A Taste of Campeche's Rich Culinary Traditions

Find out how the ancient Mayas and pirates influenced the food in Campeche. The focus is on high-quality ingredients, seafood, and corn that were grown before the Spanish arrived.

A Taste of Campeche's Rich Culinary Traditions
The cuisine of Campeche is a gumbo of influences that draws from the state's varied past. Credit: INAH

Campeche's cuisine is a rich blend of the state's entire history. From the food of the ancient Mayas to the arrival of the Spanish to the era of pirates and the influence of its geographic location, Campeche's gastronomic heritage is an intricate part of its history and daily life.

Traditions such as water carriers announcing their street food offerings and men doing the shopping at the market harken back to the time when pirates occupied the state and aimed to protect women. Another unique tradition is that certain dishes are made every week. For example, puchero is made on Mondays, steak casserole on Thursdays and fresh fish on Fridays. Chocolomo, a stew with meat and kidneys, is always made on Saturday nights.

The people of Campeche are known for their warm hospitality and for incorporating their history and love of their roots into each dish. Constants in Campeche's cuisine include the use of high-quality ingredients, a diverse array of seafood, a pre-Hispanic tradition of using corn, and similarities with the cuisine of the Yucatán Peninsula. Seafood is a staple, with popular dishes made from fish like mackerel, snapper, and sea bass, but the state's shrimp deserve a special mention for their quality and popularity.

Non-seafood dishes include tamales de masa colada, stuffed with meat and flavored with achiote sauce; pibinal (tender corn); and new corn tortillas made with lard. Sweet treats include marzipan, sweet potatoes, and coconut candies, and white bread varieties range from cream bread to bizcotelas. Dishes like panuchos, negritos, and pibipollos show the Mayan tradition, while panuchos, tamales, and the famous pan de cazón show the cazón tradition.

Coconut Shrimp

Originating from the Caribbean, the dish of breaded shrimp with coconut shreds has been perfected in Campeche, thanks to the exceptional quality of its ingredients. The famous shrimp from the Sonda de Campeche and the bountiful coconut groves along the coast impart a distinct and unparalleled flavor to the dish. Served with either a puree or apple sauce, it has been a staple in the state for over three decades and is now considered a part of Campeche's traditional cuisine.

Coconut Shrimp
Coconut Shrimp. Credit: INAH


24 shrimp size 21/25 peeled (leave the tails on)
lemon juice
salt to taste

For the dough:

200 g flour
2 eggs
milk (as needed) for breading
1 ½ cups grated coconut, sweetened and dried oil for frying

To accompany:

3 tart apples, peeled and diced
½ cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick

Coconut Shrimp
Coconut Shrimp. Credit: INAH


Open the shrimp loins in ¾ parts, soak them for a few seconds in water with lemon, drain them, dry them, and put them in the dough. Then dip them in the coconut mixed with the cornflakes and fry them in hot oil. Drain them on absorbent paper and serve them with applesauce.

For the dough. Mix the flour with the egg, a pinch of salt, and the milk necessary to form a thick paste.

For the puree. Cook the apples with sugar and a little water until soft, then blend until thick.

Serve the puree in a coconut half and around the shrimp, then decorate with apple slices.

Dogfish Bread

Dogfish Bread is the flagship dish of Campeche's gastronomy, showcasing the culinary bounty of the sea and its rich flavor profile. Both home cooks and top chefs can create dishes with unique textures and flavors thanks to the abundance of ingredients in the region. The dish is made with tortillas, refried beans, small shark meat (dogfish), tomato, avocado, epazote, and habanero, and is widely considered the crown jewel of Campeche's traditional cuisine.

Dogfish Bread
Dogfish Bread. Credit: INAH


4 freshly made tortillas
6 tablespoons of refried black beans
6 tablespoons of stewed dogfish
3 slices of avocado
1 habanero chile

For the dogfish:

1 tablespoon of lard or corn oil.
¼ small onion, chopped
1 epazote leaf, chopped
1 small tomato, peeled, deseeded, and chopped
200 g of shredded roasted dogfish
tomato sauce

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon lard or corn oil.
½ chopped onion
3 tomatoes
1 epazote leaf or to taste
salt to taste

Dogfish Bread
Dogfish Bread


For the dogfish. Grill onion, then add the shredded dogfish, epazote, tomato sauce, and salt to taste.

For the sauce. Season with onion, tomato, and epazote, and cook until it is thick and well seasoned.

Spread three tortillas with the refried beans, and place stewed dogfish between each tortilla each time you place one on top of the other. At the end cover everything with the remaining tortilla, bathe with the tomato sauce, and garnish with the avocado slices and the roasted habanero chili.


Chilmole is a highly regarded stew in the region, reflecting the diverse and rich culinary heritage of the Mayan people. Made by grinding charred red chili peppers into a paste, then diluting it to achieve a mole-like consistency, this delicacy was once used to cover game meats such as hares, deer, and wild pigs. After the conquest, the meat was replaced with pork, chicken, or turkey. According to traditional Mayan cooking techniques, chilmole should be prepared in the pib, a method of cooking food underground.

Chilmole. Credit: INAH


1 kg pork meat
¼ kg of dough
6 hard-boiled eggs
2 chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons of lard
1 tablespoon of prepared chumóle
½ chopped onion
pork backbone

Chilmole. Credit: INAH


Cut the meat into pieces and cook them with salt along with the backbone bones. Dissolve the chilmole in hot water; strain and add to the meat. Cut in four and fry the tomatoes and onion in lard, then add them with the epazote to the stew. Mix the dough, lard, and salt. Prepare some small dough balls, which are added to the stew along with the sliced hard-boiled eggs.

Dzotobichay or Brazo de Reina

Dzotobichay, or Brazo de Reyna, meaning "queen's arm," is a beloved traditional dish named after the Mayan word "Ts'o tobil chay", meaning "corn dough with chaya." This tamale is a staple of pre-Columbian cuisine and is particularly popular during Easter week, as its ingredients do not include meat. Made with corn dough, chaya, boiled eggs, tomatoes, and ground pumpkin seeds, Dzotobichay, or Brazo de Reyna, is a flavorful and satisfying dish that has been enjoyed for centuries.

Dzotobichay or Brazo de Reina
Dzotobichay or Brazo de Reina. Credit: INAH


1 kg of corn dough
20 chaya or spinach leaves
150 ml of lard
120 g of ground pumpkin seeds
1 large plantain leaf
6 eggs
6 saladette tomatoes
1 habanero bell pepper
Salt and bell pepper to taste
1 sprig of epazote

Dzotobichay or Brazo de Reina
Dzotobichay or Brazo de Reina. Credit: INAH


In a pot of boiling water, cook the whole eggs for 12 minutes, then remove the shells, cut them into slices, and set aside.

In a pot with hot water add the chaya leaves for 2 minutes, then remove from the water, drain the excess water, chop finely, and set aside.

In a bowl or a clean, flat surface, mix the dough, chaya leaves, chopped epazote, butter, salt, and pepper.

Roll the dough into small balls and roll them out in a circular shape to a thickness of 1 millimeter.

Add two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds and cover the surface. Then we place a piece of sliced egg.

With the help of the same banana leaf, make folds in the dough, so that the egg remains inside as a filling, obtaining a tubular shape.

In a steamer with boiling water, over medium heat, place the queen's arm (Brazo de Reina in Spanish) for one hour.

Campeche Restaurants Guide

Menta Deli Rest
Calle 59 between 10 and 12, Col. Centro Historico.

La Chopería 59
Calle 59 No. 252, corner of Calle 10, Col. Centro Histórico.

La Pigua
Malecón Miguel Alemán 179 A, Col. Centro.

Aduana Vasconcelos
59th St. on the corner of 8th St., Col. Centro.

Calle 8 No. 267, Col Centro.

La Palapa del Tío Fito
Calle 8 No. 267, Col Centro.

El Rincón Colonial
Calle 59 between 16 and 18, Col. Centro Histórico.

Calle 59 between 8 and 10, Col. Centro Histórico.

La K'ntinflas
Calle 59 between 8 and 10, Col. Centro Histórico.

El Bastion de Campeche
Calle 57 No. 2-A between 8 and 10, Col. Centro, in front of Parque Principal.

El Faro del Morro
Inside Marina Yacht Club, Av. Resurgimiento 12.

Inside the Campeche Club House

La Recova
Avenida Resurgimiento s/n by Av. López Mateos, Bosques de Campeche.

Rouge Café-Bistro
Prolongación de la Calle 59 between Av. 16 de Septiembre and Malecón, Pasaje "Román Piña Chan".

El Pargo
Pedro Sáinz de Baranda Av., Cocteleros Zone. Palapa 1.

Food Festivals in Campeche

Tourism Festival of the Sea in June.

Pibipollo Festival in October.


INAH, Guía Gastronómica de las Ciudades Mexicanas Patrimonio Mundial, pp.13-23.