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Pavo en Relleno Negro

Yesterday we were invited out to Oxtapacab to celebrate Day of the Dead with the lady who cleans our house and her familia. Unfortunately, we had other plans and were unable to make the hour-long trip out there this time.

This morning when she and her daughter arrived to clean, which they do once a week, they brought a little pot of pavo en relleno negro with them, and a stack of handmade, homemade tortillas.

If you have never had a handmade tortilla, then you’ve never really had a tortilla. The tortillas that arrived this morning, still hot, wrapped in a handkerchief and in a plastic bag, are thicker and tastier than the store-bought or machine-made kind. They are about the size of a Mayan lady’s hand, and they are patted down from a round ball of masa, or corn meal. Then they are laid on the grill, which in this case (we know from past experience) is the top of a fifty-gallon drum. They are cooked to perfection, which is just slightly toasted, and then usually dropped into a hollow gourd which keeps them warm. Eaten with a little bit of salt or a little bit of butter, or dipped into something, they are rich and chewy and delicious.

Pavo en relleno negro is probably unlike anything you’ve ever tasted or seen. It is turkey and polenta-like corn dumplings in a relleno negro sauce. The relleno negro sauce is, of course, the key. It is made from a number of ingredients (we’re not cooks so we don’t really know them all) the most important of which is burnt chiles de arbol. They are burnt black and then crushed up into the sauce. So when you eat this delicious souplike stew, it looks like you are eating turkey in motor oil.

We must admit, it’s hard to put that spoon in your mouth the first time… Now it’s a favorite. If you come to the Yucatan, be sure to try it!

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20 Responses to “Pavo en Relleno Negro”

  1. Great photo! Give us a look in the pot next time!

  2. That would have been a good idea…sorry! And its too late now, we ate the whole thing. It was spicy and delicious. Next week, she’s bringing us something else…stay tuned!

  3. Hi!
    I have been reading all the information you have in your blog?… sorry not too good with computer lingo. Anyway i am soooo glad that I found it! I live in Rialto California and was born in Merida Yucatan. I love the stories and the pictures they make me miss home! hopefully I will go back soon. Keep up the good work and thanks!
    Gina Matthews

  4. You are SO welcome! please chime in with any memories or comments that you have…I would love that.

  5. as long as i understand here u guys have like 4 years living in merida and i have the same living in us do u have any idea how painfull it is for me to read all the informacion that u have about the foods here,but i love it and i wanna say that u guys have a very nice web site here about my city thanks for bringing my city a little closer.i can taste that relleno negro heheheh


  6. Manuelito,
    it makes me happy to know we’re bringing you a little bit of home…i know we miss the food here even when we go away for a few weeks!

    hasta pronto!

  7. Far and away my favorite Yucatan dish, Relleno negro is indeed black, tasty (might be highly spicy or not) and something one MUST try to believe how good it is. With half a hard boiled egg usually floated on the top of a serving, one is challenged to classify this dish. Never mind, just enjoy!

  8. I have been looking for a recipe for Relleno Negro, and have not been able to find one. I love it and would like to make it here.

    We are also interested in finding some property on or near the beach in a quiet area. Do you have any suggestions.



  9. Leyda,

    There are recipies for Pavo en Relleno Negro on the web, but they don’t look right to us (as if Betty Crocker wrote them), so we’ll research it a bit more and get back to you.

    If we were to buy some beach property near Merida right now, we’d probably be looking in the Gulf Coast area between Telchac Puerto and San Crisanto. See our Links page for many of the realtors who offer properties around there.

  10. On the subject of recipes, you might mention the remarkable series of books on Cocina Indigena y Popular, produced by the Mexican Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes. The Merida bookstores have some of them, but I saw the largest selection at the museum of anthropology. There are about 50 books, each costing only $3-$4, covering the regional cooking of much of the country. Some titles: “La dulceria en Puebla”, “Las flores en la cocina mexicana”, “Aroma y sabores de Nuevo Leon”, and “Recetario de pescados de Sonora”. I’m pretty sure there is one for the Yucatan, but I regret that I don’t have it.

  11. I am married to a yucatecan that grew up with all the great recipes so now I get to enjoy them too! Who knew mexican food could be so exotic? One restaurant here in Los Angeles makes great traditional recipes.

  12. I’m so glad to read that so many of you like the exotic spices of the Yucatan. My father is from Merida, and we have a bakery/ restaurant located in Downtown Los Angeles. Our name is “La Flor de Yucatan” and we specialize in the Mayan cuisine. For those who are interested in trying some other delicious dishes pay us a visit or give us a call. Also, those who miss their home in Yucatan, we will make you feel like you were back. We have everything from Relleno Negro, to Cochinita (marinated pork), Panuchos, Salbutes, Morcilla (Moronga)..etc… Also, we have Ojaldras, Patas, and we also carry other goodies straight from Yucatan!
    Unfortunately our website is under construction, but we can be reached at laflordeyucatan [dot] bakery [at] gmail [dot] com and at (213) 748-6090. For english however call Marc (my brother, and food consultant) at (661) 917-3816

    We do catering, and if you’re not local, we can ship things to you.

  13. strangely enough, I make Pavo Relleno negro here in Oregon! Have to admit I either carry the black condiment home from visits, or have someone coming up bring it. Still working on making a proper roll of the minced meat and hard boiled egg. Fortunately. practice tastes good! Recipe in “Yucatecan cuisine of the Hacienda Teya” booklet available even in english in Merida bookstores.

  14. [...] soup bowl full of very delicious homemade pavo en relleno negro. Our regular readers may remember a little pot we took a picture of a whle ago… well, here’s what was in the [...]

  15. Where can I buy the paste? I haven’t eat that since I was 15 years old over 25 years ago we had a cook from Yucatan! I miss the taste if anyone can tell me where to get it! Please e mail me at Ruthmartinez1030 [at] yahoo [dot] com

  16. Thanks for the info on rellenos negro. I went to Chaya the other night and saw a man with a plate of what looked like motor oil. The waiter told me what it was and now I am going back to try it tonight!

    I bought some black recado in the mercado. I wonder if this is what they use to make that sauce. Hmmm.

  17. Daniel Hoyer published this great book on Mayan Cuisine. It has beautiful pics and authentic recipes, including Relleno Negro. I’m a snob when it comes to Yucatecan/Mayan food and this book really delivers. The author really did his research.

  18. As a yucateca/american living in California I love your website and had to comment on this post! As you know, there are many fellow Mexicans in L.A. but very few Yucatecos, and getting my coworkers to eat food that looks like motor oil is an amusing uphill battle… however, I count on the innate politeness that prevents people from turning down food that I offer and have been successful in hooking a lot of people on relleno negro! Now, I regularly have to share my relleno negro, queso relleno, alcaparrado, kibis… although not many takers on habaneros yet!

  19. Ana , on December 2010, tells of an incredible cook book by Daniel Hoyer that I would love to find but she does not mention the title of the book. Does anyone know the name of this book on Mayan Cuisine. I would love to have it for the pictures and the recipes.

  20. You must be referring to Mayan Cuisine: Recipes from the Yucatan Region.


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