Cooking Mayan Dishes in Mexico | Living

A few weeks before Christmas, my cousin and his wife, Stephen and Elaine Boyd contacted me via FaceTime and invited me to Mérida, Mexico.

They are expatriates who live in Mexico half the year. They offered my mom a trip 10 years ago when they were originally looking into real estate. My mother passed away a year and a half ago. So they invited me back for an expense paid trip to Mexico. It was quite a 10 day adventure filled with beaches, pyramids, museums, ecotourism and restaurants.

As part of my trip, I took two local Mayan cooking classes with my cousin and his wife. The food in the region is fresh, herbaceous with sauces and grilled meats. The first class I took was the Sharing Traditions Culinary Experiences Market Tour and Cooking Class. In the first part of this tour, we walked from the charming boutique hotel Merida Santiago through Merida’s oldest neighborhood to the market where we had a wonderful explanation of the ingredients you can buy there and the process making tortillas.

During the walk, we learned about the culture of this historic neighborhood, learned that the Marquesitta, a Yucatan snack, was invented here, had some street food, and drank hot chocolate at Cafe Montejo with a cute courtyard. Cocoa is a Mayan invention and chocolate drinks were used in rituals and special events by the Maya. We also visited one of the oldest churches in the new world. When we returned to the Merida Santiago Hotel Boutique, we prepared a five course meal under the direction of Chef Maria Jose Dominguez Cruz. Chef Majo, short for Marie Jose, is 100% Yucateca and grew up with traditional Mayan cuisine. She went to college and holds a “Licenciado en Gastronomía” degree and is the head chef at Johannes Comfort Food and Bar.

Three of the recipes we had for this extravagant lunch are below: Tikin-Xic—fish marinated in achiote with herbs and vegetables and Polcanes/Chayitas—Chaya tortillas filled with a mixture of seasoned lima beans and Recado Rojo/Anchiote Paste—a spicy pepper condiment and a touch of Dzikil Pak (a local pumpkin seed dip, wonderful to dip with tortillas).

The second class was with Chef Erin Gomez Danielson. I cooked with her at her bed-and-breakfast and at Casa Misterio Merida. She was a wonderful hostess and cooking instructor, telling me about native fruits, vegetables and meats. She also told me her personal story of how she came to Merida, Mexico from California. She was a chef in California where she met her now husband who worked at the restaurant where she worked. They fell in love. Her husband, originally from Merida, Mexico, moved back to Mexico and purchased and remodeled their current home. After three long years together, they got married in what is now their living room. Chef Erin studied Mayan cuisine with her friend Susi Noh Un and her daughter, Laura. She also admitted to learning an array of dishes from many vendors in the city market. She showed me how to prepare a six-course meal, which included Chaya leaves and local honey that the area is known for. I’ve included his recipe for Sikil Pak – pumpkin seed and tomato dip/condiment. This condiment was my favorite, it was good on everything.

The cooking classes were a wonderful compliment to a beautiful city. Merida, Mexico, the capital of the state of Yucatán is beautiful all year round, rarely dipping into the 50°F. Although Mérida is considered urban, it is also considered one of the safest cities in the Mexico by CEO World Magazine in 2019 and readers of Conde Nash Traveler magazine ranked Mérida as the third best city in the world in 2020. It’s a wonderful place off the beaten path. to visit in Mexico. There are many sights in and around Mérida, but taking a local Mayan cooking class is a treat. The food is very nutritious, highlighting pumpkin seeds, honey, chaya leaves (similar to spinach, but more nutritious), and wild game meat. These cooking classes are available on Airbnb’s website under “Experiences”. They are called “Merida Market Tour and Cooking Class, Sunset Dinner, Yucatán Cooking Class and Lunch” and “Plant-based Pueblo Cooking From Scratch: Cooking Experience hosted by Erin”.


2 servings 4 people


160g corn dough

Toksel (filling)

50 g of ibes (white beans)

10g chives

10g coriander

2 tablespoons pepita (pumpkin seed powder)


1 Boil the ibes until tender

2. Finely chop the chives and coriander

3. Place the pepita, ibes, cilantro and chives in a bowl.

4. Heat some stones (perfectly washed) on the stove

5. Place the stones in a bowl and cover with another bowl Shake for 20-30 seconds. Season.

6. Form 4 balls of dough (about 40 g) flatten and place the toksel (garnish) in the center

7. Close and form a small chubby tortilla. Fry at 160ºC -180ºC for about 5-10 min. It can be served with tomato sauce and cabbage leaves.


2 servings


2 fish fillets

30g. Achiote Paste

2 sour oranges

1 bell pepper

¼ white onion

½ tomato




Dissolve the paste in the sour orange juice. Cover the fish with this mixture. Leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Cut the vegetables into slices. In a special grill, place the fillets and top with the vegetables, season. Close the grate and place over the coals for about 10 minutes on each side or until the inside reaches 60 degrees Celsius. Remove the fish from the grill and serve.


500g approx.


1350g annatto seeds

5 g cloves

30g black pepper

10g cumin

10 g flat pepper or Tabasco

10g dried oregano

60g of salt

30g garlic

1 kg bitter orange


Roasted garlic. Squeeze the oranges. Place the dry ingredients in the juice and leave for 30-60 minutes to soften a bit. Pass all the ingredients through the mill until a paste is obtained Store in a tupperware or cover with plastic wrap. Keep refrigerated.


(approximate amounts to make about 3 cups)

Boiled tomatoes (6)

Ground toasted pepita chica (1 cup)

Coriander (1 bunch)



1. Blend cooked tomatoes with little or no added liquid in a blender or crush thoroughly with a mortar and pestle

2. Add ground pepita, chopped coriander and salt to taste

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