The Yucatan Peninsula is known for its beautiful beaches, rich history, and amazing cuisine. If you’ve traveled to other parts of Mexico, you’re likely to quickly realize the cuisine in the Yucatan differs from other parts of the country.
Mayan influence has helped shaped the cuisine here, along with other influences from the Caribbean, Dutch, Spanish, and even Lebanese. There is a consistent blend of heat, citrus, and smoke. Marinades are found in nearly every dish, especially those that include a citrus component.
Common meats used in the region include turkey and pork, while spices like achiote seed and chili peppers help flavor many of the region’s iconic dishes. Chaya, which is very similar to spinach, is a common addition to dishes, including breakfast.
Some of the more common dishes to try when traveling the Yucatan include:
Edam cheese from Holland is the key ingredient to a good queso relleno. The rind of the cheese is stuffed with a variety of ingredients like pork, peppers, tomatoes, raisins, olives, onions, herbs, and spices. It’s then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.
Slow-roasted suckling pig is marinated in a variety of spices, like onions, sour oranges, achiote, and more, then wrapped in banana leaves and cooked slowly in an earthen oven, known as a pib. The tender pork is then served on tortillas and pickled red onion.
Another pork dish to try is poc chuc, which is thin slices of pork which are marinated in achiote and sour oranges.
Chopped hard-boiled eggs are stuffed in and on top of fresh tortillas and they are then cooked in a tomato and pumpkin seed (pepita) based sauce. Papadzules are found in traditional restaurants and family-style restaurants throughout the Yucatan.
The simple sopa de lima is a staple here and eaten year-round, even with the hot temperatures typically found in the region. It’s a chicken-broth-based soup with lime, chunks of chicken, and tortilla strips.
Typically, Relleno Negro is made with turkey in a dark sauce consisting of charred chilies and spices. It’s garnished with hard-boiled eggs and served with freshly made tortillas.
Huevos Motulenos is eaten at breakfast and consists of fried eggs served on tortillas with black beans and a tomato-based sauce, which is then topped with ham, peas, and dusted with cheese.
Panuchos are typically served as appetizers. They consist of handmade tortillas topped with refried black beans and shredded chicken. The chicken is typically marinated in achiote and sour orange, then garnished with pickled red onions and avocados.
Salbutes are similar to panuchos, but the tortillas are typically a combination of corn and flour, then fried until crispy. Salbutes are topped with shredded chicken, onions, tomatoes, and avocados.
If you find dulce de papaya con queso on a menu, save room for this specialty dessert. It can take multiple days to make as the papaya is candied by leaving it outside at night, soaking in lime water then caramelized with sugar. Its sweet texture is offset with bits of Edam cheese for quite an interesting dessert.
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Erin is a travel and food writer who currently splits her time between the Netherlands and Belize. She's traveled to 60+ countries on 5 continents with a passion for culinary travel, luxury hotels, and all things Disney. Her writing has appeared in numerous online outlets including Gadling, BootsnAll, CNN, Art of Backpacking, TravBuddy, CBS, and more. She was the major author of Belize's official visitor magazine, Destination Belize 2013; wrote the official AFAR Guide to Belize; and is also AFAR Magazine's local Belize expert.. In addition to writing for other publications, Erin maintains several blogs, Our Tasty Travels, No Checked Bags, Pooh's Travels, and the brand new Caye To Belize. Follow Erin on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.
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