Panama is known for its delicious cuisine, which reflects the country’s cultural diversity, combining flavors and ingredients from indigenous, African, and Spanish influences. Panamanian cuisine is a delicious mix of sweet, savory, and spicy flavors that will tantalize your taste buds, from traditional Panama street food to hearty stews.
The following are some traditional Panamanian foods you should try during your visit. From the iconic Sancocho to the sweet tres leches cake, these dishes will surely take your taste buds on a culinary journey through Panama.
Get ready to satisfy your hunger and indulge in the flavors of Panama’s diverse and delicious cuisine.
What’s Special About Panama Food
Panamanian cuisine is special because it emphasizes the use of fresh and locally sourced ingredients. Thanks to its location and tropical climate, Panama has access to a wide range of exotic fruits, vegetables, and seafood, adding unique flavors to its dishes. Panama’s cooking techniques are about enhancing the ingredients’ natural flavors, resulting in satisfying and delicious meals.
But what truly makes dining in Panama a fun experience is the communal aspect of sharing meals. Many Panamanian dishes are family-style, encouraging people to come together and enjoy the food. It reflects the warmth and hospitality of the country’s people and is a great way to connect with the culture.
Most Famous Food In Panama
Sancocho (Chicken Stew)
Sancocho is the most famous dish in Panamanian cuisine, with various ingredients, including yuca, plantains, corn, and other vegetables. This hearty and flavorful dish is a staple in many Panamanian households and is often served on special occasions and celebrations.
The dish is slow-cooked for several hours to allow the flavors to blend and develop, resulting in a delicious and satisfying stew. The dish is served with white rice and lime wedges for squeezing over the top.
Sancocho is more than just a meal; it symbolizes Panamanian culture and tradition. The dish has deep roots in the country’s history and is often associated with family gatherings and community events.
It’s a testament to the importance of food in Panama culture and its power to unite people. If you want to experience the heart and soul of Panamanian food, then Sancocho is a must-try dish.
Panamanian Food – Seafood
Ceviche De Corvina (Sea Bass Ceviche)
Ceviche de Corvina is a famous food in Panama that you must try during your visit. The dish is made with fresh, raw sea bass marinated in lime juice, onions, cilantro, and chili peppers. The acid in the lime juice cooks the fish, resulting in a tangy and refreshing flavor.
You can either serve the dish as an appetizer or as a main course with rice and avocado. While ceviche does feature in various parts of Latin American cuisine, it is less common in other parts of the world. So if you’re visiting Panama and have not had it yet, this offers a unique and flavorful experience you won’t forget.
Arroz Con Camarones (Shrimp And Rice)
Arroz con Camarones is a delicious and flavorful dish showcasing Panamanian cuisine. This dish is an absolute delight for seafood lovers, made with succulent shrimp, fluffy rice, and various seasonings like garlic, onions, and pepper. It’s a popular and widely available dish throughout Panama, and it’s easy to see why.
Combining fresh seafood and fragrant spices makes for a delicious, satisfying meal. Arroz con Camarones is a dish you shouldn’t miss if you’re looking for an authentic taste of Panama.
Sopa De Mariscos (Seafood Soup)
Sopa de Mariscos is a flavorful seafood soup that is often considered a Panama food staple. The soup typically contains a variety of seafood, including fish, shrimp, crab, and vegetables, such as onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
The broth is made from fish stock, coconut milk, and aromatic spices such as garlic, cumin, and cilantro. Sopa de Mariscos is best enjoyed hot and is often served with rice or tortillas to make a filling meal. This tasty soup is a reflection of the country’s love for seafood, which has certainly grown to be a part of the Panamanian food culture.
Langostinos Al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)
Langostinos al Ajillo is a typical Panama food with sautéing jumbo shrimp in garlic, butter, and olive oil. The garlic and butter complement the sweetness of the shrimp, making it a favorite among garlic lovers.
This delectable dish is also a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. You will always find Langostinos al Ajillo in Panamanian restaurants specializing in seafood dishes.
Pescado Frito (Fried Fish)
Pescado Frito is a simple yet delicious dish popular in many coastal regions. The fish is seasoned with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, coated with flour, and fried until golden brown. It’s served hot and crispy, making it a satisfying and flavorful meal.
The crispy texture of the fish combined with the tangy flavor of lemon juice creates a mouth-watering taste that will surely delight your taste buds. With convenient access to fresh fish packed full of protein and essential nutrients, Pescado Frito is a go-to staple food in many seaside towns.
Panamanian Food – Light Dishes, Snacks, And Street Foods
Hojaldras (Fried Pastry)
Hojaldras are made from simple flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and water dough. The dough is then rolled out, cut into circles or squares, and fried in hot oil until golden brown and crispy. Once cooked, they can be filled with various ingredients, such as cheese, ham, or jelly, to add flavor and texture.
Hojaldras is a famous and delicious local snack that is perfect for breakfast or a quick snack. It is a day-to-day indulgence that people enjoy and therefore a tasty way for you to participate in the Panama food culture.
Pan De Huevo (Sweet Egg Bread)
Pan de Huevo is a traditional food in Panama, thanks to its soft texture and sweet flavor. It’s made with simple ingredients and can easily be found in local bakeries and markets. Enjoy it as a midday snack or a morning treat; Pan de Huevo is a delicious way to indulge in a little sweetness.
The ingredients, eggs, sugar, flour, and milk, are mixed to form a smooth and elastic dough. The dough rises for a few hours until it doubles before being shaped into small rolls or braids and baked until golden brown. It’s all a simple procedure you can probably even learn during your visit.
Bollos (Corn Dough)
Bollos are a tasty snack that consists of steamed corn dough filled with savory pork, chicken, or vegetable fillings. The corn dough is mixed with water and salt and then shaped into a pocket for the filling. The filled pockets are then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed until cooked.
Bollos is one of the favorite snack options for breakfast in Panama, and you can accompany it with a cup of fruit juice. It’s a must-try snack for you when visiting Panama because they’re both delicious and convenient to eat on the go.
Consider packing some to enjoy while you are exploring the famous landmarks in Panama.
Torrejitas De Maiz (Corn Fritters)
Torrejitas de Maiz, a popular food in Panama, are crispy fritters that combine cornmeal, cheese, and spices. The mixture is deep-fried until golden brown, creating a deliciously crunchy texture.
These cakes are often served with a side of garlic sauce or ketchup, adding flavor to the snack. If you’re looking for a tasty and filling snack to share with friends during your visit to Panama, Torrejitas de Maiz is worth trying.
Chicharrones (Pork Cracklings)
Chicharrones are a savory and crispy snack that will satisfy you, especially if you love pork. Also known as pork crackling, these are made by frying pork rinds until crispy and seasoned with salt, garlic, and spices.
You can find Chicharrones in street stores and markets nationwide, and they are perfect for a quick and satisfying bite. If you’re looking for a tasty and unique treat to try during your visit to Panama, dig into some Chicharrones.
They are not just found in Panama but also in Latin American countries like Mexico, so you can imagine this is one sinful, but delicious snack.
Tostones (Plantain Chips)
Plantain chips are not only traditional Panamanian food but are also a favorite across Latin American nations. Thinly sliced green plantains are fried until crispy and golden brown, then seasoned with salt or chili powder for a flavorful spice.
Tostones have such a simple preparation process and are readily available in grocery stores and street shops. You won’t want to miss the satisfying crunch during your visit to Panama.
Panamana Food – Soups
Sopa De Pollo (Chicken Soup)
Sopa de Pollo is a hearty and comforting dish in Panama. This warm and nourishing soup is prepared with tender chicken, aromatic herbs, and various vegetables. In particular, we like to enjoy this on cold and rainy days; it’s like an extra cozy hug to the stomach The dish is often served with fluffy rice, creamy avocado, and tangy lime wedges, adding flavor and texture to every spoonful. Make sure you try this wholesome soup loaded with nutrients during your visit. It will help nourish both the body and soul.
Caldo De Ñame (Yam Soup)
Caldo de ñame is another delicious and satisfying soup favorite in Panama, especially during the cooler months.
The soup is made with fresh yams cooked until tender and blended with milk to create a creamy and rich texture. It really takes advantage of the agricultural produce in Panama. Herbs and spices such as garlic, cilantro, and cumin are added to enhance the flavor profile.
We usually have this hearty soup with a slice of crusty bread. That is good for a filling and comforting meal for any time of day. Whether you’re looking for a warm and nourishing lunch or a cozy dinner on a chilly evening, Caldo de ñame is a good choice.
Locro De Gallina (Chicken And Corn Soup)
For those who prefer a thicker consistency, Locro de Gallina is a mouth-watering stew that will warm you up from the inside out. This hearty dish is made with tender chicken, sweet corn, creamy milk, and soft potatoes.
The combination of root vegetables, cream, and meat makes for a tasty and fulfilling meal. Season it with garlic, onions, and cilantro to taste. Locro de Gallina is a must-try dish that will offer you a taste of Panamanian food.
Sopa De Lentejas (Lentil Soup)
Sopa de Lentejas, or lentil soup, is a classic and popular food in Panama. It’s a comforting and satisfying soup with lentils packed with protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients. Lentils is a comparatively affordable ingredient which is why this is a common food option even since the early days.
The dish is also often loaded with vegetables, such as carrots, onions, and celery, which add flavor, texture, and vitamins to the dish. Typical herbs and spices used in the soup, such as bay leaves and cumin, give it a delicious and warming flavor.
Panamana Food – Sweets, Desserts, And Pastries
Sopa Borracha (Panamanian Rum Cake)
Sopa Borracha is a unique and flavorful dessert that will satisfy your sweet tooth. It is a delightful sponge cake with raisins, and prunes soaked in spice syrup. The highlight here, as you can guess, is the rum. The syrup typically includes a combination of rum, cinnamon, sugar, and zest of lemon.
It’s a great way to finish a delicious meal by enjoying a satisfying treat. So if you’re looking for a delicious dessert to try during your visit to Panama, be sure to try Sopa Borracha.
Raspadura (Shaved Ice)
Raspadura is a traditional food in Panama made by boiling sugarcane juice until it thickens into a sticky paste. The paste is then poured into molds to form small blocks or cones that can be shaved into fluffy, icy treats.
The shaved ice is served with a drizzle of condensed milk and topped with flavors like strawberry or passionfruit. Raspadura is a refreshing treat that’s perfect for hot days, and it’s one of those Panama desserts you do have to try during your visit to Panama.
Cocadas (Coconut Candies)
Cocadas are famous desserts in Panama, and they are made by combining grated coconut, sugar, and milk to form a sweet and chewy mixture. The mixture is often flavored with vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, or other flavors, giving the candies a unique taste.
Cocadas can be found in almost every grocery store or bakery in Panama and are often sold in small packages, making them a convenient snack to carry around. These Panamanian candies can also make for great souvenirs.
Empanadas De Leche (Milk Empanadas)
Cocadas empanadas de Leche is a traditional Panamanian food perfect for satisfying your sweet cravings while also filling you up. The empanada shell is made from simple pastry dough, filled with rich and creamy milk, sweetened with sugar, and flavored with vanilla.
The pastry is then fried until it’s crispy and golden brown, creating a delicious contrast of textures. Upon completion, they are dusted with a generous amount of powdered sugar, adding extra sweetness. You can enjoy this pack of sweetness with a cup of coffee or tea as a sugary treat.
Mamoncillo En Almíbar (Mamoncillo In Syrup)
Mamoncillo in syrup is a classic dessert in Panama that really showcases the delicious small fruit known as mamoncillos. The fruit is cooked in a simple syrup made from sugar and water until it becomes tender and tangy.
The combination of sweet syrup and tangy fruit has a surprisingly perfect balance of flavors. It’s a special dessert often served on special occasions, so be sure to sample it if you get the chance.
Dulce De Nance (Nance Fruit Jam)
Dulce de nance is a luscious jam with a sweet and tangy flavor derived from the nance fruit, a small fruit with a taste profile similar to apricots.
The fruit is simmered with sugar and water until it reaches a thick and velvety consistency, creating a delectable jam that is a favorite spread in Panama. You can enjoy this tasty dulce de Nance with a slice of bread or crackers for a tasty and delightful snack.
Panama Food – Vegetarian Dishes
Ensalada De Papas (Potato Salad)
Potato salad is a classic side dish that is perfect for any occasion. This creamy and refreshing salad is made by boiling potatoes, onions, and celery and mixing in mayonnaise. Its versatility allows adding extra ingredients, such as carrots, peas, or pickles, to create a unique and flavorful taste.
Ensalada de Papas is often seen at family gatherings, picnics, and barbecues and is loved by all. Whether you enjoy it as a side dish or a light lunch, this salad is a simple and easy food choice during your visit to Panama.
Yuca Al Mojo (Cassava In Garlic Sauce)
Yuca al Mojo is an interesting vegetarian dish with boiled yucca (cassava) covered in delectable garlic and olive oil sauce. This popular Panamanian food can be enjoyed as a side or main course.
You can pair Yuca al Mojo with other vegetarian dishes such as rice, beans, or salad to create a nourishing and well-balanced meal. Amongst the limited vegetarian options, this is one flavorful dish that ticks all the right boxes of taste, health, and fulfillment.
Chorizo Vegano (Vegan Chorizo)
Vegan Chorizo is a delicious and healthy alternative to traditional meat-based chorizo. This plant-based version is made from soy protein and a mix of aromatic spices, making it a protein-packed and delicious vegan option.
Use it in various dishes, such as stews, soups, and sandwiches, to add a delicious, smoky flavor. The vegan chorizo sausage is a versatile ingredient that can appeal to vegans, vegetarians, and meat lovers.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Discovering Traditional Food In Panama
If you’re planning a trip to Panama, exploring the country’s traditional food is essential to experiencing its culture. Panama foods are rich in flavor and diversity, from seafood to grilled meats and starchy vegetables.
As you navigate through the colorful streets and bustling markets, you’ll discover a vast array of unique ingredients, spices, and dishes that reflect Panama’s rich cultural heritage. From the famous “arroz con pollo” to “sancocho,” each bite of any Panama national dish will take you on a culinary journey through Panama’s history and traditions.
With a focus on using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, distinct culinary methods, and shared dining experiences, exploring traditional Panama food is bound to be a thrilling and unforgettable adventure.
Don’t hesitate to immerse yourself in the lively realm of Panamanian food and relish every delectable moment. You will uncover more intriguing facts about Panama through your adventure in this gorgeous country,