10 Belizean Dishes You Have to Taste

10 Belizean Dishes You Have to Taste

If you’re planning a Belize vacation, get there hungry! Known for vibrant Caribbean flavors, Belize’s cuisine offers fresh seafood and vegetables, tasty stewed meats, signature Belizean rums, and a myriad of delectable sweet treats infused with exotic local ingredients – coconut, chocolate and tropical fruits.

The country, small but diverse, with fewer than 350,000 occupants, is bordered to the north by Mexico, and to the south and west by Guatemala. Home to a wide array of cultures – Criole, Garifuna, Maya, Mesitzo, and others including Lebanese, Asian and East Indian – the country and its cuisine is a literal and figurative melting pot, featuring dishes from all over the world reinterpreted with Belizean flair.

They may sound familiar, but they will taste very different from the original creations. Here are our top 10 delicious dishes to try the Belizean way.

1. Ceviche

Though Belizeans can’t lay claim to the delicious discovery of ceviche (in fact, it was invented in Peru and is today appreciated throughout Central and South America), the recipe in Belize has a local twist. Though it stays true to the roots of raw seafood cured (or "cooked") in citrus juice, Belizean ceviche is typically prepared with raw conch and shimp, unlike other Central American and Mexican ceviches, which tend to be heavily fish based.

Due to conch overfishing, the Belize Fisheries Department has implemented a fishing season, which runs from October through the end of June; unless the yearly quota of conch is met prior to the season’s scheduled end. Travel outside of these months and it will be much harder to find conch on the menu, though some unscrupulous vendors may still sell it. Though conch is a culinary delight, we’d recommend avoiding it outside of the fishing season in order to protect the populations in the ocean.

Belize what to eat

2. Conch Fritters

Belize is known for fresh seafood – not surprising considering it’s a long, narrow country with 386 kilometers (240 miles) of Caribbean coastline! Conch, a sweet, delicately flavored mollusk, is a crowd favorite in many preparations, but conch fritters are by far the country’s most popular appetizer. When prepared correctly, the meat of the conch is tender and sweet, with no hint of a fishy taste, though some might be tempted to compare it to clams or calamari.

Conch fritters are a mouthwatering deep fried treat, and a must-try when in the country. Despite a restriction on conch due to overfishing, you’ll find it on most bar and restaurant menus in Belize during the fishing season which generally runs from October through the end of June. Conveniently for most, conch season happens to coincide with Belize’s tourism high season!

3. Johnny Cakes

Everywhere you go in Belize, someone is selling Johnny Cakes. This widely popular Caribbean quick bread made with coconut is a staple at tables throughout the country, commonly served hot at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The dough contains no sugar, so is the perfect accompaniment to both savory and sweet meals, and can be eaten alone or with marmalade and butter. The Johnny Cakes' divine pillow-soft interior, held together by a thin crust, makes it hard to stop at just one, so bring your stretchy pants.

Belize johnny cakes

4. Rice & Beans

Considered by many to be the foundation of Belizean cuisine, don’t be surprised if this dish barely resembles the rice and beans you’ve had elsewhere! Unlike similar dishes served throughout Central America (gallo pinto, anyone?) the rice and beans in Belize is cooked cooked Creole style – with coconut milk – and served with your choice of meat, a side of coleslaw, and fried plantains. Served as a side item on most dishes, you won’t be able to avoid it, but you won’t want to – it’s delicious.

5. Tamalitos/Ducunu

This unique culinary treat is a twist on the Mexican tamales, perfected thousands of years ago by the ancient Maya. Though savory tamales are served throughout Belize, tamalitos (also called ducunu by the English speaking population), are a unique dish with a very different flavor from most tamales. Typically made without meat, this sweet treat gets its robust flavor from corn, roasted over a fire or grill, then blended with coconut milk, salt, sugar and butter, stuffed into a cornhusk and steamed to perfection.

Belize food

6. Boil Up

A main staple in the southern Belize, boil up is a combination of root vegetables, plantain, eggs, fish and bread dumplings tossed into a boiling stock, and then often topped with a rich tomato sauce made with coconut oil. Served with pride, no visit to Belize is complete without tasting their national dish.

7. Pibil

This delicious Belizean-style pulled pork, often served with rice or atop corn tortillas, owes much of its tasty flavor to the unique way it is cooked. Traditionally, cuts of pork are marinated for hours in a sweet and citrusy mix colored and flavored with annatto seed and other spices, is then wrapped in plantain leaves and buried underground in a smoldering pit lined with hot stones. The meat is slow-cooked overnight, resulting in a seriously tender, juicy dish packed with flavor.

These days, more often than not, cooks use a slow-cooker instead of the traditional roasting method, but rest assured, the end product is just as good, with the added benefit that you can easily replicate the dish at home when you return from your vacation.

Belize foods

8. Hudut & Seré

Similar to a Creole stew called seré, Garifuna hudut is a traditional dish that celebrates the Garifuna people’s love for the sea. One of the most recognizable and famous dishes in Garifuna cuisine, hudut is a mixture of green and ripe plantain, cooked until tender, then mashed together with a mortar and pestle, and served with topped with a rich, creamy fish soup made with fried fish and coconut milk.

9. Salbutes

Another common meal found on menus all over the country, this Mestizo influenced dish is a tourist favorite, and it’s not hard to see why! Thin tortillas are made with premium masa (corn dough), fried, then topped with shredded onion, cabbage, shredded stewed chicken meat, tomato, cheese, avocado and a delicious gravy slathered on top. Sound delicious? That’s because they are.

10. Chimole

Don’t be put off by the unusual color of this traditional dish! Chimole, also known as “Black Dinner”, is a tasty dark-colored chicken soup with roots in Mayan and Mestizo cultures, commonly served during special occasions and religious holidays, and accompanied by boiled eggs and corn tortillas. Oft considered the unofficial national dish of Belize, the stew gets its color from black recado, a mix of spices and chilies roasted on a comal griddle until black.