Top 14 Best Guatemala Food and Dishes You Need To Try
This is a selection of the best Guatemalan food, I’m an ex-pat living in Guatemala for the past several years, and I got to know the food culture in the country really well, that’s why I can confidently tell you what are some of the best foods in Guatemala. So, keep reading to learn more about the delicious dishes you can find in the country.
Guatemala is famous for the pepian, one of the oldest dishes in Guatemala. A spicy stew that was born from the combination of the Mayan and Spanish culture, it’s commonly made with chicken but their variations with beef or pork. Tortillas are also widely and commonly used in Guatemala
Guatemala is not a huge country, however, it does have very distinct regions with different types of foods. You can obviously get these dishes pretty much anywhere throughout Guatemala, especially in Guatemalan restaurants, but it’s kind of cool to go and visit right where they originated from.
Best Food in Guatemala
The most typical food in Guatemala is tortillas, which you will find absolutely everywhere in the country. Tortillas are everywhere and you can go and find a lot of different tortillas shops where they make the tortillas right there in front of you. It’s made from corn flour, which is the real Guatemalan tortilla. And it is made on a kamal. They call it a kamal. It is this kind of oven right there and you can find tortilla shops everywhere.
Sometimes you’ll see it says Tres Tiempos (three times), which is three times per day that you could buy fresh tortillas. Depending on where you are in Guatemala you could get between three to five tortillas for less than $0.10. Because it is a staple, it is a necessity. Also, you can find it a lot as a typical Guatemalan street food. A lot of times you’ll even see people eating without having forks, using tortillas to wipe up the food.
The other most basic food is beans. Black beans, they’re usually whole beans or you could find refried beans. They are usually sold with rice, rice is pretty much everywhere where you could possibly think of having any kind of Guatemalan food. However, that is obviously not the only thing that you could possibly have. I actually did an entire podcast on eating in the local eateries, comedores of Guatemala.
If you are visiting Guatemala, I really recommend going to a comedor. Make sure that you check out the podcast.
The most unique and pretty countrywide dish is called pepian. Pepian is a stew. It is a thick red sauce stew with tomatoes, garlic, and red peppers. Obviously, it is with meat or chicken, but you can find today a lot of vegetarian options for it today. So that makes it really interesting as well to try. And this is pretty much countrywide, so you could easily find that anywhere you go.
The Garifuna culture in Livingstone has a very popular seafood dish called Tapado. Tapado is a seafood coconut soup, but it has absolutely everything in it. So you definitely want to check that out if you are visiting Guatemala. Visiting Livingston is a really cool adventure.
Garifunas in Guatemala
Guatemala has a very small Caribbean part of it and Livingston is its main area. It is a town right in the Caribbean, and it is rich in Garifuna culture. Over 500 years ago during slavery, there was a ship that was coming from Africa, and it got lost. And it’s actually a very positive story. It got lost and landed on the Caribbean side of Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, and a little bit of Nicaragua. So these people populated that area. And this is how it began, the Garifunas actually were never enslaved, and they made it all the way down to Honduras and Nicaragua, their homes, and even in Guatemala.
In another region right in the center of the country, Coban, in the Alta Verapaz area, there is a very popular dish called kak’ik. Is actually from the Mayan language itself. And basically, it is a turkey stew type dish. And it is really interesting. It is mainly for that particular area. When you are visiting the center of Guatemala, it is literally in the Verapaz area.
Related Read: Interesting Facts About Coban
Tamales are a huge thing, mainly throughout Central America, but in Guatemala, and I personally have lived in many parts of Central America and have been able to taste them all over Central America different Tamales, I have to say Guatemalan Tamales are by far the most delicious. They are mainly most popularly served during Christmas time.
First of all, the tamales are super tasty and rich in flavor. The difference with the Tamales here is that they have these yummy sauces. A lot of them are made with pork, but today you can find chicken and even vegetarian.
Here’s a cool thing about Tamales. You could find them going to little villages and you’ll see sometimes, depending on the day, in the evenings, there will be red lights above different houses. This is not the red light district like it is in Holland. What it is here is they are selling fresh homemade tamales. If you go to these homes where they make them homemade, you could see them in these huge pots and they are wrapped up in banana leaves.
Atole de Elote
A really popular Guatemalan drink is Atole de Elote. It’s more of a thick soup that is made from corn. It is really flavorful and I really recommend it.
Rellenitos are mainly done with chilis, and sweet red peppers. The red peppers are filled with meat and red sauce. Relleno literally means filled. And what it is filled with, it could be meat and different veggies, and it’s covered with tomato sauce. And you can find them pretty much anywhere as well, which makes it a really interesting thing for you to try, And again, pretty much all of this you can get with a tortilla.
Fiambre is only served on the day of the day. The day of the day is November first and you could find it pretty much anywhere. But this is the day that Guatemalans have a really big family celebration and Fiambre is served. Fiambre has a lot of different pickled foods and meat. It’s really difficult to explain, but if you are here for November first, again, it’s the only time you are able to actually get it. You can find vegetarian options, but mainly it is different meats and pastrami and salamis, but it has all these different pickled veggies as well.
One of the most popular and interesting things in Guatemala is the Day of the Dead. Day of the Dead is really celebrated in Mexico, but Guatemala has its own very unique version of Day of the Dead. It is this kite festival. It’s incredible.
You cannot forget the chocolate. Mayans at one point actually even used the cocoa bean as money. That’s how incredible it was at one point, how important it was for them at one point. And the chocolate is made in such a unique way it’s totally different from the chocolate that you are used to in Europe. You could buy it pretty much everywhere.
The most popular thing to do with the chocolate here is not really just to eat it in a bar, but to make hot chocolate with it. That is something that you need to also try, and you can find real Guatemala chocolate pretty much anywhere you go when you are visiting Guatemala.
Make sure to have Guatemalan coffee because Guatemala is world known for its coffee. Today you can find really amazing, delicious, true Guatemalan coffee almost everywhere in the world.
Jocon is basically pieces of chicken in a green sauce. This is a delicious dish native to the department of Huehuetenango.
Piloyada is a salad that involves red beans, and meat. It is commonly eaten during the Easter season but in Antigua Guatemala, where it is native, you can find it all year round. This salad is often eaten wrapped in a corn tortilla or with toasted bread.
Another one I kind of like a side note, you can find pupusas everywhere, but really pupusas are more of an El Salvadorian dish. However, because they are neighbors and there are a lot of El Salvadorians living in Guatemala, you can find absolutely delicious pupusas as well. Basically, what a pupusa is, it’s a tortilla with different fillings in it and then they use cabbage and red sauce to put on top.
These are just the highlights of some of the most popular foods in Guatemala. The greatest part about all of it? The majority of these foods are really cheap. You can eat a humongous meal for less than five dollars to eight dollars, depending on where you go. So if you are visiting Guatemala, give some of these foods a try because this is the essence of Guatemala.
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