Taste of Belize

Traditional Belizean cuisine is rooted in our Caribbean and Latin American origins. Our Mayan, Kriol, and Garifuna backgrounds have produced a dazzling collection of diverse recipes, which we are pleased to share with you today. 

Want to experience a true taste of Belize? Visit Las Terrazas Resort’s O Restaurant where our Belize-raised Chef Nolvin shares his own recipes. You can create some of his unique creations which are detailed below. But nothing beats a dining experience next to the 70’ infinity pool under the stars. Or attend a Belize Food Tour for an authentic experience of the mom-and-pop restaurants on Ambergris Caye. 

For those of you who won’t be visiting Ambergris Caye soon, don’t worry. Below are some authentic recipes that will help you eat like a local. Make them yourself and wow your family and friends at home.

fry jacks

Fry Jacks

Despite the nation’s culinary diversity, there are still several Belizean staples that stand out as truly authentic. For example, refried beans, eggs, rice, and cheeses are enjoyed with nearly every meal, and are almost always accompanied with flour tortillas and fry jacks. A popular breakfast dish, fry jacks are deep fried pieces of dough that are famous for being circular or triangular in shape. Fry jacks are very similar to beignets or sopapillas. These savory bites are perfect for dipping into refried beans! 

A traditional fry jack recipe is easy to make: 

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 3 tsp of baking powder
  • ¼ tsp of salt
  • 1 T of vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup of water
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Cut the shortening into flour, then add the water, a little at a time, to make a soft (but not sticky) dough. Divide the dough into two rounds. Let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. While the dough is resting, lightly flour a hard, spacious surface such as a countertop or cutting board. Roll the dough out to about 10 to 12 inches round. Cut lengthwise into 2 to 3-inch strips and then crosswise to desired size. Heat oil and fry on each side until golden brown. 

Delicious tip: Fry jacks can and should be served hot with honey, jam, sugar or refried beans and cheese and fully enjoyed. Or, for those who are acquainted with French beignets, just sprinkle them with powdered sugar and have yourself a sweet treat instead.

Must try: It’s important to distinguish that you have not had a true Fry Jack until you have tasted Chef Nolvin’s at our fantastic O Restaurant. While he keeps his recipe a secret, he admits that he calls these delectable bites “patties” and insists that a fry jack is always filled with fun - it might be sweet or savory, but it is always delicious. His fry jack philosophy is to “stretch it, stuff it, and fry it!”, with his favorite creation being a Spicy Chili Chicken with a sweet sriracha dipping sauce. Come by and try it the next time you are on the island.

fish soup
Photo: Maya Island Air

Serre (Fish Soup)

After being shipwrecked on course to the West Indies, the Garifuna settled in Belize’s southern villages in the early 1800s. Their blend of African and Caribbean influences created a dish using ingredients easily available in the local subtropical climate, from cassava to coconuts.

Traditionally, a bowlful of this famous fish soup is spooned out with a side of cassava bread on November 19th – a national holiday that celebrates the Garifuna’s settlement. This humble fare can be found almost anywhere in the country. Head to Dangriga or Hopkins on the mainland for a more authentic taste, but even the most luxury island resorts in Ambergris Caye offer contemporary versions.

Chef Nolvin loves this dish and describes it as a rich, comforting soup he would prepare for family occasions and keeping the heritage of Belize alive. He says that part of the appeal is its versatility; you can switch up the ingredients any way you’d like. For example, any kind of fish can be substituted into this tasty broth, and scotch bonnets will work in place of habaneros. If it sounds good, throw it in - you really can’t go wrong.

Because this is such a diverse and ever-changing dish, nailing down a classic recipe can be hard to do. However, with just a few basic ingredients, its staple coconut broth, and time to simmer on the stove, this is one easy soup that anyone can make at home. Some ideas to try include local fish (cleaned, cored, seasoned, and fried), sautéed onions and peppers in a coconut milk broth, with root vegetables like carrot, potato, and sweet potatoes stirred in, and garnished on top with cilantro.

conch ceviche

Conch Ceviche & Conch Fritters

It wouldn’t be the Caribbean without a little hot sauce to add to your dish, and Hot Mama’s is definitely the spice Queen of Belize. With three different levels of heat to add to your dish, this local hot sauce company won the 2007 Fiery Food Challenge. Add it to any of these recipes and you won’t be disappointed. Hot sauce aside, this company also provides authentic recipes to enjoy, like their classic Conch Ceviche and Conch Fritters, both of which are local favorites when it comes to Belizeans appetizers.

pupusas

Papusas

While traditionally an El Salvadorian recipe, papusas first graced Ambergris Caye with their presence when a woman named Sara brought the recipe to the island and opened her very own Pupuseria on Middle Street. Word quickly spread that these thick, handmade tortillas topped with meat, beans, and cheese were to die for, and the dish quickly became a Belizean staple. While we don’t know her secret ingredients, we encourage all who visit the island to dine at Pupuseria Salvadoreno to taste Sara’s famous dish. But for a basic recipe, here’s a good one to try.

salbutes

Salbutes

Salbutes are puffed, deep fried, corn tortillas that are topped with lettuce, sliced avocado, pulled chicken, tomato, and pickled red onion. Though salbutes originate from the Yucatán peninsula and are believed to be from the Mestizo culture, today they are a common staple in Belize.

This delicious “on the go” kind of food is typically eaten for lunch in Belize. It is considered a quick fast food that can be purchased from fast food restaurants countrywide and is eaten typically with the hands. 

Chef Nolvin uses these savory ingredients and is known to serve them with a Habanero Onion sauce when friends or family pop in. Be sure to request this special dish the next time you visit O Restaurant. The salbutes pictured are served at El Fogon, courtesy of our friends at San Pedro Scoop

  • 2 lbs corn masa
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 tomatoes
  • ½ tsp of salt
  •  ½ tsp of black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Recado (Annatto spice) OPTIONAL
  • 1 cup of water
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Lettuce

Mix the corn masa, spices, and water, then knead until a dough is formed. Once doughy, divide into balls that are roughly two inches in diameter. Flatten into rounds and then dip and fry in oil until golden, but not too tough or crispy. Drain on a paper towel.

Top with shredded chicken, tomatoes, lettuce and whatever other toppings your heart desires.

Garnaches

Similar to salbutes, garnaches are another common fast food appetizer or small dish with a fried tortillas as a base. However, garnaches typically skip the meat and are topped with refried beans, onions, cabbage, and cheese instead. 

For a classic recipe, try:

  • 1 cup red kidney or black beans (mashed or blended)
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • 4 ounces shredded cabbage (about 2 cups)
  • 1 small onion (small dice)
  • 1 medium carrot, grated 
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • Habanero pepper, finely diced (optional, to taste)
  • 1 lb corn tortilla
  • Cooking oil for frying
  • 1 cup hard cheese, grated (Asiago, Edam, or Dutch type)

Mash or blend the cooked beans, then season with salt and pepper. Stir cabbage, onions and carrots together in a small bowl with vinegar. For heat, add habanero to the vegetable/vinegar mixture. Fry the tortillas in oil until puffy and crisp. Then spread with beans, top with cabbage, onions, and carrots, and sprinkle with grated cheese.

chicken with rice and beans
Photo: Tropic Air

Belizean Stewed Chicken with Rice and Beans

You absolutely cannot come to Belize without getting a taste of this most traditional dish. Stewed chicken with rice and beans is a country favorite and can be found in nearly every restaurant. This recipe is a must try and can be found here

paletas

Paletas

These Belizean popsicles are a refreshing delight during those hot summer months. Eat them alone as a summer treat, or wow your friends by soaking them in a cocktail. Soursop is a local favorite flavor, pulled from the large acidic fruit of the tropical evergreen tree, and is a must have on the island.  Here is a recipe that can easily be made from home:

Combine ingredients and pour into the popsicle mold. Freeze and enjoy! 

We hope you enjoy these traditional Belizean recipes. Be sure to comment and let us know which ones you enjoyed, or share some recipes of your own! 

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