Discover Mayan Food

With today’s emphasis on healthy eating, ancient Mayan food is making an unexpected comeback. The Maya, Inca and Aztec civilisations of Mexico and Central America had a relatively simple and healthy diet. Their main foodstuff was maize, along with squashes, beans and a range of other vegetables. Where the Incas concentrated on quinoa and potatoes, the Mayans and the Aztecs preferred avocados and tomatoes, and fruit in general. Maize was usually eaten in the form of a type of porridge which was called ‘capia’ by the Incas and ‘atole’ throughout those regions occupied by the Aztec and Maya civilisations in Mesoamerica. Maize cakes were eaten everywhere, but only in Mesoamerica did the people eat tortillas, or maize pancakes, with all their meals.

You can try Mayan food for yourself using a variety of recipes. It has never gone away in Mexico, and with the basic ingredients now readily obtainable in mainstream as well as specialist food stores and supermarkets, you can try recreating these ancient, tasty and very healthy meals for yourself at home. Check out a few of these suggestions to whet your appetite.

Chocolate drink

Try making your own Mayan chocolate drink using unusual additions and you’ll be delighted at the results. The ancient Americans first cultivated cocoa beans and the chocolate drinks they prepared from them were similar to ours, only more spicy and bitter because they added a range of spices and chilli peppers. Sweeten your chocolate drink with vanilla and honey and you’ll experience a real taste of a drink enjoyed by the Mayan upper classes.

Guacamole and avocados

Avocados were the main ingredient of traditional guacamoles, one of the staples of ancient Mayan food. This sumptuous, humus-like appetiser is prepared by mixing the flesh of avocados with onions, limes or lemons, cilantro, garlic and chillies.

Corn tortillas

In Mexican markets one of the characteristic sounds is of women slapping handmade tortillas into shape. Cooked in a wood-fired iron comal, tortillas are just a few inches across and thicker than regular bread. Use them as a base for any spicy topping you fancy.

Tamales

Made from cornflour and stuffed with cheese, vegetables and meat, all wrapped up in plantain or banana leaves and finally steamed. Traditional Mexican Tamales are an unchanged type of Mayan food that is still widely enjoyed across the region. They’re so authentic that they’re even depicted in Mayan excavated artefacts and glyphs. Once the steaming has finished, the tamale is unwrapped and topped with a spicy salsa of your choosing.

Michelada

When you’ve finished your meal of delicious ancient Mayan food you can wash it all down with a cool glass of Michelada. Also known as chelada, this invigorating and refreshing drink is made from salt, pepper, cerveza, lime and either Tabasco or Worcester sauce, with some variants adding Maggi seasoning or soy sauce to the rich mix. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making this authentic version, or lack some of the ingredients, you can get a similar result by adding salt and lime juice to a light beer.