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16 Traditional Belize Foods Everyone Should Try

The only nation in Latin America colonised by the United Kingdom, Belize lies immediately south of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea coast of the central Americas.

Otherwise entirely surrounded by Guatemala to the west and south, some might be pleased to learn that the British had very little influence on Belize’s food culture.

Instead, the country takes most of its culinary influences from the native tribes that were living in the region long before the coming of the Royal Navy or even the ships of Christopher Columbus.

Its coastal positioning means fresh seafood plays a large part in the diet of everyday Belizeans, alongside meats, vegetables, and tropical fruits.

Looking to discover the top foods from Belize? Look no further with our guide to the tastiest foods that hail from Belize.

Fry Jack

This unusually named food is a common breakfast dish right across Belize.

Nothing to do with the jackfruit, which is also eaten in Belize, fry jacks are simply pieces of bread dough rolled into a sphere or rough triangle and deep-fried in hot oil until they puff up.

Like other flour-based doughs, fry jack dough is left to prove, often to double its original size, before it is carefully rolled out and cut in the desired shapes and then fried.

Fry jacks are generally served alongside cheeses, eggs prepared in various ways, refried beans, and even jams.

Hudut

If you’ve not heard of hudut before don’t worry, it also goes by the name of plantain, or more correctly mashed plantain.

One of the simplest foods you’re likely to try from Belize’s culinary repertoire, all it takes to make hudut are some ripe plantain and a pestle and mortar.

The savoury banana is pounded into a paste with a consistency is similar to that or mashed potato, but with a much sweeter taste that heightens the flavours of what it is served alongside.

Cassava

Cassava (also called manioc), is one of the major carbohydrates you’ll find accompanying meals in Belize

At its simplest, cassava is eaten boiled, when it is not unlike a slightly bitter form of mashed potato, and is great for mopping up sauces.

The tuber can also be grated or ground into a flour called tapioca, from which bread can then be made.

Cassava bread, or ereba, is cooked on a large iron griddle rather than in an oven.

As a result, it is cooked like a thick pancake and has a dense texture closer to corn bread than traditional wheat flour bread.

Cassava is also eaten as crisps, a popular street snack that are just as good as the potato version.

Garnaches

Not dissimilar from a taco, the garnacha consists of an already fried corn tortilla that is then topped with refried beans, strips or either lettuce or cabbage, cheese, and other garnishes including tomatoes and carrots.

They are a frequent find on the starter menus of restaurants as well as on the street, with the main difference from a taco being the specific standardised ingredients list and method of preparation that garnaches have.

Sere Lasus

This soup has just a handful of ingredients, often found in someone’s back garden, but has one hell of a taste.

Coconut milk and whole habanero peppers are gently simmered with garlic and herbs. Then it’s normal for a fillet of fish such as snapper to be added, which absorbs these flavours as it cooks.

Then onions and seasoning are added, and it’s ready to serve!

For that truly authentic experience, make sure your sere lasus is served with a dollop of hadut, and a thick chunk of cassava bread to soak up the very last of the broth.

Brown Stew Chicken

It may not have the most exciting or enticing of names perhaps, but it does describe brown stew chicken perfectly.

The chicken – generally the legs as they have a fuller flavour compared to the breast, and don’t dry out in the stewing process – take on a dark brown colour as they cook.

It comes from a marinade of brown sugar, which together with the dish’s other ingredients of onion, garlic and carrots create a rich sauce or gravy served with the dish alongside some sort of carbohydrate.

Ceviche

Ceviche is a dish made from a whole gambit of fish or seafood served raw except for being marinated in lemon or lime juice, which slowly ‘cooks’ the fish.

The fish is then combined with a number of other ingredients, including onions, chillies and cucumbers to create a flavour profile that is both hot and cooling, refreshing and spicy.

Among the favourite forms of ceviche in Belize are lobster, crab, and conch ceviche.

Escabeche

Escabeche is a dish consisting of an acidic-tasting soup or broth to which either seafood or chicken is usually added.

In Belize, a combination of onions and vinegar is used to create the dish’s main flavour profile.

The flavour is then enhanced by adding chilli peppers and carrots to the soup before it is left overnight to infuse, and can be quite hot on the tongue as a result.

If you’re having trouble finding escabeche on menus, it can also be spelt escoveitch.

Buñuelos

In essence, the buñuelos is a sweet doughnut eaten either as a dessert or as a snack.

Made from a yeasted dough for a light and fluffy texture, they can be made plain, or have spices such as anise added before they are deep-fried.

While still warm, buñuelos are liberally dusted with sugar, often with cinnamon powder added, or piloncillo, which is a hot syrup made from sugar cane.

Tacos

The humble taco is one of the many Belizean foods that hover in the orbit of the flour tortilla.

Traditionally made from corn flour, but now also made with wheat flour, tacos are fundamentally smaller versions of their tortilla cousins.

They are then topped with various other tasty ingredients and made into a loose wrap.

Hugely versatile, the toppings can consist of almost any of the main ingredients of Belize, from refried beans to cheese, pork or beef.

They can come deep-fried (tacos dorados), when the tortilla becomes crisp and snaps with a crunch when bitten into, or even steamed (tacos sudados).

However, enjoying such a stunning stretch of coastline, you don’t have to go far to find tacos de pescado – fish tacos. Grilled or fried fish is shredded and mixed with lettuce, sour cream and lime juice.

Dukunu

The dukunu is Belize’s version of the tamale.

Normally vegetarian, the dukunu is known to have been first prepared thousands of years ago by the Maya.

The dough for dukunu is made from finely grinding corn together with a little coconut milk, instead of the plain corn meal usually used for tamales.

This dough is then steamed inside a wrap made from a plantain leaf that’s tied with string for extra security.

But before steaming, the dough is filled with cheese, vegetables and chillies, with additional flavourings sometimes added to the cooking liquid as well as the dukunu itself for a fuller overall flavour.

Panades

A small deep-fried pastry with a filling of meat or cheese, panades are the Belizean form of the empanada.

In Belize though, panades are always made with corn dough (masa), before being filled with everything from fish to refried beans.

Generally served as an appetiser to the main meal, panades can come with a topping of shredded cabbage or salsa, and are also easy to find on the streets of even the smallest towns and villages.

Salbutes

Salbutes yacatecos are their full name since they originated in and around Belize and the Yucatan.

But that’s of no matter. What we’re interested in is what salbutes taste of.

Somewhere between a tartlet and a taco, salbutes combine a base of a tortilla that has been fried until crunchy, with refried beans or a black bean puree. Spice is incorporated from the addition of habanero chillies, and tang from lightly pickled onions.

Prepared fresh to order, the crunch of the tortilla contrasts with the smooth bean puree, while the habaneros and onions add lots of flavour to every mouthful.

Caldo de Pollo

Credit: El Gran Dee / CC BY 2.0

Caldo de pollo is a thin soup or broth whose main ingredients are chicken, root, and leaf vegetables.

Generally speaking, whole cuts of chicken are used, such as an entire leg or breast, rather than the meat being shredded. Likewise, the root and leaf vegetables incorporated into the broth are also left chunky, so it’s likely you’ll find halved potatoes and whole cabbage leaves should you decide to order it.

It’s standard practice to eat caldo de pollo as it has been prepared, in other words, with no additional flavouring other than the coriander (cilantro), onion and garlic added during the cooking process.

However, it’s also common for a little lemon juice or hot sauce to be added for extra piquancy.

Cochinita Pibil

Credit: Tazguy00 / Wikipedia / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Popular right across the Yucatan on both sides of the Belize-Mexico border, cochinita pibil is a dish consisting of slow-roasted pork.

Prior to being roasted, the pork is marinated in the juice of a citrus fruit. Bitter oranges are preferred, but sweet orange juice combined with lemon or lime juice or vinegar are used as alternatives. A local flavouring called annatto that has a sweet yet peppery taste is also added.

Traditionally, a whole suckling pig is roasted for cochinita pibil, though in more recent times both shoulder and loin are used instead.

The meat is wrapped in banana leaves for the slow roasting, which at its most authentic takes place within a fire pit. The finished pork is usually then served with tortillas, refried beans, and habanero chillies.

Bile Up

Credit: Bernt Rostad / Wikipedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Nothing to do with the products of internal organs, bile up is a dish made from boiled eggs, cassava, yams, plantain and pieces of fish or sometimes pig’s tail. It is served with a dumpling, and a tomato sauce, which provides some moisture.

Recognised as one of Belize’s national dishes, it belongs to the Kroil people, whose ancestors were the children of African slaves and Scottish settlers. Its name comes from an alternative pronunciation of ‘boil up’, since the main ingredients are boiled up together.

Each is added to the pot to ensure it is cooked but not overdone, so the starchy vegetables are added first, followed by the fish and then the eggs. These should be hard-boiled, and shelled before the dish is served.