13 Delicious Traditional Guatemalan Foods You Must Try
Guatemalan foods are surely one of a kind and it has a lot to do with the fact that this land is rich in fertile soils and vegetation that thrives all over the country according to the climate or the time of the year.
Let’s take a look at the most delicious foods Guatemala has to offer and consider yourself lucky as we have included the recipes for the amazing dishes you will want to try!
Cultural Relevance of Food in Guatemala
While Guatemalan foods are closely related to the availability of ingredients in each particular region, they also represent the traditions and beliefs of certain groups of people. The multiculturality that characterizes Guatemala is evident in the way all the ethnicities found in this country create different types of foods based on their communities’ habits and traditions. Foods make an important part of rituals and activities that are essential in various stages of their lives; birthdays, marriage ceremonies, and even funerals are unique to each community or region and food is always a part of them.
Get ready to delve into the tasteful Guatemalan foods that have enriched our culture for decades.
If you’ve heard anything about Guatemalan foods before, Kaq’ik is probably the first one you have known about.
Originally eaten in Alta Verapáz, in the central north region of Guatemala, Kaq’ik are two mayan words that stand for rojo y chile, (red and chili). It’s mainly a turkey broth mixed with a sauce made from tomato, pumpkin seeds, sesame, chili peppers, and chile pasa. The sauce is also flavored with cilantro, pepper, onion, garlic, mint leaves, and annatto—a very common natural food coloring in Guatemala. It’s also served with cooked rice to add a delicious texture to it.
What is so great about this dish is that it is eaten all year round as well as on special occasions like holidays and family gatherings; its ingredients are very common in the country and its elaboration is not too complicated.
Did it make your mouth water? Check out the recipe!
Similarly to Kaq’ik, Jocón is also a broth but this one can be chicken, hen, pork, or even beef. What characterizes this delicious dish is its green color, which results from blending green condiments such as: cilantro, green tomatoes, tomatillo, and green peppers. Aside from the green sauce, it is prepared with the cook’s chosen meat and rice to add some texture. Next time you visit Guatemala, make sure to look for this dish in small restaurants—it can be prepared all year round!
You can even try this recipe if you come across the right ingredients!
Different from the two previous Guatemalan foods, fiambre is exclusive to Día de Todos Los Santos (Day of the Dead) in Guatemala. It’s prepared on November 1st as a commemoration of those who have left us. In small towns, most families even gather at the cemetery and eat together around their loved ones’ graves—it is their way of feeling the closest to them.
Fiambre is a type of salad that mixes sausages, cold meats, and other vegetables—carrots, onions, beetroots, cauliflower, cabbage, and pacayas.
What characterizes this food is the way they serve it—after they cook the cold meats and vegetables, they place some layers of lettuce on a plate and then place all the ingredients on top of them. This creates an appearance of a very colorful and satisfying dish.
Curious about how this one turns out? Find your best Guatemalan friend and cook it together!
Where to begin with our marvelous tamales? While these are quite common along the Latin American region, each country has its unique way to prepare them!
In Guatemala, our tamales are most likely to be salty; they are made of corn dough (masa de maíz) and they are stuffed with either beef, pork, or chicken, along with tomato sauce.
They are wrapped with leaves from the plantain plant and tied up with cibaque fiber.
Tamales are typically eaten during Christmas time and New Years; although along the year, we enjoy some of these on Saturdays—los sábados de tamales.
Should your culinary abilities be better than mine, partner up with a friend to cook some delicious tamales!
Chuchitos are also part of Guatemalan salty foods; they are also made with corn dough, stuffed with beef, chicken, or pork. Their wrapping, however, is quite different! They are wrapped with tusa (corncob).
You may be wondering, what is the difference between a tamal and a chuchito? It all relies on the texture: The dough for tamales is super soft and the tomato sauce makes it almost melt in your mouth—chuchitos, on the other hand, are made with firm dough which makes them more chewy than tamales.
To be honest, chuchitos are not as complicated to prepare as tamales! Trust me, I have helped mom out in the kitchen. Ask your Guatemalan friends and dare to prepare this culinary delight!
Pepián can be classified among Guatemala’s broths to die for. Typically made of chicken, its beauty and rich flavor comes from the sauce made from multiple seeds and peppers. Pumpkin seeds, sesame, and flour are carefully seared to a point where they are not burnt but also not too light in color. The darker you sear them, the stronger the flavor. Some rather achieve a red color while others choose to make it brown or even black.
Dried peppers are essential for this dish—chile pasa and chile guaque are a must if you want to have a tasteful pepián.
After they blend the seared ingredients and dried peppers—along with other ingredients like onion, garlic, and clove—they allow this mixture to boil with the chicken and chopped vegetables. Once it has boiled for some time, it is ready to eat!
What’s interesting about this food is that it resulted from the contact Hispanic conquistadors had with indigenous people of our land; they brought “exotic” ingredients into our territory which made the locals introduce them to their traditional foods. It is more common in cold-weather regions like Chimaltenango and Salamá because vegetables like potatoes and carrots are much fresher and abundant in these areas of the country.
Interested in this unique dish of Guatemalan cuisine? Give it a try!
Estofado brings together some of Guatemala’s most conspicuous characteristics: it mixes up a bunch of ingredients and it loves parties! I was lucky enough to have grown up eating this one, as it is native and almost exclusive to Tecpán, Guatemala—my mother’s homeland.
It is a mixture of almost all types of meat—pork, chicken, beef, and ram. Some people rather use ram over beef as it is much more tender and easier to cook. They grate all the meats and prepare a tomato sauce flavored with garlic, black pepper, clove, and oregano. They accompany it with rice, too.
This food is common at parties in Tecpán—quinceañeras, weddings, graduations are all good motives for Tecpanecos to prepare it and enjoy it with family and friends. Give your celebrations a taste of Guatemala and prepare this Guatemalan food at least once!
You will love rellenitos; they are part of Guatemalan sweet foods and they are easy to prepare! For starters, they require very few ingredients—plantains, beans, cinnamon, and sugar. The best attribute of this dessert is that it goes well after any main dish, and you can eat tons of them and never get enough.
They are made of mashed plantains to make a soft dough, then, they add blended black beans as the filling. Curiously enough, black beans have to be prepared with sugar rather than with salt as it is commonly known—that way, the dessert is sweet all over!
To serve them, you can sprinkle sugar over them. Switch up your dessert game by giving this one a shot!
While this Guatemalan food may sound familiar to you when you read about it, we have given it a little twist!
Shucos are a variety of hot dogs with ingredients common to our country. They are made with guacamole, the sausage of your choice, grated cabbage; you can also add your regular toppings—ketchup, mustard, or mayo!
Its many varieties include other types of meat—chorizo or steak. Shucos can be the food of choice in friend gatherings and many local restaurants offer them, too.
Step up your hot dog game with a piece of Guatemala on your next friend reunion.
Molletes are a traditional Guatemalan dessert during Semana Santa (Holy Week) when tons of people are out on the streets enjoying the foods street vendors have to offer. Some people also call them Torrejas.
They are small balls made out of cornflour and wheat flour, fried and filled with a sweet cream made also of cornflour, milk, sugar, vanilla, raisins, and chopped fruit.
If you can’t make it to Guatemala, you might want to try this dish on your own!
We now know Guatemalan foods are colorful and presented in creative ways—enchiladas are not the exception.
They are a variety of our tostadas—fried and crunchy tortillas—that are even hard to eat sometimes as they include so many ingredients! It is built on layers of lettuce, chopped beetroot, grated meat and sprinkled cheese and onions. They surely are an explosion of flavor that you can taste during Guatemala’s festivities like Independence day or Feria de la Asunción on August 15th.
With the right ingredients, you can try to prepare your own homemade enchiladas!
As you see, Guatemalans are passionate about super flavorful tomato sauces with particular ingredients—that is the attraction of hilachas!
Grated, chewy beef dipped in an intense tomato sauce colored with annatto and Guatemala’s common seasonings. To top it all off, they serve it with rice and chopped potatoes to add a variety of textures and flavors.
Impress your friends and family in the next reunion by cooking some finger-licking good hilachas!
13. Frijoles con Chicharron
High-protein grains like beans are a must in Guatemalan cuisine! This dish combines the soft texture of cooked beans with the crunchier one of chicharrones—pork cracklings—to make a one-of-a-kind Guatemalan main dish that you won’t get enough of!
Next time you are in Guatemala, get some fresh chicharrones, cook some beans and become an expert in Guatemalan foods!
Book Your Next Adventure
Guatemala has a lot to offer—stunning landscapes and distinctive foods to name a few. Speaking the local language can give your adventure a twist and allow you to enjoy your adventure in a more enriching way! Be ready for your next visit by trying out a free class with our professional, skilled, native Spanish speakers teachers! Improve your fluency, learn a bunch of new things about Guatemalan foods and culture, and be a part of our community of outstanding students!
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