From steamy fry jacks to cohune cabbage and chocolate, food is the tie that binds all Belizeans.
By Laurie Norton
Belizean cuisine oozes dishes and ingredients that reflect its melting pot of ethnicities, from the Afro-Caribbean to the Mestizo, and East Indian. Each group has its style, influenced by their heritage. The Maya, for instance, use black recado—a concentrated, seasoned paste—paired with chicken and pork for a smoky flavor. Corn and cacao are also popular ingredients in their recipes. The Garinagu use fresh seafood, cassava, coconut, and vegetables. And you can turn up the heat with hot and spicy Kriol cooking, made with fresh herbs.
Ubiquitous meals you’ll find across Belize range from fry jacks for breakfast—fried, puffy triangles of dough served plain or stuffed with cheese, beans, or eggs—and meat pies to the national dish of rice n’ beans with stew chicken, fried plantain, and a side salad. You’ll find an affinity for soups, too, like chimole, escabeche, and cow foot.
Aside from these, each district boasts its specialties, passed on from generations of family recipes, while each farms a variety of livestock, fruits, and vegetables.
Indulge in the best tacos in the country, or better yet, time your visit to the annual Taco Fest at Banquitas House of Culture. You’ll also want to try pork salpicón while here, a spicy meat ceviche and famed Orange Walk snack.
Fresh seafood from the adjacent fishing village of Sarteneja is one of Corozal’s greatest perks. The ceviche is a must try, and Corozal’s roadside vendors sell the freshest juice in the country.
Belize City, San Pedro, and Caye Caulker offer a wide choice of foods and establishments, from cozy taverns to streetside vendors.
Seafood, Kriol dishes, Mestizo favorites—like tamales, salbutes, and garnaches—and coconut sweets feature prominently on Caye Caulker and San Pedro. For your seafood picks, choose from lobster in season, stone crab, grouper—one of the predators to the invasive lionfish—and snapper. Select restaurants committed to conserving our reef also serve lionfish. Belize City is where you’ll enjoy traditional Kriol sweets and meals, but also find our Middle Eastern and Chinese cuisines.
Sundays are for family barbecues. Head anywhere on the islands or the mainland, and you’ll smell the smoking aroma of chicken, ribs, and sausage. Don’t forget to sample cashew and blackberry wines, often found roadside near the district’s Kriol villages.
Known as the breadbasket of Belize, Cayo boasts the most diverse farming, with beef, lamb, sugar cane, rice, beans, and vegetables. At San Ignacio’s Saturday farmers market, pick up meats, produce, freshmade pupusas and juices, or Mennonite cheese. Favorites in this Mestizo area include tamalitos, or dukunu, made from fresh Maya masa corn flour and sometimes stuffed with chicken.
Dangriga, Hopkins and Placencia
This is where you’ll experience the best of traditional Garifuna dishes. Order hudut—fish cooked in a coconut broth, and served with mashed plantains or yams. Grap a piece of mashed plantain with your fingers, dip it in the soup, and enjoy. Cassava bread is another traditional Garifuna staple.
Boil up is also popular here, as in Toledo—a combination of eggs, fish, or pig tail with a number of ground foods such as cassava, yams, sweet potato, cocoa, and tomato sauce.
East Indian cuisine reigns in the deep south, alongside Belizean staples. Try some cahoon cabbage, a traditional dish made from onions, the trunk of the Cahoon tree, and spices, typically served with corn tortillas. In Punta Gorda, you’ll find daily servings of Maya caldo soup, in addition to the opportunity to make tortillas and traditional hot chocolate in the surrounding Maya villages.
A foodie adventure
Acquiring new taste buds is a big part of the Belizean roots experience. By the time your trip ends, you’ll be eager to take home some of our incredible made-in-Belize honeys, jams, hot sauces, spices, chocolate, and coffee.