19 Mexican Sayings and Idioms about Food


Understanding native speakers is not always easy. Furthermore, sometimes, it feels that you are not making any progress in becoming more fluent and natural. One thing that connects all of us together is food and understanding how to talk about food in Spanish is critical. Although learning grammar and new words are going to help you improve your Spanish, if you want to speak fluently, you have to start adding idioms and sayings into your vocabulary.

Just as in English, in Spanish, people don’t talk all the time with the rules and phrases they learned in school: we talk with common expressions we learned in daily life and conversation. Some of these phrases are sayings and idioms. 

Since you already know that Spanish is different depending on the country you are, in this article, you are going to learn some expressions perfect for use in Mexico. With these Mexican sayings and expressions about food, you’ll be able to start tweaking your Spanish. As a plus, we are also going to see some idioms with food. That way you will have a complete list of Mexican expressions!

Mexican Sayings About Food

Del Plato a la Boca, se Cae la Sopa – The soup falls to the plate from the mouth 

Even though this a list about Mexican sayings about food, ‘del plato a la boca, se cae la sopa’ is also perfect for the rest of Latinamerica. This phrase means that, even if seems everything is going well, things can go wrong at the last minute. If you wanted to translate this saying word by word will be something like ‘the soup falls to the plate from the mouth’. This shows you that even if you’re sure you can put the soup in your mouth, there is still a chance that it can fall. In English, this saying is : ‘there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip’ or ‘don’t count your chickens before they hatch’.

¡No te confíes! Del plato a la boca, se cae la sopa Don’t be overconfident! There’s many a slip twixt cup and lip

Hasta a la Mejor Cocinera se le Queman los Frijoles – We all make mistakes

The direct translation would be ‘even the best cook burns the beans’ and even though this phrase doesn’t make much sense for you, in Spanish, it does. ‘Hasta a la mejor cocinera se le queman los frijoles’ means that even the best people can make mistakes. As a result, in English, the closest phrase would be ‘we all make mistakes’ or ‘everyone messes up once in a while’. As you can imagine, you will use this saying to cheer someone up after they make a mistake or to justify yourself when making a mistake.

¡Tranquilo! Hasta a la mejor cocinera se le queman los frijoles. No te desanimes Calm down! We all make mistakes, so don’t despair

Las Penas con Pan son Buenas – All griefs with bread are less

This popular saying means that your problems seem less worrisome if you have food. In Mexico, grandmothers and moms use this phrase to comfort their children when they are having a tough time, or they are just sad. 

Ven y come un poco. Acuérdate que las penas con pan son buenas Come and eat. Remember that all griefs with bread are less

Entre Menos Burros Más Olotes – The fewer, the better fare

‘Entre menos burros más olotes’ means that the fewer the people in the distribution, the more there is to share. In English, you will say ‘the fewer the better fare’. Although it may seem that this Mexican saying about food is talking about how much food everybody is going to get, we actually use it in many different contexts. In other words, this saying expresses that things are better when fewer people are involved.

No les digas de nuestro viaje. ¡Entre menos burros más olotes! Don’t tell them about our trip. The fewer, the better fare!

¡Qué bueno que tus hermanos no quieren postre! Entre menos burros más olotes It’s great that your brothers don’t want dessert! The fewer, the better fare

Notice that the second example is clearly talking about dessert and bigger portions. However, the first one is not talking about food. In this case, the saying implies that the trip can be way better if fewer people are involved.

Camarón que se Duerme, Se lo Lleva la Corriente – You snooze, you lose

This is another saying about food that not only is used in Mexico, but in all Latin America. ‘Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente’ express that life’s speed drags lazy people. As a result, they miss a lot of experiences and opportunities. In English, you would say: ‘You snooze, you lose’. Spanish speakers also use this expression to point out that some people are too slow, or they lack cleverness to take advantage of the opportunities they may find in life.

SpanishEnglish
Tu amigo: ¿Te acuerdas la entrevista que pospuse? Me llamaron para decirme que ya contrataron a alguien.
Your friend: Do you remember that job interview that I rescheduled? They called me to say they already hired someone else!
Tú: ¡Qué mal! ¡Pero te dije que fueras, camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente! You: That’s too bad! But I told you to go. You snooze, you lose!

No Solo de Pan Vive el Hombre – Man does not live on bread alone

Fortunately, this Mexican expression about food has a direct translation in English: ‘man does not live on bread alone’. Just as in English, this saying expresses that people not only can focus on the material things but also they also have to feed their minds and souls.

No te enfoques sólo en el dinero, no solo de pan vive el hombre Don’t focus just on money, man does not live on bread alone

Although this is the original meaning, Spanish speakers also use it to talk about the lack of intimacy in a relationship. In this situation, the person who thinks they are not having enough intimacy will use ‘no solo de pan vive el hombre’ to let their partner know about this issue.

Al Pan, Pan y al Vino, Vino – Call a spade a spade

It’s very common that most of the time, people beat around the bush because they think speaking frankly might be a little bit rude. However, sometimes things should be clear and people need to be honest, candid, or call a situation as it is . In those cases, you would use ‘al pan, pan y al vino, vino’. Although you can’t translate this phrase word by word, in English you have your own phrase: ‘call a spade a spade’.

Miguel no es aficionado a la bebida, ¡es alcohólico! Al pan, pan y al vino, vino Call a spade a spade! Miguel is not fond of drinking, he’s an alcoholic

Carlos terminó con su novia porque vio que no tenían futuro. Al pan, pan y al vino, vino Carlos called a spade a spade. He broke up with his girlfriend because he realized they have no future

Notice that in English, this saying has a verb and, therefore, it should be conjugated. But in Spanish, our saying is an expression without a verb. So you can use this expression at the beginning or at the end of a sentence. Furthermore, you could also use it as a response. Let’s imagine that in the first example, your friend tells you that Miguel is a little bit fond of drinking, you could answer by just saying ‘Al pan, pan y al vino, vino’.

No Hay Caldo que no Se Enfríe – There’s no broth that doesn’t get cold

Believe it or not, this Mexican saying is related to emotions. ‘No hay caldo que no se enfríe’ means that no matter how strong emotions are they tend to fade or disappear. The direct translation of this expression would be ‘there’s no broth that doesn’t get cold’. Although you don’t have this saying in English, understanding its meaning in Spanish will allow you to use it correctly. ‘No hay caldo que no se enfríe’ can be used to tell somebody that you don’t have feelings for her or him anymore:

Lo siento, no hay caldo que no se enfríe y yo ya no te amo I’m sorry, there’s no broth that doesn’t get cold and I don’t feel that way about you anymore

Mexican speakers also use this saying  as a way to calm a friend down when they are sad or angry. In this situation, ‘no hay caldo que no se enfríe’ is used to reassure them that they are strong, their feelings are going to fade and, therefore, you need to keep it cool. For this case, the equivalent expression in English would be ‘calm down’ or ‘give it’ or ‘get a grip on yourself’.

Espérate a mañana. Ahorita estás muy enojado, no hay caldo que no se enfríe Calm down. Wait until tomorrow. Right now, you are too angry

Sólo las Ollas Saben de los Hervores de sus Caldos – You never know what someone else is going through

The direct translation of this Mexican saying about food is “only pots know the boiling of their broths” and, although, probably this doesn’t tell you anything, in Mexico, this saying is very popular. ‘Sólo las ollas saben de los hervores de sus caldos’ means that we can’t judge someone because only that person knows what they are going through. The equivalent expression in English would be ‘you never know what someone else is going through’.

Sé paciente, sólo las ollas saben de los hervores de sus caldos Be patient. You never know what someone else is going through

No seas tan duro con ella, sólo las ollas saben de los hervores de sus caldos Don’t be so hard on her. You never know what someone else is going through

Mexican Slangs and Idioms with Food

In the previous section, we saw some of the most common sayings about food. Since sayings express popular wisdom, you can use them in many contexts. This is not the case of the following phrases. Just as in English, Mexican slang expressions are more casual and, therefore, we can only use them in informal situations. 

Parir Chayotes – Have a rough time

Mexicansuse this slang phrase to express that something is very difficult or painful. Although translating ‘Parir chayotes’ word by word wouldn’t make sense, the English equivalent ‘to have a rough time’ summarize the meaning of this phrase perfectly.

La maestra nos puso a parir chayotes con el examen The teacher gave us a rough time with the exam

Andrea está pariendo chayotes con su proyecto Andrea is having a rough time with her project

Notice that just as in English, we use different verbs depending on what we want to express. We use ‘Ponerwhen we want to emphasize the thing or person who is giving us a rough time. However, if you are just describing that we are experiencing a rough time given a situation, we use ‘Estar’.

Va de Nuez – Again

It’s very likely that you have heard that Spanish speakers say ‘va de nuevo’ to express that they are going to repeat something one more time. ‘Va de nuez’ is the Mexican version of ‘va de nuevo’. The English equivalent would be ‘again’.

Va de nuez, pero pon atención I’ll repeat again but pay attention

¿No te llegó mi correo? Va de nuez You didn’t receive my email? I’ll send it again

One thing you have to keep in mind when using ‘va de nuez’ is that you can only use it if you are the person repeating the message or resending something as we saw in the second example.

Este Arroz ya Se Coció – It’s a done deal

This Mexican idiom with food would be translated as ‘this rice is already cooked’ and in Mexico, we use it to express that something is done. If you wanted to find the equivalent expression in English, the best one would be ‘It’s a done deal’. Although in the past people used ‘este arroz ya se coció’ when talking about two people about to start a relationship, nowadays, we use it for many situations.

Karla y David van a salir hoy, ¡por fin este arroz ya se coció! Karla and David are going out today. Finally, it’s a done deal

Me llamaron de mi entrevista de trabajo, creo que este arroz ya se coció I got a call from a job interview, I think it’s a done deal

Darle la Vuelta a la Tortilla – Change a subject or situation in somebody’s favor

Have you ever heard that women are very good at changing the subject in conversation or drawing attention toward other things? That thing right there is called ‘Darle vuelta a la tortilla’ and even though women changing the topic and making guys feel guilty about something is a good example, in Mexico, we also use this idiom to talk about a situation that changed completely. Those changes can be either negative or positive. As a result, in English, the closest phrase in meaning is ‘to change a subject or situation in somebody’s favor’.

Estábamos hablando de lo que tú hiciste, no le des vuelta a la tortilla We were talking about the things you did, don’t change the subject

A pesar de ir perdiendo, mi equipo le dio vuelta a la tortilla y ganamos Despite us losing, my team changed things completely and we won

Ser sus Meros Moles – Somebody’s specialty

If you want to say that somebody is very good at something, you will use the Mexican slang phrase ‘ser sus meros moles’. In English you would say ‘somebody’s specialties’ or, as mentioned before, ‘to be good at’.

Las matemáticas son mis meros moles Maths are my speciality

Dile a Erika que te ayude, son sus meros moles Ask Erika to help you, it’s her specialty

Notice that if you are talking about yourself or somebody else, conjugation and the pronouns are going to be different, so keep that in mind when using this phrase.

Tener de Dos Sopas – To have two options

Although it seems like it, this phrase doesn’t mean that you have two different soups to eat. ‘Tener de dos sopas’ is an expression that Mexicans use to say ‘you have two options’. As you can imagine, you can use this slang phrase in many situations, but be careful to use it just in informal contexts.

Tenemos de dos sopas: o entregamos un proyecto o reprobamos We have two options: either we deliver a project or we fail the class

Tienes de dos sopas: o le dices lo que te molesta o dejas de quejarte You have two options: either you tell her what’s bothering you or you stop complaining

Even though the examples above seem a little bit negative, you can use ‘tener de dos sopas’ in many situations. However, when people just have two options, they tend to find that they are not very pleasant.

Quedarse como el Perro de las Dos Tortas – You cannot have it all

Sometimes it happens that we have very nice opportunities or options and we just can’t make up our mind and choose one, as a result, we lose both opportunities. In Mexico, this situation is ‘quedarse como el perro de las dos tortas’ and even though you don’t have this same expression in English, you could say something like ‘you cannot have it all’.

Elige un trabajo o te vas a quedar como el perro de las dos tortas Choose one job. You can’t have it all

No pude decidir y me quedé como el perro de las dos tortas I couldn’t choose and now I don’t have anything

Meter la Cuchara – Stick your nose in

When in English you say ‘to poke around’ or to ‘stick your nose in’, in Mexico, we say ‘meter la cuchara’. This Mexican idiom is a synonym for interfering, and people use it in informal situations.

A la vecina le gusta meter su cuchara en todo The neighbor likes to stick her nose in everything

Déjala en paz y no metas tu cuchara en su vida Leave her alone and don’t stick your nose in her life

Mis papás siempre meten su cuchara en mis cosas My parents always poke around my business

Ser Harina de Otro Costal – To be another story

Ser harina de otro costal’ is a very popular expression in Mexico and you can find it in a lot of situations. Fortunately, in English, you have your own phrase: ‘to be a different matter’, ‘to be another thing altogether’ or ‘to be another story’. Just as in English, you could use this expression to talk about a person.

Su familia es muy grosera y problemática, pero Diana es harina de otro costal Her family is very rude and problematic, but Diana is another story

Puedes salir con tus amigos, pero quedarte a dormir es harina de otro costal You can go out with your friends, but staying over for the night is a different matter

Una Cucharada de tu Propio Chocolate – A taste of your own medicine

Both in Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries, you can hear ‘una cucharada de tu propio chocolate’ or ‘una cucharada de tu propia medicina’. These expressions are the direct translation of ‘a taste of your own medicine’ and just as in English, both phrases are very popular.

Por fin recibieron una cucharada de su propio chocolate Finally you had a taste of your own medicine

Vas a tener una cucharada de tu propio chocolate y no te va a gustar You are going to get a taste of your own medicine and you are not going to like it

This expression is just that: an expression, therefore, you can combine it with verbs as ‘recibir’ or ‘tener’.

Wrapping Up

In this list, we discussed some Mexican sayings about food and how to use in daily life. Furthermore, you learned some idiomatic expressions with food that will allow you to improve your Spanish and communicate better with Mexicans. Keep in mind that the best way to learn these expressions is to start using them as soon as you can. Since these types of expressions are very important for improving your fluency, you should try to learn as many idiomatic expressions in Spanish as you can.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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