Mexican Pollo Pibil: A Yucatan delicious recipe

posted in: FOOD HYSTERIA | 0

Travel Hysteria loves trying food from different cultures. During our trips we always try as many different different as our stomachs can manage.

Since we also love to cook, it’s natural for us trying to copy some of the tastiest dishes we’ve eaten around the world. It’s also a way to remember our beautiful moments together, to refresh the past memories.

During our trip to Yucatan, Mexico, we loved the regional cuisine. It is surprisingly fresh and tasty, with unique ingredients that you can’t find anywhere else. Today we want to share with you the recipe of Pollo Pobil, a classic of the cuisine of Yucatan.

With our recipe you will prepare at home an authentic, delicious Mexican dish at home. So, let’s start our cooking class!

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Introduction to the Yucatecan cuisine

Pollo Pibil - Traditional Yucatan dish
Pollo Pibil – Traditional Yucatan dish

Yucatan cuisine is very rich, varied and tasty. It’s not even that spicy as most people think! You actually decide how many habanero peppers you want to add to your dish. Meaning, you are the master of your destiny: if you aren’t careful enough, your dish will be as hot as hell.

However, the highlights of the regional cuisine are others. Black beans, fresh fruits, heavenly marinated meats, tortillas and many different spices. In the coastal locations, we often found fresh fish and seafood on the menus, as well as in our stomachs. The traditional way of cooking can also be peculiar.

What is Pibil?

Pibil is a Mayan word that means buried, or better cooked underground. Briefly, the Pibil technique consists of marinating meat – usually pork or chicken – in bitter orange juice and achiote. Then, wrapping it in banana leaves, and baking it in a handmade oven (read = hole) in the ground for several hours. If you use chicken meat, the dish will be called Pollo Pibil. In case you use pork meat, it’ll be Cochinita Pibil.

“So, what the hell is achiote?”, you must be wondering. Welll, Achiote is a red sauce made of annatto seed, a plant found in the tropics. It gives a vibrant red colour to the meat and everything it comes in contact with: your hands, clothes, kitchen, stovetop… It also gives a typical spicy taste to the final dish.

Does it mean that you actually need to dig your backyard and bury your chicken to make this recipe? No way. We like things easy. Keep reading!

Pollo Pibil: The ingredients

ingredients for the recipe
All the ingredients

Don’t be scared of underground ovens, banana leaves and weird spices. We currently live in Europe, so many ingredients are not easily available for us neither. However, there is a solution for everything, isn’t there? You can cook your Pollo Pibil at home, in a normal electric oven. You can substitute banana leaves with foil, in case you can’t find them in the shops. There is just one thing you must really have: Achiote seeds! Check the ethnic shops in your cities, they will have it. If not, just buy it online at Amazon (if you are too lazy to do it yourself, here’s the link).

So, here are the ingredients for 4 people:

For the marinade:

  • 3-4 tbs of achiote paste
  • 1 tbs chopped garlic
  • 1 tbs allspices (or, cumin, coriander, and turmeric)
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tbs salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • bitter orange juice – If you can’t find bitter orange, this combination of lime, orange, grapefruit juices and vinegar will do the work: 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup grapefruit juice, 1/2 cup lime juice and ¼ cup white or apple cider vinegar

For the cooking:

  • A big chicken, divided into pieces
  • 2 sliced onions
  • 3 sliced tomatoes
  • salt
  • olive oil and butter

To serve:

  • rice
  • corn tortillas
  • pickled onion
  • black beans sauce – frijoles refritos

How to cook Pollo Pibil

  1. Place all the ingredients of the marinade in a food processor until it’ll be smooth. Then, place the chicken meat in a bowl and cover it with the marinade. Cover it, put it into the refrigerator and let it swim in the red sauce for 4 to 24 hours.
    Marinating the meat
    Marinating the meat with Achiote sauce
  2. Remove the meat from the marinade, at let it dry a bit. Keep aside the sauce, you’ll need it later. Heat a pan with some olive oil and butter, and fry the chicken until it’ll be golden and a bit crispy (5′ to 10′).
  3. In case you found the banana leaves, that’s their moment. Fold the bottom and the sides of a pot with the leaves: You can use some melted butter to make them sticky. Stick them together and create some kind of pocket. If you don’t have the banana leaves, forget about it and skip to the next point: Just use a normal pot.
  4. Spread onions and tomatoes on the leaves (or at the bottom of the pot).
  5. Place the chicken over them in one layer, and pour a generous cup (or two) of the red marinade all over the chicken.
    Chicken – Before cooking
  6. Cover the pot with other banana leaves, or with aluminium foil. The meat and vegetables should be covered while cooking. We know, it’s not an underground oven, but it’ll do the work.
  7. Bake it for 1 1/2 to 2 hours at 180 degrees, until the chicken will be really tender, almost falling apart.
    After cooking
  8. Remove the meat and veggies from the oven, and let them rest for 10 minutes.
  9. Serve whole chicken pieces or tear apart the meat using two forks. Put some of the sauce (the cooked one) over the chicken meat and take the remaining aside in a bowl, in case you want to add some later.
  10. It goes great with corn tortillas, rice or black beans!
Serving the chicken pibil
Colored and tasty!


Try at home this Yucatecan Pollo Pibil recipe. Let us know how if you will have liked it!


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