These Guatemalan desserts are so good you’ll want to plan your next vacation in Guatemala.
I have such heart for writing about countries in Central America because not much is known about its food.
When I first traveled there in 2010 I didn’t write as much as I should have, because it’s such a special place that doesn’t get enough attention.
But my memories of its food are still so vivid that I’m planning a trip back.
Sometimes it seems like people who are traveling overland rave about food in Mexico but then have nothing really to say until they reach Brazil or Peru.
Central American food isn’t all the same!
Sure you may find that food in Guatemala has some similarities to Mexico because of its Mayan heritage.
And in some cases Honduran food can be similar because of its Garifuna influence, which resulted from the African slave trade through Latin America and the Caribbean.
But the Guatemalteco or Guatemalan recipes have some unique nuances and dishes that make it a great place to explore.
And Guatemalan desserts are a great place to start.
You can find them for breakfast, after a meal or at the many occasions to drink the country’s world class coffee.
One of the most popular desserts in Guatemala has to be polvorosas or sweet shortbread cookies.
They are crisp and hard on the outside but light and powdery on the inside.
Taking its name from the word “polvo” that means powder.
Polvorosas are made with flour, butter, cinnamon and granulated sugar.
What makes these Guatemalan desserts different from similar cookies in Venezuela or Colombia is that they are dusted with powdered sugar.
These cookies are traditionally round with a flat top and once you bite on them, you’ll be surprised at the almost powdery texture that will leave crumbs in your mouth.
That is mainly due to the lack of eggs in the dough batter, which gives polvorosas its unique consistency.
These cookies are sold in a lot of stores around Guatemala and locals love to eat them as snacks or as a dessert to complete a good meal.
A common dessert in Latin America, borracho means drunk in Spanish.
It has this name because it is a simple recipe where sponge cake is soaked with a rum syrup.
It can be served bare or some then frost the cake and top it with exotic fruits.
Arroz en Leche
There are different versions of this classic dessert across Latin American countries and even in other parts of the world.
It’s similar to arroz con leche, a common Cuban food.
But in Guatemala, arroz en leche is a traditional dessert and beverage in one, as it is often served as an “atole” or drink.
This Guatemalan dessert is made by boiling rice in water with cinnamon stick until it has a soft and almost spongy consistency.
Whole milk and evaporated milk are then added along with salt, sugar and raisins to add flavor to the mixture.
Once the milk is fully absorbed by the rice, the pudding can then be served hot.
Or it can also be left to cool down if people want to enjoy it as a refreshment, especially during the summer.
Arroz en leche is available in most cafes in Guatemala.
It is the perfect dessert because you can already enjoy the sweet drink and eat the rice that’s soaked in it.
A classic Spanish dessert, you can find buñuelos throughout Latin America. it’s most common to find this Guatemalan dessert over the holidays.
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They use a simple flour dough that is deep fried and served with a sweet syrup.
Tres leches simply means three milks.
This Guatemalan cake uses three different kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream.
Although there are several versions of this popular dessert in Latin America. It’s one of the most popular Cinco de Mayo desserts in Mexico.
Guatemala’s version of it sticks to the original recipe of sponge cake sitting on a bed of condensed milk and poured with more milk until it’s fully absorbed in the cake itself.
It is then topped with whipped cream and nuts or fruits are added to give the cake a crunchy element.
Tres Leches is a favorite among Guatemalans because it’s soft, moist and absolutely decadent.
But if you’re not a huge fan of sweets, you might find it overwhelming. I can only eat a small portion.
Rellenitos de Plátano
Plantains are often thought of green bananas that are used in savoury dishes but they are a versatile starch used in Guatemalan desserts as well.
The rellenitos “dough” used cooked plantains that are mashed and then rolled out.
The dough is filled with refried beans – yes beans!
The beans have been cooked with chocolate and sugar or honey so they are sweet.
I love beans, and this Guatemalan dessert shows they are one of the most underrated foods.
If you love beans too, one of my favourite Peruvian desserts is frejol colado, which is an Afro-Peruvian sweet black bean pudding.
Empanadas dulces is not what you imagined it to be unless you know a bit of Spanish.
Unlike the typical empanada, dulce means sweet and so this is a dessert empanada similar to a sweet turnover or hand pie back home.
The sweet empanada dough is made carefully by hand and formed into small pockets that are filled with vanilla cream or fruit jam.
Guatemalans traditionally prepare empanadas dulces as part of their Lenten celebration.
Although you can find these sweet Guatemalan pastries in some bakeries and stores around the country.
In Cuban slang, chancletas are flip flops but this dessert has nothing to do with feet!
In fact this Guatemalan dessert is found throughout Latin America and can also be savoury.
However, in Guatemala small chayote squash are steamed or boiled to soften the flesh then chopped in half to remove some of the flesh.
Chancletas are stuffed with nuts, raisins and almonds and bound together with breadcrumbs, egg yolk and sweet wine.
Quesadilla de Arroz
You may think of this dessert as a tortilla filled with something savory like cream or cheese.
But quesadillas de arroz is far from your typical Mexican quesadilla.
In fact, it looks more like sweet pound cake that’s brown on the outside and dense on the inside.
The name means rice quesadilla and it’s made with rice flour, butter, sugar, cheese and cream.
The result is soft, moist and delectable bread with the distinct flavors of milk and cheese.
Guatemalans love to eat their quesadillas de arroz with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee.
You can find it in most bakeries and cafes where it’s wrapped with butter paper to seal its flavor.
Pan de Banano
The humble banana bread is a classic among all the desserts in Guatemala.
Locals call it pan de banano and it’s one of the easiest Guatemalan desserts to make because you only need three ingredients: bananas, flour and sugar.
Some cooks also add raisins. Most bakeries in Guatemala sell their own versions of pan de banana.
But one of the best that you can find is in the Dona Luisa de Xicontecatl shop in the city of Antigua, Guatemala.
Bocado de Reina
Bocado de reina is Guatemala’s version of bread pudding, which is made using leftover bread.
But what makes the country’s bocado de reina different from the regular bread pudding is that it has more of a cake consistency than that of bread.
To make bocado de reina, you’ll need crubmbled bread, vanilla extract, condensed milk, cinnamon, eggs and raisins.
Bocado de reina is a favorite Guatemalan dessert not only because it’s delicious but also because it’s a great way to bring new life to leftover bread.
This crunchy puff pastry got its name from its shape that looks like a tie. It is usually soaked in a glaze or honey to make it taste even sweeter.
Guatemalans usually prepare corbatas during Lent, although it can be enjoyed at any time of the year.
Guatemalans love their champurradas, and for good reason.
This Guatemalan sesame seed cookie is often compared to the Marias cookies from Spain and biscotti of Italy.
Guatemalans love to eat champurradas with coffee, hot chocolate or tea for breakfast.
But it’s also a staple during “café de las tres” or the traditional mid-afternoon coffee break in Guatemala.
Champurradas is buttery, crispy and even toasty unlike your regular cookie.
This is mostly because of masa harina, which is a type of local flour made with maize corn soaked in limewater.