dish that accompanies the meat after it’s removed from the cooking vessels). I prefer the dry birria accompanied by consomme, but either way it’s a delicious dish.

        Jalisco-style also includes the famous torta ahogada, a sliced pork-leg sandwich bathed in thin tomato sauce with sauce of chile de arbol served to taste, but usually served hotter than the hinges of hell.

        The bean usually prepared in the Jalisco kitchen is the peruano; it’s most commonly served either de la olla (freshly cooked with its juice) or refrito (mashed and fried).

        Pozole is another Jalisco specialty. A rich, thick, dried corn and pork-based soup–occasionally you’ll see it served with chicken rather than pork–pozole is served in pozoleras, big deep bowls that hold a lot of meat, hominy, and broth. Accompanied by garnishes of shredded cabbage, thinly sliced fresh radishes, minced onion, salsa and coarse sea salt, pozole is addictively delicious.

        There are few other regionally specific dishes from Jalisco, but each Jalisco cook has his or her own twists that add the Jalisco personality to the dishes served all over the country.

        Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

      • Eat_Nopal May 21, 2021


        My parents are both from small towns in the Los Altos region (the Highlands) which is a corner of the state bordered by Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato & San Luis Potosi. Like other people have mentioned it is one of Mexico’s biggest states with very distinct regional differences within the state.

        A key to understading the abundance of Jalisco style restaurants is the history of Mexican migration to the U.S. During the Roaring 20’s, the U.S. had a laborer shortage while Mexico was coming off a 10+ year revolution and certainly had a lot of people that needed work. At the same time Puerto Rico was mired in a huge crisis, and many P.Ricans were migrating (illegally at that time) to the U.S. There was a huge debate in Congress about how to address the labor shortage after some non-PC deliberations they decided they wanted to minimize the influx of migrants of African & Indigenous ancestry… as well as the “promiscous people of Mexico’s coasts”. So they created the Bracero program and recruited mainly in Central Jalisco a hot bed of Catholic Conservatism that happened to be a staging an insurgency against Mexico’s anti-clerical highly secular government…. and an area of the country where people tend to be of lighter skin tone. After the Bracero program… those of Jaliscan background (a bit homesick) would encourage their hometown friends, relatives & neighbors into the diaspora… and given that it is easier to migrant to a new place… if you know someone there…. everything came together and Jalisco become one of the states with the highest emigration rates. That is how places such as San Antoni & East L.A. with a deep seated Mexican immigrant history ended up with high concentrations of Jaliscans and Jalisco style restaurants.

        With respects to the food…. I think Guadalajara is well represented by Cristina & others. I would add that Ranchero Sauce ( a cooked, saucy melange of Tomatoes, Jalapenos, Onions combined with each persons preferences on herbs & spices…. typically Black Pepper, Thyme, Mexican Oregano & others) is also a signature of Jaliscan seasoning. You find out in Carne / Bistek Ranchero (a sort of Beef & Potatoe pot roast)… Puntas a la Ranchera (seared filet tips sauced), Camarones Rancheros (shrimp in the sauce), Pescado Ranchero (typically a Tilapia like freshwater fish generically known as Mojarra that is dredged, pan fried & sauced) as well as the famous Huevos Rancheros.

        In terms of the regional differences…. the towns along Lake Chapala & the Lerma River basins tend to emphasize lots of freshwater fish & shellfish.

        In the highlands there are two major types of towns. Those founded by Castillians with lots of Native Mexican descendants (such as Lagos de Moreno or San Juan de los Lagos), and those that were founded by 2nd Class Spaniards (Basques & Galicians) typically smaller towns like San Miguel el Alto (a Basque town) or San Jose de los Reynoso a Galician town… I have ancestry from all three types of populations.

        The towns of greater Basque origin have great Dairy & Pickling traditions…. local specialties include Pickled Pork Feet & Skin Tostadas, Crema, Queso Fresco & lots of Milk Fudge.

        The towns of Galician origin tend to be rather culinarily backward… and can be characterized by lots of Potatoe & Pasta dishes, a very low adoption rate of Native Mexican cuilinary techniques & foods.

        The towns with a greater indigenous population offer the most culinarily… they maintain sophisticated use of chiles, saucing & broth making while incorporating influences brought by the Castillians, Basques & Galicians. One of my favorite dishes of the region is Caldo Miche…. a spicy stew typically featuring Catfish, Bass, Crayfish & mixed vegetables such as Chayote, Mexican Zucchini, Potatoes & Carrots it is flavored with a broth of carp head, xoconostles (sour prickly pears), dried chiles & a wide variety of old & new world herbs & spices.

        Then you have local versions of enchiladas which are sauced in a very spicy Guajillo sauce, then simpled folded in to triangles & topped with diced onions, fresco cheese, peas, potatoes & carrots.

        There is alot more to the cuisine of Jalisco… but hopefully that gives you a flavor of its contributions to mainstream Mexican cuisine as well as some of the regional specialities etc.,

        • danhole Feb 15, 2021

          So what would it mean if a dish was described as “prepared Jalisco style”? This is a Tex-Mex place in Houston that has carnitas tostadas, and that description just says “sliced pork”, but the Carnitas Tejanas says it is pork prepared Jalisco style, and they reccommend corn tortillas. What do you think the difference is?

          • Eat_Nopal Feb 15, 2021

            Ah… in this case it just means that the Carnitas are prepared soft, no crispiness, not much seasoning other than salt, as is common in Jalisco… wheras in Michoacan (the most reknown) the carnitas are marinaded in various combinations of Orange Juice, Orange Rind, Coca Cola, Garlic, Salt, Pepper, Mexican Oregano etc.,… and the result is a well browned, slightly crispy carnita (no they aren’t griddle or grilled to order… but still crispy that is the beauty).

            • danhole Feb 16, 2021

              I had this dish last night, and the waiter said the difference was that the Jalisco style was large chunks, and the other was small pieces. So I got the Jalisco style, and, of course, you were right. They had a bit of crispness to it, but it wasn’t flavored much. I still thoroughly enjoyed them, but I really enjoy the flavor of pork. Adding some avocado, sour cream, a bit of salsa and queso helped.

              • KayZee Feb 16, 2021

                I know you’re surely more well versed and certainly more academic about comida mexicana than I am but in my real life experience this generalization about carnitas doesn’t play out. I keep running into carnitas here in Los Angeles that are called estilo Jalisco that are invariably crispy fried chunks yet when I was in guadalajara and went to michoacan style carnitas places, the meat was invariably soft/stewed/braised. Even in the market in Paracho where I had some of the absolutely most rico carnitas EVER, there was no hint of crust at all.

                Oh Lord, I’ve got to have a torta ahogada, right now. To bad I’ve never seen one here in L.A.


                Cristina, I tried to reach you last May when I was in GDL but never heard back.

                • notmartha Feb 16, 2021

                  Maybe not in LA, but at Cilantro’s at La Habra you can find Torta Ahogada. I don’t know how authentic it is, but it seems to be stuffed with the softer (not crispy) carnitas, topped with a mild tomatoey sauce and sliced onions, and a side of very hot sauce on the side.

                  Can’t say I like it though.

                • KayZee Feb 16, 2021

                  Mr Nopal,

                  This generalization about carnitas style doesn’t play out in my experience. Here in Los Angeles, virtually all of the carnitas I’ve had is crispy even when advertised as Jalisco style. When I was in Guadaljara and was taken to a carnitaria that called itself Michoacan style, the carne was soft/braised/stewed. Equally in the market in Paracho, Michoacan the carnitas had not the least hint of crust/char. But oh was it GOOD.

                  Regarding campestre style restaurants. I was taken to one off the ruta libre to Tonala and I was thinking about that joke where the fella is trying to describe the wide variety of mexican food but everything winds up being “tortilla, meat and cheese!” and I was thinking, “Yeah, but when it’s these tortillas, this cheese, and this meat, that’s good eatin’!”

                  • Eat_Nopal Feb 17, 2021

                    I see I got called on my generalization…. you are right I have not eaten carnitas in every town in Jalisco & Michoacan… so let me be a bit more specific on my characterization…

                    > The Carnitas vendors in the higlands of Jalisco universally make soft, non-crisped Carnitas

                    > The Carnitas vendor in the two most famous, Carnitas towns in the country… Zamora & Uruapan (both in Michoacan) universally sell Carnitas that are both crispy on the outside & tender on the inside.

                    Whether they are chopped or shredded I think depends more on the vendors… but the vast majority of Carnitas specialists in both areas of the country cook & keep them in very large hunks… and then with a cleaver they hack away to deliver your desired quanitity (usually sold by the kilo)… In Uruapan the chunks of Maciza (loin) were the size and general shape of a 12oz Filet Mignon… the small pieces is something I associate with the North of Border eateries that are re-heating… and don’t specialize in carnitas.

                    Lastly regarding your last paragraph… what did they serve at that restaurant near Tonala? I think THE definition of Campestre is a restaurant that is located at the source of production of some specialized good… for example in the Bajio.. the Campestres usually have a million ways to prepare Orejona lettuce (kind of a cross between Romaine & Butter) or Strawberries (depending on season)… around Mexico State its mushrooms etc.,

              • cyntaur Jul 22, 2021

                how would a jaliscan mole taste different from a oaxacan one?

              • Ed Dibble May 21, 2021

                The replies from Christina and Eat Nopal are amazingly detailed. A lot of the dishes they describe show up on the menus of the newer Mexican restaurants in Yuma, a border town with heavy Jaliscan influence. One dish available here (that they didn’t mention) that is alleged to be from Guadalajara is Carne en su Jugo – beef cooked in broth with bacon and beans

                Oddly enough though, the one restaurant in town that calls itself “Taqueria Jalisco” is actually being run by a family from San Luis Potosi. I also suspect that a restaurant in Texas that calls itself “Jaliscan” is primarily announcing that it is not a Tex-Mex restaurant.


                • Eat_Nopal May 21, 2021

                  Good point about Carne en su Jugo its definitely a specialty common in Jalisco as well as some other states including neighboring Michoacan & Zacatecas. I should note that Carne Ranchera as I described it is a variation on Carne en Su Jugo (which at its most basic is a method of poaching beef).

                  • toodie jane Feb 16, 2021

                    thanks for the heads up , ed. Going to Yuma next month, will check the SW board for rec’s.

                  • Ed Dibble May 23, 2021

                    In addition to some of the specific dishes that Cristina, Eat Nopal, and I have mentioned as typical of Jalisco, I would expect a Jaliscan restaurant to be different in some fundamental ways from older Tex-Mex style places. There should be greater use of corn tortillas instead of flour. Tacos should generally be soft, not hard/folded. In general, I would expect tacos to have cabbage, not lettuce, on them and not to have cheese. When cheese does show up, on frijoles for example, it often will be white, not yellow. Similarly, pork should be more common than in Tex-Mex places, with meat choices like al pastor and carnitas. No dishes should be made with ground beef except albondigas. I would expect greater use of green chilies, tomatillos, nopales, and other vegetables. There should also be agua frescas to drink – things like jamaica, horchata, tamarindo, or other fruit-based beverages. I would expect a Jaliscan restaurant to offer more caldos and fewer combination plates. The salsa and other dishes may be more spicy hot than at standard Tex-Mex places. I realize that many of the things I have mentioned are not specific to just Jalisco, and I am also not sure that all these specific things would apply in all restaurants, particularly in the context of Texas; nonetheless, the contrasts I’ve pointed out mark the differences between the newer, more Jaliscan influenced restaurants in Yuma from the old line/old school places that have operated for more than 50 years.

                    Please do try one or two Jaliscan restaurants in your area and let us know what you find.


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