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What Is an Antojito?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated May 16, 2024
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Antojito is a small snack or appetizer served in Mexican restaurants, bars, open air markets, and on the street. The literal translation actually means a little craving or desire. Each region in Mexico specializes in an antojito that might not be found anywhere else in the country. Regional cheeses and other available fresh ingredients determine the type of antojitos served in certain areas.

An antojito might start with a corn-based dough or tortilla, either fried or cooked over a hot griddle. Various ingredients, such as meat, cheese, salsa, and cabbage, might top the antojito, along with hot chili peppers. In some areas, a snack may be a torta, a small sandwich on freshly baked bread.

These snacks are also called botanas in some states in Mexico, including the Yucatan Peninsula. Tradition in this region calls for serving free appetizers whenever a customer orders a beer or cocktail. A server typically delivers several small plates as samplers each time a drink is ordered. This process commonly continues as long as customers continue drinking.

In coastal areas, the availability of fresh fish and octopus makes ceviche a popular snack. This raw fish appetizer is prepared with fresh tomato, onion, cilantro, and lime juice. As the seafood marinates in fresh lime juice, it chemically cooks the fish. Ceviche, along with most other appetizers, comes with a bowl of tortilla chips to use as scoops or spoons.

One popular appetizer consists of pureed pumpkin seeds eaten as a dip. Cold potatoes mixed with spices, onion, and lime juice create another botana served with beverages. In traditional bars and restaurants away from tourist zones, an antojito might be made from diced pigs' ears cooked in a light broth. In most eating establishments, refried beans appear on one of the plates brought to the table.

Tlayuda defines an antojito found only in Oaxaca state. Cooks use a fried corn tortilla and cover it with beans, meat, local string cheese, and cabbage. Salsa or hot chili peppers can be added at the table. Another snack native to this region is called memelas, a pizza made from corn dough, mole sauce, cheese, beans, and cabbage. Some restaurants add guacamole and salsa to the dish.

In Mexican restaurants in the United States, antojitos might refer to an appetizer platter customers can buy to sample items on the menu. Common items called antojitos in these restaurants include tacos, nachos, small burritos, and quesadillas. The plate typically comes with guacamole and sour cream.

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