Best Known Yucatan
Mayan Food

Mérida Market Tour with
Martha Stewart and Chef Sterling

Los Dos Cooking School

LOS DOS cooking school in Merida Mexico , specializes in Mayan Food from Yucatan.

Chef Sterling is the founder of LOS DOS which is listed among the best cooking schools in the world, according to the April issue of Travel & Leisure.

Most Popular

Yucatan Mayan Dishes

Cochinita Pibil

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Cochinita Pibil / Pibil style pork, Mayan food for the gods, made with achiote paste (annatto seeds) and other spices, wrapped in banana leaves, slowly cooked for over 4 hours. Picture shows one of the many cochinita vendors in the city, actually this one is my favorite. When it comes to cochinita pibil, rich and poor people eat at the same stand.

I am from Yucatan and I grew up eating Cochinita Pibil. I have frowned upon many variations of this recipe, but I think Lynne and Sally have grasped the real essence of Yucatan in their version, it is very much the original.

A Cochinita Pibil Recipe by Lynne and Sally

Stuffed Cheese

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Queso Relleno / Stuffed Cheese, made with a special Edam like Cheese Ball imported from Holland (Queso de Bola / Ball of Cheese), not available in the rest of Mexico or the United States. This cheese is stuffed with a mixture of ground pork and beef, tomatoes, raisins, capers, olives and slivered almonds, and served with two kinds of special sauces white and red. You can use any Edam or Gouda Cheese.

Chilmole / Black Stuffing

Relleno Negro (Black Stuffing) also called Chilmole– This is chicken or turkey and pork cooked in a black chilmole/recado negro spice blend sauce. Do not confuse with mole sauce which is a traditional Mexican dish from the northern part of Mexico, not from Yucatan.


Poc – Chuc (pohk-CHOOK) this is lean pork meat, marinated with a special spice blend, then grilled and served with pickled grilled red onion, sour orange and a black bean thick soup.


Papadzules (pah-pahd-ZOOLEHS) – tortillas filled with mashed hard boiled eggs, covered with a sauce made with pumpkin seeds and on top of that a tomato and habanero pepper sauce, and ground especially prepared pumpkin seed.

Tamales from Yucatan

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Tamales  - wrapped and cooked in banana leaves. Totally different from tamales as we know them in the United States wrapped in corn husk which are from the northern part of Mexico, not from Yucatan.

Panuchos and Salbutes

Panuchos (pah-NOO-chohs) - are made with corn masa (dough), cooked on a dry, hot cast iron skillet until slightly puffy, then a slit is made in the tortilla and it is stuffed with refried beans, sealed, then lightly fried. It is then topped with tomatos, lettuce, a slice of cucumber, ground beef or chicken, avocado and pickled onions.


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Salbutes (sahl-BOO-tehs) - are similar to panuchos but they do not have beans inside the tortilla. They are also fried and topped with the same thing.There are many variations of the toppings in salbutes. Less crispy than panuchos.

Do not forget chile habanero sauce (habanero chili sauce).


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Lima Soup

Sopa de Lima (LEE - ma) / Lima Soup – it is a combination of Yucatecan lima, chicken or turkey meat and broth, accompanied with tostadas (fried hard tortillas). Lima is not to be confused with lime as we know it in the United States, it is a totally different citrus fruit only grown in the Yucatan area.

Escabeche Oriental

Escabeche Oriental, this is a classical Yucatecan dish, which is a specialty of the city of Valladolid Yucatan. It is a delicately spiced grilled Turkey or chicken, sour orange or mild vinegar can be used and a lot of black pepper.

Distinctive Condiments
and Herbs of Yucatan
Mayan Food

Yucatecan/Mayan Food is special and unique due to the spices, spice blends, condiments and herbs used in Yucatecan cuisine. Some of which are:

Banana Leaves

Banana Leaves (Hoja de Platano), banana leaves are used to wrap Yucatecan tamales as opposed to corn husk in the rest of the country. Also used for many other Yucatecan dishes for flavor.
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Banana Leaves (Hoja de Platano), banana leaves are used to wrap Yucatecan tamales as opposed to corn husk in the rest of the country. It is also used in many other dishes to infuse a unique flavor.

Habanero Peppers

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Habanero peppers - are extremely hot, I would say they are among the hottest in the world, you can find them in any Mexican supermarket in the U.S. They can be green or orange when they’re ripe. Just as the recados/spice blends, they add that special flavor to Yucatecan Mayan Food. For the people of Yucatan it would be unthinkable to not have an habanero pepper or sauce at the lunch or dinner table.

My Favorite Habanero Chile Sauce

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Epazote (eh-pah-SOH-teh) - also called apazote, has a strong aroma, can be used dried or fresh, of course fresh is recommended. Both the stem and the leaf is used in cooking, it gives that distinctive taste to Mayan food in Yucatan, although it is not unique of this Mexican state. It is also used in many different dishes throughout Mexico. It is one of the main condiments when cooking black beans. It is sold in Hispanic/Mexican markets all over the United States.

Chaya Leaves

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Chaya - typical of the Yucatan Peninsula. A non - flowering herb, which has been used in Mayan cuisine since pre-Hispanic times (similar to spinach). Not sold in markets in the United States yet, although many people have a Chaya plant at home.

Meet Chaya a Versatile Mayan Superfood

Xcatic Yellow Pepper
Chile Dulce Green Sweet Pepper

Chile Dulce/Sweet Pepper – it is a chili pepper mostly green, it is similar and used exactly as the bell pepper. Used very often in Yucatecan Mayan Food.

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Chile Xkatic (Sh-kah- teek) – yellow or light green it is not very spicy. Used in many Yucatecan Mayan dishes. It can be found at any supermarket in Mexico. Substitute with yellow wax or guero chiles.

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Chile Max

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Other condiments and seasonings used in Mayan Yucatecan food are; cumin, oregano, garlic, capers, cilantro red onions, tomatoes, black pepper, all spice, cinnamon and cloves to name a few.

Chile Max (mash) – It’s a very small and extremely spicy chili pepper that is grown in Yucatan. It can be red, green or orange.

Pumpkin seeds/Pepita

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Ground Mexican Pumpkin Seeds / Pepita de Calabaza – There are many dishes in Yucatan that use pepita as the main ingredient. (sauce - ground - whole)

Sour Orange

Sour orange (naranja agria) – it is originally from southeastern Asia. In 1568, it was brought to Yucatan where it became an essential ingredient of Yucatecan Mayan food.It is used in lieu of vinegar in many Mayan dishes.

This type of orange is not available in the United States, but it can be substituted combining half a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice and half a cup of freshly squeezed lime juice. Not exactly the same but quite similar.

SOUR ORANGE (naranja agria) – from southeastern Asia. In 1568, it was brought to Yucatan. It is used in lieu of vinegar in many Mayan dishes.
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Sour Orange Tree

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Yucatan Limas

Lima Citrus Fruit – brought by the Spanish in the 16th century, they can be found at any supermarket or market in Yucatan, but not anywhere else in the rest of Mexico.

NOTE: do not confuse with LIME as we know it in the United States to differentiate it from the large yellow lemons. In Mexico large yellow lemons do not exist, and what we know as LIME in the United States is called a LIMON or LEMON in Mexico.

LIMAS are not available in the United States, you can try substitutions which are similar, but not same taste, I've tried some of the Yucatecan chef's recommendations.

Probably derived from an Ancient Mayan Dish, Sopa de Lima / Lima Soup is one of the most famous recipes that has as the main ingredient lima citrus juice.


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Basic Spice Blends - Used as Seasoning Rubs and Marinades

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These spice mixtures can be prepared from scratch or store bought and are used daily as part of the cooking routine of Yucatecan housewives. They are blends of herbs, spices, chili peppers and other condiments and seasonings made especially for cooking Yucatecan/Mayan Food.

A Yucatecan Mayan Food Recipe Book will be out shortly for your convenience, where you will have the exact recipe for the basic spice blends, rubs and marinades, this will enable you to prepare these from scratch if you wish.

Achiote / Annatto Paste

Achiote Paste / Annatto Seeds - popularly known as recado colorado/red spice, the seeds are ground and mixed with several spices (garlic cloves, oregano, cumin, cloves, cilantro seeds black pepper, all spice, salt and sour orange or white vinegar) to form a red paste used in Mayan cuisine.

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You can find this Achiote paste in any market in The Yucatan Peninsula or in any other part of Mexico and freshly made by the kilo at Central Market Merida Yucatan. Found at any Hispanic Market in the United States. There are different brands available in different places.

Annatto Flower and Seeds

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Chilmole / Black Spice Blend

Chilmole /Recado Negro (Black spice blend) – it is made with burned chiles anchos, vinegar, a few annatto seeds, all spice, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, garlic, onion, oregano, epazote and salt. Mix with white vinegar or sour orange. You can find this Recado negro paste in any supermarket in Mexico or freshly made by the kilo at Central Market Merida Yucatan if you wish. Found at any Hispanic market in the United States. There are different brands available in different places.

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Recado de bistec (Beefsteak spice blend) – This peppery blend is not only used for beefsteak but for pork, chicken and seafood as well. Grind coriander seeds, all spice, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, cumin, garlic, oregano, epazote and salt. Mix with white vinegar or sour orange. Same as with the other recados, buy at any supermarket in Mexico or at Central Market in Merida Yucatan, freshly made by the kilo. You can get it at any Hispanic market in the United States. Note: We do not use Apple Cider Vinegar in Mayan /Yucatecan recipes. Use only plain white vinegar. You will get a different taste with apple cider vinegar.

Recado para papadzules / Pumpkin seed paste – Papadzules (pah-pahd-ZOO-lehs) is a traditional Mayan dish that resembles enchiladas but it is covered with a sauce made with pumpkin seeds, and the tortillas are filled with mashed hard boiled eggs. On top of that it has a special tomato sauce usually made with habanero chili if you like spicy food. Of course you can omit the habanero if you wish.

Where to Get Authentic Yucatan
Mayan Ingredients

NOTE: Of course you can find all this at the market in Yucatan Mexico but I also found a store which imports products from Yucatan Mexico and where you will be able to get good quality and authentic recados/spice blends and any other item you need for your Yucatan   /  Mayan dishes, including QUESO DE BOLA / DUTCH EDAM CHEESE BALL for your stuffed cheese dish.

It is located in Los Angeles CA in the United States, but they ship Nationwide. They are willing to ship internationally too. All you have to do is ask.

I’ve tried it and their service is excellent. In case you’re interested, here is a link to their website:

La Flor de Yucatan

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