Food in Central America hasn’t quite reached the popularity level yet of nearby Mexico. However, with seven countries to choose from and a variety of unique and delicious dishes between them, it’s a must-visit region for foodies.
The Central American diet is heavily based on the staples of rice and beans however there’s so much more to food in Central America than just that. From sweet treats to late night snacks, here are our favourite foods in Central America that you have to try.
Pupusas in El Salvador
Pupusas are a speciality in El Salvador and they’re so good, it’s inevitable that they’ll be on the menu at restaurants at home soon. Essentially pupusas are small stuffed flatbreads, filled with a variety of fillings and cooked on a hot grill. Common fillings include pork, black beans, cheese, garlic, prawns or a mixture of all of them.
These delicious parcels are found all over the country in Pupuserias where they are made to order. Once cooked, pupusas are served hot with a tomato relish and Curtido (a lightly fermented cabbage). The best thing about pupusas is the price. At just $1 a pop, it’s virtually impossible not to go back for seconds, thirds and fourths.
Gallo Pinto in Costa Rica and Nicaragua
You don’t need to travel around Central America for long to realise that rice and beans are a staple part of the diet in this region. Gallo Pinto is one of the most popular dishes and variations of it are found in both Costa Rica and in neighbouring Nicaragua. A good Gallo Pinto is a flavoursome mix of salty black beans, rice, fresh veggies and spices. It is commonly served as a breakfast item alongside egg.
Fry Jacks in Belize
Belizean Fry Jacks aren’t the healthiest of food in Central America but they are worth the calories if you’re visiting the country. Fry Jacks are a popular breakfast item in Belize and they consist of deep-fried pieces of dough, topped with anything from jam to cheese.
Baleadas in Honduras
Baleadas are a traditional dish from Honduras and they are the ultimate comfort food. Comprised of a warm thick flour tortilla, these are served folded in half and packed full of a variety of yummy fillings. Popular options include cheese, egg, sausage and, you guessed it, black beans.
Tamales in Guatemala
Guatemalan tamales are a must try food in Central America. Tamales are made out of corn masa and then steamed in a banana leaf so that they become dense and sticky in texture. They can be savoury if filled with meat and sauces or they may be sweet and stuffed with fruits, nuts and spices. Tamales are a popular dish at Christmas but they can be found throughout the year at market and from street vendors too.
Anafres in Honduras
Anafres is a bean dip that is found in Honduras and it’s delicious as a side or a light snack. The dish gets its name from ‘anafre’ which is the name of the special clay pot in which it is cooked. Inside the pot is a paste of refried red or black beans. There are then topped with a generous amount of warm melted cheese and the whole thing is served with salty tortilla or plantain chips to eat it with.
Chapin breakfast in Guatemala
It’s virtually impossible to visit Guatemala and not try a Chapin breakfast. This traditional breakfast is served everywhere from households to restaurants across the country. There are slight variations on it but a traditional Chapin breakfast usually includes eggs, refried black beans, sweet grilled plantains, some cheese and always a warm pile of corn tortillas.
Chilliguaro shots in Costa Rica
Ok, not technically a food in Central America, but no trip to Costa Rica is complete without trying a few Chilliguaro shots. Guaro is one of the most popular spirits in Costa Rica and it is distilled in the country from sugarcane. Chilligauro is exactly as it sounds, Guaro liquor is mixed with tomato juice and hot sauce to make one fiery and very drinkable shot. Think of it as a Bloody Mary, with a bit more of a kick to it.
Arroz Con Leche found all over Central America
Arroz Con Leche is a sweet dessert found all over Central America and it’s absolutely delicious. Translating simply as, rice with milk, which makes this food in Central America different to rice pudding at home are the spices. In Central America, traditional rice pudding is given a bit of an upgrade with the addition of spices like vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Belize Rum Cake in Belize
If you’re after dessert in Belize then you have to try Belize Rum Cake. Unlike most Carribean rum cakes, the Belize version is a sponge cake rather than a fruit cake which makes for a delicious twist. Packed full of booze, this cake is traditionally baked into a bunt shape and served in big slices. Best eaten with a side of rum punch for good measure.
There you have it, these are some of the many dishes you have to try when it comes to food in Central America. This fantastic region is diverse in its own right and this diversity s evident in the food that each country served up.