What Did the Aztecs Eat?


The Aztecs, also known as the Mexica, were an ancient civilization that thrived in central Mexico from the 14th to the 16th century. They had a rich and diverse diet, heavily influenced by their agricultural practices and the resources available in their environment. This article explores the various foods consumed by the Aztecs, providing a detailed overview of their culinary preferences and dietary habits.

The Importance of Agriculture

Agriculture played a crucial role in Aztec society, providing the foundation for their food supply. The Aztecs were skilled farmers who cultivated a wide range of crops, including maize (corn), beans, squash, tomatoes, amaranth, and chilies. Maize was particularly significant, serving as a staple food and a symbol of religious and cultural importance.

Maize: The Staple Food

Maize was the most important crop in Aztec cuisine and formed the basis of their diet. It was consumed in various forms, such as tortillas, tamales, and atole (a thick corn-based beverage). The Aztecs also made different types of bread and porridge from maize. It was a versatile crop that could be stored for long periods, allowing the Aztecs to have a stable food supply throughout the year.

Beans and Squash

Beans were another vital component of the Aztec diet. They were often eaten alongside maize, as the combination of the two provided a complete source of protein. The Aztecs cultivated different varieties of beans, including black beans, kidney beans, and lima beans. Squash was also a common crop, with various types like pumpkin and zucchini being consumed both as a vegetable and for their seeds.

Meat and Fish

While agriculture formed the foundation of their diet, the Aztecs also consumed meat and fish, although it was not as prevalent as plant-based foods. Hunting and fishing were important activities, especially for the elite class. The Aztecs hunted deer, rabbits, and birds, among other animals. They also fished in lakes and rivers, catching fish like tilapia and trout.

Ahuautle: Aztec Caviar

A unique delicacy consumed by the Aztecs was ahuautle, which can be considered as Aztec caviar. It refers to the eggs of the axolotl, an aquatic salamander native to Mexico. Ahuautle was highly prized for its rich taste and nutritional value. It was often used in various dishes or eaten on its own.

Herbs, Spices, and Condiments

The Aztecs had a rich selection of herbs, spices, and condiments that enhanced the flavors of their meals. Some of the commonly used herbs and spices included chili peppers, cacao, vanilla, oregano, and epazote. These ingredients added depth and complexity to their dishes, creating a distinctive Aztec flavor profile.

Chili Peppers: Spicing Things Up

Chili peppers were an integral part of Aztec cuisine, providing heat and flavor. The Aztecs cultivated various types of chili peppers, ranging from mild to extremely hot. They used them in both savory and sweet dishes, such as sauces, stews, and even chocolate beverages.


In addition to water, the Aztecs had a range of traditional beverages that were consumed for both hydration and ceremonial purposes. These beverages included atole (a corn-based drink), pulque (a fermented agave sap), and chocolate.

Chocolate: The Drink of the Gods

Chocolate was highly valued by the Aztecs and was often reserved for the nobility and religious ceremonies. They prepared a frothy chocolate beverage called xocoatl, which was made from ground cacao beans mixed with water, spices, and sometimes honey or vanilla. It was believed to have aphrodisiac properties and was considered a sacred drink.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Did the Aztecs have a vegetarian diet?

No, the Aztecs did not have a strictly vegetarian diet. While they primarily relied on plant-based foods like maize, beans, and squash, they also consumed meat and fish. However, the consumption of meat and fish was not as widespread as that of plant-based foods.

2. What types of meat did the Aztecs eat?

The Aztecs consumed various types of meat, including deer, rabbits, birds, and dogs. The consumption of certain animals, like dogs, was primarily reserved for ceremonial purposes and specific rituals.

3. Did the Aztecs consume dairy products?

No, the Aztecs did not consume dairy products. Domesticated animals like cows and goats were not present in their environment, so they did not have access to milk or cheese.

4. What were the main sources of protein in the Aztec diet?

The main sources of protein in the Aztec diet were beans and the combination of maize and beans. Beans were an important source of protein, and when combined with maize, they provided a complete source of essential amino acids.

5. Did the Aztecs use any sweeteners?

Yes, the Aztecs used various natural sweeteners, such as honey, agave syrup, and fruits like figs and prickly pears, to sweeten their dishes and beverages.

6. What were the typical meals of the Aztecs?

The Aztecs had two main meals per day. The morning meal, called tlacatl, consisted of a light breakfast with foods like atole or tortillas. The main meal, called comalli, was consumed in the late afternoon or early evening and consisted of more substantial dishes like stews, tamales, or roasted meats.

7. Did the Aztecs have any dietary restrictions?

Yes, the Aztecs had certain dietary restrictions based on cultural and religious beliefs. For example, they abstained from eating certain animals that were considered sacred, such as jaguars and eagles.


The Aztecs had a diverse and complex diet that revolved around agriculture and the resources available in their environment. Maize, beans, and squash formed the foundation of their diet, providing sustenance and essential nutrients. They also consumed meat, fish, herbs, spices, and traditional beverages, such as chocolate. The Aztecs’ culinary practices and dietary habits were deeply intertwined with their cultural and religious beliefs, making their food an essential element of their civilization.

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