I'll be the first to admit that I didn't even know Belize had food worth raving about until I actually visited a few years back. The freshness of the ingredients, the unique flavors of the food and the mix of multi-cultural influences in each dish made my taste buds quite happy. With its unique location between Central American countries and bordering Mexico, it's not too shocking that the variety of recipes and creative cooking methods have influenced chefs on both sides of the borders. As a former British colony, the food also has some European influences.
Fry jacks are a staple of the Belizean diet. They're basically like a pancake, but they're fried and they come in different shapes and sizes. You can get them with sugar, cinnamon and butter, or with cheese and eggs.
Fry jacks are served at breakfast time, or as an afternoon snack.
Garnaches are a traditional dish of Belize. These are corn tortillas that are fried and topped with an egg, cheese and beans. Garnaches are a great breakfast food, but they can also be eaten at any other time of day. Garnaches are made from a special kind of cornmeal called masa harina (which is also used to make tortillas) and can be topped with anything from cheese to meat (or both) depending on where you buy them. They're typically served folded in half and eaten with coffee or fresh fruit juice.
Tamales are a delicious and popular food in Belize. The traditional version is made with corn, chicken, beans and spices wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed until the corn has softened, but other varieties abound.
Tamales are usually served with a variety of sauces: red sauce, chilmole or salsa de chile habanero. Red sauce is made from tomatoes and chili peppers, while chilmole contains ground sesame seed paste and onion. Salsa de chile habanero is similar to hot sauce but much more flavorful.
Tamales are often eaten at breakfast time on special occasions such as Christmas or Easter Sunday; they are also sold on the street during fairs and festivals.
Stew Chicken with Rice & Beans and Fried Plantains
Belize's national dish is stew chicken, which has been prepared in this country for centuries. The stew is made with a marinade of onions, garlic and jalapeño pepper and then slowly cooked with tomatoes and spices until falling off the bone tender. This rich dish is served over rice or beans with a side of fried plantains (fried ripe banana).
Escabeche is a dish that has traveled around the world with various interpretations. Belizean escabeche is a spicy fish dish that is often served at special occasions or during Lent. The fish is cooked in vinegar, onion and spices until the meat falls apart, then served with rice, beans and plantains. It’s very similar to ceviche, except it uses vinegar instead of citrus fruit as the acid-base for cooking.
One of the most popular dishes is conch fritters, which are made from the meat of large sea snails. They're battered in cornmeal and deep fried until golden brown and crispy on the outside. The result is a spicy, savory treat that's perfect for dunking into your favorite sauce or salsa.
Rice and Beans, Breakfast of Champions
Rice and beans is a classic, simple, but tasty meal very prevalent in Belize. It's served at breakfast, lunch and dinner — and sometimes even for snacks. The rice is white or brown and the beans can be red or black. There are many variations on how to prepare it, but the most common is a plate of rice with beans on top (with or without chicken).
Rice and Beans are usually eaten with fish tacos or as part of a plate lunch. Many restaurants offer a special "rice and beans" menu with several different options for what goes into your plate of rice and beans.
Belizeans eat this meal often because it's easy to make, inexpensive and nutritious. Rice provides carbohydrates while beans provide protein; they're both good sources of fiber too!
Boil Up (aka Buljol) a Popular Breakfast Meal
A popular breakfast meal, boil up is a Creole dish consisting of rice and beans with stewed meat or fish. The meat is usually pork or chicken, but sometimes beef or fish is used instead. The meat is boiled with carrots, onions and garlic until tender. Then the rice is added along with water or chicken stock to cook it down into a thick porridge-like consistency. Boil up can be eaten with hot sauce or ketchup on top as well as served alongside fried plantains called fufu (or malanga).
Ceviche, Fresh Lime Marinated Seafood
Ceviche is a traditional seafood dish from South America and Central America, but it’s also very popular in Belize. Ceviche is made by marinating raw fish or seafood in citrus juice (usually lime or lemon), along with onions, garlic, cilantro and mild spices like black pepper or chili powder. This process “cooks” the fish without cooking it at all! The acidity of the juices breaks down the proteins in the fish so that it becomes soft and tender when served cold. The result is a light and refreshing treat that will leave you craving more… and more… and more!
You will love the food in Belize!
Belize has a variety of unique foods, from Mayan cuisine to Creole cooking. It's not what you might expect at all - most of it is highly flavorful and uses fresh, locally grown ingredients that vary seasonally. These are positive aspects that you don't often hear about Belize because the main focus tends to be on its adventure tourism destinations: rainforests, white sandy beaches and coral reefs around the perfect blue ocean. You'll definitely get a chance to expand your palate when you travel to Belize.