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Central American Cuisine : Food Culture in Central America

Updated on May 17, 2011

Central American Cuisine : Food Culture in Central America

Central America is part of the heart of the America. It divides the North and the South America. It is surrounded by the Caribbean seas, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Plates of Caribbean. It is usually struck by earthquake and activities of volcanoes. This region is oftentimes described as Middle section of America and Central or Middle America. According to the UN Geoscheme Central America would be the group of countries which are located South of US and north of the country Colombia.

Central America is composed of seven countries : El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica and Honduras. Panama Canal is both part of the South and the North America.

It would be very interesting to look at the food culture in Central America being a hot spot in biodiversity -- (Mesoamerican Biodiversity hotspot) -- they are trying to preserve the regions rich biodiversity because it is an important part of life in America and the whole earth. (America meaning all the North, Central, South included).

In this case, I excluded Mexico as it usually belong to the North America region.

Sp c'mon, join me in discovering the food culture or cuisine in Central America.

Corn staple food in Central America -- Aztec and Mayan based food culture

Central American Cuisine : Food Culture in Central America

  • Central America food culture or cuisine is influenced by Aztec and Mayan culture and colonization. Mayan culture is mostly maize based food culture
  • The Mayan cuisine is characterized as focused towards agricultural production of staple food which is maize, beans and peppers.
  • The Aztec cuisine is same, maize is the staple food and the food derive form maize are atolli, tamales, tortillas. Chili peppers is also included as part of the main food ingredients in the region of Central America.
  • Cassava and yam (camote or sweet potato) are part of the meal
  • In the region they have version of soups -- sopa de albondiga -- soups made of meatballs veggies and broth plus herbs and seasonings
  • Staple food in the region includes like corn or maize and cassava
  • The tamales are diversified in different variation in the region
  • The vine flower bud loroco is unique to Central America
  • Gallo pinto is a dish eaten in Nicaragua and Costa Rica and this is a rice which was cooked and combined with beans (fried) with lots of herbs and spices like onion, peppers and cilantro
  • Tortillas and the many variants across the regions'
  • Plantain is a kind of banana used for cooking and is eaten a part of meal in the region

Plantain -- the green banana in the image here is part of the meal as ingredients

beans are part of the meal usually combined with the rice as in gallo pinto meal

Central American Cuisine : Food Culture in Central America

Main Food 
Gallo pinto -- rice fried with beans and herbs plus spices, seafoods, coconut, corn and various fruits. Corn is a staple food and drinks are made out of corn like chicha plus pinolilio. Some of the herbs used are cilantro, oregano and achuete. They have tropical fruits as well like coconut,pineapple, avocado, papaya and mango. Cassava is also eaten. Sopa de albondiga is meatballs, vegetables and made into soup. They also eat exotic animals like boas, eggs of turtles and lizards.  
usually food are seasoned with cilantro, Panamanian ceviche -- seafoods marinated food, meat are beef, chicken and some seafoods, and rootcrops like yam and cassava, plus corn as grain is popular part of dishes, ensalada, tamales -- starch corn which is steamed and filled with other ingredients and covered with banana leaves, empananda -- pastry made of corn flour stuffed with meat and cheese, arroz -- meaning rice is used with other food like arroz con pollo - rice with meat  
there is a candy which is a popular in the northern part mad eof condensed milk with seeds plus nuts and honey,  maize or corn is a staple food, chili peppers, tamales - paches, -- potato based (eaten every Thursday) and tortilla are eaten, Tamales has many version in Guatemala and is usually potato, rice or corn dough based mixed with some seasonings and herbs

Sopa de albondiga -- Nicaragua version -- soup mixed -- veggies, meatballs and broth of meat

Panama ceviche version of marinated seafood -- shrimp with citrus fruits

Guatemala Tamales -- made of starch (potato based version) and wrapped in banana leaves -- part of Latin American food

Central American Cuisine : Food Culture in Central America

Main Food
They eat more chicken and fish, boiled eggs, pig tails -- Kriol food, cassava, stews, garnaches (fried tortillas with beans and sauce), beans -- ( pinto and black beans) and rice, tortillas, maize, coconut milk, tamales, escabeche. Some fruits are avocado, papaya, guava. Plus tomato and chili peppers  
Costa Rica 
Coffee and banana are the main exports of the country, they used cassava, yam, and corn with their soups plus broth of meat -- beef and pork their food is not usually spicy -- they use habanero chile, ,-- Gallo pinto -- rice fried with beans and herbs plus spices, plantain - kind of banana used for cooking
El Salvador 
quesadilla, yema -- candy, sopa de pata -- soup from cow and ingredeints, chorizo- sausage, pupusa -- rice flour or flour of corn tortilla, yuca frita (cassava), pescaditas - (fried sardines), pavo or turkey sandwhiches,

Belize food garifuna -- cassava bread

El Salavador chorizo, sausage

El Salvador cuisine -- Pupusas -- ingredients are tortillas (corn or rice flour) with meat and beans

Costa rican breakfast with gallo pinto -- rice with beans fried woth seasonings ansd herbs plus orange and egg, plus banana


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    • whatsupelsalvador profile image


      8 years ago from San Salvador, El Salvador

      awesome tasty good stuff! voted up!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      you missed Honduras main food

    • BkCreative profile image


      9 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Love plaintains, beans, and so much more. My diet is closer to that of Central America and it does keep me healthy.

      I so appreciate you giving background on the history of the cultures. A great history lesson through food. You are truly an amazing writer!

      Many thanks - and rated up and more of course!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      9 years ago from Sunny Florida

      You covered Central America's eating habits very thoroughly in this hub. The pictures looked good also.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image


      9 years ago from Texas, USA

      I enjoyed reading your article, you put some work into this one(and others) Thanks for sharing this information.

    • profile image


      9 years ago


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