A trip through Central America would not be complete without trying some of the popular dishes that make up each country’s cuisine! We did a lot of eating in Central America. Like a lot. It was allowed, all of the activity we did required lots of refueling!
The food is pretty basic: lots of rice, beans, vegetables and meat. Its not the most amazing or unique cuisine, but food is cheap and fresh and for the most part, quite tasty.
The cuisine does vary from country to country, each nation putting its own unique spin on the staple foods. When traveling through Central America, here are some must try dishes from each country:
Guatemala – Tapado
This seafood soup is mostly served along the Caribbean Coast of Guatemala. It is a delicious blend of coconut milk, spices, plantains and a variety of seafood. The sweetness of the coconut milk combined with the spices and the plethora of sea creatures makes it an interesting, messy and tasty meal!
Best Tapado: Tres Garifunas Restaurant in Livingston
Make it yourself: Tapado Recipe
Belize– Jerk Pulled Pork
The very first meal I ate in Belize was Spicy Jerk Pulled Pork. It was melt in your mouth tender with a spiciness that didn’t hit your taste-buds until after you swallowed. Rice and beans accompanied the meat and were a savior at cooling down my mouth. Over the two weeks I spent in the country, I ate many different foods cooked ‘jerk style’. I loved it all, but hands down the tender pork was my favorite!
Best Jerk Pulled Pork – Anna’s Lunch Box in Belize City
Make it Yourself: Spicy Jerk Pulled Pork Recipe
Honduras – Anafres
Anafres is an incredibly delicious, spicy and simple dip. Fried beans, chorizo, cheese, peppers and spices are combined in a clay pot that sits over hot coals. The dip is served piping hot and bubbling. The anafres is eaten by dipping homemade tortilla chips into the bean mixture. Quite possibly one of the best appetizers I have ever had! The name anafre is actually the name of the clay pot that the food is served in.
Best Anafres: La Llama del Bosque in Copan Ruinas
Make it Yourself: Anafre Recipe
El Salvador – Pupusas
Ah the pupusa! I could eat these little delicious bites all day, everyday. And I did just that in El Salvador. Pupusas are thick corn tortillas filled with meat, cheese and/or other fillings. Pupuserias are little shops/carts/restaurants that specialize in the pupusa. They are handmade in front of you and are normally filled with quesillo (a soft cheese), refried beans or cooked pork puree. They are then flattened and cooked, and served with curtido (cabbage slaw). Pupusas are extremely cheap, no more than a dollar, typically 2-3 for $1.
Best Pupusas: Food Carts in Suchitoto
Make it Yourself: Pupusa Recipe
Nicaragua – Vigaron
Vigaron is a typical Nicaraguan street food. Made of just three ingredients: yucca, cabbage salad, and chicha The yucca (a root vegetable similar to potato) is boiled and serves as the base of the dish. It is topped with a cabbage salad marinated in vinegar and hot sauce and topped generously with crunchy pork rinds. The combination of the soft yucca, spicy slaw and crunchy pork rinds is perfection.
The best vigaron I ate in Nicaragua was at a baseball game in Masaya. It was being sold like peanuts are normally sold. It cost me $1, and was served out of a styrofoam bowl, but the flavors and textures blended so seamlessly! An excellent option for a cheap, filling and flavorful meal!
Best Vigaron: Baseball Game in Masaya
Make it Yourself: Recipe for Vigaron
Costa Rica – Chilera
On every table in Costa Rica, you will find a jar of Chilera. Hot Peppers, carrots, cauliflower, onions and green beans are chopped and placed in a jar with vinegar (typically banana vinegar). This jar sits for awhile, allowing the vegetables to soak in the spicy vinegar. All you need is a little drizzle of the vinegar to spice up your food. I also enjoyed taking some of the vegetables and adding them to my dish for a spicy bite!
Best Chilera: Pretty much the same everywhere!
Make it Yourself: Chilera Recipe
Panama – Ceviche
We ate a lot of fresh fish in Panama, Ceviche being a popular choice. Ceviche is pieces of raw seafood, including fish, shrimp and squid, marinated in citrus juice, and combined with onions and spicy peppers! My favorite ceviche is made with a mixture of shrimp and white fish. The coolest experience was checking out the fish market in Panama City. Tons of vendors get fish straight from the boats then make different kinds of ceviche!
Best Ceviche: Mercado de Mariscos in Panama City
Make it Yourself: Ceviche Recipe
There are tons of foods I would recommend to eat from Central America, but these seven dishes proved over and over how delicious they are!