The best local Mexican food to try in Cancun range from decadent desserts to deep-fried eggy breakfasts and steamy lime-infused soups. If you’re tired of ordinary old tacos and perhaps bored of burritos, then you can consider sinking your teeth into these delectable local delicacies instead.

    Not only are the traditional dishes of Quintana Roo to die for, but they offer a fascinating insight into Yucatan culture, too. To tantalize your taste buds on your next trip to Cancun, we’ve made a list of the top tempting local dishes in the region. Feel free to lather a generous serving of Salsa De Chile Habanero (a local sauce) on top if you like to keep things a little piquante.

    1

    Tamal Torteado de Pollo

    Cancun’s local version of the tamale

    Tamal Torteado de Pollo is the Quintana Roo rendition of the much-loved Mexican treat. If you’re unfamiliar with the humble tamale, it’s a traditional Mesoamerican snack of corn dough stuffed with tasty ingredients – think veggies, meat, chillies, cheese, and a tangy sauce.

    The mouthwatering morsel is wrapped up in a banana or corn leaf and slowly steamed to lock in the flavour. Toss the leaf before devouring its contents, or spread it out flat to use as a makeshift plate. The Quintana Roo version typically contains chicken, onion, garlic, epazote, pepper, and a delicious achiote-infused sauce.

    2

    Shrimp ceviche

    A raw seafood staple in Cancun and beyond

    Ceviche is the number one seafood staple in Mexico (as well as Latin America on the whole), and the Cancunenses adore this tangy, raw-fish dish. Rather than cooking up a sea creature in a pot, the chef marinates it in citrus juice, typically lime. Left to simmer for about an hour, the acid content cures the seafood, rendering it entirely safe to eat. The cook throws a generous serving of cilantro, onion, peppers, and tomato on top to bring out the flavours.

    Cancun has access to a wide array of crustaceans and fish, with multiple marine and freshwater species to select from. Shrimp ceviche is the most traditional option in the city, which comes topped with tortilla chips or saltine crackers.

    3

    Castacan

    A cheese-infused pork belly taco

    Castacan is a scrumptious cheese-laden pork belly taco devoured en masse in Cancun and throughout the Yucatan. Hard and crispy on the outside and soft and succulent within, the pork belly filling is divine. But what makes this dish especially decadent is the added layer of shredded cheese, which melts into the pores of the pork to bind the taco together.

    As you might’ve guessed, this calorific concoction isn’t too good for the waistline. But after sampling one of the juicy, tender treats of this dish from Cancun, we’re confident you’ll agree it’s worth the impending sense of guilt.

    4

    Cochinita Pibil

    A suckling pig pulled pork taco with a twist

    Cochinita Pibil is a mouthwatering pulled pork taco infused with tangy sauces and spices to give it a distinct Yucatan kick. Traditional to the Peninsula and popular in Cancun, it’s a must for pork aficionados in the region.

    Cochinita Pibil contains pulled suckling pig left to marinade for hours in an acidic mix of annatto seed, achiote paste, red onions, and habanero peppers. Some vendors wrap the delicacy up in a giant banana leaf to lock in the flavour. Others will serve it on a fresh bread roll. Whichever way you like it, it’s simply among the best local Mexican food to try in Cancun.

    5

    Chilaquiles

    A soft tortilla nacho-like breakfast dish

    Chilaquiles is a nacho-like mix of crispy fried tortilla chips smothered in sauce and often regarded as the ‘breakfast of champions’ in Cancun. Street stalls and sit-down restaurants serve this local favourite throughout the city – it’s a fun and filling way to kick-start the day.

    Choose the red sauce if you’d rather something mild, or brave the spicy green salsa to crank up the level of hotness a notch. Most places offer the option of adding onions, cheese, refried beans, and sour cream on top. Sound familiar? The dish is super similar to nachos. The main difference is the soft (instead of hard) tortilla chips you scoff down with a fork.

    6

    Sopa de Lima

    A citrusy soup with spices and a sprinkling of meat

    Sopa de Lima is a Cancun favourite and a brilliant choice when you want something light. The traditional Yucatan dish is a citrus-infused broth with a sprinkling of meat on top: chicken, pork, or turkey.

    An eclectic selection of herbs and spices gives the soup an exotic touch, with ingredients like garlic, oregano, and sweet chilli throw into the mix. But the prominent flavour, of course, is the lime, which adds a tangy citrus twist that goes down a treat on a hot day. Expect to find a side serving of tortilla chips or freshly baked bread to mop up the leftover liquid.

    7

    Panucho

    A traditional chicken taco packed full of fresh vegetables

    A panucho is the classic Yucatan taco, chock-full of pulled chicken (or turkey), plus a generous slathering of refried beans. You’ll find plenty of veggies in this stuffed tortilla treat, too. Choose from cabbage, tomato, lettuce, onion, avocado, and perhaps even some pickled jalapeños.

    Keep an eye out for panucherias around Cancun, who do a roaring trade in the evening when friends and families come out to eat. Most Mexicans wash down the delicacy with a big cup of refresco (soda). If you think the dish is similar to salbutes, then you’re spot on. The only difference is the latter is less crispy and doesn’t feature refried beans.

    8

    Papadzules

    Enchiladas, Yucatan style

    Papadzules are the Yucatan take on enchiladas – you get a row of corn tortillas bathed in pumpkin seed sauce and stuffed with cheese, pork or chicken, and hardboiled eggs. A garnish of spicy tomato pepper sauce is slathered on top to add an extra kick. Careful, this dish can be hot.

    Some food historians believe papadzules date back to pre-Hispanic times, with ancient Mayans once feasting on the treat. Although there’s fierce debate about the dish’s origins, the common consensus is that it inspired the modern-day enchilada.

    9

    Huevos Motuleños

    A traditional Yucatan breakfast dish

    Huevos Motuleños is a delicious breakfast dish devoured throughout the Peninsula and further afield (including Cuba and Costa Rica). Traditionally, the meal consists of 2 fried eggs, black beans, tortillas, a sprinkling of cheese, and a spicy sauce. Some chefs throw in sliced ham, plantains, or peas to add extra oomph.

    The name “Motuleños” stems from the Yucatan town of Mutal, where the dish originates. Although it’s most commonly scoffed down at breakfast, feel free to snack on these yummy morsels any time of day.

    10

    Marquesita

    A crepe-like creation that’s ideal for dessert

    A Marquesita is the Mexican version of a crêpe, and it’s just as delicious as its famous French counterpart. Street stalls selling the sweet or savoury delicacy abound throughout Cancun – and the Yucatan – so you shouldn’t have to search long to wrap your lips around one of these.

    Grated Edam cheese or peanut butter are popular options for those craving something savoury. Sweet tooths will be spoilt for choice, with everything from Nutella to jam with whipped cream and caramel sauce on offer. Whatever you order, watching the vendor prepare the snack with their purpose-built waffle iron is all part of the fun.

    Harry Stewart | Contributing Writer

    Start planning your trip

    Why book with Hotels.com?

    COVID-19 Travel Alert

    Attractions and experiences recommended in our guides may be affected. Please check local guidance before you travel.

    Back to top

    Maps