Salbutes & Panuchos are very common snack or small meal food found around the Yucatán area, rivalling even the ever-popular tacos.
What are they?
Unlike tacos, salbutes’ base isn’t taco-style tortillas, but fried masa much like a sopé. Masa is a white corn that has been boiled with lime (the mineral) and then ground into a flour. It is the basis of corn tortillas, tamales, and many other dishes of the Yucatán. Shaped like a tortilla, but puffier and thicker, the fried masa forms a base for shredded or diced cabbage, pulled chicken or turkey, diced onion or pickled red onion, sliced avocado, sliced or diced tomato, with lime to flavour. Often there is habanero salsa as well, which one should approach with caution. The habanero (not habañero) pepper, while extremely popular in the Yucatán, is one of the hotter peppers available.
Panuchos are very similar, except that they have refried black beans inside or on the masa, which salbutes do not. Vendors make both fresh to order, often with some toppings like onion, salsa, and lime juice on the side for the consumer to adorn at will.
Both are a type of “antojitos,” like tacos, which is a snack or small appetizer (meaning literally “little craving”). A meal of antojitos might consist of anything from two to five small items. Vendors serve them in restaurants or from stands as street food, and they are quite popular all over Tulum. You can also find them at something called “panucherias” (named for the Panuchos) which will also have tostadas, tortas, and caldos.
Where can I get them?
Both salbutes and panuchos are native to the Yucatán peninsula. They became quite popular in Belize with the emigration from the Yucatán during the caste wars of the mid-1800’s. Origins here are unclear, but one thing is for sure– salbutes and panuchos are a must-try for any visitor to the Riviera Maya! You can find them on almost any street in Tulum, but we recommend La Chiapaneca on the corner of calle Acuario Norte and Avenida Tulum, or El Rincón Chiapaneco on calle Jupiter, off Avenida Tulum.