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Wednesday, September 22, 2021
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Snack time: The best of Yucatán’s botanitas

No mas Doritos! Try the locally iconic brands and their spicy, addictive flavors.

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Just look at all those delicious carbohydrates. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Everyone loves snacking, and Yucatecos are no exception. In virtually all cities, towns, and villages across the Peninsula, you can find a wide selection of snacks — or botanitas as they are known locally. While some of the snacks on offer in Yucatán are easily recognizable to newcomers, others may seem a little more exotic.

Most snacks are sold in colorful plastic bags featuring government-mandated warning labels for excess salt, sugars, and saturated fats. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

People here, myself included, love crunchiness and heat in their snacks, so of course, convenience stores and grocery aisles are chock-full of such options. Even snacks that are not spicy in themselves, such as popcorn or plain potato chips, are commonly enjoyed with a generous dab of hot sauce.

Much of the time, hot sauces come packaged right in the bag. But true connoisseurs know to forgo them, choosing instead to use their own favorites. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

But if you are not a fan of burning your taste buds off while munching, don’t worry, there are still plenty of milder options to choose from. So without further ado, let’s get started.

Charritos

If you ask someone in Yucatán about their favorite charritos, you can expect to be in for a lecture on what brand is best. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Charritos are inflated squares of either corn or wheat flour. They are hollow on the inside and provide a very satisfying crunch. While most have a little chili powder added, they are not particularly spicy. In recent years, mini-charritos have become popular as they are even crunchier than the originals. Aside from the larger brands such as La Lupita, Torritos, and Pico Rey, there are a plethora of smaller ones, sometimes only available in small-town convenience stores or tienditas. I personally like Torritos brand charritos the best, especially with a generous squeeze of lemon, some jalapeños, and a beer to go with it. 

Platanitos fritos

Before fried banana chips were widely available in Yucatán, most people closely associated them with the state of Tabasco, where they have long been a staple snack. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

These delicious snacks are made from thinly cut horizontal slices of banana which are then dried out and deep-fried. The banana gives these chips a distinctly sweet flavor which is complemented by a sprinkle of salt and chili powder. Though they have been available for as long as I can remember, it seems like they have really picked up in popularity over the past few years. Most brands do not add too much chili powder, as they are best enjoyed with a spattering of salsa, ideally Valentina. 

Globitos 

Globitos literally means little balloons in Spanish, an obvious nod to their shape. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

This iconic cracker-like snack is made by Galletas Dondé, a Mérida-based company that has been in business since 1905. Although other brands are now also making them (blasphemy!) the original Globitos are still the most popular by far. In reality, they are quite bland but oddly addictive. For some reason, people in Yucatán have come to associate Globitos with coffee, hot chocolate, and rainy days. Most people enjoy dipping them in their hot beverages or allowing a few to fall in. 

Bizcochitos

Galletas Dondé, makers of both Globitos and Bizcochitos has been arround for well over 100 years and is one of Yucatán’s most beloved brands. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Made by the same company and with the same ingredients as Globitos (mostly wheat flour), Bizcochitos taste exactly the same as Globitos, but instead of being puffed up, take on a long oblong shape — which makes their texture and mouthfeel a little different. Like Globitos, they are extremely popular and can even be seen as offerings on hanal pixan altars during Day of the Dead celebrations. Globitos and Bizcochitos exist also as Dondé company mascots named Globito and Bizcochito.

Chicharrones de cerdo

Pork rinds may be popular in other places, but Yucatán’s appetite for them sometimes seems truly insatiable. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

There is no way to overstate how much people in Yucatán love chicharrones de cerdo. Not to be confused with the pork rind-based dish chicharra, chicharrones are a pork-rind snack sold along with charritos and potato chips in grocery stores and tienditas across the Peninsula. They are very flavorful and crunchy, sometimes bordering on rock hard. Most brands include a little packet of hot sauce, which makes a crackling sound when poured over the snack. Personally, I enjoy eating them with salsa verde. Aside from tasting great, salsa verde on chicharrones counteracts their dryness and makes those super-hard bits easier to eat.

Cacahuates japoneses

Like churritos, cacahuates japoneses are also often given out to patrons for free at bars and cantinas. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Known as cracker nuts or Japanese-style peanuts in the English-speaking world, these peanut-based snacks are coated in a wheat flour dough and then deep-fried. Mexican varieties tend to be spicier (of course) and have a crunchier shell. They certainly are delicious but are also incredibly fattening, given all that coating. In recent years several brands have begun selling them in lemon flavors.   

Churritos

Churritos were popularized in Yucatán by Botanas La Lupita, but are now sold by several different companies, sometimes under alternate names. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Not to be confused with sugary churros, churritos are long, thin, and made of either corn or wheat flour. They can be baked or fried and range widely in their salt and powdered chili powder content, but are always very crunchy. For some reason, many people enjoy eating them with Worcestershire sauce, which oddly enough is also used widely on pizza across the Yucatán Peninsula. 

Cacahuates picantes

While taking the photos for this article, I allowed myself to indulge a little, and let’s just say my stomach is more than just a little upset with me as I write this. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

More than a specific type of snack, cacahuates picantes is an umbrella term used to refer to a wide variety of different kinds of spicy peanuts. They vary greatly in the type, amount, and spiciness of chili added. Here in Yucatán, several of the most popular brands are made using dried habanero or chile de árbol. When eating them, you would be wise to pick around the chunks of chilis in your bowl or bag.

Chicharrones de harina

Chicharones de harina come in a variety of shapes and are usually eaten with generous amounts of salsa, as they are not really that flavorful on their own.

These snacks are less hard than chicharrones de cerdo and are usually made of flour — though potato-based variants have also become popular. They are very crunchy but quite dry, so it’s best to have a drink nearby to help wash it down. They can also be sold as single large pieces topped with a little cream, cheese, and salsa — especially at busy city markets, parks or festivals.  

So did your favorites make the cut? If not make sure to let us know, and maybe we will feature them in an upcoming article. 

If you are not yet satiated, check out one of our articles on Yucatán’s pan dulce, or maybe learn how to whip yourself up some delicious spicy guacamole.

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