Food in Central America is varied thanks to the many cultures that have influenced the region over time. If you’re visiting one of the countries that makes up the Central American region, consider trying some of these iconic dishes on your travels.
Baleadas are a typical dish in Honduras, typically eaten at breakfast or brunch. You can usually find baleadas at street vendors, and even some gas stations! Baleadas are very thick flour tortillas stuffed with beans, mashed red beans, and a variety of fillings. Fillings can include things like avocado, bacon, sausage, chicken, pork, eggs, and/or cheese. You might find them referred to as simple (beans, cream, and cheese), special (beans, cream, cheese, and eggs), or super special (beans, cream, cheese, eggs, and choice of meat). Fast and tasty, baleadas are a popular item in Honduras that you definitely shouldn’t miss.
Variations of dishes made with “rice and beans” can be found throughout Central America. In Nicaragua and Costa Rica, you’ll find a dish called gallo pinto. Made with either red or black beans, the dish means “spotted rooster” in Spanish. It’s believed the dish acquired that name as a result of cooking rice together with the beans. In Belize, rice and beans is typically served with either stewed chicken, pork, or beef. It’s pretty much the national dish of the country and can be found everywhere, both on the mainland and the islands.
These tasty deep-fried pieces of dough are typically found in Belize for breakfast. Eat them as a side dish with butter, jam, and/or honey, or go for a larger stuffed version that can be a meal in itself. Stuffed fry jacks typically have beans, scrambled eggs, cheese, and then some type of meat – bacon, ham, chicken, or various sausages.
Many people claim pupusas originated in El Salvador, but Honduras also lays claim for their creation as well. No matter who gets credit for their creation, everyone can agree they are super tasty. Pupusas are typically thick corn tortillas stuffed with a savory filling and cooked on a comal, or griddle. Common fillings can include beans, pork, cheese, chicken, and more. They are typically served with cabbage and a tomato-based sauce. They can be eaten as a snack, but a few pupusas could easily serve as a meal too.
Popular in coastal areas of Latin America as well as the Caribbean, ceviche is another dish you’ll want to try in Central America. Ceviche can vary widely based on the destination, but the basic premise is raw seafood marinated in a mixture of lime, salt, onions, and cilantro. It often includes tomatoes and avocado as well. Commonly used seafood includes shrimp, octopus, squid, tuna, and mackerel. Places like Panama may use lemon juice and celery; while other countries may use yerba buena, part of the mint family, and Worcestershire sauce. In destinations like Belize, ceviche made with Caribbean spiny lobster and conch are worth trying when they are in season.
Hudut is a traditional fish and plantain dish eaten in Belize that comes from the Garifuna culture. It’s a fish stew made with coconuts, onions, garlic, and thyme and comes with mashed plantains. You may see Sere on the menu, which is similar to Hudut, but believed to be more Creole in origin. The best part of the country in which to try Hudut is the Garifuna villages of Dangriga or Hopkins, where you will find the largest concentration of Garifuna culture. Guatemala also has Garifuna seafood stew called Tapado, which you’ll find in coastal spots like the small town of Livingston, located at the start of the Rio Dulce.
Which of these sounds the best to you?
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Erin is a travel and food writer who currently splits her time between the Netherlands and Belize. She's traveled to 60+ countries on 5 continents with a passion for culinary travel, luxury hotels, and all things Disney. Her writing has appeared in numerous online outlets including Gadling, BootsnAll, CNN, Art of Backpacking, TravBuddy, CBS, and more. She was the major author of Belize's official visitor magazine, Destination Belize 2013; wrote the official AFAR Guide to Belize; and is also AFAR Magazine's local Belize expert.. In addition to writing for other publications, Erin maintains several blogs, Our Tasty Travels, No Checked Bags, Pooh's Travels, and the brand new Caye To Belize. Follow Erin on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.
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