Eating my way through Central America: A foodies travel guide to Guatemala
As you probably already know from this blog, eating is one of my favourite pastimes and before I went backpacking around Central America I was really intrigued about what the food would be like. We all know what Vietnamese and Thai food is like but Guatemalan food? Not so much.
So, I have made it my aim throughout these travels to eat a lot, research a lot and take a lot of food photos, all so that I could do a few of these, ‘what I ate in a day’ blog posts, to give a bit of insight into Central American cuisine.
I’m thought I’d start off with Guatemala, one of my favourite countries in Central America, and one where I particularly enjoyed eating a wide variety of food. I’ve broken it down into a traditional day of eating which was when I went to do a homestay with a family in San Juan, a sleepy town perched by the side of the stunning Lake Atitlan. Then I’ve also written about some of the great, more modern and international cuisine that I experienced in my favourite place, the beautiful town of Antigua.
Traditional food in Guatemala
Mornings In Guatemala start with a traditional breakfast called a Chapin breakfast which is eaten in most homes. This revolves around a key staple in Central American cuisine: black beans which are then served either whole or refried into a paste and come with scrambled egg, golden fried plantains and basket of warm tortillas on the side. This one was made for me by my homestay family.
A lot of traditional Guatemalan food has quite a strong Mexican influence so it’s not uncommon to see burritos, fajitas or tacos on the menu. For lunch I ate this veggie burrito at a restaurant which was filled with beans, cheese, rice and cooked vegetables.
Other popular more snacky lunches include tamales which make an appearance all over central and south America and are made from corn starch cooked in banana leaf and filled with vegetables, beans or meat.
For dinner with my homestay family I ate a vegetarian version of a traditional dinner which included scrambled eggs mixed with spinach, boiled veg, potatoes, beans and tortillas. If you eat meat then you’d usually have this with chicken instead. This also came with hot sauce served at the side.
Modern Guatemalan Cusine
I loved the food in Antigua Guatemala because it had loads of trendy and healthy restaurants and cafes as well as traditional restaurants which after travelling for a while and subsiding on rice and beans, made quite a change.
For breakfast I stumbled across a little cafe called Union Cafe near the Central Park which quickly became a favourite. They had my kind of breakfast menu with smoothie bowls and plenty of veggie options. I went for pancakes served with organic honey and homemade fruit compote.
There are lots of food related activities to do in Antigua from coffee tours, chocolate making or visiting a macadamia nut plantation. I’d read about a peanut butter making class with a company called De La Gente. It was located in the plaza of San Miguel Escobar which was a 15 minute tuk tuk ride or chicken bus ride away from the centre of Antigua. It was ran by two of the daughters of one of the coffee farm owners and during the class we learnt how they grow, hand pick, sort and grind their own 100% natural peanut butter. For lunch they provided us with corn tortillas, sliced banana, honey and the batch of peanut butter that we made.
Back in town I had a few errands to run of the shopping variety in the beautiful handicraft market. I’d planned on going to the chocolate museum but I run out of time however It would be criminal to visit Guatemala and not try some local chocolate.I’d read about Fernando’s cafe online which is known for its locally made chocolate and coffee so we went for a cacao hot chocolate which was fantastic. I could have eaten and drunk everything on their menu.
The whole day had been a bit of a sugar overload so for dinner I thought I’d better take advantage of all the healthy vegan restaurants around. I decided to go to Samsara, a fantastic cafe serving wraps, sandwiches, salads and loads of other vegan, veggie and gluten-free options. I went for the raw zucchini noodles served with Guacamole and corn bread and I also got a cacao and tahini coffee with it.
Do you have anymore questions about food in Guatemala? Drop me an email or leave a comment at the bottom of this post.