Old New World: Mayan xculibul, sikil pak and pim

Mayan xculibul, sikil pak, pim

I know that may look like a bit of a mouthful, but be assured it's a tasty  mouthful, and would fit in with the taco cleanse of your choice. Xculibul are beautiful dark purplish black beans (buul) that are part of the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project, sikil pak is a sort of dip made from pumpkin seeds (sikil) and tomato (pak), and pim are tortillas. If you've never made tortillas from scratch before, you can use store-bought, but now might be the time to try your hand at it!

soaked xculibul


makes 6 servings

  • 2 cups dried xculibul , soaked overnight
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic (10 cloves) 
  • 2 TBSP ground cumin
  • 2 TBSP ground coriander
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Drain and rinse your beans. Put in a large pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Add the jalapeño, onion, cumin, coriander and garlic.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until tender, about 2 hours. Remove from heat and let cool for about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Recipe adapted from The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook: Recipes from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian by Richard Hetzler.

sikil pak in a food processor

sikil pak

makes about 2 1/2 cups

  • 1 habanero or other chile, stemmed
  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds
  • 4 tomatoes, tops trimmed
  • 1/4 cup parsley finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

While the oven is preheating, place the garlic and chile in a pan over medium heat and char until garlic and chile have patchy dark marks. Remove from pan and set aside. Char the tomatoes in the same way. Remove and set aside with the garlic and chile.

Spread the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Toast for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Grind the pumpkin seeds into a fine, uniform meal in a food processor or a molcajete if you'd like to do it by hand.  Devein the chile and quarter it, then add to the pumpkin seeds. Add the tomatoes and garlic and mash or process, leaving the mixture semichunky. Add in the parsley and salt and stir or process briefly.

Recipe adapted from Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways to Incorporate Whole and Natural Foods into Your Cooking by Heidi Swanson. 



makes 6

  • 1 cup masa harina
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup water plus more if necessary

Place the masa harina in a large bowl and stir in the salt. Add water and knead until the dough is firm but pliable. Form 6 balls of dough and cover them in the bowl with a damp  towel for 1 hour. 

Heat a flat pan over medium heat until drops of water dance and evaporate when flicked. Press between wax paper on a tortilla press or roll out into circles, then cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Fold stack of tlaxcali in a clean towel to steam for about 10 minutes.



All the recipes I read for sikil pak called for cilantro rather than parsley, so feel free to use cilantro as in the original recipes if it doesn't taste like soap to you.

If you can't find xculibul, substitute the black bean of your choice. 

Depending on your beans they may take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to cook until tender. 

If you're making tortillas for the first time, make sure you have your exhaust fan running and burn the heck out of one so you have an idea of how hot your pan should be and how long you should cook each side.  Adjust heat up or down as necessary - a heavy cast iron pan for even heating works best for this. Pim are slightly thicker than modern corn tortillas.

 xculibul, sikil pak and pim