Hot Tamales! Learning to Cook in the Ground…The Maya Way

During our stay at Casa Hamaca, the owner Denis kept mentioning the use of the pibil (pib) and we immediately signed up for a day of learning all about this ancient Maya earth oven. The plan was to go with Denis to the market and pick up all of the ingredients for Tamales, a classic Maya meal of meat, tortilla, egg, tomato and spices all wrapped up inside a banana leaf and cooked in the pib.

A Typical Maya Pib

Pib means “hole in the ground” in Mayan and it is a traditional cooking method that has been used for centuries in this area. The Maya people call Tamales “Chachacua” and they can be cooked on a pan or baked in the pib.

We started at the market which was worth the trip in itself. Incredibly clean and well maintained, this is Valladolid’s main meat and vegetable market and it was bustling with the morning chatter of butchery and commerce.

At The Market In Valladolid

Picking Out Ingredients At The Market In Valladolid

After picking out a few ingredients, we headed back to the guesthouse and met with the friendly Maya staff at Casa Hamaca. They started to show us how to prepare the meal, and we even got our hands dirty a few times helping them to clean the banana leafs and mix the meats.

After boiling the chicken and pork in water, the workers showed us how to prepare the vegetables and sauce to go into the Tamales. Later, we all sat outside in the beautiful jungle courtyard and folded the delicious mixture into the banana leafs to get them ready for the pib.

Preparing Tamales

Preparing The Stuffing For The Tamales

While we were busy folding and rolling, the Maya men were preparing the pib next to the guest house. They filled the stone-lined hole with wood and tinder, lit the fire and placed rocks inside to help conduct heat while cooking.

The Pib Almost Ready

We tossed our Tamales onto the hot rocks, covered them in palm fronds, buried them under a layer of soil and let them cook for about 20 minutes before removing them and letting them cool. We then sat in the restaurant area and enjoyed our delicious hard work with the wonderfully warm staff.

The entire day was great. It really gave us a chance to get to know the close-knit community that works here, and also helped us to learn a bit about the Maya pib and cooking culture.

Casa Hamaca Staff

Anyone can come here and partake in a Maya Cookout like ours. There are cenotes, ruins and tortillarias all over the Yucatan, but Casa Hamaca’s unique take on a Maya luncheon was definitely a highlight of our trip to Valladolid.

Check Out This Quick Video of Our Pib Cookout!

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Hot Tamales! Learning to Cook in the Ground…The Maya Way

Have you ever cooked a meal in the ground?! Share with us below.

If you are interested in a Maya Cookout, contact Denis at Casa Hamaca.

The day will cost $110 / group or family and includes the trip to the market.

Denis Larsen

Phone #: (52) 985-100-4270

Email :


Written by

Dariece Swift

Dariece is a co-founder of Goats On The Road, and an expert in saving money, finance management, building an online business and of course... travel. She loves meeting new people, trying new cuisines, and learning about the unique cultures of our world. She has over 10 years of experience helping others to realize their travel dreams and has worked in numerous jobs all over the world to help pay for travel. Her advice about long-term travel, remote work, and location independence has been featured on the Lonely Planet, CNN Money, Business Insider and Forbes. Learn more about Dariece Swift on the Goats On The Road About Us Page.

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