Nicaraguan Food: Best 25 Nicaraguan Dishes
Nicaraguan cuisine is very varied. While in the Central American region and Mexico corn is the base of most food, there is a distinct European influence in many dishes.
One of the curiosities of Nicaragua is the “fritanguerias”, street food stalls that usually sell roast meat, roast pork, roast chicken, fried banana, fried cheese, fried tacos, enchiladas (stuffed tortilla of meat, rice, and chili). They are found in every corner of the country and are very popular at night.
In Pacific Nicaragua, the predominant dishes are a mixture of European and pre-Columbian dishes made from corn. This mix produced a rich variety of foods often prepared on specific days. Nacatamales, for example, are prepared on Fridays and Saturdays for eating on Sunday morning. Other dishes are found in abundance in certain departments such as vigorón, which is highly popular in the city of Granada but can be found in other places as well.
Nicaraguans, being surrounded by water, eat a lot of seafood. However, the diet is varied, also including pork, chicken, and beef.
In the central region of Nicaragua, dairy-based dishes predominate. After all, the Nicaraguan saying says “Chontales where the rivers are made of milk and the stones of curd.“
The dish was invented in Granada in 1914 by María Luisa Cisneros, a colorful character from the area known as “La Loca”. This is a highly popular dish among Nicaraguans. María Luisa attributes the name to a poster that advertised an invigorating tonic called Vigorón, where a muscular man takes a bull by the horns and large letters state Vigorón Tonic!
This dish is served on a green banana leaf known in Nicaragua as chagüite, and it features boiled cassava and generous portions of chicharrón (pork rind). It’s served with a refreshing cabbage salad and a special addition of sour fruit called mimbro (Averrhoa bilimbi).
Vigorón from Granada is served with a soft drink known as grass, made, of course, from grass and lemon juice, salt, and sugar.
2. Chancho con Yuca
El Chancho con yuca (pork with cassava) is a mixture originating from vigorón. This dish doesn’t use pork rind, rather it has fried pork, marinated with a variety of spices especially achiote, which gives it its particular color and flavor. It’s served with mild cassava and a cabbage salad with a touch of spice.
3. Indio Viejo
El Indio Viejo is one of the oldest dishes in Nicaragua. The poet Fernando Silva affirms that this dish is properly called “the old man’s food stew”, derived from the Nahuatl name paloanitli güegüe, since this was the food of the ancient indigenous people.
It is one of my favorite dishes since its acidic and salty flavor awakens the palate. It is a type of stew made from corn and shredded beef, usually accompanied by rice and green banana.
Nacatamal is the Nicaraguan Sunday breakfast, accompanied by a cup of coffee and bread. The nacatamal finds its roots in the tamale, a fundamental aspect of pre-Columbian life for indigenous peoples, revolving around corn – biologically, culturally, and religiously. The tamale emerged as a method of preserving food by wrapping it in leaves.
By wrapping corn dough in banana leaves and steaming it, they managed to preserve it for a long time, and from this principle, the tamale was born. Later, it was seasoned with herbs and stuffed with poultry, fish, or other meat.
The corn dough is stuffed with meat, vegetables, and rice and flavored with spices. They can also be consumed on Saturdays, of course, and on holidays, such as Christmas.
This is another popular tamale, found only in Masatepe, and is a variant of nacatamal. Its base is ground rice stuffed with beef marinated in sour orange juice, salt, achiote, garlic, chiltoma, finely chopped onion, potato, chayote, carrot, spearmint, and Congo chili peppers.
It is wrapped in banana leaves, tied with string, and cooked for 5 hours. The particular flavor of the dough and the marinade gives a delicious taste that leaves you asking for more.
6. Tamal y Yoltamal
The Tamale, or Tamalli in Nahuatl, is an indigenous food and found throughout the region. However, in Nicaragua, there are different varieties: nacatamal, filled tamales, salty tamales, and Pisque Tamales, but they all have corn dough bases in common.
The tamale is wrapped in vegetable leaves, such as corn or banana, and steamed or cooked in water. One of the most popular tamales is Yoltamal, made from young corn grains, which give it a slightly sweet flavor, wrapped in a corn husk. It is generally eaten with curd (cheese), sour cream, and black coffee.
7. Cosa de Horno
La Cosa de Horno is another popular appetizer or snack often accompanied by a delicious freshly brewed cup of coffee. It is the most delicious thing you will ever taste. Its name comes from the way it is made since corn dough with a touch of cinnamon, milk, and sugar is baked.
Gallopinto is one of the most popular dishes in Nicaragua, and throughout the Central American region, and is eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Basically, it is a mixture of rice and beans, but with the garlic and onion seasoning, a good Gallopinto is never eaten alone; it is always accompanied by scrambled eggs, cheese, or even with delicious fried pork.
What makes it different from other versions of Gallopinto is that the Nicaraguan one is only seasoned with onion and garlic. Other versions include Worcestershire sauce or even ketchup.
9. Baho o Vaho
This is a very popular Nicaraguan dish and consists mainly of beef, green plantain, and cassava cooked in banana leaves. Its origin goes way back, from a mixture of indigenous, mestizo, and Afro-Nicaraguan cultures.
The dish is served with pickled onion and a cabbage and tomato salad made with vinegar and lime or lemon juice. The salad tops the meat, cassava, and plantains. It is a dish traditionally eaten on Sundays.
This is a favorite dessert, especially at Easter and national holidays. They are found on street stalls and are usually very cheap and, above all, are very nutritious (that’s what they say). Its base is cassava and cheese, which, when fried, gets a crispy outer layer and stays soft inside. Flavored with cheese and cassava, topped with honey syrup, you’ll be licking your fingers.
11. Sopa de Frijoles
This is a popular soup in Nicaragua as the ingredients are easy to come by and it is easy to prepare. The soup gets its name from the primary ingredient, red beans commonly used in Nicaragua. It also includes onion, chiltoma (pepper), cream, garlic, coriander, and sour orange. Some variations may include eggs or pork and sour cream as well.
12. Sopa de Mondongo
Connoisseurs of typical Nicaraguan foods all agree that the best mondongo soup (tripe) originates from Masatepe, where the very select preparation creates something extremely special and different from all other soups in the territory.
The use of Mondongo – cow’s intestines and belly – comes from the Spanish gastronomy that we Nicaraguans took advantage of.
13. Sopa de Queso
Cheese soup (Sopa de queso) is delicious and is generally enjoyed during Lent or Easter. However, it can be enjoyed at any time of the year.
Generally, in Nicaragua, it is prepared for Holy Week, which is when people are not supposed to eat much meat. The flavor of the soup is salty and cheesy, and a deep-fried crispy donut made of corn dough and cheese floats in the middle.
14. Arroz Aguado
With that aroma of freshly cooked yerba buena, everyone will be wanting to enjoy this exquisite Nicaraguan dish, arroz aguado.
It is a traditional dish that involves easily accessible ingredients and is simple to prepare. There are two equally delicious varieties of this soup, one made with chicken and the other with pork. You should definitely try both! It’s a hearty dish cooked in a large pot with plenty of well-seasoned pork ribs.
This particular dish is undoubtedly the king of all dishes made on a grill. It is known by different names in different parts of the world (morcilla or blutwurst), but without a doubt, the Nicaraguan version is the recipe you need to try. While the moronga is roasting, add a few drops of lemon and chili, and when it’s ready, eat it with a corn tortilla and tomato salad. Delicious!
The name means “small cheese”. This is a delicious fast food made from milk curd and is very frequently seen at parties served with corn tortillas, cream, and pickled onion.
Quesillos are a popular snack for eating on the go, and you’ll find them in any place where there is heavy traffic, such as bus stops and gas stations. There is a debate in Nicaragua about where to find the best Quesillo: the city of Nagarote or the city of Rama. Both are different but both are equally good, to be honest, so you can have the pleasure of tasting them both.
17. Sopa de Leche
This is a dessert originally from the City of León. Made from milk and bread, combined with a freshly brewed cup of coffee, it is a delight.
18. Arroz con Leche
Arroz de leche is a world-famous dessert with European roots. But in Nicaragua, this deliciously creamy recipe is Nicaraguan. It is full of the flavor of vanilla and can have other ingredients such as raisins if you like.
19. Tacos de León
This is a delicacy that you need to travel to the city of León for. It is a Nicaraguan taco made from a fried corn tortilla stuffed with pork or cheese and accompanied by a cabbage salad and cream, together with a little bit of spice. Every Nicaraguan knows that the best taco is found in the city of León.
The most popular tacos are Tacos de la Salle, which came about in the 70s when Doña María Adilia started selling them on the sidewalk of the “La Salle” School, owned by the Brothers of the Christian Schools.
20. Pescado a la Tipitapa
This dish is one of the most delicious you’ll find in the country, as well as being easy to make. It is a dish of golden, crispy fried fish accompanied by a homemade tomato sauce. For the sauce, fry the onion, tomato, and chiltoma, add a bit of salt and lemon juice, drop in a little butter and it’s ready to go. To serve, plate the fish, pour the sauce on top, and surround it with lemon slices.
21. Güirila con Cuajada
This is an example of how European gastronomy was mixed with Mesoamerican and, therefore, can be considered a typical dish of Nicaraguan origin. The base of the Nicaraguan Güirila is corn, and its shape is very similar to the Nicaraguan Tortilla, but it has a somewhat different preparation. With a sweet taste and appetizing aroma, it is accompanied by a piece of cheese or curd and sour or sweet cream.
This is one of the most representative desserts of our land. Desserts are typically served in the afternoons and at traditional festivals. This one can be found in the Tiangue de Monimbo, Masaya. Like most of the dishes of the region, its base is corn. It tastes similar to a sweet cream, making it a must-try dessert.
23. Tres Leches
Tres Leches is a traditional rich dessert. The milk, an essential ingredient, and rich meringue make it impossible to resist. This moist, sweet cake will melt any palate. It is made with three types of milk: condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream – imagine that!
This is a typical Nicaraguan drink. And, like most typical Nicaraguan drinks, it is made from the most abundant grain: corn. From this abundance came the well-known phrase “Somos hijos del maiz (we are children of corn)”, Nicaraguans, that is. And because this drink is so popularly consumed, they are also known as “Pinoleros”.
The corn is accompanied by cocoa and cinnamon, roasted and ground, which, when combined, makes an exquisite flavor. It is popularly served in “Jícaras”, which is a container made from the Jícaro fruit.
25. Chicha de Maíz
This is one of the oldest drinks in Nicaragua. It is essentially made from cooked and ground corn, creating a soft white mass to which fruit flavorings are added. With sugar and ice, it is a very refreshing drink.
A variant of the drink has no added sugar but is left to ferment for several days. The result is as strong as beer and is known as “Chicha bruja”.
Related: Most Popular Nicaraguan Desserts