Home » Blog » Mexico » 7 Things to Eat in Oaxaca Markets: Mercado Benito Juarez & 20 de Noviembre

7 Things to Eat in Oaxaca Markets: Mercado Benito Juarez & 20 de Noviembre

oaxaca markets

One of my favorite things to do in any Latin American city or town is visit the local markets to quickly get a feel for the local culture and taste the traditional food. I’ve been to the most famous Oaxaca Markets - Mercado Benito Juarez and 20 de Noviembre - dozens of times, but never get tired of perusing their stalls.

Over the years, I’ve found all my favorite stalls for whatever I’m looking for - tamales, tlayudas,quesillo, mezcal, etc. Now, if I don’t have the time for a leisurely stroll, I can zip through to pick up all the most delicious things before I head home to enjoy them.

Love Mexican food? Join our Oaxaca retreat + food experience - Milpa + Mesa below.

Copy of Copy of Milpa + Mesa Retreat Oaxaca Food Tour

So if you’re visiting the Oaxaca markets of Mercado Benito Juarez and 20 de Noviembre, don’t get overwhelmed by the sheer size of the markets and number of vendors. Check out my list below of the most delicious things to taste and where to find them.

Tons More Oaxaca Food and Travel Posts

My giant Oaxaca food guide with all the best restaurants in the city

11 dishes you must try and where to find them. 

How to take a Oaxaca mezcal tour and the best palenques to visit

Complete list of Oaxaca city posts

Complete list of Oaxaca coast and beach posts

Search Oaxaca Hotels and Airbnbs Below:


oaxaca airbnbs copyLR

Oaxaca Markets:

What to Know About Mercado Benito Juarez

& 20 de Noviembre

These two Oaxaca markets are super easy to find as they are just two blocks south of the Zocalo - the central square in Oaxaca. They are two separate markets, but are right next to each other, so it’s easy to visit both in one go.

So what’s the difference in these Oaxaca markets?

Mercado Benito Juarez: Oaxaca Markets

mercado benito juarez 20 de noviembre

Mercado Benito Juarez is the northern of the two markets - it’s between Las Casas and Aldama from north to south and Miguel Cabrera and 20 de Noviembre from east to west.

This Oaxaca market has almost anything you could ever need - produce, cheese, meats, fish, flowers, artisan goods, hair brushes, electronic accessories, leather goods - if you need it, it’s probably there!

Plenty of tourists visit this market, but locals do too. It’s a great Oaxaca market for tourists to feel comfortable, while still getting a glimpse at local culture.

Mercado 20 de Noviembre: Oaxaca Markets

Mercado 20 de Noviembre is directly south of Benito Juarez. It’s located between Aldama and Francisco Javier Mina north to south and 20 de Noviembre from east to west.

This market is more focused on prepared food - it’s full of little restaurants and vendors to sit and have a bite to eat. There are also a number of bakery vendors, and a few artisan food vendors that have things like mezcal, salsa, etc (though I’m not a fan of these pre-packaged foods, I say skip them and find the fresh stuff).

This is the market to go to have a tasty local lunch.

Find Flight Deals to Oaxaca:

Copy of find flight deals on skyscanner (1)


What to Eat in the Oaxaca Markets

My list is a combo of things from both markets. But it’s easy to do both in one afternoon and zig zag back and forth.

1. Tlayudas - Marie Alejandra’s: Oaxaca Markets

tlayudas oaxaca markets

Tlayudas are a Oaxacan staple, and there is no better place to have them than at the Oaxaca markets.

If you’re going to do this little food tour in one day, start by eating your first meal here, and try to be ready for another meal later - there is a lot of food to pack in! If you're in a group, you might want to share dishes to have room to taste it all.

If you enter through the Carne Asada, or Grilled Meat Hall, (but wait! Don’t be tempted to eat here yet, this is coming later. 🙂 ) at the eastern entrance of 20 de Noviembre, walk to the end of the hall and then make a left when you reach the little restaurant vendors. Just a couple stalls down you will see Marie Alejandra’s big yellow sign.

Order a tlayuda with your choice of meat - either tasajo (thin grilled steak), chorizo (spicy sausage), or cecina (thin and spicy pork steak). If you’re looking to save room for more food, you can easily share one between two people. They are huge!

So What is a Tlayuda?

oaxaca market benito juarez

Visually - it’s often compared to pizza because of the thin and large tortilla covered in toppings. But that doesn’t describe the taste!

It’s a giant tortilla, topped with a asiento (lard) and creamy bean mixture, then layered with quesillo, a Oaxacan cheese, and usually some veggies like cabbage, lettuce, avocado, and tomato. Then the tlayuda is grilled to perfection on a comal (a flat griddle) or an open flame. It’s served either open face (like a pizza) or more often folded like a quesadilla.

2. Tamales - Mercado Benito Juarez: Oaxaca Markets

tamales mercado benito juarez 20 de noviembre

Enter the Mercado Benito Juarez from the eastern entrance on Calle Miguel Cabrera and make an immediate left in the first hallway. You’ll then see a line of women selling tamales from baskets. I’ve had the tamales from the first two women in this row and they are both great.

The traditional tamales in this part of Mexico are mole with pollo (the famous dark salsa of Oaxaca, with chicken), chipil (a local herb), frijol (beans), rajas (peppers), and dulce (a sweet tamale). My favorites are the mole and chipil - both are delicious and flavorful!

So What are Tamales?

Tamales are Mexican comfort food. They’re made from corn dough and a vegetable/meat/salsa of choice, and then wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves before being steamed. They are hearty and filling.

One warning: It’s common for tamales to be prepared with bones inside to strengthen the flavor. Chew carefully and don’t swallow them!

If you’re too full to eat them right away, take them “para llevar” and have them as an evening snack or breakfast. They reheat super well if you steam them in a pot with a lid and a tiny bit of water.

Get Your Guide

3. Tejate - Mercado Benito Juarez: Oaxaca Markets

tejate and jicaras

You might be getting thirsty, so head to one of the best places to try tejate in Oaxaca - Flor de Huayapam stand in Mercado Benito Juarez.

It’s hard to describe exactly where this stand is, but it’s more or less smack dab in the center of Mercado Benito Juarez. You’ll recognize it by the large black sign that reads “Tejate”, the curved wooden counter, and the likely crowd that will have gathered.

tejate vendor benito juarez oaxaca

If you want to try it the traditional way, ask for it “en jicara” or in the brightly colored red bowl. Sit on one of the stools and sip it slowly.

If you’re in a rush, you can ask for it “en vaso” or in a plastic to go cup.

So What is Tejate?

Local woman serving Tejate - the most popular local drink in Oaxaca copy

Tejate is a pre-hispanic drink made from toasted maize, fermented cacao (chocolate) beans, toasted mamey (a tropical fruit) pits, and flor (flower) de cacao.

All the ingredients are finely ground into a paste on a metate (a stone platform with a rolling pin-like instrument for grinding). The paste is then mixed with water slowly by hand in a clay pot.

You can spot tejate by the big clay bowl it’s served in and the foamy beige top. Don’t be alarmed by the foam – this is caused by the fats from the beans and other ingredients that rise to the top.

4. Quesillo - Mercado Benito Juarez: Oaxaca Markets

Next you might want to try some of the famous Oaxacan string cheese, quesillo. You’ll see this cheese everywhere. It’s sold as a ball - the cheese being wound around on itself.

Stop at any cremería and ask to try the quesillo cremoso and they’ll cut you off a hunk to taste. It’s creamy, rich and delicious. My favorite is from Queseria La Milagrosa, near the south end of Mercado Benito Juarez.

Consider buying some to make quesadillas later, or just to snack on.

So What is Quesillo?

Quesillo is a creamy, mild cheese that is a bit salty. It resembles mozzarella but is a little more salty and firm. It literally does come off in “strings” like American string cheese. You’ll see women on the street pulling off strings to make tlayudas. No knife required!

Copy of find flight deals on skyscanner (1)

5. Mezcal - Mercado Benito Juarez: Oaxaca Markets

mezcal mercado benito juarez

Next you will want to try some mezcal. This traditional Mexican spirit has the strongest traditions and culture in Oaxaca, so this is the perfect place to try it.

I’m a huge fan of mezcal, so I’ve tried it all over the city and valley - in mezcalerias (mezcal bars), from mezcal distilleries and farms, and from market vendors. Good mezcal is complex and amazing, you just have to know where to find it.

mezcal oaxaca markets

In my opinion, Candiza has the best mezcal in the centro, Look for the above sign. They'll be located near the center of the market east to west, and slightly toward the south end. Ask for the “botellas sin marcas” - these unlabelled bottles are from local mezcal farms that makes this spirit in the traditional ways. They have lots of varieties of the silvestres agaves (or the wild agaves), which are my favorite and the most fun to try because they all taste so different.

The fun thing about buying mezcal in Mexico, is that you can always ask to try before you buy! Ask to try a few of the flavors and then buy a few of your favorites.

So What is Mezcal?

oaxaca mezcal tour pinas

Mezcal is a traditional liquor that has been made in Mexico since pre-hispanic times. It is made from the same plant as tequila (the agave) but the flavor is totally different. Tequila is only made from blue agave, while mezcal is made from almost any other type of agave plant. And the production methods are very different. The agave hearts are wood-fire roasted in an underground pit before being smashed and then fermented.

Mezcal is also still almost always made in small batches on small farms. This keeps the traditional artisan methods alive and makes each mezcal taste different from another.

If you're not in Oaxaca and want to buy mezcal online in the USA and beyond, check out my post with my favorite brands available outside of Mexico.

And consider taking a Oaxaca mezcal tour and visiting the best Oaxaca mezcalerias.

6. Chapulines: Oaxaca Markets

chapulines oaxaca markets

If you’ve done any googling about Oaxacan food, you’ve probably heard about chapulines - the most famous edible insect in Mexico.

So What are Chapulines?

chapulines oaxaca markets

Chapulines are whole grasshoppers that are toasted, and often flavored with salt, chile, and lime.

Try to put mind over matter and try these local specialties. Once you get past the idea of putting a whole bug in your mouth, they’re delicious! They’re eaten as a snack and pair especially well with a cold beer or a mezcal.

Chapulines are sold all over these Oaxaca markets, but I’ve always had good fresh ones from the row of vendors selling them just outside of the Mercado Benito Juarez on the Calle Miguel Cabrera. You can ask to try them (“Puedo probarlo?”), and if you like them, you can buy a little bag to take with you. Each vendor usually has a few different bowls that have been flavored a bit differently.

7. Carne Asada or Grilled Meat Hall: Oaxaca Markets

CARNE ASADA HALL oaxaca markets

Finally, get ready for meal two at the Oaxaca markets! This time you’ll be in for a unique dining experience, as well as a delicious meal.

Head back to the Carne Asada hall - you can enter at the eastern entrance of Mercado 20 de Noviembre. You’ll find stall after stall of meat vendors lining both sides, grills blazing, vendors shouting at you, and smoke billowing out. You’ll likely be intimidated but don’t worry! I’ll explain what to do.

How to Eat at the Carne Asada hall (or Meat Hall) in Mercado 20 de Noviembre

The ordering process has become more streamlined. First, visit a meat stall of your choosing and order the meats you'd like them to grill for you,The most common meats here are tasajo (thinly sliced beef), arrachera (steak), costilla (pork ribs), chorizo (spicy sausage). Any are good! They’ll ask you how many portions you’d like. Anytime I’ve gotten one portion for two people it’s been plenty of food. They’ll then give you a number and you can take a seat at one of the booth and have table service for all the other ingredients - salsas, veggies, and tortillas, and pay all together at the end.

The veggie stand vendors will come around with trays of lots of condiments. You pick whatever you want, it’s all a la carte. You will just pay for whatever you take. They’ll have lots of varieties of salsas, pickled veggies, sliced radishes and cucumbers, limes, and more. It’s hard not to go overboard here!

Finally, someone will come around with tortillas.

It’s definitely a cultural experience, but also the food is REALLY good.

Observing the local culture at the Oaxaca markets is a great way to get to know a place. And even better to try all the most delicious foods while you’re at it!

Have you been to the Oaxaca markets of Benito Juarez or 20 de Noviembre before? What was your favorite food?


Complete list of Oaxaca city posts

Complete list of Oaxaca coast and beach posts

Where to Stay in Oaxaca

Check out my full post about where to stay in Oaxaca for every budget and travel style.

Or if you prefer Airbnb, click below.

oaxaca airbnbs copyLR

Or search more Oaxaca hotels below.


Pin it for Later!

pinterest oaxaca markets

17 Responses

  1. Andi
    | Reply

    This is absolutely my favorite thing to do no matter what country I am in . I would much rather go to a market like this 2-3 times a day than go to restaurants. The colors, sights and sounds are amazing. Grasshoppers are so good for you and are the food of the future!

  2. Jenn and Ed Coleman
    | Reply

    I went to Mexico for Dios De Los Muertes last year and had a Tlayudas with chapulines, mostly to celebrate the Oaxacan nature of the holiday. During the trip, we visited a market and it was such a treat of sights, smells, and sounds. Next time I go to Mexico, I am making a point of stopping by the market.

  3. Juliann
    | Reply

    Oh my gosh. Thank you for explaining what so many of these dishes are. They sounds fantastic! Even the grasshoppers. I usually just wander through markets to take in the sights, but this sounds like two places that I need to do more than just wander through. So many different flavors to try!

  4. Jen
    | Reply

    Everything here is seriously speaking to me, minus the chapulines haha. I explored street food in Cancun and it as definitely an experience! Looks like I need to get here in November 🙂

  5. Cat
    | Reply

    I didn’t know many Mexican dishes so this post has definitely opened my eyes! I wonder how Tlayudas tastes like and if it is customizable (like pizzas). I am heading to Mexico again next week so hopefully I’ll get to try it!

  6. Ivy
    | Reply

    I’ll pass on the grasshoppers but I’ll take as many grilled steak tlayudas as I can! Thanks for explaining what each dish is- now I won’t be confused when I go to Oaxaca 🙂

  7. Allison Wong
    | Reply

    I’d love to try the Tlayudas! We don’t have it here and it looks so delish!

  8. Julianne
    | Reply

    I love your advice about trying the mezcal before you buy — it would be terrible to take home a bottle of something that you wind up hating! 🙂 The tlayudas look delicious. I’ve never heard of them before, and they really do look like pizza!

  9. […] out my post about what to eat in Oaxaca markets for other delicious things to try at Mercado Benito Juarez and 20 de […]

  10. […] wrote an extensive blog post already about what to eat in Oaxaca markets: Mercado Benito Juarez & 20 de Noviembre – highlights include tlayudas at Marie Alejandra’s and the tastiest grilled meats ever in the […]

  11. […] husband and I once volunteered to miss our flight back from Oaxaca, Mexico to NYC in exchange for free flight vouchers. We somehow ended up getting rerouted to a […]

  12. […] wrote an extensive blog post already about what to eat in Oaxaca markets: Mercado Benito Juarez & 20 de Noviembre – highlights include tlayudas at Marie Alejandra’s and the tastiest grilled meats ever in the […]

  13. […] San Martín Tilcajete 11 Must Eats in Oaxaca: 11 Important Oaxacan Dishes + Where to Find Them 7 Things to Eat in Oaxaca Markets 8 Places to Drink Mezcal in Oaxaca Tejate: The Most Magical Drink in Oaxaca – Eater LA 3 Best […]

  14. Roxana
    | Reply

    I will make another suggestion. Though the market is much smaller and without as much hubbub (which in itself should be experienced), I highly recommend the organic cooperative market La Cosecha on Macedonia Alcalá, a block and a. half above Sto. Domingo church.

    There are tlayudas, pozole, empanadas, memelas, tasajo, delicious non-pork fat tamales (weekends only), mole, blue corn tortillas (the only certain non-GMO corn in Mexico), tejate, pulque, organic coffee, and much, much more, including many vegan and other healthy options.

    You will also find beautiful traditional (and more modern versions of) handmade clothing, clay pottery, fresh.fruits and vegetables, and handmade natural soaps and creams,

    I do want to address one recommendation made in this article: there are chapulines and there are chapulines. The ones found in and around the
    Benito Juarez market (and elsewhere) are large and come mostly from beyond Oaxaca (i.e. Puebla). I personally don’t like them. The best ones come from Oaxaca, are at least half the size, and are only available during the rainy season. You can find them being sold by village women on the street. They are a hundred times better than the comparatively huge (and variously-flavored) ones in the market.


    • Susan
      | Reply

      Hi there – thanks for your comment. La Cosecha is lovely to visit – great to have breakfast in the center courtyard and then do some shopping. It’s also a great place to try the traditional drink pozontle. Thanks for sharing.

  15. DJ
    | Reply

    Hello… thank you for the great guides on Oaxaca! A quick question about where to find the tamales – above you mentioned to “Enter the Mercado Benito Juarez from the eastern entrance on Calle Miguel Cabrera and make an immediate left in the first hallway.” In a different post, I think you mentioned making a left at the second aisle. I’m wondering if it’s the first or second left because I didn’t spot the ladies you mentioned. Maybe I went at the wrong time of day.

    • Susan
      | Reply

      Hi there, thanks for bringing this to my attention. Apologies if I made an error, will go back in the post to adjust. It should be the first hallway to your left as you enter on the east/Cabrera side. It’s actually quite a narrow and dim hallway, you’ll see a few señoras sitting with their tamales, right as you turn from the main hallway/entrance. It also may depend on the time of day. They are more likely to be there earlier in the day. Next time I go late in the afternoon, I’ll check if they are still there selling tamales. Hope you’re able to find it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.