Like many regions of Mexico, the Yucatán Peninsula has a cuisine all its own. The base is recognizably Mexican, but the dishes here are strongly influenced by traditional Maya ingredients and techniques, with dashes of Caribbean and Middle Eastern flavors. Some popular menu items include:

Cochinita Pibil is a traditional dish of slow-roasted pork. Photo © Alexander Mychko/123rf.

Cochinita Pibil is a traditional dish of slow-roasted pork. Photo © Alexander Mychko/123rf.

  • Cochinita Pibil: pork that has been marinated in achiote, Seville orange juice, peppercorn, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper, wrapped in banana leaves, and baked. It’s typically served on weekends.
  • Dzoto-bichay: tamales made of chaya (a leafy vegetable similar to spinach) and eggs. It comes smothered in tomato sauce.
  • Empanizado: slices of pork or chicken that has been breaded and fried, often served with salad, rice, and beans.
  • Panucho: handmade tortilla stuffed with refried beans and covered with shredded turkey, pickled onion, and slices of avocado. Like a salbute plus!
  • Panucho. Photo © javiercorrea15/123rf.

    Panucho. Photo © javiercorrea15/123rf.

  • Papadzules: hard-boiled eggs chopped and rolled into a corn tortilla, smothered in a creamy pumpkin-seed sauce.
  • Poc-Chuc: slices of pork that have been marinated in Seville orange juice and coated with a tangy sauce. Pickled onions are added on the side.
  • Poc-chuc.

    Poc-chuc. Photo © jenniferwoodardmaderazo, licensed Creative Commons usage.

  • Salbute: handmade tortilla covered with shredded turkey, pickled onion, and slices of avocado.
  • Sopa de Lima: turkey-stock soup prepared with shredded turkey or chicken, fried tortilla strips, and juice from lima, a lime-like citrus fruit.

You can find Yucatecan dishes just about anywhere, from hole-in-the-wall taco joints to gourmet restaurants—discovering them is half the fun! But for a sure bet, check out La Habichuela Sunset (Zona Hotelera Cancún), Quesadillas Tierra del Sol (Downtown Cancún), Jardín Maya (Isla Mujeres), La Candela (Isla Cozumel), Restaurante Las Mestizas (Pisté), and Taberna de los Frailes (Valladolid).


Excerpted from the Twelfth Edition of Moon Cancún & Cozumel.