After the Conquest, the Spanish introduced a variety of foodstuffs and cooking techniques, like frying, to the New World. Regional cuisines remained varied, with native staples more prevalent in the rural southern areas and Spanish foods taking root in the more sparsely populated northern region. European style wheat bread was initially met unfavorably with Moctezuma's emissaries who reportedly described it as tasting of "dried maize stalks". On the Spanish side, Bernal Díaz del Castillo complained about the "maize cake" rations on campaign.
The cuisine of Spain is a Mediterranean cuisine influenced by its Arab period composed of a number of staples such as Olive oil and rice. Spanish settlers introduced these staples to the region, although some continued to be imported such as wine, brandy, nuts, olives, spices and capers. They introduced domesticated animals, such as pigs, cows, chickens, goats and sheep for meat and milk, raising the consumption of protein. Cheese became the most important dairy product.
The Spanish brought rice to Mexico, along with sugar cane, used extensively creation of many kinds of sweets, especially local fruits in syrup. A sugar-based candy craft called alfeñique was imported and is now used for the Day of the Dead. Over time ingredients like olive oil, rice, onions, garlic, oregano, coriander, cinnamon, cloves became incorporated with native ingredients and cooking techniques. One of the main avenues for the mixing of the two cuisines was in convents.
Despite the influence of Spanish culture, Mexican cuisine has maintained its base of corn, beans and chili peppers. Natives continued to be reliant on maize; it was less expensive than the wheat favored by European settlers, it was easier to cultivate and produced higher yields. European control over the land grew stronger with the founding of wheat farms. In 18th century Mexico City, wheat was baked into leaved rolls called pan frances or pan espanol, but only two bakers were allowed to bake this style of bread and they worked on consignment to the viceroy and the archbishop. Large ring loaves of choice flour known as pan floreado were available for wealthy "Creoles". Other styles of bread used lower-quality wheat and maize to produce pan comun, pambazo and cemita.
Pozole is mentioned in the 16th century Florentine Codex by Bernardino de Sahagún.
In the eighteenth century, an Italian Capuchin friar, Ilarione da Bergamo, included descriptions of food in his travelogue. He noted that tortillas were eaten not only by the poor, by the upper class as well. He described lunch fare as pork products like chorizo and ham being eaten between tortillas, with a piquant red chili sauce. For drink pulque, as well as corn-based atole, and for those who could afford it chocolate-based drinks were consumed twice a day. According to de Bergamo's account neither coffee nor wine are consumed, and evening meals ended with a small portion of beans in a thick soup instead, "served to set the stage for drinking water".
During the 19th century, Mexico experienced an influx of various immigrants, including French, Lebanese, German, Chinese and Italian, which have had some effect on the food. During the French intervention in Mexico, French food became popular with the upper classes. An influence on these new trends came from chef Tudor, who was brought to Mexico by the Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg. One lasting evidence of this is the variety of breads and sweet breads, such as bolillos, conchas and much more, which can be found in Mexican bakeries. The Germans brought beer brewing techniques and the Chinese added their cuisine to certain areas of the country. This led to Mexico characterizing its cuisine more by its relation to popular traditions rather than on particular cooking techniques.
Since the 20th century, there has been an interchange of food influences between Mexico and the United States. Mexican cooking was of course still practiced in what is now the Southwest United States after the Mexican–American War, but Diana Kennedy, in her book The Cuisines of Mexico (published in 1972), drew a sharp distinction between Mexican food and Tex-Mex.
Tex-Mex food was developed from Mexican and Anglo influences, and was traced to the late 19th century in Texas. It still continues to develop with flour tortillas becoming popular north of the border only in the latter 20th century. From north to south, much of the influence has been related to food industrialization, as well as the greater availability overall of food, especially after the Mexican Revolution. One other very visible sign of influence from the United States is the appearance of fast foods, such as hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza.
In the latter 20th century, international influence in Mexico has led to interest and development of haute cuisine. In Mexico, many professional chefs are trained in French or international cuisine, but the use of Mexican staples and flavors is still favored, including the simple foods of traditional markets. It is not unusual to see some quesadillas or small tacos among the other hors d'oeuvres at fancy dinner parties in Mexico.
Professional cookery in Mexico is growing and includes an emphasis on traditional methods and ingredients. In the cities, there is interest in publishing and preserving what is authentic Mexican food. This movement is traceable to 1982 with the Mexican Culinary Circle of Mexico City. It was created by a group of women chefs and other culinary experts as a reaction to the fear of traditions being lost with the increasing introduction of foreign techniques and foods. In 2010, Mexico's cuisine was recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
In contemporary times, various world cuisines have become popular in Mexico, thus adopting a Mexican fusion. For example, sushi in Mexico is often made by using a variety of sauces based on mango and tamarind, and very often served with serrano-chili blended soy sauce, or complemented with vinegar, habanero peppers, and chipotle peppers.