Sikil Pak is a pumpkin seed dip I discovered while visiting a Mayan village. Traditionally vegan and gluten free, I loved it so much they gave me their recipe.
Perhaps one of the most inspiring times traveling was when I decided to take a week of Spanish classes in Felipe Carrillo Puerto in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
That turned into five weeks.
It’s a Mayan town in Quintana Roo, Mexico. You’ve probably never heard of it and actually most Mexicans ask me why the hell I went there.
Because there’s nothing to do there.
And what they really mean is why would I spend so much time in a town that has none of the tourists attractions or Tulum ruins, which is less than an hour away.
But I loved it there. It was exactly what I needed.
In 2017 I ended a relationship in Canada that left me completely depleted of any joy or confidence.
And I knew Mexico was the right place to be.
In 2010 I bought a one-way ticket to Mexico after ending a relationship. It was the start of this website.
I can now laugh about how I cried a lot in Mexico. But Mexico became my safe place.
And now I was back.
Felipe Carrillo Puerto is a small town, with no real tourist attractions for foreigners.
But it is the heart of the Mayan community – yes Mayans exist today, they were never conquered by the Spanish.
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Mayan Village – Santa Maria de Poniente
Eventually I made friends there and one of my Mexican friends, Edwin taught English at nearby Santa Maria Poniente, a Mayan village where people continued traditional life.
Although they learned English, it wasn’t likely they would ever leave this village.
I had visited a few times with Edwin, where we just wandered the village and people invited me into their homes.
They lived in one room roof thatched homes and slept in hammocks. They answered all my questions they were probably silly and yet they were so gracious.
And when Edwin explained I wrote about food they invited me back for a special meal.
Edwin shared I’d be eating something even Anthony Bourdain had never tried! I’ll share that story another time as I think eating tuza (above right) is an adventure on its own.
But this time changed me.
Experiencing food with them reminded me of why I started this site. To share stories of people and food. The special moments I have that others don’t know exist.
I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to share it. But it starts with this siki pak recipe.
One of the dishes was sikil p’ak or sikil p’aak. This is its Mayan name, which literally means pumpkin seed and tomato.
In Spanish it is sometimes known as pepita con tomate, although most places in Mexico use its Mayan name.
And in English it’s sometimes called Mayan pumpkin seed dip, pepita dip or Yucatecan pumpkin seed salsa.
The traditional Mayan sikil pak is a blend of roasted tomatoes, pepitas, salt and cilantro.
It’s a healthy, vegan, gluten free recipe that is also delicious.
Not only did they invite me into their home to eat it. One of the kids made me a mini cookbook of what I had eaten.
I cherish this book. It sits pegged on my bulletin board, reminding me of the sincere generosity of people to share their culture with strangers.
Yucatecan Sikil Pak
This isn’t the only place I had sikil pak.
Merida is one of them.
Yet another Mexican city I haven’t written about yet but Merida is the kind of place I could live in. I just wish it had a beach.
No place is perfect.
You’ll find this on menus in Merida with other Yucatan appetizers, so skip the guacamole and try this pumpkin seed dip with tortilla chips.
Some people like the pumpkin seed dip recipe to be very smooth, and others are quite chunky.
Nathan from Foodie Flashpacker is the go to resource for best restaurants in Merida.
But if you’re making it at home, here are some great Mexican drinks to have with it:
Sikil Pak Recipe
The recipe for sikil pak is a very traditional recipe from the Mayan village. It has a roasted earthy flavour that I love.
I made a slight adjustment using naranja agria or sour orange juice for brightness and some roasted onion.
As both are traditional Mayan ingredients I think I can add this with confidence that I haven’t ruined the recipe.
If you don’t have sour orange (Seville orange juice) you can substitute half orange juice and half lime juice.
Or you can buy it, because there are so many other Mexican recipes you can make with it like:
Difference Between Pumpkin Seeds and Pepitas
Pepitas are pumpkin seeds from specific kinds of squash without shells. So while pepitas are pumpkin seeds, not all pumpkin seeds are pepitas.
So calling this a Mayan pumpkin seed dip is a bit misleading. Although we know pepitas as pumpkin seeds, in Latin America you don’t see pumpkin we know it.
These aren’t jack o lantern seeds. Pepitas usually come from calabeza or what we would call squash.
I have found over the years that sometimes native Spanish speakers will tell me something is pumpkin in English, when it really is squash.
It’s just one of those intricacies of translating things that don’t perfectly translate.
That said, I personally don’t have time to harvest and roast seeds from a pumpkin or a squash.
So I would just recommend buying roasted unsalted pepitas here. This bag is enough for the recipe.
Or if you want a smooth pumpkin seed dip try these ground pumpkin seeds.
Sikil pak uses unhulled pumpkin seeds, because of the variety of squash that are used for pepitas.
More Sikil Pak Variations
Sikil pack is versatile so you can feel free to add a couple garlic cloves, handful of chives, hot peppers or hot sauce. Some people also add parsley.
But if you’re preparing it for someone who Mayan or Mexican you need to let them know you altered the recipe. Because they’ll let you know it’s not a true recipe.
You can make this Mayan recipe a day in advance, it gives the flavours time to meld.
Although I don’t know if I could wait.
- 2.75 cups Roma tomatoes
- 2 cups pepitas
- .5 cup white onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 Tbsp cilantro
- 1 Tbsp sour orange juice
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Roast tomatoes and onion for 15-20 minutes. Let cool.
- If pumpkin seeds are not roasted, put them in a cast iron pan over medium heat to toast lightly, about 7 minutes. Let cool.
- Pulse pepitas in food processor to a fine ground. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until it is as smooth as you like it to be. Some people prefer it chunkier.
- Taste for salt and add more if needed.
- Serve with tortilla chips.