The regional cuisine of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, known as Yucatecan cuisine, is a unique melange of influences from Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean.
The influence of the ancient Maya, whose legacy can be felt in many aspects of life in the Yucatan, is especially prevalent in the food of the region.
Some of the dishes are unique to the Yucatan and difficult to find outside of the peninsula, while others are eaten throughout Mexico. (Still others, like ceviche, are popular throughout the entire Caribbean and Latin American region.)
Pavo (turkey), pollo (chicken) and pork are the main proteins, along with fish closer to the coasts, while seasonings like achiote -- a sweet, slightly peppery red sauce made from the seed of the tropical annatto plant— and sour orange (brought to Mexico by the Spanish) impart a distinctive flavor profile to many Yucatecan dishes.
Click on the headings to read more about the origins and preparation of each dish.
!Buen provecho! (Happy eating!)
Ceviche is a dish consisting of raw fish marinated in citrus juice (such as lime or lemon) and served with chopped onion, chiles, cilantro and sometimes fruit.
Chilaquiles is a breakfast dish consisting of fried tortilla strips simmered in a red or green salsa and often toped with beans, eggs, cheese or meat.
Chiles rellenos is dish consisting of a green poblano chile stuffed with cheese, then battered and deep fried.
Huevos Motulenos is a breakfast dish of fried eggs served on tortillas with refried black beans and a tomato-based sauce, which is often studded with ham, peas and plantains and then sprinkled with cheese.
Papadzules consists of tortillas rolled around a filling of hard-boiled eggs and topped with a sauce made of pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and tomato.
Pavo Relleno Negro is comprised of turkey in a dark sauce made from charred chilies and spices. The dish is garnished with hard-boiled eggs and eaten with fresh tortillas.
Pibil is a dish consisting of marinated meat wrapped in spices and banana leaves, then cooked in a barbecue pit. Cochinita Pibil, meanwhile, is made from a whole suckling pig.
Poc chuc is slices of pork marinated in a sour orange and achiote sauce. See a recipe for poc chuc.
Queso Relleno consists of a whole, hollowed-out Edam cheese, stuffed with a mixture of pork, peppers, onions, tomatoes, raisins, capers, olives and herbs and spices.
Salbutes are a snack made from crisp fried tortillas topped with shredded meat, lettuce and tomato.
Sopa da Lima is a broth-like hot soup made from chicken stock and lima (a citrus fruit similar to lime but less acidic), and filled with chunks of chicken and pieces of fried tortilla.
Sopes are a snack food consisting of a tortilla stuffed with refried beans then topped with shredded chicken, pork or beef, lettuce and sometimes sour cream.
Want to sample Yucatecan cuisine on a trip to Cancun? Try Labná restaurant.