Belize is a melting pot of ethnicities and this is evident in the cuisine available. Authentic styles of cookery can be grouped as Mestizo and Maya, Creole and Garifuna, however there is significant overlap, together with international influences including American, Chinese and Indian.
Belize is abundant with seafood. Fresh fish, lobster (when in season), shrimp, and conch are widely available, especially in the beach destinations. Ceviche is a must – a cold marinade of fish, conch, and/or shrimp “cooked” in lime juice and seasoned, served with local tortilla chips. Conch fritters are also commonplace…. and deliciously moreish. Rice and beans is a big staple, often cooked in coconut milk and served with stew chicken, stew pork or stew beef. These Creole recipes are rich stews that get their color from a broad mix of spices, as well as red recado, which is made from annatto seed.
Something on every dinner table is Marie Sharp’s Hot Sauce, which is a very spicy sauce made from a base of habanero peppers, carrots, and onions. No Belizean dish is complete without it. Belikin beer is the national brew of Belize, with several varieties: Belikin Lighthouse, Belikin Regular, Belikin Premium, and Belikin Stout. Rum is the liqour of choice with Caribbean White, Caribbean Dark and One Barrel, which has a slightly richer vanilla flavor.
Whether you’re after some simply barbecued fish on the beach, freshly made tacos from a street vendor, or international fare in upscale surroundings, you will be spoilt for choice in Belize.
Mestizo / Mayan cuisine
Dishes typical of Mestizo / Mayan, a mix of Spanish and Mayan influenced cookery, include garnaches – fried corn tortilla with re-fried beans and shredded cheese, tamales made from ground corn and chicken, wrapped in banana leaf and steamed, and tamalitos (or ducunu in Creole) made from ground sweetcorn and chicken, wrapped in the leaves of corn on the cobs and steamed. Also common are panades (or empanadas), fried corn patties with beans and either shredded fish or chicken inside, topped by a tangy onion sauce.
The Boil Up is considered to be the cultural dish of the Belizean Creoles. It is combination of boiled eggs with either fish or pigs tail, with a number of ground foods thrown into the pot such as cassava, plantain and sweet potatoes, and served in a rich tomato sauce. Cassava cakes are made from ground cassava – the cakes are lightly fried, then dipped in coconut milk and fried again. Fish seré is made with coconut milk, mashed half-ripe plantain, tomatoes, potatoes and onions, served with tortillas.
Among the other main staples of a Creole dinner are rice and beans with some type of stewed meat, potato salad or coleslaw, seafood including fish, conch, lobster and ground foods such as cassava, potatoes, cocoa and plantains. Typical desserts include sweets such as cakes and pies, and potato pudding. Breakfast specialties include johnny-cakes and fry jacks, delicious deep fried bread served with syrup or mango jam.
Traditional Garifuna foods are based around fish, chicken, cassava, bananas, and plantains. A major staple of the diet is cassava. Cassava is extremely versatile and is made into bread, drinks, puddings and even wine! Cassava bread is served with most meals. Hudutu is a very common meal, consisting of fish cooked in a coconut broth (a close cousin to seré in Creole cuisine) and served with mashed plantains or yams. Dharasa is the Garifuna version of a tamale made with green bananas. It can be made either sweet or sour.
As well as the delicious range of authentic local cuisine available, Belize is really ‘upping the ante’ on the international fine dining scene with the increasing prevalence of luxury resorts and accommodation. On Ambergris Caye in particular it is possible to dine in establishments that rival the quality and creativity of restaurants in any major international city.
Rojo Lounge, the restaurant at Azul Resort, is a hip and exclusive loungey spot that has won Fodor’s choice three years running. The grouper cakes served with fire roasted red pepper and coconut dipping sauce and the key lime pie margarita are a must!
Rendezvous Restaurant is the only Thai / fusion restaurant on the island and the flavors are the perfect accompaniment to the tropical climate. The crab and lobster coconut bisque is to die for. In town, Wild Mangoes serves ‘nuevo latino’ cuisine, Caribbean food infused with spicy latin influences from Cuba, Mexico and Argentina. The rum glazed bacon wrapped shrimp and the plantain crusted tilapia ensure that bookings are absolutely necessary.
On the mainland, Ka’ana boutique resort has also been winning awards. Their acclaimed La Ceiba restaurant serves dishes that represent the different regions in Belize, with a modern and creative twist. Run by a young European couple, the French Connection in Placencia is a sophisticated addition to the Peninsular.
Whether you’re after some simply bbq’d fish on the beach or a freshly made taco from a street vendor, or international fare in upscale surroundings, you will be spoilt for choice in Belize.