The Best of Belize Food
The food in Belize – much like its culture – is a smorgasbord of influences from Maya, Kriol, Garifuna, Spanish, Native American, German, and Lebanese. The foundation of Belize food is rice and beans, much like the other countries in Central America. What makes Belize food different, though, is the Caribbean infusion of coconut milk, plantains, and spices. Ingredients are derived straight from the land, with citrus fruits, sugar, and bananas used as leading crops. Of course, with its location along the Caribbean Sea, Belize food consists of flavorful seafood, like lobster and conch. With so many culinary elements at hand, it’s no wonder Belize food is as diverse as it is colorful.
Brief History of Belize Food
“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.” ― Ernest Hemingway
Although the Maya peoples disappeared from Belize by the 16th Century, they left quite an impression on incoming civilizations with their towering architecture, expressive artifacts, and agricultural diet. The Spanish showed up in the 16th Century and ruled until the English and Scottish arrived a hundred years later, and Belize was claimed by Britain. African slaves also found their way to Belize over the years, bringing with them the Creole flair that thrives today. Even today, the communities of Belize are a colorful collection of cultures, reflected in the regions, the people, and the food.
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Like in most places, Belize food offers distinct dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are also some delectable Belizean side dishes that could easily be consumed as a meal:
- Rice and Beans – Sounds basic, but when made from scratch with coconut milk and seasonings like garlic, onion, black pepper, and thyme, it becomes a much-anticipated dish.
- Belizean Stew Chicken – A whole chicken, cut into large pieces, cooked in a deep skillet with oil and flour, like a thin roux. Once browned, the chicken is covered with seasoning and served with rice and beans.
- Black Dinner – Also known as Relleno, Black Dinner is a balanced combo of chicken, ground beef, good pork, boiled eggs, and black recado (a paste made from burned corn tortillas, onion, garlic, cominos, cloves, black pepper, and vinegar), all covered with vegetables and spices. The soup becomes a black broth, hence the name, and it’s often served on holidays.
- Escabeche soup – A delicate chicken soup with an assortment of spices like cloves, cumin, and cinnamon. This dish is finished with jalapenos and onion.
- Curry (chicken, goat, lamb, beef) – Marinated meats are pan-fried and then mixed into a thick, saucy broth of spices. The dish is served with veggies or rice.
- Belize Pibil – This Belizean dish starts with a marinated pork shoulder that is browned, then placed in the oven on banana leaves. It features flavors from sour orange, achiote annatto, and Mexican oregano, and it’s served with pickled red onions.
From the Sea
What would Belize food be without fish? As a coastal Caribbean country bordered by the Belize Barrier Reef, Belize residents are within reach of some of the greatest marine life in the world.
Ceviche, a dish closely tied to Central and Latin America, is a popular example of surf cuisine in Belize. Ceviche is an appetizer made with marinated raw fish and fresh citrus juices. It may be one of most the popular ways to serve seafood in Belize, but here are some other simple and tasty dishes:
- Hudut – Fresh fish seared in coconut broth with mashed plantains. Onions, bell peppers, and basil add seasoning to this simple, yet popular dish.
- Belizean Conch Fritters – Ground conch (the meat found inside the classic “ocean phone” shell) mixed with coconut cream and hot peppers. The dish is deep fried in large dumpling portions and served hot.
- Lion Fish Ceviche – Small cubes of the fish are marinated in a mixture of coconut and ginger, then served over crispy plantains.
- Shrimp, Lobster – Fresh shellfish in Belize is usually boiled or turned into a delicious variation by being stuffed or served as a hash.
- Panades – Also known as a Belizean empanada, this tuna-based dish is heated with onions and seasoning. Afterward, the seafood is placed inside mashed masa (hand rolled balls of corn dough), which is then folded and fried to make panades.
Sides & Appetizers
Every dish needs a side to complement its flavors. Here are some excellent apps, side dishes, or, if you like, perfectly portioned meals:
- Fried Plantain
- Coconut White Rice
- Split Peas
- Potato Salad
- Fry Jacks (deep fried pancakes)
- Belizean Tamales (wrapped in banana leaves)
- Creole Bread
- Johnny Cakes
- Corn Porridge
- Belizean Boil Cake (boiled rolls of flour)
- Pig or Ox Tail (boiled, fried pickled, usually served with rice or in soup)
Most savory Belize food is based on milk, cream, citrus, and fresh seasonings. The same ingredients are also used in many desserts. Here are some of the best desserts to come out of this Caribbean paradise:
- Sweet Potato Pone – Grated sweet potato is combined with ginger, raisins, cinnamon, vanilla, milk, and butter, and then baked to make these flat oval cakes.
- Bread Pudding – A rich mixture of egg, coconut milk, sugar, rum, and vanilla is poured into a dish with bread fold into it, then baked until golden brown.
- Coconut Tart – Freshly shaved coconut is baked into a flour tart with nutmeg and vanilla to taste. They’re baked to look like golden muffins with a sweet, soft center.
- Milk Fudge – These dangerous bite-sized sweets are easy to make and easy to eat. In Belize, they’re made with sweetened condensed milk versus the more common used chocolate or sugar base.
- Cassava Pudding – A simple combination of sugar, butter, and coconut milk are mixed with grated cassava (local tree root), then poured into a pan and baked at a low heat.
For the Love of Belize Food
Belize food is an edible expression of the small Caribbean nation’s culture. Belize recipes are designed by local ingredients and brought to life with a desire to preserve the rich culture of this country. Perhaps you can’t get to Belize right now, but you can still try these dishes in your own home. Click here to follow along with one of the best Belize recipes of rice and beans over stew chicken. When you’re ready to plan your visit to Belize, contact us to find out the best way to make the most of your time.