Food is such a major part of culture in Guatemala that you would be doing yourself a disservice if you avoided the local flavor and went only to the touristy restaurants offering your favorite international comfort foods. When you come to Guatemala you should embrace the rich, historic culture here, and that means you have to try the foods that are unfamiliar. They may look different and weird, but trust me they’re all delicious! Here are some of the traditional Guatemalan foods you can expect to find, and how to eat like a local in Guatemala!
Eat Like a Local in Guatemala
For breakfast (desayuno), scrambled eggs with tortillas and black beans that are either cooked whole or smashed into a bean paste (frijoles). This comes with fried plantains and black coffee. Being in the coffee belt, Guatemalans are picky about their coffee and wouldn’t taint it by adding milk, although sugar is acceptable to cut the bitterness. They also tent to take their coffee like tea, quite weak.
Lunch and dinner brings a variety of options, most of which are tortilla based. Guatemalans love their tortillas, and they make them a bit thicker and heavier than you would find elsewhere. And the tortillerias are a great place to stock up, because you can get about 30 fresh, hot, handmade tortillas for US$1. They somehow manage to mass produce tortillas, even though they make them all by hand. That’s how you know the tortillas are important here!
You’ll also find that they love their limes! Every dish comes with a lime wedge on the side, to be squeezed atop your meal. And it adds just the right amount of extra flavor to enhance the dish. Though if you’re looking to spice it up, salsa picante (hot sauce) is on the table at every meal and is used liberally!
Each meal is often a variation on the traditional taco, with meats and cheeses and garnishes served atop a tortilla. When the tortilla is hard and crunchy, it’s called a tostada. When there’s a tortilla on top and bottom, it’s a quesadilla. When the meats and cheeses are stuffed inside the tortilla, it’s called a pupusa. And when they are inside a toasted roll, they call it tortas.
And don’t forget the cervezas! Gallo and Cabro are the locally brewed favorites, and they’re the perfect refreshing beers to wash down your dinner. Try them both, decide your favorite, and join that team for the ongoing battle of the beers!
A nice snack that’s offered is elotes, which are grilled corn on the cob, topped with salt and lime. And a dish you absolutely must try is churascos, a type of grilled meat.
At all times of day you’ll find people snacking on the abundance of fresh tropical fruits that are in season. Some like pineapples and dragonfruit will be familiar, while others are so strange that you will need to ask the vendor for a step-by-step guide of how to eat it! And when all else fails, there’s always the panaderia, where you can find loads of tasty breads and pastries. The shecas are popular sweet bread rolls that are sometimes made with fruit or peanut butter or frijoles baked inside.
And that’s how you eat like a local in Guatemala! The foods in Guatemala are to die for, and just writing about them is making me hungry! I think I will need to go for some tostadas right now. And don’t forget, the street food is the cheapest and the most authentic, don’t be afraid to try!
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