Shopping for tofuneza or snake oil? Look no further than Bucerias

El Chabacano

Shopping at the small grocery stores in Bucerias may not be as attractive anymore since the large Mega Commercial was built just outside of town. While Mega offers every kind of cheese, cereal, canned goods and processed meat you may want, the smaller stores in town still have an offering of ordinary and unusual items for the visitors on foot and for those who aren’t into an expedition by car. I understand the convenience of using a supermarket, with one stop for everything on your shopping list, but I also like the idea of supporting the local, small business people who are losing sales to the large chain stores.

With an eye for the unusual and different, we explored four of the more interesting grocery stores in Bucerias: El Chabacano, Beto’s, La Abejita, and El Palacio Chino. All offered items or service not found at Mega.


El Chabacano, which means apricot in Spanish, has a good assortment of produce, with a walk-in cold room that helps the more perishable fruits and vegetables stay fresh in the summer heat. In addition to the usual, they will order almost anything in the vegetable and fruit world for you, from alfalfa sprouts to Portobello mushrooms, radicchio and tamarind.

The day we visited, their shelves included strawberries, purple grapes, coconuts, watermelon, eggplant and kiwi. I noticed the quantity and variety were not as great as I had seen before, now that high season is over, but they can only stock what they can sell. If they don’t have what you are looking for, ask for the list of produce for special orders

El Chabacano is located one block off of the lateral, downhill from the Chinese grocery store (not really a Chinese grocery store, but we’ll get to that later), on Calle Hidalgo.

Beto’s Mini-Super

Our next stop was Beto’s, almost an institution in Bucerias, and famous for its inventory of imported foods that we extranjeros think we can’t live without. The day we visited, Beto had his lights off, maybe to keep his power bill down, so photos were not easy. And I saw, to my dismay, that he has taken out a large selection of imported cheeses and other fancy foods that needed refrigeration and replaced them with what may be the largest selection of alcohol in town. I guess the winter visitors aren’t coming for cheese.

If your cooking tends toward Chinese or Thai, Beto has a very good selection of Asian products, such as fish sauce, Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste, plum sauce, dark mushroom soy sauce, oyster sauce, tempura dipping sauce and canned lychees in syrup.

We also saw Oregon brand canned blueberries and figs, and two kinds of European Dijon mustard. For the hard to please, there was molasses, Vlasik dill pickles, sweet pickle relish and maple syrup.

One item new to me was a jar of Tofuneza. Tofu what? Ingredients included organic tofu, walnuts, lime, chipotle chile and spices. It looked spreadable, and the label suggested using it as a dip or dressing. I’ll confess that I eat tofu, but it didn’t go into my shopping basket. Maybe next time.

And one item was really out-of-place — Pace Picante Sauce, the bottled salsa from Texas. Um … importing salsa to Mexico? What’s wrong with this picture?

Finally I got to the canned goods. On the shelves were Hormel Corned Beef, Chef Boyardee Spaghetti and Meatballs (haven’t eaten those since I was too young to know any better) and a can of Chef Boyardee Pepperoni Pizzazarol. I try to keep up on all things in the food world, but I clearly missed this last one. The picture on the label didn’t resemble any food I know. If you are hungry, I recommend a street taco instead.

Beto’s is located on the lateral, just before the turn-off to Royal Decameron Resort, if you are heading toward Puerto Vallarta.

La Abejita

On to La Abejita, The Little Bee. The store front announces its wares, “Medicinal Herbs, Seeds, Cereals and Plastics”, and in those categories, they cover all bases. I really like this store. Its bins of bulk chiles, grains, seeds and nuts, jars of every spice you can think of, plus strange medicinal herbs and potions, are so extensive that I always find something new, something I have never seen before. And you have to admire a store that sells “Snake Oil”. At least they are up front about the contents.

One time, I came home with cocoa bean seeds, the raw stuff from which the finest (and not so fine) chocolates are made. Cocoa beans have a raw, bitter chocolate flavor, and are reputed to be extremely high in antioxidants. I add cocoa beans to smoothies or munch on them as is. I’ve even experimented with making chocolate candy by grinding the beans up and adding butter, agave syrup and coconut. (Godiva has nothing to worry about.) Don’t eat too many, as they are also high in theobromine, a chemical related to caffeine.

Cocao Beans

Today I came home with tequezquite, a mineral salt used since pre-Columbian times for leavening tamales. I read about this odd ingredient in Mexican cookbooks, which tell of using it to retain the color of nopales, and to soften beans. I know it looks like a rock from my drive-way, but I had to add it to my pantry. Who knows when I’ll need it for my next tamal making session.

La Abejita has a wide selection of herbal and medicinal teas, baking ingredients — including yeast for bread baking and flours, such as rye and wheat — pet food, plastic plates and cups, and candies. This list doesn’t begin to cover it. Every time I go, I find something new.

La Abejita is on the bay side of the lateral, just downhill from the post office, and one block from the main turn-off to the center of Bucerias where the taxis park.

Palacio Chino

Finally, we visited Palacio Chino. When we moved here, I was excited to see it, thinking it was a real Chinese grocery store. It turns out that the owner’s father, who built the store, was fascinated with all things Chinese, and even lived in China for a while. The architecture of the store, and even the construction of his tomb at the local cemetery, reflect this oriental interest. But they don’t sell Chinese food. The closest Asian thing I could find today was a game of Chinese Checkers. I read the name of the game, and thought it said, “Chinese Women”. The dictionary tells me that a Spanish translation for checkers is damas — your new Spanish word for the day.

Palacio Chino has recently been remodeled and this resulted in downsizing. The inventory is smaller than before, but has a few interesting items, such as coffee and other select food items …

… and useful kitchen gadgets, like a tortilla press and colorful citrus juice squeezers.

When you have had enough of the beaches and want to explore the streets of Bucerias, don’t forget the little grocery stores. They will appreciate your business, and you may find something you haven’t see before.

The final resting place of the original owner of Palacio Chino

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6 thoughts on “Shopping for tofuneza or snake oil? Look no further than Bucerias

  1. Pingback: Bucerias | Jana and Steve's Travels & Photos

  2. Anonymous

    Thanks for this great blog! I was looking for the name of the store in Bucerias with grains, and was happy to find such a great page with pictures and details. I started to poke around and I’ll have to bookmark this to look at later! So many cool food items, but most of all I enjoy the cultural and historical details woven in to the recipes.

  3. Pingback: Countdown to Mexico » Blog Archive » Oaxaca and Monte Albán

  4. Lorin Johnson

    I’m so glad that you featured these stores. The Chinese one as been shrinking in variety over the years. The only thing that they seem to keep lots of is liquor.
    Beto’s has so much in a small space. Always ask for what you don’t see as they often have it in the back – especially cheeses. I get my good Italian Plum canned tomatoes there for pasta sauces. They also always have a good variety of Italian pastas as well. The parmesan cheese is kept in back and cut to order. When I’m wanting Italian I go there and Carnes Del Mundo for good Italian sausage. Beto has done a great job of keeping things that the gringos want. You used to have to go all the way to Rissos in old town Vallarta for such things. That includes teas, spices and Asian goods.
    La Abejita is also amazing. Each time I go I discover new things as well. Often it is the only place to find some herbs and spices.
    El Chabacano has been a regular stop on shopping days for years. They were the first and only place for years to get lettuces other than head, asparagus, artichokes, and other not so standard goodies. They also had the best varieties of fruit. Now they have more competition but in the high season keep great quality. Do they still close at 1:00pm?

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