Move over Mexico: 7 awesome foods from Central America

written by Louise Burton September 12, 2014

Rice, beans, plantain, tortillas, quesadilla, guacamole, salsa, tequila…need we go on? Food in Central America is one (very prominent!) reason we love this part of the world so much.

Here, we share some cuisine which may have gone under the radar in the past. Move over Mexico, your neighbours have some pretty sensational tastebud pleasers of their own.

1. Guatemala: desayuno chapin en Guatemala


Photo courtesy of Louise Burton

That’s ‘traditional breakfast in Guatemala’ to you and I. And it could well be the best breakfast you’ll set your tastebuds on in Central America. A plate of frijoles (red kidney beans) (whole, not ground to a paste), fried plantain, egg (fried or scrambled to your desire) and your choice of soft corn tortillas or bread, this is a metabolism booster.

It won’t overfill you, but will fill you up just right so as not to get off to a sluggish start. Whether you’re climbing a volcano or soaking up the local cultural sights – it’s a perfect start to your each day of your holiday in Guatemala. Add a cup of fresh Guatemalan coffee to your desayuno chapin and you’ll be basking in food glory.

Fill rating: 3/5

2. Honduras: baleadas


Photo courtesy of Louise Burton

A combination of egg, beans, and cheese inside a soft corn tortilla, baleadas is the local dish of Honduras. You can keep it plain and simple if you wish, or throw in some feisty hot sauce and pickled vegetables if you prefer a bit more of a kick.

You can indulge in baleadas for breakfast, lunch, or dinner – which makes it one flexible dish. I enjoyed it most for lunch, but locals like to get their bean and tortilla fix for breakfast; feel free to have it for all three meals if you like it that much. I won’t judge.

Fill rating: 4/5

3. Nicaragua: baho


Photo courtesy of Louise Burton

Cheap, local, and shareable – baho is Nicaragua’s finest food (by my standards anyway!). For just $3 USD in a market outside Granada, we bought ours from the local vendors who are generally the best people to get your baho from as they cook it right in front of you.

We’re talking succulent pork, boiled yucca (a bit like potato but less stodgy), boiled plantain, finished off with a light cabbage salad; oh and it comes neatly wrapped in a lush green banana leaf.  It’s a real stomach filler. I said shareable, but it tastes so good you might just want one for yourself.

Fill rating: 5/5

4. Costa Rica: casado


Meat casado | Photo courtesy of Louise Burton

Costa Rica offers a hearty local dish called casado – sure to settle those post-rafting hunger pangs. Choose your meat – beef, chicken, or pork – and then just wait for the magic to happen. Before your very eyes, your meat will appear alongside fried plantain in a sweet sauce, salsa salad, a soft corn tortilla, and rice. It’s sure to fill you up and can be found in variations in most restaurants throughout the country.


Veggie casado | Photo courtesy of Louise Burton

There is also a delicious vegetarian option (see above) which includes cheese, avocado, steamed vegetables, egg and beans. Even if you’re not vegetarian you should probably give this one a try too.

Fill rating: 5/5

5. Costa Rica: horchata


Photo courtesy of Nacho Pintos, Flickr

Originating in Spain and widely available throughout Latin America, everyone has a slightly different take on horchata – a sweet drink typically made from rice milk and cinnamon. In Costa Rica, some places add peanut butter into the mix. And I can tell you: it’s a sensational addition.

There’s even a hint of healthiness about this frothy frenzy. And if peanut butter isn’t for you, why not try the resbaladera – the same base of rice milk, but with nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove. It’s sure to hit the spot.

Fill rating: 1/5

6. Everywhere: chips ’n’ dips


Photo courtesy of Louise Burton

The beauty of this dish? You will find them everywhere in Central America. If you like guacamole, salsa, and frijoles (refried kidney beans), you have a fail safe snack (or meal – depending on hunger levels) in whichever country you rock into from Mexico right the way through to Panama.

Be careful not to try and compliment these with a side of Nachos. Most commonly in Central America, Nachos is a meal unto itself – not just the chips with dips – which mostly come piled with kidney beans, minced meat, guacamole, and salsa. If you are a vegetarian, or just wanted chips and dips, you could get a surprise.

Fill rating: 2/5



Photo courtesy of Sam Howzit, Flickr

Wash that all down with a hearty shot of Tequila – made from the Agave plant – with a lick of salt and a suck of a lime… and you are eating just like a local in Central America (and you will probably be dancing like one too after a shot or two of this!).

Fill rating: 0.5/5

Keen to sample Central America’s finest foods for yourself? Of course you are. Check out some of Intrepid Travel’s amazing Central America itineraries, such as the Mexico and Guatemala holiday – you’re sure to find your dream adventure.

Feature image courtesy of Josue Goge, Flickr


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