Known for its picturesque colonial towns, ancient Maya ruins, active volcanoes, and thrilling street markets, Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country.
Looking for Guatemalan foods to try? The cuisine here in Guatemala is complex and flavorsome with culinary influences from Mayan descendants, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Spain.
Dishes in Guatemala include everything from corn and chilies to beans and meats (chicken, pork, turkey, and beef). Accompanied by rice and beans, the meat dishes here are usually stewed, grilled, or fried.
This charming country is also the birthplace of chocolate and the popular Hass avocado. Read on to discover why Guatemala has the most delicious cuisine among its neighbors in Central America.
Pepian is the national dish of Guatemala. Originally from the central region of the country, this traditional chicken stew is a blend of Spanish and Mayan cultures.
The hearty stew is made out of chicken, baked potatoes, rice, veggies (carrots, potatoes, corn, pear, and squash), and various types of chilies. Spices like Chile Pasa, Chile Guaque, sesame seeds, and achiote are blended together.
Pepian is usually served with traditional Guatemalan homemade tortillas and topped with avocado. You can also make it with beef or pork. This authentic meal in Guatemala is characterized by its thick and rich consistency.
2. Jocón de pollo
Next on our list of Guatemalan foods is the legendary Jocón de pollo. Heavily influenced by Mayan culture, this traditional dish originates from Huehuetenango. However, you will also find Jocón de pollo in western parts of the country.
So, what is Jocón de pollo? It is a green chicken stew made with sesame seeds, tomatillos, cilantro, onions, chili peppers, bread crumbs, and pieces of chicken.
The dish is thickened with pumpkin seeds and corn tortillas which are typically soaked in water and drained. Locals usually serve this typical Guatemalan meal with avocado and rice on the side.
An interesting fact is that Jocón originates from the word “JOK OM”, which translates to “mashed”
Are you in the mood for some crispy and buttery Central American pastries? Try Empanadas, delicious stuffed pastry snacks which can be found throughout Latin America.
In most parts of Central America, empanadas have a meat filling. However, the Guatemalan version of Empanadas is different. Instead of meat, empanadas in Guatemala are typically served as a vegetarian snack with fillings like spinach or potato.
Toppings for empanadas in Guatemala are plentiful and range from cilantro, onion, and tomatoes to guacamole and achiote paste.
Prepared for holidays like the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) and All Saints’ Day ((Dia de Todos Santos), Fiambre is Guatemala’s most famous dish.
From sliced meat, veggies, cheese, and pickles to boiled eggs and pickled relishes, this national Guatemalan salad can have over 50 ingredients. There are a bunch of versions of Fiambre. For instance, Fiambre verde is a vegetarian meal, while fiambre rojo is prepared with beets.
This salad is typically served cold in large bowls. It is a dish designed to be shared among friends and families in Guatemala. The word Fiambre actually means “cold cuts” in Spanish.
Similar to the Cuban Ropa Vieja, Hilachas is a staple of Guatemalan cuisine. Meat lovers visiting Guatemala will definitely want to try this red-colored stew.
It is a dish with a rich flavor of components like shredded beef, chili, potatoes, tomato, carrots, and squash.
Hilachas is served with fresh corn tortillas and rice. Many people believe that this hearty stew tasted even better the next day.
You can eat Hilachas in a local restaurant in Guatemala, but it can be also purchased in supermarkets across the country. The name of the dish translates to shreds or rags.
6. Tostadas Guatemaltecas
No list of the best dishes in Guatemala would be complete without mentioning Tostadas Guatemaltecas. Often served as an appetizer or a snack, these deep-fried or oven-toasted corn tortillas topped with various ingredients are simply delicious.
You will find Tostadas Guatemaltecas in restaurants, supermarkets, and street food stands throughout the country.
Guatemalan tostadas are topped with a range of ingredients including guacamole, tomato salsa, black beans, cheese, sweet peppers, chopped meat, and onions.
We should probably mention that tostadas originate from Mexican cuisine. These snacks were first prepared by folks from Oaxaca, Mexico about 2,000 years ago. They wanted to do something with the leftover tortillas.
7. Caldo de Res
Every country has its own traditional soup dish and Guatemala has Caldo de Res. This beef broth is, without a doubt, one of the most popular soups in the country.
Caldo de Res is made by first preparing the broth which includes beef ribs and bones. The next step is to add veggies like corn, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage, green beans, cilantro, and chayote squash.
Often called cocido, this authentic Guatemalan soup is typically served with rice, avocado, or homemade corn tortillas. If you like spicy soups, feel free to add a few chiltepe peppers.
The dish is similar to a peasant soup called puchero which dates back to colonial times in Latin America. Travelers can also try the chicken soup version of this dish called Caldo de pollo.
Pupusas are one of the favorite snacks among the locals in Central America. If you are traveling on a budget and wish to have a reasonably-priced snack, don’t hesitate to order the thick corn tortillas.
Pupusas actually originated from the country of El Salvador, but the snack was adopted by many countries in the region including Guatemala. So, what are Pupusas?
Guatemalan pupusas are thick corn tortillas stuffed with a bunch of fillings. Think cheese, pork, and refried beans. Once filled, the tortillas are fried until the surface becomes super crispy.
Pupusas traditionally come with cabbage and salsa on the side to keep it all fresh.
The next Guatemalan food on our list is known for its cultural heritage. It is one of the most popular Mayan meals in Guatemala.
Kak’ik is a hearty turkey soup that was prepared by the Mayans who lived on these lands before Spain conquered America.
Cooked in a lightly spiced red broth, this rich Turkey soup is prepared by using ingredients like tomatoes, chilies, cilantro, and native turkeys. Adding achiote gives this authentic Guatemala soup a vibrant red color. Although it has a bit of chili, the soup is not that spicy and can be enjoyed by children.
Stew lovers looking for a hearty Guatemalan meal will want to try the legendary Revolcado. This typical dish from Guatemala consists of a small pig’s head and entrails. It is cooked together with vegetables like bell peppers, tomatillos, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and Guatemalan chili.
The pig head and other organs are cooked until tender. As for the sauce, it is usually thickened with corn flour. In the end, you will get a rich stew which is typically served together with rice during the winter season.
Revolcado first appeared in the 16th century during the colonial period and is part of the Spanish culinary culture.
11. Shucos (Guatemalan Hot Dogs)
Want to try the famous Guatemalan hot dogs? Order Shucos and you won’t be disappointed. This mouthwatering snack is one of the most famous street foods in Guatemala.
The jumbo hot dog buns are stuffed with a variety of fillings including everything from tomato sauce, mustard, and mayonnaise to chorizo, salchicha sausage, longaliza white sausage (pork sausage seasoned with black pepper), and cabbage. Want to make your Shucos spicy? Throw a bit of chili into the mix.
Interestingly, the name shucos actually means dirty which refers to the abundance of ingredients used to prepare this snack. Where to find Guatemalan hot dogs? You will see many hot dog carts on the vibrant streets of Guatemala.
Next on our list of the best Guatemalan foods is Chuchitos. A popular and very common Guatemalan street food, Chuchitos is corn dough stuffed with pork or chicken in a tomato-based sauce.
This delicious snack can be found all across the country in shops, restaurants, and street food stands.
The dish is wrapped in corn leaves and steamed over low heat to perfection. Chuchitos are often eaten around the holidays and at family celebrations.
Similar to chuchitos, Tamales are a staple of Guatemalan cuisine. This steamed corn dough dish requires a ton of work and is often served on Christmas in Guatemala.
From potato-based tamales and types made from plantain leaf and rice dough, there are numerous versions of tamales that you can try in Guatemala. The corn or rice dough is filled with ingredients such as meat, chili peppers, and sauce.
Typical fillings for Guatemalan tamales include capers, olives, or raisins. The name ‘Tamal” translates to “wrapped”.
14. Sopa De Frijol
There is no shortage of delicious soups in Guatemalan cuisine and one of them is called Sopa De Frijol. It’s a favorite breakfast meal for many Guatemalans.
The soup is made with black beans which are native to this part of the world. The locals have cultivated black beans for over 7,000 years here in Central and South America.
Sopa De Frijol is known for its creamy texture and rich flavors. The dish is also with lots of fiber and vitamin B, making it one of the healthiest Guatemalan foods on this list.
A Caribbean favorite that has a close relationship with the Garifuna community, Tapado is a must-try dish when visiting Guatemala. The dish is quintessential of Guatemalan cuisine,
A savory stew, Tapado includes everything from coconut milk and coconut oil to seafood options like crabs, shrimp, and fish. Many people like to add octopus to Tapado.
This delicious seafood stew also contains plantain and is served alongside rice.
16. Pastel de banana
Travelers with a sweet tooth visiting Guatemala will be pleased to hear that the country is home to some amazing desserts. One of these sweet treats is called Pastel de Banana. It is basically a homemade banana sponge cake.
It is typically made with a combo of baking soda, butter, eggs, flour, sugar, salt, and both mashed and sliced bananas. This popular Guatemalan dessert has a mild banana flavor and is not extremely sweet.
To enhance the flavor, locals add some chocolate and vanilla essence. At some places in Guatemala, Pastel de Banana is served with chopped nuts and icing sugar.
17. Atol de Elote
Is anyone up for an authentic Guatemalan drink? Try Atol de elote, a creamy and sweet corn drink with a silky rich texture. Sold in markets across the country, the drink is always served warm and seasoned with ingredients like vanilla or cinnamon.
How to make it at home? To create the silky rich texture, one must grind the corn using a grinding stone. Take a giant pot and mix milk, sugar, and spices. The mixture is heated and served in big cups.
Atol de Elote is made during festivals and holidays and it was a favorite drink in the ancient Aztecs. An interesting fact is that there are a few superstitions about Atol de Elote. For instance, the drink gets bitter if a person who is in a bad mood touches it. Also, if a pregnant woman is close to the drink, Atol de Elote is known to curdle.
18. Mole de Platano
The last Guatemalan dish on this list is the iconic Mole de Platano. Being the birthplace of chocolate, Guatemala is known for its cacao dishes.
If you are a fan of chocolate, you will instantly fall in love with this traditional Guatemalan dessert. The dish is made of a chocolate sauce, mole, and a chocolate sauce which is mixed together with things like cinnamon, chili, bell peppers, and fried plantains.
Mole de Platano is typically sprinkled with sesame seeds. The dish is so popular that the Guatemalan Ministry of Culture and Sport awarded it with an Intangible Cultural Heritage status back in 2007.
Final Thoughts on Guatemalan Cuisine
Once you get tired from all the breathtaking landscapes in Guatemala and are feeling a bit hungry, it’s time to enjoy some authentic Guatemalan dishes. The good news is that the local cuisine in Guatemala offers something for everyone.
Have a sweet tooth? Guatemala is the birthplace of chocolate. Wish to enjoy popular dishes that originate from the Caribbean, Mexico, and Spain? Guatemala is a melting pot of cultures. Enough said! Bon appetite!