The small Central American nation of Belize is probably best known for its most famous landmark – the Great Blue Hole, which lies off the coast of the country.
It is one of the world’s most popular scuba diving spots and most common reasons for Belize travel.
But Belizean food is a reason to come on its own. Although Belize is in Central America, it is not a Spanish speaking country like it’s neighbours Mexico and Guatemala.
It was part of the Mayan Empire and then a British colony disputed by the Spanish. Some food in Belize is similar to what you may have had in other countries and then there are some curious delights you’ve never seen.
But First… is Belize Safe?
One of the most infamous posts on this site is the advice Do Not Go To Belize City, and that is because I was told it was dangerous and I should not visit.
I was an arrogant traveler and thought people were overreacting when they warned me about the capital city of Belize.
But I realized it was sound advice. Since then I’ve received lots of comments about this post.
Although 50% are in agreement with me that people should just move onto other parts of Belize, the other 50% are likely from people who make money selling condos, land and general real estate in Belize to expats.
They don’t like that I’m sharing the truth and they’ve tried to do their best discounting my experience.
This post is so well known a friend told me even the Belize tourism office knows about it. I guess I won’t be getting invited to the country any time soon.
But here’s my takeaway:
Belize is a fantastic country. But like most countries in Central America, the capital is the most dangerous. So if you land in Belize City it’s best to move on as quickly as you can.
And don’t forget travel insurance. I’ve been saved by it before.
I’ve used both World Nomads and Allianz in the past and the low rates were well worth the peace of mind.
What is Belizean Food?
Despite being a small country, Belize food is quite diverse. There are some dishes that really exist in only one region of the country.
Belize cuisine is different than what you would expect from neighbouring Guatemalan food. Belize is a country that has a range of different cultures, and these are reflected in the cuisine of the country.
The largest of these ethnic groups are the Mestizos, which are of combined Spanish and Mayan descent from the Yucatan, which spills over into Mexico.
Many of these dishes I had in Felipe Carrillo Puerto in Mexico. Friends here shared that their family was split between the two countries, Mexico and Belize, because the Mayans existed long before the modern borders were created.
Mestizo cuisine in Belize reflect Spanish cuisine but uses local ingredients. There are also dishes that directly reflect Mayan cuisine and cooking traditions such as this poc chuc recipe.
Traditional Food in Mexico
Added to this mix are the Belizean Creoles, or Kriols in the local dialect. They are originally of West African and Central African descent. They were mainly slaves brought to the country to help develop the logging industry.
This means that many of the dishes have an African influence. While there are also dishes bringing together different influences into those dishes.
You will also find a population of Garinagu in Belize, which is an ethnic group of Arawak (from South America) and Island Carib people that also have some people of African descent as well.
This is why Belizean food is so delicious, there are the best elements of so many cultures.
Traditional Dishes In Belizean Cuisine
Rice and Beans
One of the staples of food in Belize rice and beans is a dish of Kriol origin that is now eaten across the country and is often supplemented with other dishes to make for a balanced meal.
It is also considered the national dish of Belize.
Costa Rican Rice and Beans
Although the photo above uses red beans, this Belizean food typically uses kidney beans.
Beans are then boiled with the rice, onion and seasoned with salt, black pepper and thyme. The dish may also be served with some chopped bacon or salted beef.
This can be eaten by itself, or served with cooked meat and potato salad.
This is one of the dishes that is found across the regions of Central America and South America in almost everywhere that has a coastline. It is a common food in Honduras, but each region has its own take on the humble ceviche.
The simple basis of the dish is raw fish that has been marinated in citrus juice, and while the traditional Belizean variety is made with conch, these days a shrimp ceviche is more common.
Easy Fish Ceviche Recipe
To make ceviche, seafood is marinated in a sauce of lime juice, tomato, onion, cilantro and habanero peppers. This gives the ceviche an acidic and spicy taste.
It is also worth noting that in some areas where conch isn’t available, a local variation is made with cooked chicken’s feet.
Which some people may find to be less appetizing than raw fish, but hey it’s more sustainable.
An incredible food in Belize, cochinita pibil can be explained as a Mayan type of pulled pork.
It is slow cooked having been marinated with a particular paste made with orange juice and a variety of herbs and spices.
The marinate uses orange juice, annatto, garlic, allspice and onion. It is traditionally cooked underground in what is called a pib in Mayan cooking traditions.
The meat comes out succulent and so flavourful. It can be served along with some salad vegetables as a filling for tacos, on a roll or served with rice or another side dish.
One of the Belize’s most famous dishes, fry jacks are found across the island. They are one of the most popular foods for breakfast in Belize.
Fry jacks are made with a simple dough of flour, water, shortening and baking powder. It isworked into small strips that are traditionally cut into triangles. The dough is quickly fried in hot oil on each side so that the dough puffs up quickly.
Fry jacks are best served hot, and can be eaten along with almost any other savoury dish in Belize.
An important part of the cuisine of Belize, escabeche is a type of soup that is most commonly eaten on a Sunday as a part of their Sunday meal.
The base is a soup that is made with onions, which reminds me of encebollado in Ecuador – an onion soup based hangover cure.
However, this Belizean soup also contains chicken and has a distinctive tart flavour.
The key to this flavour is the addition of white wine vinegar into the broth. Some recipes also call for lime juice, which is used as either a marinade for the chicken or as part of the soup.
Originating in the Mayan cultures, this Belizean food is another type of chicken soup. It is also common in Belize and is a staple of many family meals.
This soup has a distinctively rich red colour because of the use of achiote in the soup’s broth. It is slow cooked to ensure that the chicken remains tender and tasty.
This is a hearty Belizean soup with potatoes, while some varieties will also include cabbage as well. The traditional accompaniment to caldo in Belize are corn tortillas.
As the name suggests this dish is a type of stew where all of the ingredients are boiled which results in a dish where all of the meats are tender and all of the flavours are infused throughout the dish.
The boil-up originates in the Kriol culture, and is traditionally a way of reducing the water required by cooking everything in the same pan.
Ingredients that are boiled can include fish, corn, plantains, eggs, sweet potatoes and pork. These are then traditionally served on a shallow plate with a tomato sauce.
If the idea of boiled food appeals to you, check out boiled dinner, a traditional Nova Scotian food.
Although pupusas originated in El Salvador, they are now common both in the domestic kitchens and are a common street food in Belize.
At its heart, a pupusa is two pancakes made of masa dough. One has been topped with a filling, and the second pancake used to seal the stuffing inside a pocket before it is fried.
In the Belizean street food stalls there are usually a range of fillings available, including pork, cheese and beans, chicken and cheese or the local seafood options depending on what is fresh.
You will also find cheese as a filling by itself if you are a vegetarian. Be careful when choosing beans as they may have been cooked with pork fat.
Hudut and Sere
As these Belizean foods are very similar, the names are often interchangeable. In both cases, they are a fish and coconut curry and mashed plantain.
Hudut originates from the Garifuna culture and is more traditionally served with a fu-fu dumpling.
Sere Belizean food is from the Kriol traditions and is more traditionally served with white rice.
Although no one knows which version arrived first, everyone can agree both versions are delicious.
Cow Foot Soup
A hearty Belizean food, cow foot soup is also sometimes referred to as cow heel soup, but the dish you will get is the same.
It is a traditional way to minimize waste and use parts of the cow not usually eaten. The Belizean soup is prepared with cow’s hooves, and is slow cooked in a broth with split yellow beans, until the meat is tender and the broth is very flavourful.
The stew will also often include potatoes, okra and carrots in the broth. The dish finished off with some tasty dumplings to absorb the flavour from the broth.
Often served with rice and beans, stewed chicken is one of the most common dishes that people in Belize will eat on a regular basis.
The chicken cuts first have to be soaked in lime juice or the juice of another citrus fruit before they are generously seasoned and combined with sautéed onions, peppers and garlic.
This is then slow cooked in a broth made with recado, which is a spice mix made with annatto giving it a red colour, which results in a tasty and succulent chicken with a tasty sauce.
This food in Belize is originally of Mayan origin, and it certainly stands out compared to anything else you might come across because of its distinctive dark brown colour.
The stew is made with chicken and pork meatballs, along with eggs, bell peppers and onions.
The key ingredient in the sauce is the black recado, which includes roasted ancho chilies, garlic, cloves and other seasonings.
This gives the chimole sauce a lovely smoky flavour with a little bit of spice, which has helped it become a very popular meal in Belize.
Tamales or Bollos
Found across Central and South America, these dough pockets have varieties in almost every country and Belize is no different.
The tamale corn dough is usually combined with a filling such as chicken with a spicy habanero sauce, which is then sealed into a pocket before being cooked.
In Belize, these tamales are traditionally steamed in plantain leaves, to make for a tasty dish.
In the west of the country, there is also a variety known as bollos. These are cooked in banana leaves rather than plantain leaves, and may be stuffed with pork as well as chicken.
Chaya and Eggs
Chaya is a plant that is relatively unknown in much of the world. Yet in Belize it is used in many different dishes, and it is also often known as the Mayan Spinach.
A green leafy vegetable, it must be cooked before serving. It can be used in a variety of dishes, although one common way of enjoying the vegetable is fried with onions, peppers, tomatoes and eggs into a texture similar to scrambled eggs.
Chaya and eggs are often served with some fry jacks or bacon to make a typical Belizean breakfast.
The conch is one of the most popular ingredients in the coastal regions of Belize. This mollusk is are well known for its taste and
Conch season in Belize is open October through June, otherwise it should not be available. It is a heavily regulated industry as conch is not sustainable in other parts of the world. It must be protected in Belize as it also brings in millions of dollars to the country.
The traditional Belizean conch soup is made with large chunks of conch meat that have been tenderized, and are combined with plantains, peppers, onions and other vegetables before being cooked in a broth.
The broth is then supplemented with cilantro, black pepper and also a diced pigtail for its savoury and salty flavour to complete this hearty traditional stew.
One of the traditional Kriol foods in Belize, bammies use cassava, which is one of the most common vegetables cultivated in Belize. They are also a common food in Jamaica and some other Caribbean countries.
Traditional Jamaican Food
In order to prepare bammies, the cassava is grated and then left to dry for several hours. It’s then salted and worked into a patty shape.
Patties are fried then dipped into coconut milk, and then they are fried for a second time.
Cassava bammies are commonly eaten as a part of a Kriol breakfast in Belize.
Unlike some other parts of the world, meat pies are usually considered to be a food for breakfast in Belize. They are commonly sold in many shops and bakeries.
They are generally inexpensive to buy, and will usually have either a beef or chicken filling that is served with a spicy chili sauce.
These small pies are best eaten fresh and warm, although there are plenty of places where you can pick them up later in the day as well.
Street Food In Belize
One of the most common dishes that you will see in the street food stalls of Belize are garnaches, which are commonly made with a corn tortilla that is folded around the filling.
This is often a good dish for vegetarians as many varieties are vegetarian friendly, with the traditional combination of filling being refried black beans, onions, habanero peppers and cheese.
Just be careful to ask if the beans have been cooked in pork lard or other animal far.
And for those who prefer their snacks with a little meat as well, you will also find options that have shredded chicken or pork included in the filling as well.
A common sight in many parts of Belize, taco stands offer fast food that is also freshly prepared as they only take a few minutes until they are ready to eat.
Belizean tacos are simple corn tacos that are usually stuffed with meat such as chicken, beef, fish or pork. They are often topped with cheese, tomatoes, onions and then a spicy sauce, before the tortilla is rolled up.
These snacks are particularly common in the town of Orange Walk, where they host an annual taco festival.
A popular street food in Belize, panades are made with a corn tortilla that is stuffed and deep fried.
Particularly popular in the coastal regions, fish is one of the most common fillings for these snacks, which often include onions and diced chilies.
There are other varieties including beef and chicken panades. While there are also cheese and refried beans panades which are ideal for vegetarians, if the beans haven’t been cooked in pork lard or meat fat.
Coming from the Mestizo culture, salbutes are made with a corn dough that is then deep fried to make a crispy and tasty base that is then topped with a variety of ingredients.
There are a huge range of different toppings for the salbutes. These will often include stewed chicken that has been pulled into pieces, along with salad, pickled onions and a spicy sauce.
Mexican Snacks: 17 Antojitos You’ll Love
Not surprising, it’s common to also find these tasty treats in the Yucatan in Mexico.
Desserts In Belizean Cuisine
Soursop Ice Cream
The soursop is one of the exotic fruits that grows particularly well in Belize, and despite the name it is actually combines a tart and sweet taste, and is a fruit used in many desserts.
This is one of the distinctively Belizean treats to enjoy during your trip to the country, and the creamy and sweet combination of soursop and cream is great for cooling down on a hot afternoon.
And if you didn’t need an excuse to dip in to a serving of the ice cream, it is also rich in antioxidants as well!
There are varieties of dukunu found in many parts of Central America and the Caribbean, but in Belize these pockets of corn dough are usually prepared as a dessert.
A sweet Belizean tamale, the corn dough is worked with coconut milk and sugar. The dough is then wrapped in corn husks.
Dukunu are cooked in hot water until the dough is cooked and the sugar gives the dough a slight sheen.
Fudge is found in almost every food shop in Belize and it is a sweet snack that is often combined with fruits or other flavours to make for different varieties.
Belizean fudge is made with condensed milk, sugar, butter and vanilla as a base. It is brought to a boil while being stirred to keep the texture smooth. Then it is placed in a tray and allowed to cool.
The tasty caramel flavour can include varieties that have peanuts, raisins and shredded coconut added to the mix.
Rice pudding is a dish that may have come to Belize because of its associations with British cuisine. However, in Belize today it is a dish that is generally prepared by the Garifuna people.
The combination of rice, milk and sugar that has been heated together always makes for a tasty dish.
With the range of tropical fruits that are available in Belize, this sticky sweet rice pudding dish is often served with slices of fresh fruit.
Black Fruit Cake
The name of this cake comes from the extremely dark colour of the cake, and it is generally decorated with colourful candied fruits that help to emphasize the dark cake itself.
The cake itself is usually very rich and the dough is made with raisins, dates, cherries and currants, along with a pint of dark stout beer which helps give the cake its dark colour.
This is then supplemented with rum, and then soaked with rum again once it has finished cooking giving it a certain Caribbean flavour.
Drinks To Try In Belize
Almost every beach stall in Belize will have some ginger beer for sale, and many people will make it at home too to provide their own source of the drink.
The refreshing drink is made by fermenting oranges and lemons along with their juices combined with ginger and other spices to give the drink a little kick in the after taste.
Belizean ginger beer is served chilled and can either be served in a glass or drunk straight from the bottle.
This is one of the Belizean drinks that can divide visitors to the country. Although it is called a wine, the flavour is actually much sweeter than that of what most people will consider to be wine.
The drink is produced using cashews which are grown and picked in Belize. These are fermented, giving a final product with an almost syrupy texture on the tongue.
This is generally served with ice, or it can be mixed with soda or sparkling water for a refreshing drink.
Belikin is the main brewery in Belize. The traditional Belikin beer is a light lager that is served cold and is very refreshing on a warm day.
They also produce other lagers and a stout beer as well. The logo includes the Mayan temple of Altun Ha in the north of Belize, representing the local production.
It’s known as The Beer of Belize. You’ll find it at every bar, restaurant that serves alcohol and grocery stores.
The tradition of sugar plantations has a long legacy in Belize. Like much of the Caribbean, rum is a common drink that is found throughout the country.
One of the most common ways to drink rum in Belize is as a rum punch. While recipes vary, it is usually combined with pineapple and citrus juices, grenadine and coconut.
There is even a booth in the airport in Belize that sells rum punch!