Yucatecan gastronomy is one of our greatest pride. If learning how the exquisite and authentic Yucatecan flavors are created sounds appetizing to you, stick around for three of the many options you can find in Yucatán. What makes a difference in these three is the fact that the dishes are prepared the old-fashioned way. You won’t find any stoves, blenders, or even microwave ovens. Everything is prepared by hand, on a three-stone stove or in the Pib, an underground Yucatecan oven. Hot tip: all three experiences require advance booking.
Parador Turístico Yaxunah
Here, you can do it all. Today, however, we will focus on their tender Cochinita Pibil; that tasty dish made of pork marinated in Recado Rojo (made with annatto) that turns deep red and which we usually eat wrapped in a warm tortilla, or as a deliciously juicy Torta (sandwich).
If you choose to, you can take the cooking workshop they have for you. You’ll learn how to make the Recado Rojo and bury the Cochinita wrapped in banana leaves in the Pib. After two hours of waiting, the result is a very local dish with the meat falling apart as soon as your fork (or hands) touch it. Cochinita Pibil connoisseurs will notice that it has a more natural hue: just as Yaxunah’s locals eat it.
In case you don’t have enough time for a cooking class, you can also visit the Parador Turístico Yaxunah just to eat this delicious dish. Same as with the workshop, the meal includes handmade tortillas and Agua Fresca (lemonade or hibiscus). If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to watch the unearthing of the Cochinita.
In both cases, it’s necessary to book at least one day ahead. Are you considering Yaxunah for your trip and would like to combine it with other activities? Just around the corner is a cenote (Lol-Ha) and nearby, the Yaxunah archaeological site; it is worth a visit, believe me.
WhatsApp. 985 114 0808
FB: Parador Turístico Yaxunah
Price: $800 pesos per person (cooking class, up to 10 people in each group, 3 hours approx.) / $200 per person (food and drinks)
Once you arrive, you won’t want to leave; once you’ve tried the food, even less. I promise. Ya’axche, run by chef Wilson Alonzo, is a center of ethnogastronomy in Halachó that offers multiple formats to pamper your palate with very Yucatecan recipes. In addition to operating as a restaurant on weekends, Ya’axche is also an authentic opportunity to learn how to cook the traditional way and to learn about Maya spirituality and respect for the goods given by nature.
Depending on how much you want to get involved, you can take a Demo Class or a Master Class; we did the latter. The adventure starts at the Halachó market; you can be sure that this is strictly local cuisine. Wilson will introduce you to his aunts (who sell different products there), greet other merchants, and ask you to select certain ingredients. Back at Ya’axche, Chef Wilson will explain the dynamics of the day. First, breakfast: scrambled eggs with spearmint (fav), fruit, and seasonal Agua Fresca. Then it was time to get our hands dirty, literally. In Ya’axché’s master class, you’ll make your own regional dish: everyone receives instructions on how to prepare their dish, and move to their station in the open-air kitchen.
Worry not, you won’t be alone. Both the chef and the staff are there to guide you and answer your questions. Without them, I wouldn’t have made it past mixing the dry ingredients. I made Cochinita Pibil from scratch, but my companions also made Sikil P’aak, Sopa de Lima, Escabeche, But de Relleno Negro, Toksel, and Polcanes. The Cochinita Pibil takes around two hours to cook in the Pib; once outside, your group can savor all the delicious dishes in the tranquility of the palapa. You won’t believe you made these dishes yourselves, and the house dessert will surprise you.
A full cooking class may not be for everyone. However, that’s no reason to miss out on Chef Wilson’s recipes: Ya’axche operates as a restaurant from Friday to Sunday, 11 am to 6 pm.
WhatsApp: 999 322 1935
Master Class: $1,000 pesos per person, price varies depending on the number of people in the group (min. 2, max. 15).
Clase Demo: 3 hours, $700 per person, price varies depending on the number of people in the group (min. 2, máx. 25).
Aldea Xbatún (in Valladolid)
For those who want to feel at home, Aldea Xbatún is the answer: a project run by a family of Maya descent, in their own home. As with the previous two, this project offers several ways to enjoy a Yucatecan meal, including a cooking class and an ancestral dinner in a totally rural setting. Doña Irma and her family cook with local ingredients, in addition to those they harvest directly from their garden.
In the cooking class, which was the experience we chose, we cooked Pollo Pibil (a cousin of Cochinita Pibil). As it was baked in the Pib, we spent the time preparing a delicious Sikil P’aak with pepita to taste (my mouth waters with the memory) and Dzotobichay (a vegetarian Tamalito). In addition, we were served a Huevo Encamisado (jacketed egg)…the level of difficulty is way too much for my almost non-existing cooking skills.
If you are a fan of dessert, you’ll love this one: cocoa, honey, cinnamon, and Piloncillo. It’s like frosting, delicious!
Tel. 985 852 6555
FB: Aldea Xbatun
Cooking class: $1,650 pesos per person (min. 2 people, max. 12), approx. 3 hours
Ancestral dinner (6 to 9 pm): $1,750 per person (up to 12 people)
Editorial by Olivia Camarena Cervera
Yucatecan communicologist. Your favorite Assistant Editor. Writer, blogger, and bookstagrammer in her spare time. She also experiments with TikTok.
Photography by Olivia Camarena Cervera for use in Yucatán Today.
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