I thought I knew what to expect from the cuisine when I initially came to Merida, Mexico. I mean, weve all eaten Mexican cuisine, and we love it, right? Yet I immediately discovered that Yucatan cuisine is significantly different from that of the rest of Mexico.
Yucatecan, or modern-day Mayan cuisine, is made up of numerous key components, including habanero peppers, citrus, achiote (a spice used for taste and color), and smoke. These key components combine to impart tastes and produce Yucatan cuisine that is really distinctive to this region of Mexico.
Mayan cuisine are mostly made with turkey, hog, and chicken, however numerous fish dishes may be found near the coast. Certain Yucatan dishes, such as pibihuas, are difficult to get outside of the area, while others are abundant.
There are so many cuisines that are unique to this region, and I’m going to share my favorite Mayan recipes with you in this article. Consider these to be the essential must-try Yucatan cuisine to seek out during your vacation!
Check out my packing list for Mexico and this article regarding whether or not you need travel insurance for Mexico before you go.
When in Merida, don’t miss out on the following activities that will let you immerse yourself in the city (get them while they’re hot!):
- Full-Day Cuzama Cenote Tour from Mérida
- From Mérida: Hacienda Mucuyché and Cenotes Tour
- Mérida Cooking Class, taste of Yucatan
- Mérida International Airport: Private Transfer
- From Mérida: Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve Tour
Interested in the same region’s cuisine? Check out our delectable guide to the 7 Best Belizean Meals and the 20 Best Restaurants in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico!
- 1 12 Yucatan Foods You Must Try
- 1.1 Salbutes
- 1.2 Panuchos
- 1.3 Soup of Lima
- 1.4 Ceviche de Frito Pulpo (fried octopus ceviche)
- 1.5 Pibil Cochinita
- 1.6 Pavo (Turkey) (Turkey)
- 1.7 Motuelenos Huevos
- 1.8 Pibihuas
- 1.9 Relleno Queso
- 1.10 Are you planning a trip to Merida, Mexico? Check out this list of the greatest restaurants in Merida!
- 1.11 Chuc Poc
- 1.12 Kibis
- 1.13 Vallodolid Lomitos
- 2 Which Yucatan dish do you wish to try the most? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below!
12 Yucatan Foods You Must Try
Salbutes are puffy corn tortillas that have been deep-fried. They’ve then topped it with meat (usually chicken or turkey), onion, and (of course) salsa.
Panuchos are similar to salbutes, except that they are packed with black beans before being cooked. After being taken from the fryer, these packed tortillas are topped with your choice of meats, chopped cabbage or lettuce, tomato, and the omnipresent pickled red onion.
My favorite panuchos (perhaps because they are the unhealthiest) are topped with lechon (slow-roasted pig) and crispy pork skin.
Panuchos may be found in every market in Yucatan, but my absolute best were at La Lupitas in Merida’s Park Santiago.
Soup of Lima
Lime Soup, or Sopa de Lima, is a broth-based soup created from a local lime. Don’t worry, it’ll be considerably less sour and acidic than you’re accustomed to.
The soup comprises morsels of roasted chicken and is topped with pieces of crispy fried tortillas. It is often offered as a side dish to your main course at breakfast.
Ceviche de Frito Pulpo (fried octopus ceviche)
If I had to select one Yucatan dish, it would most likely be the fried octopus ceviche. I can’t count how many times I’ve eaten this dish. I haven’t gotten bored of it yet.
Instead of raw fish, as you’re probably accustomed to, the Yucatecan version includes crispy pan-fried octopus in addition to the usual ceviche combination of onion, loads of lime juice, tomato, and cilantro.
Make sure you have a basket of fresh chips on available to scoop it up with, then wash it down with an ice-cold lager (try Bohemia Clara).
Where to find it: Catrin in Merida offers an excellent rendition.
Pork flesh is marinated in lemon juice, achiote, and other spices for this meal. It is then wrapped in banana leaves and buried underground.
As it emerges, the achiote has given an orangish hue, and the flesh is so soft its falling apart. The meat is then utilized in a variety of ways, including taco toppings and sandwich stuffing. This is a must-try since it is a traditional Mayan cuisine.
Where to get it:This is another dish that can be found almost everywhere, from street sellers to high-end restaurants. My favorite rendition was in the Park Santa Ana market.
Pavo (Turkey) (Turkey)
Surprisingly, turkey is one of the most popular meats in Yucatan cuisine. Although I’ve become used to eating turkey twice a year on holidays, in the Yucatan, entire roasted birds line market display cases and are cut up for recipes ranging from sandwiches to tacos!
As they placed this meal in front of me, I must confess that I was skeptical. Tortillas with eggs, black beans, cheese, chopped ham, peas, and fried plantains as toppings. What?
Yet it works in certain ways. Even if it isn’t your new favorite meal, it’s fun to claim you tried it!
If you can make it to the Yucatecan village of Motul, the meal is supposed to have been originated at the restaurant Doa Evelia. If you can’t make it there, any market in the area will almost certainly provide the meal.
This meal consists of butter-baked masa balls packed with your choice of meat (usually cochinita pibil), beans, and onion. A hard-boiled egg is often added before smearing as much habanero salsa as desired on top.
If you can locate a restaurant that serves this meal, the dough will be crispy. Pibihuas are the ultimate crunchy, salty, spicy mouthful of cuisine!
Where to find:As far as I know, they are only found in Valladolid, where we discovered them on a road trip with the assistance of a local acquaintance.
These are available at the main market, Mercado Municipal, but the tastiest versions are available on the street in little food carts that sell out rapidly each day.
While renting a vehicle in Mexico, be in mind that your credit card advantages from home may not necessarily accompany you there. Make sure you have supplementary automobile rental insurance coverage. A word about road trips
While the main component (Edam cheese) is plainly not native, this Mayan fusion meal is heavily influenced by the Dutch.
The cheese is hollowed out and stuffed with a seasoned minced pork mixture. It’s then served with not one, but two sauces, one red and one white, then garnished with olives.
This creamy, melty, cheesy, salty dish is one of my faves; I had to restrain myself from getting it three times a week!
Where to find it: I discovered the greatest version at Manjar Blanco in Merida.
Are you planning a trip to Merida, Mexico? Check out this list of the greatest restaurants in Merida!
Poc Chuc, another Yucatan specialty dish, is thinly sliced pork marinated in citrus juice before being swiftly cooked. My favorite way to eat it is with beans & rice, avocado, and (of course) pickled red onion. I normally pile the whole thing into tortillas to create a taco.
Where to locate it: I’ve eaten this for breakfast several times in Merida’s Park Santa Ana. It’s a basic, easy recipe, but it’s jam-packed with flavor!
Kibis are similar to Lebanese falafel for good reason. The meal was inspired by the falafel that Lebanese immigrants introduced to the region. Rough ground wheat dough is packed with ground beef before being deep-fried.
The crispy fried balls are then topped with a salad of cabbage, red onion, sour orange, and habaneros (if you like spice).
Where to find: At Progreso, the tastiest kibis I’ve ever tasted were sold from a basket on the beach. If you prefer a more upscale version, La Linda produces fantastic kibis!
Slow-roasted pork and diced boiled eggs in a mildly spicy garlic tomato sauce, this dish begs to be stuffed into warm tortillas.
Where to locate it: Despite being a Valladolid specialty, the greatest rendition I’ve ever eaten was at Manjar Blanco. And, yeah, I tried them in Valladolid!