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Guatemalan Traditional Food: 3 Must-Eats While Traveling in Guatemala

Guatemalan Traditional Food

This is a selection of the best Guatemalan traditional food. All of them have been given the name of national patrimony by Guatemala‘s government for being the most representative of the country. So, keep reading if you want to what are some Guatemalan foods. In addition, because I know many of you love to cook I’m adding the recipes too.

a table with lots of traditional guatemalan food

Traditional Guatemalan Food Recipes – Top 3 dishes

What is the national dish of Guatemala?


Pepian is a meat stew that was recently named as the official Guatemalan National dish. You will find it almost anywhere around the country. It is normally served with rice and corn Tortillas, Guatemala’s staple food. It is native to the department of Quetzaltenango.


national dish of guatemala pepian 1 pound fresh tomatillos
1 large poblano pepper (about 2 1/2 to 3 ounces), seeded and cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup raw unsalted pumpkin seeds
5 peppercorns
2 whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seed
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus 1/4 cup for garnish
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 medium (2-inch) jalapeno pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 (6-ounce) boneless skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
Lime wedges

Cook It Up!

Preheat the broiler. Remove papery outer layer from tomatillos then rinse them in warm water to remove some of their natural stickiness. Pat dry, then cut into quarters. Toss tomatillos and poblano with 2 teaspoons of the oil, place on a baking sheet and broil until charred, about 10 minutes.

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds, peppercorns, allspice, and cumin and toast until pumpkin seeds are fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

In the same saute pan, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Place tomatillos, poblano, onions and garlic, cilantro, chicken broth, jalapeno, toasted seeds and spices and salt in a blender and blend on high until totally smooth, about 30 seconds.

Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil in skillet and cook the chicken until browned on both sides and nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Add pepian sauce to skillet, covering chicken pieces. Bring to a simmer and cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Serve chicken topped with sauce and garnished with cilantro and lime wedges.


Jocon is basically pieces of chicken in a green sauce. This is a delicious dish native from the department of Huehuetenango.


jocon recipe guatemalan traditional food 1 chicken, cut into serving pieces,
loose skin and fat discarded
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tortillas, sliced
1 tablespoon pepitoria (squash seeds)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 cup cilantro, packed
1 cup sliced scallions, green part only
1/2 cup sliced tomatillos
1 to 2 teaspoons hot green chile slices
1 tablespoon corn oil

Cook It Up!

Cook the chicken in the water with the salt in a covered kettle until soft, about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken and set aside. Reserve broth and soak tortillas in it. Toast the squash seeds and sesame seeds in a dry skillet over moderate to low heat until they turn a light tan color, about 10 minutes.

Prepare sauce in processor. Grind the squash and sesame seeds. Add the cilantro, scallions, tomatillos, hot chile pepper and 1 cup of the reserved broth. Add the soaked tortillas and process to a smooth paste.

Brown the chicken pieces in oil over moderate heat for 5 minutes.

Add the green sauce and the balance of the broth, about 2 cups. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, until the sauce is reduced to a thick, rich, green consistency.


Piloyada is a salad that involves red beans, meat. It is commonly eaten in the Easter season but in Antigua Guatemala, from where it is native, you can find it all year round.


guatemalan traditional food recipe piloyada 2 cups cooked red beans (I use canned)
3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 med. chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped cooked chicken, ham, or sausage
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup chopped mint (optional, but good)

Cook It Up!

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Then refrigerate for a few hours. I’m not sure if it works or not but locals say that it tastes better once the ingredients have had time to release the flavors and for them to become one.

This salad is often eaten wrapped in a corn tortilla or with toasted bread.

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3 Must Eats While Traveling in Guatemala - Traditional Guatemalan Food

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