40 Yucatan Foods & Drinks You’ve Never Heard Of (With Videos)

Yucatan Foods To Try While Visiting

Mexican cuisine is among the most exciting and delicious in the entire world. And the Yucatan Peninsula’s traditional dishes stand out from more familiar Mexican foods with their unique heritage and unmistakably Yucatecan flavors. Many of the 40 Yucatan foods & drinks on this list have evolved over centuries of Mayan and Spanish influence!

We spent 2.5 months in the Yucatan Peninsula and went on three food tours while exploring this beautiful region. There are so many unique Yucatan dishes that it took three different food tours just to begin to cover this region’s diverse foods! We are sure that the items on this list will give you an entirely different perspective on Mexican food.

So whether you are getting ready to visit the Yucatan Peninsula, or are simply curious about Mexico’s regional cuisines, this is the only guide you need to discover the most iconic Yucatan foods. As a bonus, we even share the best traditional Mayan drinks that should not be missed!

Warning: reading this post will make you book a one-way ticket to the Yucatan Peninsula!

Estimated reading time: 47 minutes

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The best Yucatan Foods to try

What Is Yucatecan Food Known For?

Coming from the US, we thought we knew a little something about Mexican food. But we were amazed by the number of traditional Yucatan dishes we had never seen before spending two months in the region.

Yucatecan food is a unique combination of traditional Mayan and Spanish cuisines. This fusion is highlighted by the blend of local ingredients like sour oranges and achiote with the region’s favorite meat – pork. The introduction of pork is the shining example of Spanish influence on modern Yucatecan cuisine.

Note: achiote is the name of a seed and paste used to create the traditional marinade for many Yucatan foods. The achiote paste is made with with sour orange, chiles, garlic, and other ingredients. Its red color and unique flavor add to the complete sensory experience of eating this region’s mouth-watering cuisine.

What Is Traditional Mayan Food?

The beautiful Mayan ruins found throughout the Yucatan Peninsula are just one example of the region’s indigenous heritage. And even though the ancient cities have been abandoned, Mayan culture and traditions are still at the forefront of Yucatecan cuisine.

Traditional Mayan food is characterized by slow cooking and bold flavors. And while pork is the current meat of choice, Mayan cuisine used to feature turkey and eggs as the primary protein. Considering the close proximity to the sea, it is surprising that there are only a handful of seafood dishes with Mayan origins that still remain.

40 Best Yucatan Foods That You Need To Try During Your Visit

We organized this Yucatan food post around 3 food-tour videos we made while visiting the Yucatan Peninsula.

But just because a dish is listed below a particular city does not mean you can only find them there. It is organized this way so you can watch us enjoying these awesome and unfamiliar Yucatan foods while going through the list.


Hover over the ‘video progress bar’ in the included videos to jump straight to your favorite foods.

1. Cochinita Pibil: The Holy Grail Of Yucatan Foods

Yucatan Foods Cochinita Pibil
Cochinita Pibil Torta
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

Where do we even begin with Cochinita Pibil? This slow-roasted pork dish is the quintessential Yucatecan food. In fact, if you come to this region and don’t eat Cochinita Pibil, then you haven’t really had the whole Yucatan experience. Forget what I just said if you don’t eat pork. (But what are you doing on a Yucatan food post if you don’t eat pork?)

Cochinita Pibil blends Mayan cooking techniques with the Spanish preference for pork. ‘Pib’ means ‘cooked underground’ in the Mayan language, and this traditional way of preparing the pork is why the succulent meat just melts in your mouth.

Most people would be surprised to learn that Cochinita Pibil is eaten in the morning. What a great way to start the day! The slow-roasted meat is added to a taco, torta (Mexican sandwich), or other corn-based vehicle used to transport this iconic Yucatec food to your taste buds.

The Cochinita Pibil is marinated in achiote paste and citrus before being wrapped in banana leaf and slow-cooked underground. The pork is perfectly cooked until the meat is juicy, tender, and life changing. We assure you it will be love at first bite!

  • How to find it: you will encounter the famous Cochinita Pibil throughout the entire region. But your best bet is to ask for locals’ favorite cochinita spots. ‘El Tigrillo’ in Valladolid was a personal favorite.

WOTW Tip: Cochinita Pibil is usually enjoyed on Sundays when lines form early in the morning around the most popular cochinita restaurants. Indulging in this fine Yucatan cuisine is totally a ‘if you snooze, you lose’ situation. Many places will run out of the slow-roasted pork by late morning!

2. Lechon Al Horno: One Of The Yucatan’s Street Food Staples

Yucatecan dishes lechon al horno
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

Lechon al Horno – or simply Lechon – is a popular Yucatan food with a stronger link to the region’s Spanish heritage than Cochinita Pibil. To that point, it isn’t exactly a traditional Yucatan food. But Lechon is responsible for many of the long lines at street-food carts around the Peninsula.

Like Cochinita Pibil, Lechon is also slow-roasted pork. But instead of being cooked underground, it is cooked whole on a rotating spit until tender and ready to be served on top of tortas or tacos.

This Yucatan street food is chopped up indiscriminately, and can include bits and pieces of pork skin and fat. This can throw off some travelers not used to seeing these extras in their tacos. So make sure to mention ‘solo carne’ if you are not feeling particularly adventurous.

  • Where to find it: scope out the local market and street-food carts for lechon. This food is easier to find than Cochinita Pibil, and most street vendors selling pork will be serving Lechon al Horno.

3. Relleno Negro: An Iconic Traditional Mayan Food

Traditional Yucatan Foods Relleno Negro
Relleno Negro Taco
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

You can’t have a list of the best Yucatan foods to try without mentioning ‘Relleno Negro.’ Relleno Negro is a traditional Mayan food that continues to be popular today. Like Cochinita Pibil, this unique dish is typically served on Sunday mornings. And it is just as likely to run out early!

The meat (usually turkey or chicken) is marinated and served with a black recado sauce. The recado features burnt chili peppers that are mashed into the sauce, giving the Relleno Negro its signature black color. The recado also includes a heap of other ingredients like sour orange, garlic, cloves, cumin, and more!

While turkey meat is the traditional Mayan way of preparing Relleno Negro, chicken has become a popular substitute. The shredded meat is pilled into a taco or torta (sandwich) and topped with slices of hard-boiled egg.

Biting into the Relleno Negro filled taco introduced us to earthy and smoky flavors that we had never tasted before. It was both delicious and unusual at the same time. This is definitely one of the ‘must try’ Yucatecan foods on this list!

  • How to find it: Relleno Negro is often served at the same places cooking up delicious Cochinita Pibil. Morning is the best time to find great Relleno Negro, so get out of bed early! It can also be found at more ‘gourmet’ taco shops and restaurants serving traditional foods if you’re not an early bird.

Do you love food? Us too! Check out these food posts from Turkey:

4. Huaraches: Savory Yucatecan Street Food

Huarache Yucatan Foods
Pork Huarache
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

Huaraches are a yummy and budget-friendly dish perfect for filling your belly on the cheap. They are made from corn tortillas that are shaped into a sandal-like shape and then fried. In fact, huaraches get their name from these traditional Mexican sandals.

The corn dough used for this Yucatan food is thicker than your average tortilla. The huarache is sturdy enough to hold a variety of toppings like fried pork, beans, cheese, lettuce, and salsa.

We think huaraches definitely fall in the guilty-pleasure category. They are a simple but delicious blend of traditional Mexican ingredients added on top of a puffy fried tortilla. One bite and you will be going back for more!

  • Where to find it: head to the local markets in the Yucatan Peninsula’s larger towns to find Huaraches – the food and the sandals 🙂

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5. Chilaquiles: A Favorite Yucatecan Breakfast Dish

Chilaquiles Yucatecan Breakfast Dish
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

Chilaquiles are a breakfast specialty in the Yucatan Peninsula. This popular dish is made of fried tortillas simmered in a sauce and topped with fresh cheese, onions, and fried eggs. Chilaquiles reminded us of egg nachos – which are obviously amazing!

Chilaquiles can be made with different sauces (salsas), but the most common one are the red tomato and green tomatillo (local green tomato) salsas. It is a flavor-packed Yucatan dish that’s 100% satisfying. It’s perfect for when you are looking for a savory Mexican breakfast to start your day. Though you may have to sign-up for an early siesta after indulging in this hearty meal.

  • Where to find it: Chilaquiles are easy to find at breakfast spots in more touristy areas or at ‘loncherias’ – affordable neighborhood restaurants serving up local favorites.

6. Marquesitas: The Peninsula’s Favorite Sweet Treat

  • WOTW rating: 3/5

The sweet and savory Marquesitas served from street carts around the Peninsula are a local favorite. They are one of the beloved Yucatan foods you will find everywhere you go!

The crispy and ultra-light wafers are traditionally filled with Edam cheese (Queso de Bola) and rolled up like a cheesy cigar. The sweet dough mixed with savory cheese is an excellent option if you don’t want an ultra-sweet snack while wandering around town. 

But don’t worry if a cheese-filled wafer doesn’t sound like your thing. Marquesitas can also be filled with Nutella, jams, peanut butter and banana (though these options aren’t exactly the local way).

  • Where to find it: Marquesitas can be spotted in every town square throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. Just look for people munching on this street food near busy areas and keep your eye out for the little Marquesita carts.

7. Pozole: Hearty Yucatan Pork Soup

Pozole Mexican Soup
  • WOTW rating: 4/5

This traditional and hearty soup is perfect if you want to fill your belly with a rich and savory soup. It is probably also a miracle cure if you are hungover – but that is not spoken from experience. And while Pozole’s origins may be from outside the region, it’s still one of the most delicious foods to try while visiting the Yucatan Peninsula.

Pozole is a pork broth filled to the brim with shredded pork, dried corn kernels (hominy), and a variety of spices. It’s usually served with fresh avocado, radishes, and shredded cabbage on top. Add the essential squirt of fresh lime, cilantro, and diced onions to bring all the goodness of traditional Mexican flavors to your Pozole.

Our DIY food-tour videos are great tools for exploring traditional Yucatecan cuisine in Cozumel, Merida and Valladolid. But if you prefer organized food tours, we recommend these highly rated options:

8. Huitlacoche: Traditional Mayan Corn Fungus

Huitlacoche Yucatan Foods To Try
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 4/5

Huitlacoche – also known as corn smut – is a type of fungus that grows on corn kernels. I know what you are thinking… ‘why the hell are you suggesting we eat corn smut while visiting Mexico?’ That’s a valid question!

We realize that Huitlacoche does not sound particularly appetizing. But this Yucatan food is actually a delicacy in this part of Mexico. It has excellent savory and earthy flavors that are delicious when featured in quesadillas, tacos or soups. Huitlacoche tastes a lot like mushrooms because it basically is a mushroom.

Definitely try this unique food the next time you’re in the Yucatan Peninsula. We promise we are not playing some sort of practical joke on you!

9. Nopales: A Somewhat Slimy, But Delicious, Meat Substitute

Nopales Mexican Ingredient
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 3.5/5

Nopales are pieces of sautéed or grilled cactus pad often served in tacos, quesadillas, or as a side dish. They have a slightly sour and salty flavor that is both delicious and super healthy!

We found Nopales to have a somewhat slimy texture, but not in a terrible way. And after eating pork for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a few days, you might decide that Nopales are the perfect way to add some of those greens that have been missing from your diet.

  • Where to find it: we tried Nopales in quesadillas at Antojitos Doña Pili in Cozumel. But you can find them in many places and even buy them in the supermarket.

Delicious Yucatan Dishes We Tried In Merida

10. Panuchos: A Perfect Yucatan Street Food

Yucatan Foods Panuchos
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

Imagine a crunchy, warm tortilla stuffed with refried beans that’s deep-fried before being topped with shredded meats, avocado, and pickled onions. That’s a Panucho!

Panuchos are an extremely popular street food in the Yucatan. You can find them everywhere, from local markets to restaurants serving up regional fare. We consider Panuchos to be in the ‘must-try’ category of Yucatan foods. The combination of traditional Yucatecan flavors served on top of a perfectly fried tortilla is something you have to experience.

The traditional way to eat Panuchos is with roasted turkey. Top it with spicy habanero sauce for a little extra kick and you will probably fall in love with this gem of Yucatecan cuisine!

11. Salbutes: Panucho’s Puffy And Delicious Cousin

Salbutes Yucatecan Dishes
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

Similar to Panuchos are the soft and fluffy Salbutes. These two Yucatan foods are always next to each other on menus, and the core ingredients are almost identical. But somehow, the experience of eating these two fabulous Yucatan street foods is totally different.

Whereas Panuchos are crunchy, the Salbut (singular) is a light and puffy tortilla. The fresh tortillas are pulled off the grill at the perfect moment when they are puffed up with air. The Salbut is then served with the meat of your choice (although turkey is again the most traditional protein type).

It’s difficult to pick a favorite between Panuchos and Salbutes, so we recommend trying both to find out for yourself!

12. Huevos Motuleños: A Flavor-Packed Yucatecan Breakfast

Huevos Motuleños Yucatan Foods
  • WOTW rating: 4/5

If you’re looking for a delicious and hearty breakfast option while in the Yucatan, look no further than Huevos Motuleños!

This dish consists of fried eggs served on a bed of freshly fried tortillas. The Huevos Motuleños are topped with white cheese crumbles, diced ham, peas, and a mild tomato-based sauce. As a bonus, the plate comes with fried plantains. Who doesn’t love fried plantains!?

Similar to Chilaquiles, this savory breakfast really packs a punch. It is totally worth trying, but don’t make any plans of climbing Mayan temples immediately after enjoying this favorite Yucatecan dish.

  • Where to find it: Huevos Motuleños are pretty easy to find at most breakfast spots, including open-air restaurants found outside of local markets and around some town squares.

13. Papadzules: Traditional Mayan Food To Try For Breakfast

Papadzules Traditional Mayan Food
  • WOTW rating: 2.5/5

Papadzules are without a doubt one of the most quintessentially Mayan foods on this list. This famous food’s origins date back to before the Spanish conquest of the region in the 1500s. Papadzules are recognized as the precursor to the infamous enchilada. We’re sure you can see the resemblance.

Papadzules are made with soft corn tortillas filled with hard-boiled eggs and covered in a traditional pumpkin-seed sauce. The rolled tortillas are finally topped with an additional tomatillo sauce and some more hard-boiled eggs for good measure.

We tried this popular breakfast food before spending the day exploring Merida, and honestly, we didn’t think it was exceptionally flavorful. But give it a try if you want a lighter, vegetarian breakfast.

  • Where to find it: local, open-air restaurants serving regional favorites will likely have Papadzules on the menu.

14. Sopa De Lima: Perfectly Delicious Sour & Savory Soup

Yucatan Foods To Try Sopa De Lima
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

Sopa de Lima (lime soup) is one of the most popular dishes in the Yucatan. This regional favorite is a chicken broth filled with all the usual suspects, including shredded chicken, onions, black pepper, and tomatoes. The broth is finished with fresh lime juice, giving Sopa de Lima its unique sour flavor.

The refreshingly sour soup is usually served with a side of fresh tortilla chips. The chips are tossed in to add a nice crunch to the dish. Make sure not to just throw them all in at once unless you like soggy chips in your soup.

  • Where to find it: most casual outdoor restaurants and those serving traditional Yucatecan cuisine will have Sopa de Lima on the menu.

15. Tacos: Non-Traditional Yucatan Food That You Still Shouldn’t Miss

Yucatan Foods The Best Tacos
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

Okay – so we already sort of touched on tacos when we discussed Cochinita Pibil, and Lechon. And even if tacos didn’t originate in the Peninsula, it’s hard not to mention them when talking about Yucatan foods. The corn tortilla has Mayan origins, so it’s not a stretch to consider them Yucatecan cuisine.

You can find many of Mexico’s iconic tacos throughout the Yucatan, including tacos al pastor, pork chop, sirloin, and more. But you can also find tacos that incorporate other traditional Yucatecan ingredients, such as Relleno Negro (number 3 on this list), Queso de Bola (number 20), and even Chaya (number 38).

  • Where to find it: taco restaurants are everywhere on the Peninsula. But head to La Terraza Amarilla in Merida to try the absolute best tacos in the Yucatan. We promise these tacos will blow your mind!

16. Mamey: Regional Fruit Perfect For Your Sweet Tooth

Yucatecan fruits
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 4/5

Sampling local produce is one of the most fun ways to discover unique foods. Mamey fruit is indigenous to the Yucatan region, and it’s definitely not something you will find at your local Trader Joe’s.

Mamey has thick brown skin and bright orange flesh resembling papaya. The fruit is ultra sweet and has a nice creamy texture that resembles fresh avocado. Ask the fruit vendors at the local market to cut the mamey in slices to easily enjoy this Yucatan food while exploring the area.

  • Where to find it: the local market!

17. Grosella With Spicy Sauce: Unusual Chili-Spiced Fruit

Yucatan Foods Grosella With Chili
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 3/5

Grosellas are another strange fruit we had never seen before visiting the Yucatan Peninsula. We stumbled upon this unfamiliar food while wandering around Merida’s large central market.

These small, round fruits can be enjoyed when not fully ripe. The unripened version is tossed with a spicy chili sauce that makes for a strangely addictive and messy on-the-go snack. Like other unripened fruits, the grosellas have an extremely sour taste. And the crunchy texture reminded me of celery.

Although the entire experience was pretty unusual, I kept finding myself reaching back in the bag for more grosellas.

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Traditional Yucatan Foods We Tried In Valladolid

18. Polcanes & Pibihuas: Hard To Find Traditional Yucatan Foods

Polcanes and Pibihuas Favorite Yucatan Foods
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

Polcanes and Pibihuas are fried corn cakes typically enjoyed with shredded pork, pickled onions, and spicy sauce. Polcan translates to ‘snake’s head’ in Mayan, and the dish was named this way because of the resemblance. However, if you ask me, Pibihuas actually look much more like a snake head.

Anyways, we first tried Polcanes in Valladolid after already being in the Yucatan Peninsula for 60 days. What a bummer – because we LOVED Polcanes and Pibihuas. They are actually in Aimara’s top 3 Yucatan dishes to try!

  • Where to find it: you are in luck if you are visiting Valladolid, because that’s where you have the best chance of finding Polcanes and Pibihuas. Sadly it’s not easy to spot them in other cities around the Yucatan.

19. Longaniza De Valladolid: A Flavor-Packed Sausage Typical To Valladolid

Longaniza de Valladolid
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

Longaniza de Valladolid is a type of sausage popular in the town of… Valladolid! Shocker, I know.

This delicious sausage is made with pork and an aggressive blend of spices. The Longaniza de Valladolid is smoked over a Mesquite wood fire, resulting in a dry and flavor-packed sausage. And while you can definitely eat it by itself, it is usually mixed with beans, eggs, and eaten in a tortilla.

We loved mixing the Longaniza de Valladolid with our scrambled eggs in the morning. This Yucatan dish is so good that we even consider buying Longaniza from a local’s home as one of the best things to do in Valladolid. Seriously – it’s that good!

20. Queso Relleno: A Cheesy Yucatan Dish

We didn’t get any great photos of Queso Relleno – but you can see the local version at minute 13:52 of the Valladolid food-tour video above.

Or just check out some Google Images of the more traditional preparation style found around Campeche.

  • WOTW rating: 3/5 (sorry Campeche)

Queso Relleno is perhaps one of the most surprising Yucatan foods on this list. Translated to ‘filled cheese,’ Queso Relleno is made using Dutch Edam cheese.

The traditional Campechano version of Queso Relleno is made by hollowing out the cheese and filling it with a stew of meat, olives, cheese, and veggies. We tried Queso Relleno while visiting Valladolid, and it was served without the ball of cheese. And while it was definitely good, we recommend trying this uniquely Yucatecan dish while visiting Campeche for the complete experience.

Nobody quite knows how this Dutch cheese became so famous in Mexico, but you will find it everywhere! Shredded Dutch cheese is used in the famous Marquesitas (number 6 on this list) and even in ice cream (number 24).

  • Where to find it: Marganazo in Campeche is the spot to try this Yucatan food served the traditional way.

21. Lomito de Valladolid: A Savory Local Favorite

Yucatan Foods From Valladolid - Lomito
  • WOTW rating: 4/5

If you’re looking for a delicious and traditional dish from the Yucatan Peninsula, look no further than Lomito de Valladolid. This dish is made with slow-cooked pork loin marinated in a spicy sauce made with achiote, orange juice, and vinegar. The lomito is typically served with refried beans, rice and a side of tortillas.

The savory pieces of pork are diced to ensure that the meat is fully infused with the rich and flavorful sauce. It is a Yucatan food absolutely worth trying after you have checked off the more popular favorites from your list!

22. Mango With Tajin: Refreshing Yucatan Street Food

  • WOTW rating: 5/5

Mango with chili powder is one of the best Yucatan foods to try as many times as possible. This street dessert is made by coating ripe mango with a mixture of chili powder, salt, and lime juice. The sweetness of the mango pairs perfectly with the spicy chili and tart lime juice to create an addicting street snack.

You will be on the hunt for the mango cart every time you leave your hotel. We even chased them down for several blocks when we had the urge for fresh mango with chili. No shame in our game!

  • Where to find it: look for mango with tajin around the main squares around the Peninsula.

23. Zac Ko’ol: Traditional Mayan Food That Tastes Like Thanksgiving

We couldn’t find a photo, but we did try this dish! Just head to minute 13:02 of the Valladolid food tour video included above!

  • WOTW rating: 4/5

Another traditional Mayan food on this list that you are unlikely to find anywhere outside the Yucatan Peninsula is Zac Ko’ol (also written as Sac Kool). We were surprised to learn that gravy-like dishes are typical of Mayan cuisine. And I couldn’t help but be reminded of Thanksgiving when tasting this local delight.

Zac Ko’ol is a white gravy made with poultry stock and corn. The rich and homey dish is served with turkey or chicken as a thick soup. We found this to be a delightfully surprising dish.

  • Where to find it: Meson del Marque in Valladolid serves up a delicious version of this dish. That said, Zac Ko’ol is not one of the easiest Yucatan foods to find.

24. Tamales: A Favorite Mexican Food To Eat In The Yucatan

Tamales Yucatecan Foods
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 3/5

Common throughout Mexico, tamales are also a breakfast staple in Yucatecan cuisine. If you are not already familiar, a tamale consists of a corn-dough mass filled with a variety of ingredients before being steamed or grilled while wrapped inside a banana leaf.

The banana leaf used to steam the tamale gives this Yucatan food a distinct flavor. The corn dough can be filled with chicken, pork, and some veggies, but the stuffing is usually pretty light. Adding a couple squirts of spicy salsa is recommended to give a kick of flavor to this filling and affordable street snack!

Tamales are a popular street food in many parts of the Yucatan Peninsula. So popular that supplies run out quickly. We stopped by the tamale ladies in Valladolid at 9 am and they were already sold out! You have been warned – get up early if you are curious about this Yucatan food.

  • Where to find it: ask around at local markets or in areas with many street-food options. You will never be too far from tamales when traveling around the Yucatan.

Save This Traditional Yucatan Foods Post For Later!

Yucatan Foods To Try While Visiting The Peninsula

Famous Yucatan Foods We Didn’t Capture On Our Food Tours

Even though we sampled many of the Yucatan foods in this section, we didn’t enjoy them as part of our food vlogs. Unfortunately there’s a limit to how much food we can fit in our bodies before a video spirals out of control.

25. Cheese Ice Cream: Campeche’s Favorite Desert

You can watch me not enjoying cheese ice cream at minute 8.09 of our Campeche travel video. We couldn’t even finish it!

  • WOTW rating: 1/5

Cheese ice cream?!?!

Yes, cheese ice cream is a real thing in the Yucatan Peninsula. And yes, it includes actual pieces of Dutch Edam cheese.

The lovely people of Campeche have a unique obsession with this mild-flavored cheese. So much so, that someone decided that cheese-flavored ice cream infused with bits of ‘Queso de Bola’ would be a good idea.

Obviously we could not miss on trying this popular Campechano dessert. But also – we didn’t like it. There was something too strange about eating cheese ice cream. But if you want to try something weird that locals swear by, go ahead and go for a cone of Queso de Bola ice cream.

  • Where to find it: La Brocha in Campeche is the famous spot in town to try this strange Yucatan dessert.

26. Mondongo: A Favorite Weekend Food In The Yucatan

  • WOTW rating: N/A (sorry, we are not tripe people)

Not gonna lie – we totally passed on trying Mondongo during our visit. Mondongo is a type of stew made with tripe, the stomach lining of cows. It’s a traditional dish in many Latin American countries, and the Yucatan region of Mexico is no exception. This weekend favorite is slow-cooked in a stew with a variety of vegetables, chili peppers, and spices and served with rice, beans, and tortillas.

Like many other iconic Yucatan foods like Cochinita Pibil and Relleno Negro, Mondongo is traditionally consumed on Sundays. Keep your eyes peeled for handwritten signs reading ‘Mondongo’ if you want more adventurous Yucatan foods to try during your visit.

  • Where to find it: almost everywhere. Just look for the signs in front of restaurants and homes indicating that there is Mondongo for sale.

27. Pollo Estilo Sinaloa: My Personal Favorite ‘Yucatan Food’

The Best Yucatan Food Pollo Estilo Sinaloa
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

Pollo Estilo Sinaloa is my personal favorite Yucatan food. I miss it almost every day of my life. Okay, not really. But the perfect combination of flavorful, affordable, and filling always hits the spot when you are ready to chow down for lunch.

As the name implies, this version of grilled chicken originates from the Mexican state of Sinaloa. But even if this isn’t precisely a Yucatan food, you will be amazed by how many places grill up this delicious meal around the Peninsula.

Pollo Estilo Sinaloa is made with chicken marinated in a spicy red sauce before being grilled to perfection. The chicken is served with fresh corn tortillas, spicy salsas, rice, pickled onions, and sometimes… spaghetti? We usually skipped on the pasta side dish, but we firmly stand by the quality of the rest of this dish.

28. Helado de Elote: Mexican Corn Ice Cream

  • WOTW rating: N/A

Helado de Elote, or corn ice cream, is a must-try Yucatan dessert. It’s an excellent option whenever you’re ready to step away from the churros and try something a little more exotic. This local favorite is made with traditional Mayan corn and topped with Cajeta, a caramel made from goat’s milk.

29. Botanas: Mexican Tapas Served At Your Favorite Cantina

Cantina botanas in the Yucatan
  • WOTW rating: 4/5 (quality varies)

Did you know that if you go to a traditional Mexican cantina and order drinks they will give you free food? Neither did we until coming to the Yucatan Peninsula! Botanas are essentially Mexican tapas that are served after you order a round of cold adult beverages.

And yes, botanas are typical across Mexico. But the cantina experience with mini plates of botanas shouldn’t be missed if you come to this region. So forgive us for putting them on a list of best Yucatan foods.

The types of food served as botanas varies by cantina. And they generally get better the more you order (I smell a challenge). We enjoyed diced pork chops, pumpkin-seed dips, radish salads, spicy potatoes, and more. And we never ordered more than two rounds. Imagine the possibilities!

  • Where to find it: Cantina La Joyita in Valladolid and Rincon Colonial in Campeche were our favorite cantinas. Some can look a bit intimidating, but don’t be afraid to walk through those swinging doors.

30. Poc Chuc: Marinated Pork Chops

Aimara eating Poc Chuc in Merida
  • WOTW rating: 3.5/5

Poc Chuc is a popular dish found on menus all across the Yucatan Peninsula. This local favorite includes grilled pork served with lime, onions, cilantro, and the ever-present side of fresh tortillas. The pork is marinated in a special blend of spices and citrus before being tossed on the grill.

We don’t consider Poc Chuc one of our favorite Yucatan foods. But it is effortless to find and probably somewhat healthier than many other regional dishes. Poc Chuc may be a good option if you are looking for something grilled and mild-flavored.

  • Where to find it: most traditional restaurants will have Poc Chuc on the menu. Although we don’t think its popularity is totally deserved, it is one of the most accessible Yucatan foods.

31. Escabeche Oriental: Another One Of Valladolid’s Favorite Foods

  • WOTW rating: N/A

Valladolid punches above its weight when it comes to cooking up its very own local specialties. Escabeche Oriental (also known as ‘Pavo en Escabeche’) is a favorite dish proudly served in the beautiful colonial town of Valladolid.

Escabeche Oriental is a flavorful stew that marries tangy, smokey, and spicy flavors. The Valladolid favorite is traditionally made with turkey. However, today it is more likely that you will encounter it being prepared with chicken as the main protein.

This savory dish is loaded with black pepper, pickled onions, and fresh white onions. The ingredients combine to form a delicious medley of smokey, tangy and spicy flavors you will be sure to love!

  • Where to find it: going to Valladolid is a good start if you are curious about enjoying this traditional Yucatan food.

32. Mexican Empanadas: The North Coast’s Favorite Treat

Yucatecan Empanadas
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

The glorious empanada is king on the Yucatan’s north coast. But don’t mistake the Yucatecan version of this dish with fancy Argentinean empanadas. These bad boys are cheap, deep fried, and best enjoyed with only the essentials. Try them with either shredded chicken, ground beef, cheese, sausage and/or egg. And definitely top it off with habanero sauce and pickled onions!

The fried Mexican empanada is so simple, yet so satisfying. We literally ate them three days in a row while visiting Isla Holbox. It didn’t hurt that each one cost less than a dollar. We didn’t like Isla Holbox, but we loved their empanadas!

  • Where to find it: you can find Mexican empanadas around Cozumel, Cancun and Isla Holbox. But we also don’t think Holbox is the best place to visit.

33. Dulce de Papaya: A Very Sweet Treat

  • WOTW rating: 3/5

Dulce de Papaya is one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most popular desserts. This ultra-sweet treat is dessert or candy made from the not-yet-ripe papaya. The green papaya is boiled in sugar and water. Once the boiled fruit has cooled, it is coated in caramel for good measure, and voilà, you have Dulce de Papaya.

  • Where to find it: we didn’t really have our eyes peeled for Dulce de Papaya during our travels, but we did run into it at Las Campanas in Valladolid. It’s best to ask around if you are very eager to satisfy your sweet tooth.

34. Kibis: A Middle-Eastern Influenced Beach Snack

Yucatn cuisine kibis
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 3.5/5

Kibis is the Mexican version of one of our absolute favorite Turkish foods – içli kofte. There is a strong Lebanese influence in Mexican cuisine, which also explains the cooking method used for the ultra-famous tacos al pastor. Doesn’t the vertical spit remind you of how doner kebab and shawarma are prepared?

Anyways, Kibis is a type of fritter traditionally filled with ground meat, onions, and spices. The Kibis can also be stuffed with meat and cheese or simply cheese. The snack food has a perfectly satisfying crunch, while the inside is a delicious blend of savory ingredients.

  • Where to find it: Kibis is a popular beach snack. They are also found being sold in little glass boxes around major cities. We mostly saw this Yucatan food around Merida and Cancun.

35. Brazo de Reina: Another Traditional Mayan Food Made With Superfoods

  • WOTW rating: N/A

Brazo de Reina is another food that can be considered traditional Mayan cuisine. This one-of-a-kind Yucatan food blends traditional Mayan ingredients and cooking methods. The dish includes chaya (Mayan spinach), pumpkin-seed sauce, and the favorite hard-boiled eggs. The ingredients are mixed in a corn dough and steamed in a banana leaf, giving it a light and fluffy texture.

If the cooking method sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Brazo de Reina is essentially a type of Tamal that incorporates the Yucatan’s favorite ingredients. The final product is served in thick slices and topped with a rich tomato sauce. So while it is a close cousin to familiar Tamal (number 23 on this list of Yucatan Foods), the flavors and experience of eating Brazo de Reina are totally unique.

Note that this unique dish is also known by the Mayan name – Dzotobichay.

  • Where to find it: this dish is quite rare. Finding it may require going to restaurants that specialize in traditional Yucatecan cuisine.

Traditional Mayan Drinks To Try

Yucatan foods aren’t the only things worth trying while visiting the region. There are also a traditional Mayan drinks that are worth discovering. Don’t forget to try the Yucatan’s favorite beverages!

36. Hot Chocolate: A Mayan Drink Fit For The Gods

Mayan Drinks Hot Chocolate
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 4/5

Cocoa has been revered by the Mayan culture for centuries. ‘Xocolatl,’ meaning ‘bitter water’ in Mayan, is the origin of the word chocolate. How about that for fun facts?!?

The traditional version of this Mayan drink blends crushed cocoa and spices with hot water. This rich and frothy beverage is less sweet than the childhood chocolate milk many of us are familiar with. That’s because the Mayans didn’t cultivate sugar, so the bitter and spicy flavors dominate this local hot chocolate.

  • Where to find it: there are many chocolate museums around the Yucatan Peninsula that describe the history of cocoa in the region. And, of course, they let you try hot chocolate prepared the traditional Mayan way!

37. Xtabentun: Traditional Mayan Alcoholic Drink

Xtabentun Mayan Drinks To Try
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 4/5

Looking for some alcoholic Mayan drinks to spice up your vacation? Look no further than Xtabentun. Pronounced ‘iksh – tah – ben – tun.’ Commonly enjoyed as an after-dinner drink, Xtabentun is made with honey from the Mayan stingless bee. How cool?!?

The fermented honey used to make this Xtabentun produces an excellent anise-flavored liqueur. If you like Greek Ouzo or Turkish Raki, this local alcoholic drink might be right up your alley.

It is typical to serve Xtabentun neat over ice. Give this traditional Mayan drink a try after going out for a nice dinner of local Yucatan cuisine because, well, why not?

  • Where to find it: most bars with decent-sized liquor shelves will serve Xtabentun. It is also easy to find at liquor stores if you want to commit to the entire bottle.

38. Chaya: Mayan Superfood To Add To Your Yucatan Drinks (Or Foods)

Mayan drinks Chaya
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 3.5/5

Chaya is a leafy green vegetable popular in the Yucatan region of Mexico. This superfood is used in many local dishes, including soups, stews, and tacos. And this traditional Mayan ingredient is also added to juices to make them healthier and give them a unique flavor.

Mixing blended chaya with pineapple juice is a favorite way to enjoy this traditional ingredient. The result is a refreshing and vitamin-packed Yucatan drink. The sweet pineapple juice compliments the chaya’s slightly bitter taste to deliver a somewhat surprisingly satisfying beverage.

Known locally as ‘Agua de Chaya con Piña,’ this beverage falls into the category of ‘Aguas Frescas.’ Aguas Frescas are beloved juice drinks consumed throughout Mexico. Look for this adaptation of traditional Mayan drinks at your favorite taqueria around the Peninsula!

39. Horchata: Refreshing Mayan Drink Perfect On A Hot Day

Horchata Mayan Drinks
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 3.5/5

Horchata is another traditional Mayan drink that you have to try. The sweet and refreshing beverage is found throughout Mexico, Guatemala, and Spain. However, the version made with rice has Mayan origins. ‘Horchata de Arroz’ (rice-based Horchata) is one of the traditional flavors for the ubiquitous ‘Aguas Frescas’ sold at local restaurants.

Horchata is made by soaking and blending rice and mixing it with milk and sugar before topping it with cinnamon. It is a perfect beverage to cool you down during the steamy days around this part of Mexico. Add a bit of coconut to enjoy this Mayan drink with a Yucatecan twist.

  • Where to find it: you will find Horchata at most local restaurants throughout the Yucatan Peninsula.

40. Montejo: The Yucatan Peninsula’s Favorite Beer

Montejo Beer In The Yucatan Peninsula
  • WOTW rating: 4/5

If Aguas Frescas are not exactly Mayan, then Montejo beer is definitely not at all Mayan. It’s not like historical records indicate that the Mayans were drinking cold ones before the arrival of the Europeans. And to make matters worse, Montejo is actually the name of the conquistador family that conquered the Yucatan. But here we are, putting it on a list of Mayan drinks in the Yucatan.

If I may, Montejo is the signature beer of the Yucatan Peninsula. And it also happened to be one of my favorite national beers that we tried during our extended visit to the region. And that’s all I got for my defense! Be sure to ask for an ice-cold Montejo if you want to cool down with a distinctly Yucatecan beer.

  • Where to find it: Montejo isn’t served everywhere, but most places on the mainland (so not Cozumel) serve the Yucatan’s favorite local beer.

Final Thoughts On The Best Yucatan Foods & Drinks To Try

The Yucatan Peninsula is home to some of the best food in Mexico. We can confidently stand by that statement. And there are so many unique Yucatan foods waiting for hungry travelers to try. From traditional Mayan food like Papadzules to the iconic Cochinita Pibil, the incredible flavors of the Yucatan Peninsula will have you coming back for more!

Be sure to save this list of delicious Yucatan foods for when you are ready to explore this amazing part of Mexico.

Thanks for reading!


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Home » Food » 40 Yucatan Foods & Drinks You’ve Never Heard Of (With Videos)

2 thoughts on “40 Yucatan Foods & Drinks You’ve Never Heard Of (With Videos)”

  1. This is a helpful article, and I will take it with me when I visit Yucatan. However, the statement that horchata is a traditional Mayan drink and that rice horchata has Mayan origins makes me skeptical about the accuracy of statements about Mayan origin througout. Rice is not native to the new world, and horchata was well known in northern Africa and Spain before the arrival of Spaniards in the new world. It’s simply not plausible that rice horchata is a traditional Mayan drink.

    1. Gordon Letschert

      Hey Tim, thanks for your message. You are correct that rice is not native to the new world and that it was brought to the Yucatan by the Spanish. I am no expert in Horchata, but the research that I did on this beverage led to me to understand that the rice-based version of this drink is, in fact, Yucatecan. You can read here: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/history-of-horchata#:~:text=While%20the%20Mexican%20version%20of,(drink%20made%20with%20barley).
      And not to argue semantics – but something can be traditional even if it’s not original. So if the Mayans have been producing a version of horchata for centuries, it can be traditional – even if the origins are Spanish.
      Thanks – enjoy your time in the Yucatan!

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