8 Must Try Yucatecan Specialties
When visiting the Yucatan, there are ample opportunities to sample cuisines from all over Mexico. However the following dishes, made with local ingredients and cooking techniques, should be at the top of your list. Do you have other favorites from the Yucatan region? Let us know in the comments section! Make sure to check out our ‘Beginners Guide to Eating in Mexico‘ for everything you need to know about Mexican food, or if you’re a vegetarian, our guide to ‘Eating Vegetarian in Mexico’.
Pibil (pork or chicken) – This dish is hands down the star of the show in Yucatecan cuisine. The key is the achiote seeds. Also known as Annatto Seeds, they add the bright orange-red color but also impart a nutty, peppery and slightly sweet flavor. They are combined with the juice of intensely sour Seville oranges and often lard to marinate. Next, the meat is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed / smoked in an underground pit known as a pib (hence the name pibil). This was not only the best meat we had in Mexico, it was one of the best we have tasted anywhere in the world!
Sopa de Lima – Although the tangy lime is featured, this is often a savory and richly spiced broth. Most often served with pulled turkey and finished with crispy tortillas, we prefer to eat it with a loaf of fresh, crusty bread.
Papadzules – Similar to an enchilada, corn tortillas are wrapped around chopped hard boiled eggs, then topped in a mild tomato or sometimes, pumpkin seed sauce (see below). Great dish for vegetarians, although if you like spice, this dish will disappoint.
Sikil P’ap (Pumpkin seed sauce) – These sauces are popular throughout the Yucatan. It is thick, creamy and nutty, and a healthy alternative to cream based sauces. The flavor is not overly spiced and rarely has any heat to it. Can range in color from white to bright green. See pictures above.
Queso Relleno – The rind from Edam cheese is stuffed with ground meat, onions, raisins pumpkin seeds and other spiced then cooked in liquid until soft and served with chips. Not our favorite but definitely something different!
Panucho – A local specialty, fried tortillas are stuffed with refried beans, topped with meat, vegetables and bright pink pickled onions. Similar to a tostada but better. A great vehicle for the Pork Pibil.
Valladolid Sausage – A specialty of the city of Valladolid, an oily spicy combination of beef and pork, a bit like chorizo but dryer and with an exceptionally smoky flavor. Great with eggs for breakfast as well.
Escabeche oriental – A soup with lots of layers of flavor. The broth is savory, tangy from pickled vegetables, loaded with black pepper, and complex from the addition of Eastern spices such as cumin, cloves and cinnamon. Served with strips of charred Turkey meat. Perfect for a light meal with some crusty bread.