10 Essential Dishes of Yucatecan Cuisine

It is located in Southeastern Mexico, on the north part of the Yucatán Peninsula. Yucatecan food is its own unique style and is very different from what most people would consider Mexican food. It includes influences from the local Mayan culture, as well as Caribbean, European (Spanish), (North) African, and Middle Eastern cultures, as well as from the cuisine of other parts of Mexico. Key ingredients in this area are farm raised turkey and pork, spices such as oregano, habanero and xcatik, corn tortillas. Here are the top 10 must try dishes when you visit Yucatan…

1. Sopa de Lima – Whole turkeys are simmered for hours to make a delicious broth. It is then seasoned with with garlic, onion, tomatoes and dried oregano and lots of lime juice. The result is a sour yet refreshing lime soup. It tastes especially good when topped with fried tortilla strips.

Sopa de Lima at Restaurante La Tradicion
Sopa de Lima at Restaurante La Tradicion

2. Panuchos – An appetizer of handmade corn tortillas topped with refried black beans and shredded chicken or turkey. The chicken is marinated in annatto past (peppery achiote seeds) dissolved in juice of sour orange. It looks colorful when garnished with pickled red onions, avocados and chopped lettuce.

3. Salbutes – Looks very similar to paunches, but in salbutes the tortillas are made of corn and flour combined, and are fried till crispy. They are topped with shredded chicken (like above), onions, tomatoes and avocados, and served as appetizers.

yucatan food salutes
Salbutes at Hotel Mayaland

4. Longaniza Asada – Spicy, long, skinny sausage is similar to the Spanish chorizo. In the Yucatan it has a darker color because of achiote and venison (deer meat) instead of pork. It is smoked on charcoal grill and served with beans, tortillas, white cheese and sour orange.

yucatan food longaniza
Longaniza at Restaurante La Tradicion

5. Cochinita Pibil – Shredded BBQ pork is one of the delicacies of the region and can be found at practically every restaurant. The pork loin is traditionally marinated in annatto paste and sour orange juice overnight, then wrapped in banana leaves and gently cooked over charcoal for hours. It is always served with refried black beans and pickled red onion relish. Alternatively, you can get it with chicken instead of pork.

6. Queso Relleno – Probably the most globally influenced dish in the Yucatan. A round block of Dutch Edam cheese is hollowed out and stuffed with ground pork cooked with onions, bell peppers, olives, raisins, capers, and almonds. Hardboiled eggs are added to the meat mixture before it makes its way into the cheese dome. The entire thing is wrapped with banana leaves, baked for 30 minutes, and served with tomato salsa and a cheese sauce. Despite the calories, it is to die for!

yucatan food queso rellenos
Queso Rellenos at Restaurante La Tradicion

7. Poc Chuc – Sounds like pork chop, and it basically is grilled fillet of pork loin. The meat is beaten till thin (Milanese style) and marinated in sour orange, salt and pepper, then grilled over charcoal.

yucatan food pork chuc
Pork Chuc at Hacienda Sotuta de Peón

8. Dulce de Papaya Con Queso – An interesting dessert recipe that can take 3 days to prepare. A whole green papaya is candied by leaving outside (only at night), soaked in lime water, then caramelized with sugar for few hours. The result is a sweet and gummy piece of fruit which is served with shredded Edam cheese.

9. Flan – A common dish found across Central and South America, and at practically every meal in the Yucatan. Flan is made with condensed and evaporated milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla. The carmel custard is delicious when light and creamy.

10. Xnipec – Roasted habaenro peppers are used to make all kinds of sauces that can taste anywhere from mild to burn your tongue hot! Xnipec is a fiery hot chunky salsa made with habanero chiles and Seville orange juice, eaten in small quantities.

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Sucheta Rawal

Sucheta is an award winning food and travel writer, who has traveled to 90 countries across 6 continents. She is also the founder and editor of 'Go Eat Give' and author of 'Beato Goes To' series of children's books on travel.

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