Boutique by the Museo Cooking Class Review – Yucatan Food & Travel

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Food is one of the best windows into a culture, and so we love taking cooking classes when we travel to new places. One of the highlights of our time in Merida, Mexico was a cooking class with Boutique by the Museo.

This small, special little hotel sits next to some of the city’s beautiful colonial architecture and a short walk near the heart of Merida. Our cooking lesson was a great place to learn about the traditional food of the Yucatan.

Learn to make Yucatecan food in Merida, Mexico! The Yucatan Peninsula is a unique part of Mexico, and so is its cuisine. My daughter and I took a cooking class in Merida and it was great! Pics and details here. Boutique by the Museo Cooking Class Review—Yucatan Food & Travel

Boutique by the Museo Cooking Class Review

In this Boutique by the Museo cooking class review, I will detail our Yucatecan cooking lesson. You’ll also get a few explanations of the local ingredients and how we used them.

Yucatecan food is delicious, simple and fun to make and eat. It’s not spicy, either. Or rather, the hot stuff is usually optional. Peppers and hot sauces usually come on the side. If you don’t like spicy food, you can avoid the heat fairly easily in the Yucatan.

Our instructor was Esteban, the main character of this Boutique by the Museo cooking class review. Young and charismatic, Esteban was a fantastic guide for us into the world of Yucatecan cuisine. He walked us through the market, then through every step of the dishes you’ll read about in this Boutique by the Museo Cooking Class Review.

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Boutique by the Museo Cooking Class Review—Yucatan Food & Travel

Learn to make Yucatecan food in Merida, Mexico! The Yucatan Peninsula is a unique part of Mexico, and so is its cuisine. My daughter and I took a cooking class in Merida and it was great! Pics and details here.

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Boutique by the Museo Cooking Class Style

The Boutique by the Museo cooking class was different than some cooking classes we have taken in the past. It was a smaller, more intimate lesson.

Some cooking classes have individual workstations with pre-portioned ingredients and utensils. We sat at the counter in front of Esteban while he explained the ingredients and cooking techniques. We helped with each dish, but mostly we listened, watched ate and drank (I had two beers during the lesson).

There are pros and cons to this type of cooking class, but we loved it. This way we could pay better attention to what Estaban was showing and telling us. It also allowed us both to watch his cutting and slicing technique more attentively.

Boutique by the Museo is a small hotel, and their kitchen felt more like someone’s home. We felt less like cooking class students and more like guests in a chef’s winter retreat.

To the Market!

The first stop on our culinary journey was to the local market. After a short cab ride into the city center, we were standing at the entrance to Merida’s Lucas de Galvez Market.

Consulting his grocery list, Esteban went from stall to stall, telling us what we were seeing and how it was used in Yucatan cuisine. Once he purchased everything we needed for the class, he walked us through a little more of the market. Then it was into a taxi for the short ride back to the Boutique by the Museo kitchen.

Yucatecan Ingredients for Our Cooking Class in Merida

Here are a few things we used in our cooking class at Boutique by the Museo. It’s important to remember that Mexican food is quite diverse across the country. Sure you’ll find tacos and tortas in Cancun, Oaxaca, and San Miguel de Allende, but there are many things that make food in the Yucatan Peninsula unique.

Ingredient list:

  • Lima: Limes (lima) are an essential part of Mexican food, and the Yucatan is no different.
  • Tomatoes: Think Roma tomatoes. Firm, deep red and olive-shaped.
  • White & Purple Onion: We eat heaps of these in the Yucatan. Sweet and crisp.
  • Chile Dulce: This looks a bit like a large habanero to me, but chile dulce actually tastes like a bell pepper.
  • Yucatecan Avocado: This variety is much larger than its ubiquitous cousin the Haas avocado. The Yucatecan species of avocado is also brighter in color and softer in texture. Sometimes referred to as mantequilla (butter).
  • Cilantro: A floral and pungent aromatic herb. Esteban taught us that the stalk (not the leaf) is where most of the flavor resides.
  • Epazote: I had never used this leafy fragrant herb before. That said, the flavor and medicinal properties of epazote are used all over central and southern Mexico.
  • Sour Orange: This lumpy green citrus is used in marinades and for pickling onions, among other uses.
  • Pepita: The usual name for ground pumpkin seed powder here.
  • Achiote paste (a.k.k Recado Rojo): The Mayans used the achiote seed to color both food and faces bright red (it was also used in early cosmetics). Achiote paste contains the ground seed, along with other spices such as cumin, oregano, garlic and others.
  • Recado Negro: The black version of Recado Rojo is a burned version of its more common cousin. I mean literally burned, too: burned chiles, burned tortillas, and other ingredients are charred for a smokier flavor.
  • Masa: This is the cornmeal used in tamales, enchilada shells and more. We bought ours from specialized stores you find everywhere who sell it by weight.

Dish by Dish: Boutique by the Museo Cooking Class Review

Once all of the ingredients were laid out, Esteban opened a beer for me and we got to work. The first thing we did was taste some of the ingredients. Esteban put small amounts of the pepita and recados rojo & negro on a small plate, along with small slices of lime and sour orange.

As we tasted them, Esteban sliced a purple onion and soaked it in sour orange juice. We would use this as a garnish later. Onto the first course!

Sikil P’aak (Dzilikpaak)

This traditional Mayan snack is a simple to make but has a rich, complicated flavor. Esteban left a few tomatoes and onions in a pan on high heat to burn. Yes, to burn. Once properly blackened, he placed them in a stone mortar. Then he handed my girl the pestle and she began to mash them together.

As she mashed and mixed, Esteban added pumpkinseed powder until it reached the right consistency. Then he dropped in fresh chopped cilantro as she worked the bowl with the stone. And voila: the Sikil P’aak was ready!

Placed on a thick tostada and garnished with more cilantro, this may have been my favorite dish of the day. Why? Well, I marveled at its simplicity, and it was something completely new to my palate (we’ve eaten a lot of food in the Yucatan before this Yucatecan cooking class).

Yucatecan Guacamole

Esteban sliced the Yucatecan avocado into large, knuckle-sized chunks. Then he added chopped tomatoes and about a quarter of a white onion, finely minced.

For the final step, he handed the limes and lemon squeezer to my girl and told her to have at it. Once properly juiced, we stirred the mixture while Esteban told us about the soft, buttery Yucatecan avocado and its role in local culture and food.

The acidic lime juice ate away at the corners of the avocado in the bowl. Within minutes, the square chunks were more like rounded pebbles. Placed on tortilla chips, the mix was light, fruity and delicious.

Sopa de Lima

Common across the Peninsula, Yucatecan “lime soup” starts with a broth of burned chicken and onions. Esteban had started the broth before class began. When it was time for us to start, he quickly julienned a few tomatoes and chile dulce. Then it was time to make the garnish: tortilla strips.

One my favorite parts of Mexican soups like sopa de lima is the crispy textures of fried tortilla strips. These are placed on top just before serving.

Esteban cut thin slices of tortillas while the oil heated. Within seconds after dropping them in oil, the bubbled receded and they were ready. All the ingredients were added together and it was time to dig in.

Salbutes with Relleno Negro

For the main course, we were having a combination of two the Yucatan’s most ubiquitous specialties: salbutes topped with relleno negro.

First, let’s talk about the salbute, which is a deep-fried corn tortilla made from the masa we bought. Esteban laid out the tortilla press and showed us how to use it. Then we rolled globs of masa into balls and squashed them in the press to flatten them into the tortilla shape.

This looked like a simple task, and we had seen little old ladies at traditional restaurants cranking these out in seconds. However, for newbies like my daughter and I, it took a few tries to get it right.

Once pressed properly, we dropped them straight into the boiling oil. With Estaban’s direction, my daughter managed the frying process until they puffed up nicely. She cooks at least once or twice a week at home, but usually gets skittish around oil, bacon and other hot substances that pop. Credit goes to Esteban for making her feel comfortable and in control.

Now let’s talk relleno negro. While not aesthetically pleasing to look at, it is one of my favorite things to eat in Merida and the rest of the Yucatan. Relleno negro starts with pulled turkey or chicken. The meat is then cooked with tomatoes and chile dulce and marinated in a base made from the recado negro base I mentioned earlier. The result is a black mess, but when placed on salbutes with a thin slice of Yucatecan avocado, it is bliss.

Crema de Coco

For dessert, we helped Esteban make a local treat we see everywhere: crema de coco, or coconut cream. Between earlier courses, Esteban and my girl heated sugar and coconut milk in a pot. Then they slowly added in cornstarch to thicken. Once these were properly mixed, they poured equal portions into small ceramic bowls and placed them in a fridge to cool and congeal.

Before serving, Esteban sprinkled a little cinnamon and sea salt across the top. Delicious. Esteban asked if I’d like to try a local spirit with my dessert, which of course the answer was yes.

Served over ice, Xtabentún is a liqueur made from anise, rum, and fermented honey. There are two types of stingless bee species in the Yucatan, and honey production has been a part of commerce and culture here since the Mayan empire.

I’m usually not a fan of anise, but mixed with the honey flavors I loved it. So much so that I’m looking for bottles now to share with my sister.

Our Verdict: Boutique by the Museo Cooking Class Review

We loved the Boutique by the Museo cooking class and think it’s a great way to learn about Merida, about the Yucatan Peninsula and Yucatecan cuisine. Esteban was a warm and gracious host and instructor. The class was relaxed, informative and fun. We enjoyed cooking a little, eating a lot and learning by watching a skilled cook at work.

The class is USD $80 per person. For reservations, go to the Boutique by the Museo website, or write them at [email protected]

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Boutique by the Museo Cooking Class Review - Yucatan Food & Travel

Disclosure: This Boutique by the Museo Cooking Class Review was sponsored.  However, my opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help your travel. My Boutique by the Museo Cooking Class Review was honest — everything was amazing!