Most Popular Christmas Foods in Guatemala
Holiday season in Guatemala is full of traditions and delicious meals. At this special time of year, our homes fill with sweet notes of pine, chamomile, and fruits, as we prepare to spend time together with families and loved ones.
Let’s start by declaring something very important: every household in Guatemala thinks their recipes are the best! Everyone thinks their mom’s tamales or their grandmother’s ponche is the best in the whole country, so naturally they want to share with other. Gifting food is, therefore, a very common and appreciative gesture that Guatemalans do during the holidays.
But what can we find in a Guatemalan kitchen at Christmastime? Here are some scrummy dishes to get your tummies rumbling. First up, we have…
Red Christmas Tamales
In Guatemala it isn’t Christmas season without red tamales. Packed full of amazing combinations of spices, they can take a long time to make. First the corn dough is placed on plantain leaves, then filled with seasoned pork.
The sauce features toasted pepitoria seeds, chili guac, tomatoes, and roasted onions. Finally, olive, raisins, thinly sliced bell pepper and some capers, and you’re ready to go. They are three times the price of the standard tamale, but exquisite, and worth the price.
Black tamales are best described as an explosion of flavor. Made only at Christmas, they use the same corn dough and meat base as the regular tamale, but the black sauce (which gives it its name) is totally different.
Here we can find a delightful mix of sweet and savory. For the mixture we use tomatoes, pork fat, artisanal chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground spices, mixed with chili guac and sesame seeds. And one key ingredient is three crushed champurradas. Champurradas are a traditional toasted biscuit made of sesame dough which we usually eat every day with a coffee.
Throughout the country, each household adds its own special touches to the recipe, the details of which are kept secret and passed down from generation to generation. If you are lucky enough someone might invite you into their home for one of these delicious tamales. Eating one while watching fireworks is the perfect way to spend a traditional Christmas eve.
When it comes to the Guatemalan Christmas, a golden turkey is there without fail. To prepare this feast takes hours, but is an occasion for us to come together. Family members all help with cutting the vegetables, making the spice mixtures, or taking the turkey out of the oven and sprinkling it with more white wine and spices.
When it is finally ready, we garnish it with apples and grapes. The next day, of course, there are… turkey leftovers! We enjoy nothing more than slices of leftover turkey in a sandwich with gravy. It is simply delicious!
Hot Fruit Punch (Ponche)
In beverages, we have traditional punch made of dried fruits, cinnamon, and sometimes a touch of bourbon. We make it with sugar and spices, leaving it to simmer for hours, allowing all the aromas and flavors to become concentrated. Ponche, as we call it, will always accompany a tamal on Christmas eve.
Hot chocolate is also a holiday favorite, typically made from a huge artisanal chocolate bar rich in flavors such as cardamom and cinnamon. Drunk throughout the Christmas season, including Christmas Day, hot chocolate is also part of the posadas, a nationwide tradition whereby people go door to door with a replica of the barn in which Jesus was born, asking for a place to stay for the night (a posada).
When the music and everything ends, hosts offers a small meal, ponche, chocolate, and tamales for everyone to gather around and say a small prayer.
Rompope is a traditional Guatemalan drink made of sweet milk, egg, and rum. In addition to these, many people enjoy adding their own flavors like vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg, for a satisfying Christmassy tang. Depending on the occasion, the amount of rum will vary, sometimes lighter, sometimes strong!
When do Guatemalans enjoy their rompope? You can find this eggnoggy drink at convivios, traditional gatherings with office friends to celebrate the end of the year, and also when families pop in for unannounced visits. What better way to welcome someone on your doorstep than with a tasty warming rompope?
In Guatemala, roasted pig is a traditional and delicious Christmastime meal. Many families eat this on New Year’s Eve, roasting it for a minimum of seven hours with apple, pineapple, and spices to give it a succulent sweet flavor. It’s a really popular dish and each family does it their own way, adding bourbon, wine, or chicken stock. The result is always different but always delicious. Serve with green beans and potato salad. Amazing.
The Most Important Ingredient
Now that we have seen some delicious Guatemalan Christmas Food, it’s time to find out: what is the most important ingredient? Well, it’s not one that you can go and buy in the supermarket. The most important ingredient is… family and friends, and love. The experience of cooking together with one’s family is something that we look forward to and truly enjoy. From young to old, everyone chips in with the jobs that they can manage, and when we finally all sit down, nothing beats sharing some amazing food together with your loved ones and friends.
Did you spot something that you would like to try?
Related: Most Popular Foods in Guatemala