Belizean food reflects its people, a rich medley of Maya, British, Spanish-American, African, Indigenous, Caribbean, and Creole heritages.
The Garifuna, descendants of free Africans and Indigenous Arawak and Afro-Caribbeans, contributed bread, pudding, and drinks made from cassava. The Maya’s food legacy includes chocolate, tamales, and masa, a type of corn dough.
From Creole settlers, look for rice and beans, hearty soups, and engaging spices. And then there’s the natural bounty of Belize, from abundant seafood to delicious tropical fruits.
Here are 23 of the best foods in Belize.
Since the east coast of Belize lies on the Caribbean Sea, near the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, seafood is a prime component of the Belizean diet. Ubiquitous in the Bahamas and the Caribbean islands, conch fritters are also a popular food in Belize.
Conch season runs from October 1 through June 30, making those months the best time to order conch fritters. Cooks pound the conch to tenderize it, then dice and mix it with onions, garlic, peppers, and flour.
Many Belizeans add Belikin beer, a local brew, to the batter, create patties, and pan-fry them. A spicy sauce accompanies the fritters.
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Rice and Beans
A Creole-inspired dish, rice and kidney beans remain a staple in African, Caribbean, and Central American countries. The dish is a key Belizean food.
Locals cook the beans and rice in coconut milk and serve it with chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, or gibnut (paca, a large rodent that’s eaten in Belize), spicing the meat with recado, a fragrant spice mixture, and serving the dish with potato salad.
Belizeans like their food spicy. Hot sauce graces home and restaurant tables, and most often the bottle is one of Marie Sharp’s Habanero Pepper sauces.
Prepared in Belize’s Stann Creek Valley, Sharp’s products are a beloved flavor. Unlike many such sauces, Marie Sharp’s are not fermented.
Sharp uses fresh peppers, fruits, and vegetables grown on the company’s farm. Although the original recipe has a carrot base, Sharp’s products include sauces made with mango, green cactus, and orange pulp.
Enjoy the sauce with anything you please; eggs, meat, burgers, or vegetables.
A staple of many Caribbean cultures, Johnny cakes are most often eaten at breakfast.
Because the biscuit-like bread, which includes flour and coconut milk, traveled well, workers in the Caribbean and Central America carried the biscuits with them. As such, the fare also came to be called “journey cakes.”
Belizeans prefer to eat hot Johnny cakes, slathering them with butter or marmalade, adding eggs, sausage, or bacon to the breakfast plate, or filling the cakes with stewed chicken or beef for lunch sandwiches.
The Maya made chocolate from cacao beans, preparing it for the palates of elites and for use in ceremonies. In the region that became Belize, an important Maya center, archeologists date chocolate drinking to 600 BCE.
In 2007, Goss Chocolate and Ixacacao, headed by a Maya family, revived chocolate-making in Belize, crafting artisanal chocolate from Belize’s cacao beans.
Two favorite Ixacacao bars are its 80 percent dark chocolate bar topped with cacao nibs, and the intense, dark chocolate coconut bar. Goss makes a white chocolate bar from vanilla beans and Belizean cacao butter, too.
Once you taste an artisanal chocolate bar, you won’t want any other kind. Look for Belizean chocolate in gift shops and grocery stores in Belize City and other areas.
A popular Belizean food, cochinita pibil, also known as pibil pork, traditionally, consists of a pig wrapped in banana leaves, slow-roasted in a pit in the ground, and served at family feasts. Home cooks use a pork shoulder and an oven.
Cooks rub the pork with achiote paste made from the red seeds of annatto, a Maya spice, and pepper, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon.
The meat marinates for two to three hours before being wrapped in banana leaves, baked, and served with corn tortillas and Belize’s ubiquitous habanero pepper sauce.
Established in 1969, the Belize Brewing Company crafts Belikin beer in Belize. The company’s slogan is “Onli Eena Belize” or “only in Belize”, summing up the locals’ devotion to the brew.
Critics describe Belikin Traditional Stout, a mainstay, as a tasty, lighter version of a typical stout with hints of coffee and caramel.
Also popular, Belikin’s Traditional Recipe Beer is a lager blended from Canadian Pilsner malt and German hops.
During holidays and the annual Belizean Chocolate Festival, you can find Belikin’s Chocolate Stout made with Belizean chocolate. Down Belikin with cochinita pibil or any Belizean dish.
Every ethnic group has a signature soup or two. For the Garifuna, descendants of indigenous Arawak and free Afro-Caribbeans, this is hudut, a delicious fish stew with a coconut milk base.
Cooks flavor the broth with okra, cilantro, oregano, garlic, and onions. After sauteing the fish, typically red snapper, cooks add it to the coconut broth to cook for another 20 minutes.
The Garifuna serve hudut with fu-fu, a boiled and mashed mix of unripe and ripe plantains that either tops the soup or is a side dish. Hudut is a flavorful Belizean food.
Cassava pudding is a tasty Belizean dessert that originated with the Garifuna. Locals mix grated cassava with sugar, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, coconut milk, and eggs.
After baking, the top of the pudding looks slick, earning the dessert the nickname of “plastic pudding.” You can find cassava pudding in cafes and restaurants.
If you like chowder, be sure to try conch chowder, a popular Belizean food in season, which runs from October through June.
Tenderized, cubed conch is cooked in evaporated milk and water thickened with flour and seasoned with pepper, salt, onions, and sometimes garlic and cilantro. Some recipes add taro root or potatoes, as well as sweet peppers, tomatoes, and okra for a hearty soup.
Think of sahou, sometimes spelled “sahau,” as the Garifuna version of warm eggnog. You don’t have to wait for holidays, though; locals serve the soothing drink at breakfast and throughout the day.
The Garifuna farm cassava and create many dishes from the staple crop. For sahou, they’ll add grated cassava to a simmering pot of coconut milk, seasoning the liquid with nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla, and sweetening it with sugar or honey to taste.
Fried bread, a tasty staple in many cultures, is a delicious breakfast item or snack. Like Johnny cakes, Belizeans eat fry jacks, a popular Belizean food, often topping or splitting the puffy, deep-fried triangles of dough with jam or honey.
Unlike Johnny cakes, fry Jacks taste best hot, right after cooking. Add beans and scrambled eggs to complete your Belizean breakfast.
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Chicken escabeche, the Belizean version of chicken soup, harkens back to Maya and Spanish cuisines.
To create the base, locals add sugar cane vinegar, garlic, oregano, jalapeno peppers, carrots, onions, and chicken bouillon to water, stirring in pan-fried pieces of chicken.
Sometimes the soup is known as onion soup even though it contains bits of chicken. Try this tasty comfort food with corn tortillas.
The Maya cultivated corn, making many dishes from masa, a dough made from corn grains soaked in an alkaline solution and boiled in water.
Belize’s version of an empanada, the panade corn dough is pressed thin, topped with refried beans, fish, or chicken, then folded into a crescent shape and deep-fried.
Locals like their panades with a pickled onion sauce or a salsa; try Scott’s Panades Shop in Belize City for the real thing.
As the name “boil up” suggests, everything in this entrée is boiled, although not in the same pot. The cook uses separate pots for the hard-boiled eggs and the sauce made from tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and spices.
Pigs’ tails are cooked in a third pot, red snapper in a fourth, and cassava, sweet potato, ripe and green plantains are boiled in condensed milk in yet another pot into which you add the boil cakes (made from flour, baking powder, and water) for just a few minutes.
The Creole dish, with African, English and Scottish origins, comes together on the plate. Diners get a piece of everything—with a habanero sauce, of course.
With its long Caribbean coastline, it’s no surprise that Belize is known for fresh seafood. You can’t go wrong with grilled fresh halibut, sea bass, red snapper, or lobster.
Chefs combine shrimp and conch for a delicious ceviche, add cooked snapper to tacos, and pound conch into scrumptious fritters.
Chimole is a thick Creole soup also known as “black dinna.” The color comes from black recado, a paste created with seasonings and red peppers that turn dark when roasted.
And the “dinner” comes from the addition of chicken, and sometimes pork, as well as tomatoes, onions, and pumpkin squash to the soup as it simmers. Before serving, cooks add sliced, hard-boiled eggs.
A Garifuna staple, cassava is widely grown in Belize. Traditionally, Garifuna women made cassava bread, also known as ereba, to sustain their warriors, since the bread lasts for a while without spoiling.
After grating the cassava root into shavings, called shish or sibiba, the breadmakers strain the flakes, squeezing out the juice. Sometimes the shavings are left out overnight for further drying before being forced through a sieve or ground into fine particles.
Cooks toss the cassava flour onto a hot comal, a griddle, flattening the flour with a press. Enjoy the thin bread with butter or jam.
Chaya and Eggs
Belizeans eat a lot of chaya, a native leafy green plant known as Maya or Mexican tree spinach.
Nutritionists praise it as a superfood, rich in protein, calcium, and iron. You can’t eat it raw, as the leaves contain toxic hydrocyanic glycosides, but these are destroyed in cooking.
Chaya sauteed with scrambled eggs makes a popular and nutritious breakfast plate, especially when accompanied by fry jacks or corn tortillas, and is a typical food in Belize.
A popular Central American dish, ceviche consists of bites of raw fish “cooked” in lime juice. The Belizean version mixes pieces of shrimp and conch with chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and, of course, habanero peppers.
The ceviche is served with tortilla chips and goes well with Belikin beer.
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Tamales are a traditional Maya food. Unlike the Mexican version, which are wrapped in corn husks, tamales in Belize are wrapped in plantain leaves.
Masa, a corn dough, forms the base of the tamale, sometimes called a bollo. Cooks fill the tamale with beans, sauce, seasoned chicken or meat before steaming the whole parcel.
Garnaches are one of Belize’s many corn-based dishes. A popular street food, garnaches start with a fried tortilla that is topped with refried beans, onions, shredded cabbage, tomato salsa, and cheese.
In Belize City, try garnaches at Irma’s Fast Food and Pupuseria, Dit’s Restaurant, and Gwen’s Kitchen.
Belizeans eat meat pies for breakfast and snacks. Cooks ladle chicken, beef, or pork in spicy gravy into a cupcake-sized pastry topped with dough.
There’s an art to eating a meat pie. Since this favorite street food is too big and often too hot to pop into your mouth whole, locals recommend piercing the top crust to allow steam to escape.
To prevent the sauce from dripping onto you, consider using a spoon to eat the filling of this tasty dish out of its pastry case.
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