Visitors will have a tough time finding any chain restaurants and hotel conglomerates: Belize’s tourism relies on sharing what’s homegrown. After all, we’re nestled at the base of the Yucatan Peninsula and bordered to the east by the Caribbean Sea. Inside, there’s a medley of culinary influences for a spirited menu, thanks to the Garifuna, Creole, Indian, Mayan, and European heritages. For the epi-curious, eat up these ten unmissable food experiences in Belize.
1. Belize Food Tours in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
Sure, San Pedro in Ambergris Caye is known for striking an impressive balance between barefoot-beaches and tourism Mecca, but its food scene comes in as a very close second. And Belize Food Tours wants to make sure you get a true taste of what Ambergris Caye has to offer. After all, culinary travel is on the rise, but it’s not just food on the menu: you’re in pursuit of unique and memorable food and drink experiences. Save a spot in a Walking Tour to indulge in local favorites, like Mango Chamoy ice-pops from Las Paletas Belize and Cochinita Pibil tacos in a homemade tortilla from Elvi’s Kitchen. Exploring the connection between food and local history, Belize Food Tour highlights several classic San Pedro institutions, including the small eatery that was established by the founders’ own grandfather in 1968.
2. Maya Cooking Class
Master delectable Maya dishes such as plantain breakfast caldo, tamales, Maya hot chocolate and more at a dedicated Mayan cookery course. Venture into the edge of Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve for a tour with the San Antonio Women’s Co-Operative, a group of Yucatec Maya women promoting traditional cooking techniques. Watch (and try) grinding corn by hand into masa: the corn dough mixes with water before inflating over a fogon, enjoyed hot with fresh-pressed coconut oil and a pinch of salt. But the corn coffee is a must. Blackened corn (roasted in a clay pot over open flames) mixes with boiling water for a punchy rendition to coffee — sans caffeine jitters.
3. A Belikin Pint-To-Go inside Belize’s International Airport
If you’ve done any research about Belize, you’re bound to come across the word ‘Belikin’ before. As the flagship brew for the country, this full-bodied beer is locally made in Belize, for Belizeans, for an experience ‘onli eena Belize.’ After all, every traveler gets a glimpse of the brewery on arrival. Found left of the international runway, the brewery housed in the old airport’s compound. Although it’s likely to be the thirst-quencher of choice during your visit in Belize, grab one for the road at the Belikin Store inside the international airport’s Departure Lounge. Plus, a few Belikin momentos wouldn’t hurt either. At different times of the year, enjoy seasonal flavors like the Verano Beer, Sorrel Stout, Chocolate Stout, or Black & Tan. Besides, until you land back on home soil, you’re still on vacation.
4. Conch Ceviche on the Beach
Originating in Peru, ceviche — fresh raw fish cured in citrus juice — is found all over Mexico, Central America and South America. If you’re a seafood lover, then ceviche is the obvious answer. Because its cooked in the acidity of zesty citrus, this no-cook dish is equally as refreshing. With a base of diced seafood, onions, tomatoes, fresh cilantro and fresh lime juice, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a Belikin beer. The best Belizean ceviche is made with raw conch or shrimp, and it always tastes better on the beach. Get your fix at Lily’s Treasure Chest in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.
Adapting a locavorian lifestyle is practically effortless with the accessibility (and abundance) of local Farmers’ Markets in Belize. While each shine individually, San Ignacio’s on a Saturday morning is an experience in itself; tarp-covered vendor stalls, fragrant street food favorites (like bubbling pupusas) and vibrantly tropical fruits spill out onto the banks of the Macal River. Surrender to your senses — whether that’s your nose with gentle reminders of craving pangs or eyes that drink in the kaleidoscope of fresh vegetables. Here, you’ll understand the fascination of calling Belize a melting pot of cultures: cultural and culinary diversity is on full display.
These fluffy pillows of fried flour dough in the shape of triangles or half-moons are traditionally found on breakfast menus countrywide. Arguably, the Fry Jack is Belize’s number one breakfast favorite; pairing perfectly with a side of eggs, fry jacks is often the main vehicle for refried beans, meat, and cheese. Order separately, or step it up a notch by making it a Stuffed Jack. And yes, Fry Jacks can be eaten as savory or sweet with honey, jelly, jam, and even powdered sugar.
Toledo district is home to acres of organic cacao orchards where pods are grown and harvested, easily dubbing it the cacao-central in country. Copal Tree Lodge’s Cacao Workshops takes you into their on-site cacao nursery; blanketing the foothills of the Maya Mountains, you’re guided from fermentation to finish. Besides, this hands-on educational tour is a sweet treat; from tasting the fresh and subtle cacao flesh, to harvesting pods, and later, fermentation. Learn to make the foundation of the famous Maya Gold — organic chocolate — which inspires the local chocolate tea, ‘kukuh’, still enjoyed today. Roll up your sleeves, don an apron and get to tempering the fruits of your labor – both by hand and machine – into your very own chocolate bar to enjoy.
Globally, one thing remains the same: cooking is one way to bring order and comfort into our lives. A Belizean’s favorite comfort food thouogh? The all-loved “Sunday Dinna” rice and beans special. More specifically, served with stewed chicken, potato salad, and perfectly-caramelized ripe plantain. Onion sauce with habanero too—if you’re feeling for a kick. Although its found on almost every menu any day of the week, a Sunday in a typical Belizean household often means its the full spread of coconut-milk based rice and beans. Arguably the ultimate unmissable food experience while in Belize, enjoy a hearty plate of Belize’s national dish on a Sunday for extra points.
If you happen to be visiting soon, you might be lucky enough to sample this Christmas treat. Often served with rum popo, a sort of Belizean eggnog, the Belizean black fruit cake is chockfull of dried fruit, spices and nuts. Its hue (thanks to stout and caramel coloring) is just as deep and rich after baking; the dense cake gets a punchy dash of gold rum or wine on top while still warm. It’s a guaranteed festive mouthful.
The district of Orange Walk is famed for its tacos, thanks to well-established local favorites such as Alicia’s Taqueria and Garcia’s Tacos. Very much so that, under different circumstances, hungry crowds gather every November for the Orange Walk Taco Festival. Served out of mobile food carts and wooden structures perched on almost every other corner, each loyal patron will argue about who is the best. But what exactly is it about Orange Walk tacos that set them apart from every other district in Belize? It could be the well-seasoned and shredded-by-stew pork or chicken. Perhaps, its the fragrantly-fresh corn tortillas with a bite, or even the combo of tomato and habanero sauce. Or, you could simply decide for yourself.