Chilies at the Market in Mérida

Cochinita Pibil

Unique Culinary Experiences

The culinary delights of a typical Yucatán kitchen derive from an exquisite blend of ingredients used by the ancient Mayas, blended with flavors brought by the Spanish during the Colonial era and later contributions from the Caribbean and the Middle East.

For many years, the Yucatán Peninsula was considered to be inaccessible due to the few roads that led to the region. Although it was isolated from the rest of Mexico, ports created a constant exchange of trade and cultural contacts with Europe, especially France, as well as New Orleans and Cuba. Therefore, the people of Yucatán were naturally influenced by many aspects of these countries and cities, forming the foundations of one of the best-recognized cuisines of Mexico and the world.


The unique combination of condiments and spices such as pumpkin seed, oregano, red onion, sour orange, sweet chili, tomato, achiote, the xcatic chile, and habanero make up the distinct flavors of Yucatán cuisine. Yucatán was once known as the "Land of the pheasant and the deer" due to the popularity of these species as the main ingredients of the local cuisine. Today, pheasant and deer have been replaced by pork and turkey, which, when combined with special seasonings and spices, give birth to the delicious regional dishes that are fondly known today as cochinita pibil, one of the most typical and well-known specialties in Mexico. 


Other Yucatecan specialties include the delicious salbutes and panuchos, which are handmade corn tortillas fried and covered with black beans, shredded beef, chicken or turkey and topped with lettuce, red onion, and “xnipec” salsa. Another specialty is papadzules, which are tortillas dipped in a sauce made of squash seeds and stuffed with hard-boiled egg, then topped with tomato sauce and chili habanero. Lime soup or sopa de lima is a chicken soup with a subtle taste of lime. There is also tikinxic, a dish made of fish marinated in achiote, then wrapped in banana leaves and roasted and served with a rich sauce made of tomatoes and habanero.

Key Ingredients

Considered one of the hottest peppers in the world, the habanero is largely produced in the Yucatán region and widely used as a flavoring in all forms. This chili is used to prepare the very spicy “xnipec,” a salsa made with lime juice, onion, tomato, and chopped and roasted habanero. Although perhaps less known, other dishes that are typical of the region are puchero (a stew) with three types of meat, chocolomo, chicken pibil, black beans with pork, huevos motuleños (Motul-style eggs), lentil stew, and tamales, either vaporcitos or colados.

Local Beverages

For beverages, the region boasts delicious horchata, a rice-based beverage; chaya blended with lemon, lemonade and orange juice; as well as the refreshing trolebuses (fresh fruit smoothies), sorbets and ices. Another typical drink is Xtabentún, better known as the “liquor of the gods,” made of honey and anise, and michelada, a refreshing alcoholic beverage prepared with beer, lime, salt, and particular hot sauces or chile slices. 


Desserts are another example of the quality of Yucatecan cuisine and are the perfect end for any dinner or special meal. Most are made from local fruits such as papaya, plums or rich coconut cream. The “caballero pobre” (poor gentleman) is similar to French Toast and served with a scoop of ice cream on top.

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