The panucho is one of the most loved Mexican street foods of the Yucatan peninsula, with its crispy base, smooth black bean paste, fresh salad and brightly flavoured pickles. Traditionally topped with shredded turkey, this panucho recipe uses chicken treated by an achiote and chocolate spice mix, adding even more dimension to the dish. The preparation method for the chicken also leaves you with a few litres of great chicken broth you can use in another recipe.






Skill level

Average: 3.9 (20 votes)


Poached chicken

  • 1.5 kg chicken, skin removed
  • 1 white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • ½ garlic bulb, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp salt

Achiote and chocolate spice mix

  • 200 ml vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp achiote seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 lime, rind grated
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 arbol chillies
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 40 g Mexican drinking chocolate, roughly chopped

Pickled red onions

  • 2 red onions
  • 1 habanero chilli, seeds removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 125 ml (½ cup) apple cider vinegar
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) lime juice
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Quick pickled cabbage

  • 2 cups finely shredded white cabbage
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 100 ml white vinegar
  • 100 ml water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped coriander

Panucho base

  • 400 g prepared masa (see Note)
  • 200 g black bean paste
  • 1 litre (4 cups) vegetable oil

To serve

  • 24 tomato slices
  • 24 cucumber slices, seeds removed and peeled
  • 1 bunch sawtooth lettuce (see Note)
  • lime cheeks

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Standing time 1 hour

To make the poached chicken, place the chicken in a 25 cm saucepan. Add the vegetables and salt. Add enough water to cover and place over medium heat. Bring to the boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes. Remove the chicken from the broth and cool for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid and reserve the broth for another recipe.

Meanwhile, to make the spice mix, heat the oil, achiote, oil, garlic and lime rind in a small saucepan over low heat for 10 minutes or until the oil turns vibrant red. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Combine the remaining spice mix ingredients in a mortar and pestle and crush to combine. Transfer to a bowl, and then strain the achiote oil and combine well. Liberally brush the chicken with the mixture. Let it dry, then brush again.

Remove the two marylands and breasts from the seasoned chicken. Heat a grill to medium-high and grill chicken for 4 minutes each side or until the colour has deepened on the flesh. Remove from the heat and use two forks to shred the chicken. Reserve. 

To pickle the onions, slice each onion into rings, then place in a 1-litre non-reactive bowl. Cover with boiling water, stir and stand for 1 minute. Drain. While onion is still warm, add the remaining ingredients and check seasoning. Set aside for at least 1 hour before serving.

To prepare the cabbage, combine all ingredients well, and stand for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Divide the masa into four equal balls, then further divide these portions into three. (This will ensure equal size portions.) Using a tortilla press, flatten masa into 10 cm-wide tortillas. Heat a comal or dry frying pan over medium and toast each tortilla for 40 seconds on each side. The third time the tortilla is flipped over, it should puff up slightly – remove at this point, and cut a slit in the tortilla to create a pocket for stuffing. Repeat until all the tortillas are prepared.

Using a tablespoon, place some black bean paste inside the pocket of the tortilla, then gently press them flat.
Heat the oil in a deep, wide-based saucepan until it reaches 180°C. Place the stuffed tortilla into the oil and cook for about 1 minute, or until crisp and golden brown. Drain on paper towel.

To serve, arrange the panuchos on a platter then top each with two slices of tomato, two slices of cucumber, pickled cabbage, pickled onion, shredded chicken and sawtooth lettuce. Serve immediately with lime cheeks.


• Sawtooth lettuce is an herb with a coriander-like flavour, and is commonly available in Asian grocers. If unavailable, use freshly chopped coriander in its place.
• Masa is Spanish for‘ dough’. It is made from masa harina (corn flour - not the same as cornflour) and used to make tortillas.