Yucatan Food: What to Eat and Where to Find It [updated 2020]

January 8, 2014

Apparently, mom was right — my eyes ARE bigger than my stomach!  Still, I gave it a good go as I scoffed my way through my recent trip through the Yucatán, stuffing myself with the fantastic Yucatan food.

yucatan food

From the colonial cities of Merida, Valladolid, Izamal, San Pedro Nophat, Kanasín to the Gulf beach towns of Progreso and Telchec, to the tourist city of Cancun… I enjoyed the regional Yucatan food, local Mayan specialties, and traditional Mexican cuisines.  Here are some examples… which ones look good to you?

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Salbutes, empanadas, and flan

Yucatan food

Hacienda Teya, Merida

This was probably the best Yucatan food that I consumed in this part of Mexico, especially the salbutes, which are an authentic Yucatán specialty.  They are small, puffed, deep-fried tortilla topped with pulled pork, chopped cabbage, tomato, pickled red onion, avocado, and pickled jalapeno pepper.

Here are places to stay in Merida.

Filete de Yucatán

Yucatan Pork

Kinich, Izamal

Pork fillet marinated in tamarind seeds and chile peppers and sour orange then sautéed and served with pickled onions and black beans.

Here are places to stay in Izamal.

Tamale and chaya drink

Yucatan Tamale

La Susana, Kanasin

The huge tamale was an appetizer shared by our table.  Chaya is a drink made from spinach, considered to be refreshing by local Karen Kruse, however, not by me.


If you love sweet, juicy fruit, you’ll find plenty in Mexico. Guava, papaya, and pitaya are just a few of the many, tasty Mexican fruits to enjoy.


Yucatan Churro

downtown Kanasin square

Who doesn’t like donuts?  These deep-fried treats are crisp and coated liberally with cinnamon sugar.  I have to admit, I ate the whole bag while walking around the Mexicana fiesta of local music and art on Saturday.  I didn’t even share.

Ice Cream

Yucatan IceCream

Plaza Grande, Merida

Not a specialty Yucatan food, but by now, nearly everyone in the world knows my appetite for ice cream.  I plan to eat ice cream around the world.

Jalapeño nachos


La Exquina, Merida

The nachos at this little eatery located right on Merida’s fashionable, tree-lined Paseo de Montejo were good, but the margaritas were phenomenal.  Close second to Hussong’s in Baja, where they originated.  That’s saying something.



Eladio’s, Progreso Beach

A burrito, delicately fried to a satisfying crunch and filled with shredded beef, cheese, salsa, and sour cream.  Unlike the Tex-Mex version, Eladio’s chimichangas are not filled and folded over before deep-frying, but just folded over.  Messy to eat, but delicious.

Here are places to stay in Progreso.

Street Tacos

Yucatan food


No English is spoken at this cafeteria-style eatery in Valladolid, and I’m still not sure exactly what kind of meat was in these tacos!

Here are places to stay in Valladolid.

Chorizo quesadillas and the mother of all margaritas

Yucatan food

Carlos ‘n Charlie’s, Cancun


The quesadillas were good, the margaritas were weak but who cares?  Carlos ‘n Charlies is my favorite place to go in the evening in Cancun.  What can I say? I’m partial to dancing on my chair!

Here are places to stay in Cancun.

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About the Author

Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.”  Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal.  She has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.


  1. Comment by Nancie

    Nancie Reply February 4, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Everything looks delicious! I remember eating a version of those street tacos when I was in Cabo. We practically drooled on the grill!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 4, 2014 at 8:10 pm

      Haven’t been to Baja for a couple of years, but the street tacos throughout the whole Baja peninsula were wonderful!

  2. Comment by Suzanne Fluhr

    Suzanne Fluhr Reply February 4, 2014 at 5:27 am

    Looks like you did some serious research into Yucatecan cuisine 😉 Everything looked like something I’d like to try except for the pathetic fact that having chile in anything ruins it for me. If there’s chile (no matter how mild), all I can taste is the chile. Fortunately, I can speak Spanish and can explain to waiters in Spanish speaking countries that when I say “Por favor sin chile” — I mean NO chile. Nada. Then they wonder why I can speak Spanish if I won’t eat even a little chile. (I would like to point out that I also speak fluent English (it’s my native tongue even), but this did not help in New Mexico where the concept of “no chile” apparently does not exist.). Fortunately, I can eat a very Yucatecan dish sin problema — Pollo Pibil. Did you have any? Tasty without chile!!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 4, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      Most of the time the Yucatan dishes are served with a small dish of green pureed habanero peppers on the side, unless you specifically order or ask for a spicy dish. So no problemo for you!

  3. Comment by Irene S. Levine

    Irene S. Levine Reply February 3, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    These look yummy! My favorite Yucatan dish is pork pebil.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 3, 2014 at 8:34 pm

      They have to many delicious pork dishes! It’s my favorite thing to eat there.

  4. Comment by Jerome Shaw

    Jerome Shaw Reply February 3, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Your post definitely made me hungry and the last photo made me thirsty. It looks like a great trip. I’ve visited the Yucatan but hope I get the chance one day.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 3, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      Lol! You should definitely go — great eats, great sights, safe, and affordable. Winning combination, huh?

  5. Comment by Marilyn Jones

    Marilyn Jones Reply February 3, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Such a fun read! …and informative.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 3, 2014 at 8:32 pm

      Thank you! Put it on your bucket list — you won’t be disappointed!

  6. Comment by santafetraveler

    santafetraveler Reply February 3, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    That all looks so good- made me hungry. Would love to do that sometime!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 3, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      I definitely recommend it — there’s so much to do (and eat) in the Yucatan!

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