Guatemala is a culturally and historically rich country, and its food is no exception! Traditional Guatemalan food combines Spanish, Mayan, and other indigenous influences to create a distinct and flavorful culinary experience.
Whether you enjoy cooking or are simply interested in trying new cuisines, here are some of the best traditional Guatemalan foods you should try during your visit. Each dish, from hearty stews to sweet desserts, is a delectable representation of Guatemala’s famous heritage and diverse culinary scene.
What’s Special About Guatemala Food
Guatemalan cuisine is frequently distinguished by its bold flavors and use of traditional ingredients such as corn, beans, and chilies. It is also known for its rich history, cultural significance, and traditional cooking methods, such as roasting and grinding spices by hand.
Furthermore, typical Guatemalan food uses fresh and locally sourced ingredients such as fruits and vegetables, herbs, and spices. For example, avocado, tomato, and cilantro are common ingredients in Guatemalan dishes, as are aromatic herbs such as oregano, thyme, and cumin.
Traditional cooking techniques such as pit roasting and slow simmering are also used to enhance the food’s flavors and contribute to the uniqueness of Guatemalan food traditions.
Most Famous Food In Guatemala
Tamale (Cornmeal Cake)
Tamale is a traditional Guatemalan food of steamed corn dough typically stuffed with meat, vegetables, and spices. It is steamed until cooked after being wrapped in a banana leaf, which gives it a distinct flavor.
Tamale-making is frequently a group activity. Families and communities band together to prepare large batches for special occasions like Christmas or weddings. It’s commonly served with salsa or a tomato-based sauce, and it’s also popular street food. The root of this delectable dish can be traced all the way back to ancient Maya civilization.
Widely considered one of Guatemala’s national dishes, Tamales is one food you have to try. Its distinct flavor and texture combinations will leave you wanting more. The experience of unwrapping the banana leaf to reveal the steaming hot tamale inside is truly unique.
Guatemalan Food – Main Dishes
Enchilada (Tortillas With Meat Filling)
The Guatemalan Enchilada is a famous culinary masterpiece that beautifully blends the rich cultural heritage of the Mayan and Spanish influences. Its origin goes back to the pre-Columbian era.
Enchilada is a delectable dish made of corn tortillas stuffed with a succulent meat filling and topped with a vibrant tomato-based sauce. The meat filling is usually made with ground beef.
Still, it can also be made with chicken or pork, seasoned with cumin, chili powder, and garlic.
The sauce combines tomatoes, onions, and peppers, giving the dish flavor and color. This hearty and flavorful dish is a popular food in Guatemala and will satisfy your cravings for bold, authentic flavors.
Fiambre (Cold Meat Salad)
Fiambre is a cold salad dish from Guatemala with various ingredients such as vegetables, meats, fruits, cheeses, and pickled relishes like olives, all topped with a savory dressing.
It is easily customizable and can be super colorful as well depending on what you put in it. Regardless, Fiambre will give you a filling and flavorful taste of the country’s culinary traditions.
Make sure you sample this one-of-a-kind and delectable dish that pays homage to Guatemala’s vibrant cultural heritage and community spirit. It is traditionally prepared and served on November 1st during the Day of the Dead festival.
Guatemalan Food – Light Dishes, Snacks, And Street Food
Chuchitos (Corn Dough)
Chuchitos are a popular street food in Guatemala that you should not miss. These small stuffed corn dough pockets originated from the Mayan culture in pre-Columbian times. They are made with corn masa dough and a filling of chicken, beef, or pork and are frequently topped with spicy tomato salsa.
Chuchitos provide a delectable and savory taste of Guatemala’s rich culinary heritage. They’re ideal for a quick bite on the go. If you enjoy street food and want to try something new, look out for Chuchitos as you are roaming around Guatemala.
Pacaya (Palm Flower Fritters)
This is a delicious Guatemalan dish that gives tourists a taste of the country’s vibrancy. It’s packed with flavor and texture because they’re actually made from the edible blossoms of the Pacaya palm tree!
The delicate flowers are battered and fried until crispy, creating a savory and satisfying treat that will tempt your taste buds.
Pacaya is one of the many Guatemalan snacks with a unique taste. These fritters are believed to have been around since the Mayan civilization. They are not just part of Guatemalan cuisine, but a treat loved by many Central Americans.
Paches (Potato Tamales)
Paches, also known as ‘potato tamales’, is a traditional Guatemalan food you should eat during your visit. These are made with mashed potatoes and corn flour, stuffed with chicken or pork, vegetables, and spices, wrapped in a banana leaf, and steamed until tender.
The combination of the soft and creamy texture of the potatoes with the savory and flavorful meat filling distinguishes Paches. This traditional dish is a popular Guatemalan breakfast, typically served with a spicy tomato sauce. It hails from Alta Verapaz, and has a satisfying taste that will leave you with a unique culinary memory.
Bunuelos (Honey Fritters)
Bunuelos (or honey fritters) are a popular dessert throughout Latin America, including Guatemala. For a delectable flavor balance, these fried dough balls are coated in sweet honey syrup and dusted with cinnamon sugar.
The fritters have an airy texture, making them deceptively light when you are popping them into your mouth unconsciously. However, they can actually be rather filling since it’s essentially dough.
Bunuelos represent a fusion of Spanish and indigenous cultures and are a popular treat. The sweetness of the honey combined with the comforting spices creates a delicious and one-of-a-kind taste experience you would love to try over and over again.
It’s believed that Bunuelos originated in Spain and were widely spread to become a staple among Latin American countries. Many European countries have similar versions of this dessert snack.
Shucos (Hot Dogs)
Shucos (or Guatemalan hot dogs) originated in the city of Quetzaltenango. These hearty and flavorful hot dogs are a popular Guatemalan street food. The hot dog is grilled, then served on a toasted bun with various condiments such as avocado, cabbage, onions, salsa, and mayo.
Every bite is a mouthwatering experience, thanks to the delicious combination of flavors and textures. Shucos is an excellent choice for a quick snack or a filling meal. They are part of the convenient yet tasty Guatemalan food that is loved by both locals and tourists alike.
Guatemalan Food – Drink
Atol De Elote (Sweet Corn Drink)
Atol de Elote is a sweet corn drink popular in many Latin American countries, including Guatemala. It has a unique and refreshing flavor that will delight your taste buds because it’s made from fresh corn, milk, cinnamon, and sugar. If you visit Guatemala, Atol de Elote is a must-try drink.
It’s not only a tasty and refreshing drink, but it’s also an important part of the country’s culinary heritage. It’s great with traditional Guatemalan food while exploring the vibrant markets and bustling streets.
Horchata is a popular drink among Latin Americans, but it has made an impression on Guatemalans. It’s made by combining nuts or grains with water, such as rice, almonds, or tiger nuts, and sweetening the mixture with sugar or honey. The drink is creamy and sweet, with hints of cinnamon and vanilla, and is ideal for hot days.
You can have this great drink on its own or with various foods. This centuries-old drink is traced to North Africa, and it’s believed to have spread to the Iberian Peninsula during the Muslim rule of Spain. Sip a glass of horchata at a local cafe and enjoy its distinct flavor.
Chicha (Corn Beer)
Chicha is a traditional Guatemalan beverage made from fermented maize. Locals have enjoyed this refreshing and slightly sweet beverage for centuries. Corn beer not only offers a one-of-a-kind cultural experience, but it also has a delicious taste that will leave you wanting more.
Chicha is widely available in markets and street stalls throughout Guatemala. Each vendor puts their spin on the recipe, allowing you to sample this drink’s wide range of flavors.
The origin of this iconic beverage is traced back to pre-Columbian times, and it was an important part of the culture of many indigenous communities in the Andean region.
Guatemalan Food – Soups
Sopa De Frijol (Black Bean Soup)
Sopa de Frijol (also known as black bean soup) is a staple dish in Guatemalan cuisine due to its affordability and ability to just fill you up. . This savory soup is made with black beans, onion, garlic, and other spices that give it a distinct and tasty flavor.
It’s typically served with rice, tortillas, and a dollop of sour cream or grated cheese on top. Sopa de Frijol is a filling and satisfying meal. It represents traditional Guatemalan food that has been passed down through generations. The origins of this soup can be traced back to the indigenous communities of Mesoamerica.
Pepian (Spiced Chicken Stew)
This flavorful spiced chicken stew is a famous food in Guatemala with its strong taste. It is believed to have originated with the Maya people.
Cook tender chicken in a rich and flavorful sauce made from ground pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and a blend of aromatic spices.. The result is a hearty dish bursting with complex and savory flavors, best served with rice, tortillas, and fresh vegetables.
Tapado (Seafood Soup)
Tapado is a delicious seafood soup native to Guatemala’s Garifuna community. This hearty dish features a variety of seafood, including fish, crab, shrimp, squid, plantains, yucca, and coconut milk. The soup is flavored with a combination of spices and herbs, which gives it a rich and savory taste.
You can custom-make the dish according to your preference by adding more or less of your favorite seafood. The dish is also very common in the coastal region of Honduras, which takes advantage of their access to fresh seafood.
Hilachas (Shredded Beef Stew)
Hilachas is a Guatemalan food made by slow-cooking shredded beef, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and aromatic spices. The tender meat and the sauce’s rich flavors result in a delicious, thick stew that will leave you feeling full and satisfied.
This hearty meal served with rice and tortillas is ideal for a chilly day or a cozy night in. Hilachas is a traditional Guatemalan dish that originated in the city of Quetzaltenango, located in the country’s Western highlands.
Pulique De Pollo (Pulique Sauce)
Pulique de Pollo is a traditional Guatemalan sauce traced to the Mayan culture. This sauce is the perfect complement to any meal, made with a blend of spices and herbs, including tomatoes, onions, garlic, chilies, and the unique addition of Pepitoria (ground pumpkin seeds).
Because of the rich, earthy flavor and velvety texture, it’s an excellent complement to chicken, beef, or pork. It’s a staple in many Guatemalan households, and they often serve it with tortillas or rice. If you want to taste the true flavors of Guatemala, try some Pulique de Pollo during your visit.
Guatemalan Food – Sweets, Desserts, And Pastries
Arroz En Leche/Arroz Con Leche (Rice Pudding)
Arroz en Leche (also known as Arroz con Leche) is a delicious Guatemalan rice pudding you should not miss during your visit. The sweet, creamy dessert is flavored with cinnamon and vanilla. It’s made by cooking rice in milk until soft and tender, then sweetening it to taste with sugar.
The dish is usually served cold, with raisins, nuts, or fresh fruit on top. It’s not only a popular Guatemalan dessert, but it’s also a true representation of Latin American cuisine. The creamy texture and aromatic spices used in its preparation make it an unforgettable indulgence.
Pupusas (Maiz Tortilla Cake)
Pupusas are Guatemalan cuisine that should be tried by any foodie visiting this beautiful country.
These thick maize tortilla cakes are grilled to perfection after being filled with delicious ingredients such as cheese, beans, or meat. The texture of the dough, which is soft and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside, distinguishes pupusas.
Pupusas make for a flavorful and satisfying meal that is served with a side of spicy tomato salsa and pickled vegetables. What’s interesting is that these savory treats are typically considered desserts, and they are adopted from the e Salvadoran culture.
Champurradas (Sesame Cookies)
Champurradas (also known as Sesame Cookies) is a popular Guatemalan delicacy that locals and tourists love. These crunchy and flavorful treats are made from sesame seeds, butter, sugar, and cinnamon. What truly distinguishes them is the addition of anise seeds, which impart a distinct and unforgettable flavor.
So whether you’re strolling through the bustling streets of Guatemala City or exploring the lush jungles of Tikal, try some of these delicious cookies to get a true taste of Guatemala. These delicious cookies are believed to have their origin in Spain.
Quesadilla (Cheese Pound Cake)
Quesadilla (also known as Cheese Pound Cake) is one of the most iconic Guatemalan desserts. This delectable cake is made with cream cheese, butter, and sugar to create a soft, fluffy texture. The cinnamon and vanilla add a rich and aromatic flavor that perfectly complements the cake’s creamy sweetness.
Every bite of Quesadilla is a religious experience as the cake melts in your mouth. This traditional Guatemalan dessert is not only delicious, but it’s also a cultural symbol of the Guatemalan people’s warmth and hospitality. This Cheese Pound Cake has its origin in Mexico.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Discovering Traditional Food in Guatemala
A deep dive into the Guatemalan food scene is essential for any foodie or cultural enthusiast. It is a great introduction in learning about Guatemala’s rich heritage and culinary traditions, from hearty stews and savory tamales to sweet desserts and refreshing drinks.
Head on to the local markets, where you can find a wide range of fresh produce, spices, and other ingredients used in traditional Guatemalan food. Many markets also have street food vendors and small restaurants that serve delectable meals.
The country’s cuisine will satisfy your taste buds and leave you with a newfound appreciation for its vibrant and fascinating culture.