Yucatán is home to rich and traditional cuisine that mixes ingredients such as corn, tomato, and beans, with many products that are unique to the state such as habanero chili, sour orange, and the popular Achiote that gives color and flavor to many meals.
Because of its culturally rich traditions that bring together Maya, Spanish, and Lebanese influences, Yucatecan cooking has received both national and international accolades.
Codzitos. Fried corn tortilla tacos that are usually served without a filling. They are covered with tomato sauce and crumbled Cotija cheese. A very Yucatecan snack.
Sikil Pak. A traditional dip made with toasted pumpkin seed, cilantro, and roasted tomato. It’s a great snack and is usually served alongside Totopos.
Sopa de Lima. A very flavorful chicken broth seasoned with local Yucatecan lime. It is served with shredded chicken or turkey, fried tortilla strips, and lime slices. You have to try it!
Yucatecan Seal of Approval
Huevos Motuleños. This dish consists of a tortilla with beans and fried eggs. Tomato sauce is added on top as well as chopped ham, cheese, and peas. It is usually adorned with fried plantains. A very traditional breakfast!
Papadzules. These tacos are filled with chopped hard-boiled egg and covered in two sauces: one is made with toasted pumpkin seed and the other is a tomato sauce. Ideal for vegetarians and omnivores alike.
Salbutes and Panuchos. Fried, hand-made tortilla topped with shredded chicken or turkey, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, and avocado. The difference between the two? A Salbut is soft and the Panucho is filled with beans. You can also order them with Relleno Negro or Carne Asada.
Cochinita Pibil. One of Yucatán’s most famous dishes is this pork marinated in Achiote paste and sour orange juice. It is then wrapped in banana leaves and baked slowly either in a regular oven or Pib-style (underground). You eat it in tacos, Tortas, or by itself with red onion.
Escabeche Oriental. Turkey or chicken which is charcoal-grilled and seasoned with onion, pepper, sour orange, and local herbs. It owes its name to its place of origin: Eastern Yucatán. The meat is served in pieces or shredded with broth and Xcatic chili.
Frijol con Puerco. Black bean broth with pieces of cooked pork and rice. It is topped with finely chopped radish, cilantro, onion, and tomato sauce. It’s Yu- catán’s official Monday meal!
Lechón al Horno. Incredibly tender and slowly roasted pork meat. It’s served with refried beans and Xnipec, a spicy Salsa made with habanero chili, tomato, red onion, sour orange, and salt.
Pollo Pibil. Chicken marinated with Achiote, green pepper, tomato, and onion, all wrapped in banana leaves and baked in a traditional Pib or in the oven. Served with tortillas.
Poc Chuc. Roasted pork filet served with sour orange, red onion, spicy chili and tomato sauce, and avocado. It’s accompanied by strained beans. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a somewhat lighter option while eating out in Yucatán.
Queso Relleno. Prepared with a hollowed-out Queso de Bola (Edam cheese), which is then filled with ground beef and pork, almonds, raisins, green pepper, and local spices. It’s covered in a white sauce known as K’ool made with flour, lard, and chicken broth, and finally, it’s topped with tomato sauce.
Relleno Negro. This traditional turkey dish is seasoned with a spice blend made from charred chilies and herbs that give it a slightly spicy flavor and its emblematic black coloring. This dish is typically served at weddings and it’s one of the old- est recipes in our regional cuisine.
Relleno Blanco. Turkey served with ground pork which is seasoned with capers, oregano, raisins, and olives. It’s then bathed in K’ool and tomato sauces.
Broths and Stews
Mondongo Kabic. This is a very thick broth made from beef stomach and hooves. These are marinated in Achiote, garlic, and lots of sour orange juice. It is served with whole habanero chili, onion, chives, and cilantro. You can usually find it at markets on the weekends.
Puchero. This dish has three types of meat: chicken, pork, and beef (alongside many vegetables like squash, chayote, and carrots). It’s served with radish, cilantro, and sour orange Salsa called Salpicón.
From Yucatán With Love
Lomitos de Valladolid. Diced pork loin prepared with a slightly spicy tomato sauce. It’s served with a hard-boiled egg.
Longaniza de Valladolid. Pork sausage seasoned with garlic, pepper, and vinegar. Longaniza is served with sour orange, refried beans, tomato sauce, and hand-made tortillas.
Carne Ahumada de Temozón. Wood-smoked pork meat served with sour orange, avocado, red onion, tomato sauce, and beans.
Mucbipollo. Many describe this as a giant and crunchy Tamal. It has a crispy, golden dough and a turkey and pork filling. It is baked wrapped in banana leaves. This is traditionally served during Novem- ber for the Hanal Pixán festivities.
Traditional Local Drinks
Michelada. Okay, this isn’t food…it’s a beer. You’ll see it on the menu and wonder what it is. Michelada roughly translates as “my cold beer”. The spicy concoction is a beer with lime and peppery seasoning. The ingredients are lime, coarse salt, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, Tabasco sauce, black pepper, Maggi seasoning, and beer, preferably a dark Mexican beer like Negra Modelo. Another option is a CHELADA, which is a Michelada without the Tabasco, soy, pepper and other seasonings. It’s just beer, lime, and salt.
Chiles Rellenos (stuffed chilis). Poblano chilis are stuffed with either cheese or ground beef and pork, raisins, capers, and olives, then coated in a batter, fried, and served with a tomato sauce on top.
Chiles en Nogada (gourmet stuffed chiles). This is Mexican cuisine’s gourmet haute-cuisine dish, a fancy upscale cousin to Chiles Rellenos. Poblano chiles are stuffed with ground beef and pork, raisins, onion, garlic, peaches, apples, pear and crystallized orange and covered with a walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds.
Frijoles Charros. Often translated as cowboy bean soup, this is a red bean soup with diced ham, sausage, tomatoes, and onion. Served separately are chopped onions, lime wedges, and cilantro that you can add as you please.
Queso fundido. Often translated as cheese fondue or melted cheese, this cheese dish is not as soupy as traditional fondue. A stringy Oaxaca cheese is melted in a ceramic bowl and served with tortillas. To eat it, rip the tortilla in ½ or ¼, take your fork, twirl some cheese around it then place it in the tortilla. Queso fundido adds-ons include mushrooms, poblano chiles (spicy-ish), chorizo sausage, cactus, or diced meat.
Mole Poblano. The sauce in this savory dish is made from 17 different ingredients that are ground up and blended. Ingredients include Mulato chiles, pasilla chiles, ancho chiles, Mexican chocolate, peanuts, garlic, black pepper, cinnamon, raisins, cloves, peppercorns, almonds, anise seeds, coriander seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. The sauce is served over either chicken or pork and is wonderful. While not a spicy hot dish, spiciness depends on the chiles.
Guacamole. This traditional snack dish is one of Mexico’s claims to fame. Mix chunky avocado, chopped onion, cilantro, salt, some lime juice, and possibly chopped tomato. Serve with tortilla chips. If you make it ahead of time, don’t put it in the fridge- that way it won’t turn dark.
Tamales. Yucatan has its tamales and the rest of Mexico has theirs. Mexican tamales have mole sauces or poblano chiles, can be sweet, and are mostly wrapped in cornhusks (instead of the Yucatecan banana leaves.)
Enchiladas. There are many versions of and ways to make enchiladas, but the basics are made with corn tortillas dipped in the chosen enchilada sauce (to soften), which can be mole, green tomato sauce, etc. then stuffed with chicken or meat, rolled up, placed in a casserole dish, then layered with sauce and cheese and cream and topped with chopped onions or crumbled white cheese.
Chilaquiles (Pronounced chee-lah-KEE-lehs). This dish is popular at breakfast. Corn tortillas are cut in strips or triangles, fried in cooking oil, then topped with a red tomato or green tomato sauce then layered casserole style. The cream is drizzled on top. Shredded chicken can be added.
Keep on reading about Yucatecan Cuisine:
- Yucatecan Sauces, Add More Flavor to Your Food
- Modern Mexican Cuisine in Mérida
- Frijol con Puerco and Lots of Love
- Five Restaurants for Traditional Pibil Food
- Yucatecan Artisan Beer – Cheers!
Photography by MUGY, Hacienda Teya, Cassie Pearse and Yucatán Today for use in Yucatán Today
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