Cozumel Cooking

Cooking in Cozumel:  Mayan Recipes by Laura Wilkinson

As a long-term resident of the island, and a budding “foodie”  I was really surprised to learn just how influenced the

Photo Courtesy of Kondesa Culinary Workshop

Photo Courtesy of Kondesa Culinary Workshop

island’s food is by what has been deemed traditional Mayan cooking.  Take for example this article from National Geographic on some of the most popular foods of the Mayan world.

Most people are familiar with the Maya claim to chocolate and avocados, but I was surprised to discover that they are also credited with Jamaica and Horchata water as well as the Michelada preparation for beer.  Perhaps some of the best places to sample these dishes are at local eateries, family-owned restaurants, and, of course cantinas, however, due to their simplistic yumminess many of them can easily be recreated at home.

The Maya created the system of Milpa-style  planting, which is has been used throughout Mesoamerica but is credited with originating in the Yucatan Peninsula.   Milpas are a very efficient planting system that produce a high-crop ratio using very little land, and they traditionally are composed of corn, beans, pumpkin, and chile, as well as other plantings.  Many of these items serve as the backbone for their cuisine.

One of my favorite Maya-style snacks is Sikil P’ak (pronounced Sill- kill – pack)  a dip made of pureed pumpkin seeds, and is oftentimes served with crunchy fried corn tortillas and accompanied by a very spicy habanero sauce.

You can find a recipe for Sikil P’ak here,  which involves toasting and grinding the pumpkin seeds yourself.  If you are here in Cozumel, another, and perhaps easier alternative is to head to Mercado Municipal where the pumpkin seeds can be found already ground into a powder.  Using this process, one needs only to add water (or even chicken stock) to create a paste.  You can then add chopped tomatoes, onions and cilantro to your liking.  If you’re feeling adventurous you can make a fiery habanero sauce such as my go to sauce, listed below.


Roasted Habanero Hot Sauce

This sauce is extremely hot and should be used in small doses at first.  It’s a great way to pre-heat  a grill for a cook-out as well.  There are many different variations of this salsa, including using bitter orange, vinegar or oil.


5 – 7 habanero chiles (stems removed)

½ of a white onion, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Salt to taste

Place all ingredients inside aluminum foil, creating a nice sealed envelope and place on the grill (or stovetop)  roast the envelope for approximately 3 minutes on each side.  Open one side of envelope and place in food processor or molcajete (a traditional mortar & pestle). Grind and adjust seasonings, especially lime, to taste.

Note:  Be careful of eyes and nasal passages when opening the aluminum foil envelope.

Cocinando en Cozumel: recetas maya, por Laura Wilkinson

Como residente de la Isla desde hace mucho e incipiente aficionada al buen comer, verdaderamente me sorprendió

Photo Courtesy of Kondesa Culinary Workshop

Photo Courtesy of Kondesa Culinary Workshop

enterarme cuánta influencia de la que se considera cocina maya tradicional hay en la comida de la Isla. Tomen como ejemplo este artículo de National Geographic acerca de algunos de los alimentos más populares del mundo maya.

La mayoría de las personas saben que los mayas se atribuyen el chocolate y los aguacates; pero me asombró descubrir que también se atribuyen el agua de Jamaica y la de horchata, así como la preparación de la michelada para la cerveza. Posiblemente los mejores sitios para probar estos platillos son los restaurantes locales y, claro está, las cantinas. No obstante, sus ricos y sencillos sabores pueden prepararse en casa.

Los mayas crearon el sistema de cultivo en milpa, el cual se ha utilizado en todo Mesoamérica pero sus orígenes se presumen en la Península de Yucatán. Las milpas son un sistema de cultivo muy eficiente que produce una elevada proporción de cultivo utilizando muy poco terreno. Dichos cultivos tradicionalmente se componen de maíz, frijol, calabaza, chile y otros. Muchos de éstos productos son el pilar de su cocina. Una de mis botanas estilo maya favoritas es el Sikil P’ak ( se pronuncia si-kill-pack) que es un aderezo hecho de semillas de pepita de calabaza que en ocasiones se acompaña de totopos y una salsa muy picante de habanero.


Aquí pueden encontrar la receta del Sikil P’ak, que implica que usted tueste y muela las pepitas e calabaza. Si se encuentra en Cozumel, otra receta que, posiblemente, sea una alternativa más sencilla es ir al mercado municipal donde pueden adquirir las pepitas ya molidas. Usando este proceso, se necesita agregar agua (o caldo de pollo) para crear una pasta. Después agregue los tomates, cebolla y cilantro a su discreción. Si son muy intrépidos, pueden preparar una salsa picante de habanero como mi propia salsa que a continuación encontrarán.


Salsa picante de habanero asado

Esta salsa es extremadamente picante y al principio deben usarse dosis pequeñas. Es una gran forma de precalentado de una parrilla. Existen muchas variaciones de esta salsa, incluyendo agregarle naranja agria, vinagre o aceite.

5 a 7 chiles habanero (retirar el tallo)

½ cebolla blanca

jugo de un limón

Sal al gusto

Coloque los ingredientes dentro de una hoja de aluminio, haciendo un sobre bien cerrado y colóquelo sobre la parrilla (o estufa); asen el sobre aproximadamente 3 minutos de cada lado. Abran un extremo del sobre y coloquen el interior dentro del procesador de alimentos o molcajete. Muelan y ajusten los condimentos, especialmente el limón, al gusto. Nota: tengan mucho cuidado con los ojos y la nariz especialmente al abrir el  sobre de papel aluminio

Laura Wilkinson

Author at Cozumel 4 You
Laura Wilkinson is the Editor for Cozumel 4 You. An ex-Connecticut Yankee who has called Cozumel home for over 15 years, Laura ran away to the Caribbean years ago, bumped around the islands teaching SCUBA diving, lost some time in Jamaica, and finally stopped in Cozumel for a 2 week vacation that hasn’t ended yet. With a degree in Journalism from a fancy private college she convinced her parents to pay for, Laura writes, edits, and creates the weekly Cozumel 4 You news, promotional articles about the island, and her very own blog, which she finds hilarious. Her long suffering husband, the Fabster, has long since resigned himself to having zero private life, as he’s been involved in her various schemes and plots since his arrival. Proud parents to a variety of rescue dogs and cats, Laura continues to be the bane of her traditional Mexican mother-in-law’s existence, as she muses her way through life in the Mexican Caribbean.

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