Belizean cuisine has not quite made it (yet!) onto the international food scene. This is surprising. Belizean food is a fusion of Caribbean, Spanish, Mexican, African, and native Mayan. Along the coast and on the islands, be sure to steer towards the catch of the day. In land, mouth-watering chicken and beef stews thick with dark spices are common in most restaurants. Here’s 10 dishes you simply can’t leave Belize without trying.
A seriously popular street food, these tasty little morsels are made with fried tortillas packed with cabbage, tomatoes, avocados and chicken. Depending on how spicy you like your food, try topping with plenty of Marie Sharp’s pepper sauce (you’ll see it on every table in the country).
The importance of lobster to Belize’s economy cannot be overstated. In season, spiny lobsters (a smaller cousin to the Atlantic lobster found off Canada and the US), are in abundance. Along the shores of Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye, lobsters can be seen grilling on drum barbecues and are seriously good value. Grab a cold beer, stick your feet in the sand and tuck into a lobster covered in lemon garlic butter. Bliss. For the last ten years, the San Pedro Lobster Festival on Ambergris Caye kicks off lobster season and has been voted Belize’s best festival.
Boil ups are exactly what they say they are. Everything the cook has in from vegetables, fish, eggs and more are thrown into boiling chicken stock and served with bread dumplings. Simple, but really, really good.
This ancient dish hasn’t changed much since the Mayans created it over a thousand years ago. Found on restaurant menus throughout the country, it’s made from marinated, slow-cooked pork and served with corn tortillas.
Thiese puffed-up dough balls resemble something like a doughnut, albeit they are usually served as a savoury accompaniment to eggs and refried beans in the morning. Be sure to look out for stands selling stuffed fried jacks. These pockets of crispy good stuff are filled with everything from chicken, cheese, ham, eggs and beans, and at around US$2 make for a good value and filling breakfast.
Another coastal favourite. Conch is roughly chopped and mixed with flour, pepper, onion, garlic, Habanero peppers. It’s then formed into little patties and fried until golden brown. Best eaten with Belize’s famous hot sauce.
Ceviche may be from Peru, but the Belizeans have taken it as their own. It also differs from its Peruvian counterpart. Almost like a chunky salsa – tomatoes, onions, sliced cucumber, coriander, lime juice and habanero peppers are mixed with par-boiled conch, shrimp, octopus or white fish, cooled and served with nachos. Though it can be found inland, it’s obviously best eaten near the sea on a sunny afternoon.
Johnny cakes are a stable of Belizean cuisine. These small savoury baked bread cakes made from flour and coconut milk are cut in half and filled with beans, eggs and cheese for breakfast. For a more filling lunch, try adding some chicken or beef. Though they are best eaten right out of the oven, they do last for several days giving them their other name, ‘Journey Cakes’.
Belizeans know how to cook fish. It would be impossible to name every grilled fish eaten in Belize. Some to look out for include barracuda, snapper, grouper and lion fish. Depending on size, it’s usually served whole and accompanied by coleslaw, veg and rice and beans. On Caye Caulker, try Maggies, a tiny home restaurant near the northern Split.
Chimole is also known as ‘Black Dinner’ due to its dark appearance. It’s a common homemade chicken stew made using spices and some black achiote paste. It’s usually served with tortillas and boiled eggs.
Meat pies are a throwback to when Belize was a British colony. Light flaky pastry is filled with minced beef and gravy. Most top it with some of Belize’s famous hot sauce. They’re perfectly sized for mid-meal snack and can often be found on the carts of mobile street vendors.
Tamales differ somewhat from their Mexican counterparts. Here, plantain leaves are used instead of traditional corn husks. Recipes vary depending on what part of the country you’re in, but are often served with cull, a thick gravy made from chicken stock. Mostly found inland, though they are occasionally found on the islands.
Want to try Belize food for real? Get in touch with our Belize travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 to discuss your travel plans or see our example tours here.