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Flavors of Guatemala

By Viator, October 2013

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The cuisine of Guatemala is similar to its Central American neighbors with its heavy reliance on ingredients like corn, rice, and beans. Historically, the Mayan and Spanish cultures shaped the traditional cuisine and flavors of Guatemala, however today, look for additional influences from the influx of expats like Chinese and Americans.

Guatemalan cuisine includes familiar Mexican specialties like tamales and nachos. Hearty dishes like stews and soups are popular in the country as well. And much like its Central American neighbors, don’t be surprised if you order chicken and it arrives with the feet still attached.

When it comes to snacks in Guatemala, you may recognize some dishes served in neighboring countries like Belize’s salpicon. In Guatemala, it is typically made with chopped meat, radish, and mint, all served in lemon juice. Guatemala also has its own version of ceviche made with shrimp, clams, snails, fish, or a combination of these.

The typical flavors of Guatemala include rich spices, recados, chiles, and other ingredients to stand up to the hearty stews and soups. Don’t expect lots of heat spice, but more bold flavors.

Meat and Seafood

Stews, known as caldos, and soups, called sopas, are staples in Guatemalan cuisine. Be sure to seek out specialties like Kaq-ik, also spelled Kak’ik, a traditional Mayan turkey soup, complete with a drumstick. The broth includes ingredients like tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, cilantro, onions, and even mint.  Another stew to try is Pepian, made with chicken, potatoes, green beans, and carrots. Its dense and spicy recado sauce is similar to a Mexican mole and includes ingredients like tomatoes and pumpkin seeds. And like a mole, you can find Pepian in different varieties ranging from red to black.

Be sure to try chile rellenos as you will find them quite different than the Mexican version you are likely more familiar with. Rellenos in Guatemala are not made with spicy poblano chiles, but sweet bell peppers and filled with meat and vegetables, covered with egg whites and then fried.

Guatemalan Desserts

Guatemalan desserts closely resemble those of some of the country’s neighbors, but watch out as many of these are much sweeter than you find elsewhere. Don’t be surprised to see a much smaller portion, which is mainly due to how sweet traditional desserts may be. Popular options include Tres Leches Cake, milk candies, tamarind balls, and sweets made with coconut. Other specialties include mole de platanos, friend plantain slices in chocolate sauce, arroz con leche, rice pudding, atol de elote, sweet corn atole, and more.

Beverages in Guatemala

Look for ample fresh juices like banana, mango, watermelon, and even guanabana, a rather tart custard apple that is prevalent in the area. Try the fruits in a shake made with either water or milk. Limonada con soda is a popular beverage to cool off, made with freshly squeezed lemonade and soda water.

Guatemala is known for its impressive rum and coffee production. The most well-known and exported rum is Ron Zacapa. There are a number of variations available based on the number of years aged. These premium and very smooth rums are aged five years at a minimum – skip the mixers and make this your sipping rum. Not a drinker? Have a cup of locally grown Guatemala coffee, one of the top producers of coffee in all of Central America.

Tours & Tickets

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Experience Guatemala: Small-Group Cooking Class

Learn how to prepare some of Guatemala’s favorite dishes in a cooking class in Antigua. Experience the unique flavors of Guatemalan cuisine as you prepare your ...  Read more

Location: Antigua, Guatemala
Duration: 5 hours (approx.)

From USD $89.99

Experience Guatemala: Small-Group Cooking Class in Antigua

Take a cooking class in Antigua and learn how to prepare some of Guatemala’s favorite dishes. Taste the unique flavors of Guatemalan cuisine as you create your ...  Read more

Location: Guatemala City, Guatemala
Duration: 5 hours (approx.)

From USD $89.99

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