The Mexican cemita sandwich

El sandwich ole!

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This Cinco de Mayo, try this scrumptious sandwich born in Puebla, Mexico. Featured as part of an immigrant-owned restaurant's menu on chef Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, this sammie is an authentic Mexican dish that anyone can make.

This popular street food has a variety of incarnations, but usually consists of some combination of chili-marinated pork, avocado, Oaxaca cheese and papalo (a bright, minty herb similar to cilantro). Top it with a ripe tomato and sweet onion slices and you'll see why the humble cemita has been called the King of Mexican Sandwiches.

Mexican cemita recipe


Marinated pork:

  • 4 (1-1/4 ounce) dried guajillo chili peppers, cut length-wise, seeded, ribbed and stemmed (may substitute New Mexico, California or Cascabel)
  • 2 (3/4 ounce) dried Ancho chili peppers, cut length-wise, seeded and stemmed
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 3 cups water (or as needed), hot
  • 4 boneless pork chops
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (1/2 inch) cinnamon stick (may substitute 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, stemmed and crushed (may substitute oregano)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar


  • 4 cemita rolls (may substitute sesame buns)
  • 1/2 cup guacamole
  • 6-8 ounces Queso Oaxaca, shredded (may substitute panela or mozzarella)
  • 1/2 cup fresh papalo (may substitute fresh cilantro)
  • 1 roma tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 Texas sweet onion, sliced into rings (may substitute white onion)


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, toast chiles in 1 tablespoon of canola oil, pressing down on the chiles as needed with tongs for 10 to 15 seconds per side or until softened and aromatic.
  2. Transfer the chili peppers to a glass bowl or dish and cover in hot water, soaking for 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. While the chili peppers are soaking, prepare pork chops by covering them with wax paper and flattening them with the smooth side of a mallet until the meat is approximately 1/8-inch thick.
  4. In a food processor, combine the chili peppers, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper and Mexican oregano with 1/3 cup of the water you soaked the peppers in. Process the mixture until it's smooth and the ingredients create a paste.
  5. Generously spread the paste over both sides of each pork chop and place each into individual sandwich bags. Seal the bags and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Reserve some paste to spread on the cemita buns if desired. Do not use uncooked chili paste that has been in contact with raw pork on your sandwiches.
  6. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 3 tablespoons of canola oil. Cook the flattened pork chops until well seared and the pork is cooked through. The meat should be white with an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.
  7. Slice the cemita buns in half, spreading each side with guacamole (and/or chili paste, if desired). On each bottom half (or heel) of the cemita, place fresh papalo (or cilantro), tomato, onion slices, meat and cheese. Top with the remaining top halves (or crowns) of the cemitas and serve.

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Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix the Fish. You can follow her on Twitter @HireHeather.