Taking part in Veganuary? What to Eat in Belize

by Vivian Roe
plate of pupusas curtido

Veganuary is here, and more than a million people are giving this plant-based diet a try this month. If you are kicking off 2021 with a healthy resolution and trying Veganuary, here are the best restaurants and foods to try whilst in Belize.

But first, what exactly is Veganuary?

As you’ve probably guessed, this involves eating more plants and cutting animal products for the first month of the year. Like Dry January, the Veganuary challenge was started in the U.K. by a non-profit organisation in 2014. Fast forward to today, and more than one million people in 192 countries have pledged to try vegan for January.

“It really feels to me that plant-based eating is no longer controversial,” said Toni Vernelli from Veganuary. “Pretty much everyone has accepted we need to be reducing animal products in our diets for environmental reasons.”

Best Vegan Dishes to Try

Is it possible to find delicious vegan food in Belize? Will you be able to sample the local cuisine while staying plant-based? Fortunately, the answer to both these questions is yes! Here are some classic Belizean dishes that can fit a vegan diet: 

Pupusas

Hailing from El Salvador, pupusas are a delicious stuffed cake made with masa–the same corn flour product used to make corn tortillas. Pupusas are served with curtido and filled with melty cheese, refried beans, chicharron, vegetables, or the like; the filling options are endless! Keep it vegan by sticking with beans, vegetables, or a mixture of both.

Rice-and-Beans

A delicious Belizean staple, it’s made by simmering rice and beans in coconut milk and is often served with fried plantains. The healthy fats in the coconut milk, protein in the beans, and carb-heavy rice make this a plant-based powerhouse! Plus, it’s practically found on menus countrywide. 

Fry Jacks

Similar to beignets, these deep fried bread pockets are a breakfast food – fit for sweet or savory. Drizzle on local jams for dessert, or pair with refried beans for a heartier meal. 

Panades

As achiote-flavored fried masa discs, panades are the perfect base for omnivores and vegans alike. They are traditionally filled with either hashed fish, beans, or even shredded chicken. Of course, for Veganuary, opt for the refried beans options. If you’re making at home, switch the meat options for shredded jackfruit. Top if all off with a punchy quick pickled onion, fragrant with habanero and cilantro. 

Traditional Chocolate

From bean to bar, this immersive cultural experience is completely vegan! Join a food tour to make chocolate like the Mayas. Besides, the by-products like cacao tea and cacao nibs are vegan delights. 

Beside these menu-ready items, plant-based eaters will thrive off the array of fruits and veggies in Belize. Dive into the tropics with exotic fruits like mamey, sapodilla, kinep, dragonfruit, and soursop. However for the full experience, be sure to visit a local farmers market in the early morning! 

Craving a cool comfort? For an dairy-free vegan treat on a hot day, try Cayo Twist in San Ignacio, Tutti Frutti in Placencia, or Nice Cream in Hopkins. Not to mention, common paletas (or ice pops) country-wide are often dairy-free. 

Soursop
Soursop
Banana
Dragon Fruit
Sorbet

Vegan Restaurants to Try

Itz’ana vegan belize

Plant-based eats at Itz’ana Restaurant.

For a full meal, Vegan Bites in Belize City is a budget-friendly, takeout-only option. Although, takeout isn’t so bad when it comes with seaside views at BTL Park! Also in the city, Om Shanti’s Martha’s Cafe is another 100% plant-based restaurant with the ambiance to match. Then, in the capital, Veggie Garden is an easy option for highway travelers that offers Taiwanese cuisine. Down South, ask Itz’ana Belize for their vegan menu. Without a doubt, there are many more restaurants we’re missing! 

On the other hand, majority of Belize’s cuisine can easily be adapted to be vegan. If you don’t see something that works for you, don’t be shy to talk to the server or chef! 

Header photo by Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post via Getty Images 

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