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Saturday, January 22, 2022

The best breakfasts in Yucatán

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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.

Breakfast time in Yucatán is full of delicious options, from the spicy to the sweet and savory. Here are some of the region’s favorites, including several Yucatecan originals. 

Keep an open mind. What exactly makes something a breakfast food is an open question, but if sugary marshmallows floating in milk make the cut, we see no reason why any of these items should not also.

Lovely breakfast in Valladolid made up of a chorizo omelet, black beans, rice, pan duce, melon juice, and of course coffee. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Cochinita pibil

While you can find cochinita pibil in just about any restaurant in Yucatán, most locals pick theirs up at stands set up all over the city. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Anyone who has ever been to Yucatán knows that the entire state is crazy for cochinita pibil. This slow-roasted pork dish can be enjoyed any time of day but is particularly popular at breakfast, especially on Sundays in the form of tacos or tortas (sandwiches) made with Yucatecan baguettes known as pan frances. If you ever find yourself in a group of Yucatecos and want to spark a conversation, ask them where the best cochinita in town is to be had — a grand debate will surely follow. 

Huevos motuleños

Huevos motuleños are often served with a slice or two of ripe fried plantains, simply delicious. Photo: Maritza Colli

As the name implies, huevos motuleños originated in the town of Motul in Yucatán. The dish is made by placing fried eggs on fried corn tortillas smothered in black beans, ham, and cheese. The dish is then covered in a tomato sauce, which may or may not be spicy, and then garnished with peas and topped with a chile habanero for a little extra kick. 


In Yucatán, lechon is most comply enjoyed in toratas (sandwhiches) or tacos. Make sure you ask for a little extra castacan — its the best part. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Like cochinita pibil, lechon is a pork dish cooked in its own skin, which becomes extra crunchy and is known locally as castacan.  Although the dish has become a local favorite, it actually has its origins in Spain and is also enjoyed in several other countries, including Cuba, Perú, and even the Philippines.

Pan dulce

Pan dulce can be found just about anywhere in Yucatán including traditional bakeries, and street vendors, as well as grocery and convenience stores — though these should really be your last resort. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Pan dulce is an umbrella term meaning sweet bread. But not all sweet breads or pastries are pan dulce, nor is all pan dulce necessarily sweet. There are many varieties of pan dulce to be enjoyed in Yucatán. Check out our series on these wonderful creations.


One time at a breakfast buffet I heard a woman exclaim “Oh my goodness, breakfast nachos.” Only then suddenly sank in that this is exactly what chilaquiles really are. Mind blown! Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

A personal favorite, chilaquiles are a traditional Mexican breakfast made of fried corn tortillas covered with a green or red salsa or mole and covered in cheese. Chilaquiles are usually also prepared using chicken or eggs, but at some restaurants, other proteins such as castacan or turkey are also available. Some restaurants also offer different types of corn tortillas for your chilaquiles. I am particularly fond of the blue ones. 


Other popular ingredients to add to your molletes include chorizo and bacon. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Originally from Mexico City, molletes are a type of open-faced sandwich typically made by slicing a loaf of bread lengthwise and then filling with refried beans and topping it with cheese, ham, and slices of jalapeño peppers. The molletes are then grilled or toasted in an oven until the cheese melts. Because they are so easy to make, they are great to make at home. They also go great topped with a little pico de gallo


Many people like to add a dab of salsa or cream to their burritas. Personally, I am known to add both. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

This common dish is usually made by toasting a flour tortilla filled with ham and cheese. Burritas are particularly popular among children and fussy eaters. They are also nice to prepare by adding some pimentos or complementing with a freshly made side of guacamole. I personally feel they are best prepared using the stringy and salty queso Oaxaca — or Oaxaca cheese. 


It is common to find pre-cut portions of fruit sold all over town, and because we are in Mexico after all, they more often than not come with a little bag of chili powder. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Like in much of the work, many people in Yucatán enjoy starting their days with a nice plate of fruit. While options such as bananas and apples are popular, other more tropical fruits such as mangoes, papaya, and dragonfruit, or pitaya, are also commonly enjoyed — certainly one of the healthier options on this list. 


Though enchiladas are usually made using chicken or turkey, you can stuff them with just about anything. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Like many great dishes, enchiladas owe at least some of their popularity to the fact that they can be made using leftover proteins and even stale tortillas. They are also relatively easy to make and lucky for you, we have written a step-by-step recipe showing you how to make your very own, using homemade salsa verde. 

Panuchos and salbutes

A couple of salbutes de relleno negro makes for a heavy breakfast, but hey, at least it contains egg. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

These popular dishes are so ubiquitous in Yucatán that they are sometimes referred to as “our version” of hamburgers and hotdogs. Although they are not really eaten for breakfast in Mérida, this is not the case in other communities in the state, including Valladolid and Izamal, where they can be found at just about any time of day. Though these fried corn tortilla creations are usually topped with chicken or turkey, breakfast versions often are prepared using relleno negro

Did we miss any of your favorites? If so, let us know. Check out some of our other articles covering the delicious food and drink of Yucatán.

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