Most Popular 25 Dishes in Guatemala
Guatemala is a colorful tropical country full of traditions and Mayan heritage that you can live and breathe and taste in our food. Key ingredients like chilis, corn, and beans are in many dishes, but the preparations and secret additions passed from generation to generation make anything you try a wonderful experience.
Guatemala is so traditional that we have special dishes for specific occasions, like tamales at Christmas and paches on Thursdays. Also, we can’t live without coffee and good tortillas, and, of course, everyone claims the food prepared in their household is the best. Let’s dive in and get to know a little bit about Guatemalan cuisine.
As simple as they sound, beans have a special place in our hearts, whether they are cooked, refried, and pureed, made into soup or simply served with fresh tortillas and sour cream. Beans are a staple food in Guatemala and will be offered at any mealtime, with households adding their own special touch, and the combinations are endless.
The very best of everything. Whether you try them with a main dish or simply with salt, tortillas will leave you wanting more. We have different kinds of corn with different colors characteristic of each region, so you will be offered the very best depending on which part of Guatemala visit.
This delicious corn preparation is a full meal packed in corn leaves and steamed in special pots. It is a tradition to pass them down from generation to generation to preserve the good “flavors”. True or not, this meal made from corn, with a tomatoes, roasted chilis, bell peppers, and spices make a special sauce to go with in the pork filling really is something you need to try.
Christmas is time for a special tamales, with olives, prunes, and the household’s secret ingredients, making home the place to be.
This smaller version of a tamale is made with different ingredients, with a smaller portion of corn, chicken instead of pork, and a variation in the sauce. But don’t go getting sad thinking it is not as tasty, because it is and it’s served with tomato sauce and a special cheese on top. If you ever get invited to someone’s a house and they offer you this for an afternoon snack, you are in for a real treat.
Continuing our dive into variations of tamale, this one is made from mashed potato rather than corn and has pork, sauce, and a special chili that makes a great combination. They are steamed for hours in a pot. You can tell the difference between tamales by the type of leaf they are wrapped in. A pache is comes in plantain leaves.
As I said, Guatemala is all about tradition and paches are traditionally eaten every Thursday. The houses that prepare and sell them announce the fresh batch with a red light at the door: a signal that it’s Thursday and that the paches are ready.
This complex meal is prepared with numerous simple ingredients that, brought together, make this a delicious stew. It contains onions, tomato, sesame seeds, a seed called pepitoria, garlic, cinnamon, various chilis, and chicken, making this a delicious hearty meal. But there’s a secret: the stew is thickened with toasted and powdered plantain husk. You never imagined that, right?
Stews are a specialty in Guatemala and this one is another variation. Its rich color comes from the cilantro, mix of dried chilis, and tomatillo, and it is thickened with toasted bread crumbs. This stew is popular in every household and every market sells it somewhere.
This is a traditional dessert made from a plantain, vanilla, and cinnamon dough filled with refried beans, that’s right, beans, fried, and finally topped with cream and sugar. It’s a delightful mix of flavors you definitely need to try.
Tostadas are plain corn tortillas fried and topped with refried beans, tomato sauce or guacamole, then onions, a special powdered cheese, and chopped parsley. But don’t let that fool you into thinking its a plain dish; the combination of these three ingredients makes them so tasty every Guatemalan eats them as a snack while out.
These sweet cookies are eaten every day for breakfast. They are plain and simple, flat round cookies topped with sesame seeds. The special thing about them is that Guatemalans dip them in their coffee, making them even more delicious.
11. Kak ‘ik
This award-winning meal, “colored red stew made of turkey”, or kak ‘ik in Mayan, is red, colored by a combination of chilis and tomato. The turkey is stewed for many hours so it comes out full of flavor and really tender: a must try.
This is another variation for using fried corn tortillas. These are topped with a lettuce leaf, a picadillo made of beet, ground beef, tomato sauce, a slice of boiled egg, parsley, and a special powdered cheese. Colorful and full of flavor: another must try.
This is a traditional meal made in every Guatemalan household for the day of the dead. The mixture of chicken, pig, over 5 types of sausage, cheeses, and veggies is delicious. The legend is that various families where visiting a cemetery one day and began fighting. They started throwing the food they’d brought, which was the best meal of the house, and in the big mess, fiambre was created. Not only that, the families sat down and ate the fiambre together in peace.
This is a traditional snack you can eat everywhere as it’s designed to be eaten on the go. A hot dog cooked on a tiny grill and topped with guacamole, ketchup, mayonnaise, sausage, and cabbage: so much flavor.
Guatemala is known worldwide for its coffee. If you’ve ever had a Starbucks, you will have had Guatemalan coffee. The great arabica bean, so tasty with sweet notes, is grown in the special Guatemalan climate, making the coffee award-winning: after all, the Mayans called it the drink of the gods.
Diving into special beverages, we come to ponche. This is a mixture of dried apple, pineapple, plantain, papaya, raisins, prune, and cinnamon. After drying, they are boiled in water with sugar. The longer it is set and stored, the more flavorful it becomes. It is a special drink for having alongside your Christmas tamale.
Cocido is a comfort food that is made in every household at least once a week. It is so popular, they even sell in markets in a “cocido bag”, which includes all the ingredients you need to prepare it at home: beef, carrots, potatoes, cilantro, chayote, squash, and corn. Accompanied by steamed rice and a good set of tortillas, you can enjoy this meal in the marketplace, too.
This delicious stew of beef, tomato, sweet chili, chile guaque, onion, carrots, potatoes, and garlic is simply perfect and every household prepares it at least once a week. You’ll also find it in the market – don’t miss it.
Roasting tomatoes in the fireplace makes this condiment smokily delicious. It is never missing from the table and you can add it to eggs, meat, pork, tacos, or anything you fancy. The secret is to roast the tomatoes in their skin and then squash them up with cilantro, onion, lemon.
This simple dessert is made with anise and sugar syrup served over deep fried balls of pastry. The delicious syrup and the crispiness and warmth of the dessert will leave you wanting more.
This beverage made from corn, milk and tons of sugar is something that warms every Guatemalan on the cool streets. It is a common hot drink given to children before school or bought on the street on the way to work.
Cacao beans have a lot of history in Guatemala. Used in candies, of course, but also stews incorporate chocolate into their recipes. But it is the traditional chocolate drink that is always available. With hints of cinnamon and cardamom, a hot cup of chocolate is a delicious treat you cannot miss.
Mazapan is a traditional candy made from almonds and tons of sugar. This almond paste is then colored and transformed in millions of different figures to make it appealing to the eye. Most commonly, the paste is formed into the shape of fruits and vividly colored so every kid wants to buy one.
24. Arroz en Leche
This drink is definitely on the list of hot beverages you can’t leave without trying. Milk boiled with sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and rice makes this a delicious warm beverage that is prepared all over the country.
Finally, we have a traditional spicy sauce that you will see on every table. It is prepared with onions, carrots, and vinegar, and a secret mix of chilis left to ferment so the veggies have a tingly hot flavor. It is added to stews, shukos, or almost anything you could find on a Guatemalan table.
Related: Most Popular Guatemalan Desserts