Gastronomy is a fundamental part of the trip, through food you know and taste part of the culture. What foods and dishes of the Mayan gastronomy will you find in the Yucatan Peninsula?

The Yucatan Peninsula is the land of Mayans, the local cuisine comes from the Mayan culture, today very mixed with Hispanic products and expanded with new ones from other regions. The Mayan cuisine of the Peninsula is considered one of the tastiest in the Mayan world.

The base of the Mayan food is the corn tortilla

The corn tortilla is a prehispanic food that is a fundamental part of Mexican food. For the Mayans, corn is an essential part of their daily life, corn is an inherent part of Maya lifeIt is part of their daily food, it is present in ceremonies, in the milpa, in their landscapes, in their medicines. According to Mayan beliefs, man comes from corn, with his mass was created to Mayan humanity. We could see them as fruits of Mother Earth, they are part of it, the Mayans are born of a noble and good crop. It's a beautiful vision of the world, do not you think?

handmade corn tortillas
Torteando by hand
Mayan cuisine in the Yucatan Peninsula 1
From Aztec paintor: Francisco Gualpuyogualcal? - h Public domain, Link

Prehispanic foods of the Yucatan Peninsula

MAYAN PREHISPANIC FOODS: corn, beans, chili, pumpkin, cocoa and honey, epazote, vanilla and achiote to season. Its diet is complemented with different meats of wild mammals and birds such as ducks or chachalacas, armadillo, hare, deer, manatee, turtles, wild boar, as well as fish and shellfish. Roots like sweet potato, jicama. Fruits such as chayote, mamey, avocado, custard apple, papaya, soursop, chicozapote, changunga, sapotes, guava or pitahaya. Leaves like chaya, which I love, and pods like green beans.

We have seen that corn is sacred in the life of the Maya, there are two other basic foods: beans and chilies; Mayan cuisine includes a variety of chilies like the x-cat-ik and the güero chile from Yucatán. The pumpkin, with which the ha 'sikil p'ak' is made, a rich sauce of pumpkin seeds and tomato. Avocado, papaya and guava are fruits that complement your diet. The achiote is a seed that is used as a food coloring in several Yucatecan dishes such as cochinita pibil, a dish that is part of the mix of Yucatecan cuisine since the pig is brought by the Spaniards.

Honey and cocoa are other foods of the pre-Hispanic Mayan world, as well as venison, iguana or turtle meat (turtle hunting is currently prohibited). The ancient Maya domesticated the bee, and today they continue to cultivate one of the best honeys in the world. They also fished and fed on the sea.

A current crop in the patio of a Mayan house can have epazote, habanero pepper, sour orange, tomato, banana, rue, chaya and radish, and the products are used as food and medicine.

The pib is the traditional oven that consists of a hole in which the food is buried to cook it on the coals
Ha 'sikil p'ak' and chile x-cat-ik, two Mayan accompaniments
Mayan cuisine in the Yucatan Peninsula 2
Traditional herbal medicine is preserved in Mayan populations

Current dishes of Mayan gastronomy

The Basic products like beans and tortillas are served in almost every meal. There are typical gastronomic complements such as purple onion, sour orange also use it a lot when cooking, the pumpkin on many occasions served as ha 'sikil p'ak', salads with base of lettuce, cucumber and tomato accompanying typical dishes. Yucatecan cuisine is rich in sweet desserts: As a curiosity you will see that many restaurants on the coast are street vendors who offer desserts, they arrive with their tray of desserts at the tables. There are some traditional beverages Maya that you do not expect. some made of corn

On your trip to the Peninsula prepare to eat tropical fruits, enjoy different flavors, you can even try insects, a Mexican classic.

To dress lemon and salt salads, Mexican brand seal          

MAYAN TRADITIONAL DISHES: the chicken and the pork, the shaggy pig is the Mayan field, they are the most typical meats. Dishes such as poc chuc, loin, black stuffing they are traditional Mayan dishes. Other classic foods are beans with pork, chaya with eggs, chicken stew, stuffed cheese, lime soup, salbutes, panuchos, papadzules, longaniza, cochinita pibil, joroches, mucbil chickens, pimes and tamales. As traditional pre-Hispanic meat, you can find venison in few places. And of course you will try the café de olla. What do I recommend? Try it all, but do not leave without tasting the cochinita pibil, a classic 🙂

SWEETS TO TASTE: cassava with honey, roasted pumpkin, sweet potato with coconut, cocoyol in syrup, pumpkin nugget marzipan, marshmallow, arepas, tejocotes in syrup and sweet of ciricote.

TRADITIONAL BEVERAGES: xabentun (honey liquor from bees fed with the xtabentún flower), balché (it is a kind of mead, made with water and syrup, and they add pieces of bark and roots of balché tree), anise drink, pozol with or without coconut, jamaica water or horchata water, atole and fruit juices from the region. What do I recommend? I'm a fan of chaya water with pineapple or lemon.

Poc chuc
Chaya empanadas
Typical Mayan egg breakfast with chaya accompanied by pumpkin seeds
Mayan cuisine in the Yucatan Peninsula 3
Chaya water, try it

What foods do you find on the Mayan coast?

Along the coastal strip of the Yucatan Peninsula you can taste typical dishes of the area. The products are usually fish (grouper type, boquinete, snapper), octopus, shrimp, sea snail and lobster. The most usual ways to prepare these dishes are: the garlic mojo (with guajillo chili, little spicy), garlic, butter, diabla (spicy), Mexican (tomatito, onion and cilantro) or breaded. The menus are usually repetitive. They really like what they call the seafood cocktail, every Mexican knows what I'm talking about. For me taste mixing shrimp with tomato ketchup, pure sugar, is a gastronomic rogue. As the saying goes "about tastes there is nothing written".

One of the star dishes that you will find is ceviche: it is a dish of raw fish or seafood cut into small pieces and marinated in a marinade of lemon or sour orange juice, chopped onion, salt, pepper and coriander. A seafood salad that is very fond of ceviche, very cool for beach days. Another typical flavor of the area is the fish al tikin xic, marinated with a achiote sauce.

TREATMENT FOR YOUR STOMACH: if you just landed let a few days pass before eating salads to get used to your stomach, drink bottled water. The ceviche also leaves a couple of days to try it better, it is well cooked with lemon, but it can give problems.

Mayan cuisine in the Yucatan Peninsula 4
Fried fish
Mayan cuisine in the Yucatan Peninsula 5
Shrimp, breaded with coconut

What else do you know about gastronomy in the Peninsula?

The sweet bread is typical throughout the region and there are dishes from each region such as the famous dogfish bread in Campeche. Many typical and familiar restaurants serve you a snack (a tapa) with what you consume, so you give different tastes. I love to botan, chela and botana is a great life 😉

Totopos and guacamole They are two products that you will see in many tables. The tacos there are everywhere and of all the products: tacos al pastor, cochinita pibil, seafood, cow tongue. The cakes they are the bread with something, the sandwich as it is known in Spain. Enchiladas, burritos, nachos ... are products that we recognize without a doubt as Mexicans, they are not so typical in the Peninsula, but you can try them.

SOMETHING VERY GOOD: do not be scared by the spicy, most times it comes apart and they tell you. At a Mexican table you will always see many sauces to accompany, if you do not bathe your food in sauce it seems that it is not worth the food.

THEME PROPINES: for service in restaurants is left from the 10% for the service.

STREET FOOD: You will find many street food stalls, from tacos and panuchos to hamburgers and hot dogs. It is usual to eat on the street, there are several food carts. Personally I like to eat on the street, do culture on foot, which brings you closer to the locals.

EATING ON THE ROUTE: for the people you pass you will always see an open dining room on your way, there is no problem in getting food. The towns also have shops to stock up on fruits and junk food, such as cookies and soft drinks.

If you are a brewer, don't miss this article about the beers you're going to find and how the chela is taken here.

Mexican gastronomy
Totopos and guacamole, a classic in the center of the table
Mayan cuisine in the Yucatan Peninsula 6
Sauces, not all spicy, but served separately
Mayan cuisine in the Yucatan Peninsula 7

I do not get longer than I was hungry. If you are to try, you will enjoy your trip through the Yucatan Peninsula. Remember that in our PRACTICAL GUIDES section You have several tips for your route, with several restaurant proposals.

Enjoy your meal,

Travel hacks
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Sandra Salvadó Training photographer, traveler by vocation and certified tourism guide by the Government of Mexico. We promote natural wonders and contemporary Mayan culture. Great fan of pre-Hispanic history. Author of the blog and co-founder of The Shortest Path Travel, agency that guides you through alternative paths in Mayan lands. Social and sustainable tourism in the Yucatan Peninsula and Chiapas.
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