Top 10 Mouth-Watering Traditional Guatemalan Food You Must Try

Have you ever tried traditional Guatemalan cuisine?

Food is one of the most important expressions of culture and identity, and nowhere is this more true than in Guatemala. Guatemala is home to a cuisine that is as distinctive and vivid as the nation itself, thanks to its long history and rich cultural legacy. Traditional Guatemalan cuisine offers a feast for the senses, from the hearty and fragrant stews of the highlands to the hot and sour dishes of the coast.

This post will take you on a culinary journey through the flavors of Guatemala, exploring the diverse and delicious traditional dishes that make up this vibrant cuisine.

Traditional Guatemalan Food

What are the must-try traditional dishes in Guatemala?

Traditional Guatemalan food is a delicious blend of Spanish, Mayan and Aztec flavors. There are many traditional Guatemalan foods that you must try if you want to experience the real Guatemalan food culture. In this blog post, we will list the Top Ten most popular Guatemalan dishes that you can find in restaurants throughout the country. From a full meal to sweet desserts, Guatemalan cuisine has something for everyone. So read on and start planning your culinary adventure in Guatemala!


Perhaps the best-known Guatemalan traditional food is Pepian. This Guatemalan national dish is a thick soup made with roasted spices, meat and rice in a tomato-based sauce. It’s one of the country’s national dishes. This famous Guatemalan recipe usually consists of turkey or chicken stewed in this flavorful soup, but shredded beef or pork can also be used. The dish is traditionally served with corn tortillas and a side of black beans. Pepian can be spicy, but the level of heat can be adjusted to taste. If you’re ever in Guatemala, be sure to try this delicious national dish!


Another of the most popular indigenous foods is Kak’ik, a spicy stew comprised of turkey meat, garlic, onions, fresh cilantro, chili peppers and other spices. It’s commonly eaten with rice and corn tortillas and often considered to be another Guatemala national dish. Traditional Guatemalan foods are unique and delicious, and Kak’ik is a perfect example of the variety of flavors that can be found in Guatemalan cuisine.

Jocón de Pollo

Guatemala is a country with a rich and vibrant culture, and this is reflected in a traditional meal called Jocón de Pollo. This dish is made with chicken, tomatoes, peppers and a special Guatemala chili pepper paste. The dish is usually served with rice and beans, and it is a favorite among both locals and tourists. Jocón de Pollo is a great example of traditional Guatemalan food, and it is one that you should have if you are ever in Guatemala.


Hilachas is another one of the Mayan traditional dishes usually made with spicy shredded beef, but chicken or pork can also be used. The chopped meat is cooked in a tomato sauce until it is tender and then shredded. Hilachas is typically served with rice and corn masa (corn dough) tortillas, but can also be eaten with baked potatoes, mashed potato or on its own. This dish is popular among Guatemalans and is often served on special occasions.

Elote Loco

Traditional Guatemalan food has its roots in Mesoamerican cuisine, which is characterized by the use of indigenous ingredients, such as corn, beans and chili peppers. Elote Loco is a perfect example of this culinary tradition. Elote Loco, or grilled corn cobs, is simple and popular street food to make and can be easily customized to taste. It is typically served with a side of pico de gallo or guacamole but can also be slathered in ketchup, mayonnaise, sour cream and/or cheese. Elote Loco is very affordable street food and a delicious way to enjoy traditional Guatemalan food.

Guatemalan Tamales

One of the more common Guatemalan dishes is tamales. This staple food is made of corn dough that is stuffed with various fillings, then wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves and steamed.

Guatemala is not the only country where tamales are popular; they are also eaten throughout Latin America in Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. However, each country has its own unique way of making and serving tamales.

In Guatemala, they can be served with various sauces, such as tomato salsa, green sauce, tomato chile sauce or mole. Tamales are often served as a main dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They are also popular street food found at local markets. If you ever have the chance to try Guatemalan tamales, you will not be disappointed!

Guatemalan Enchiladas

Enchiladas are another common, traditional dish that is found in Guatemala and throughout Latin America. The dish is made with corn tortillas filled with meat, cheese, and vegetables, and then covered in a sauce made from chili peppers. Sometimes a local spin is put on them, like adding green olives, bell peppers or tender potatoes.

Enchiladas are typically served with rice and beans, and they can be made with either chicken or shredded beef. Guatemalan enchiladas are a popular dish that is often served at parties and celebrations. They are also popular Guatemalan street food. Guatemalan enchiladas are a filling and satisfying dish that is sure to please everyone at the table.

Arroz con Leche

Traditional Guatemalan food for a sweet tooth is Arroz con Leche. Also known as Arroz en Leche, it is a rice pudding made with milk, sugar and cinnamon. The dish is often served as a dessert or snack, and it is popular among both children and adults.

While it is typically considered a traditional Guatemalan dish, it actually has its roots in Spain. It was introduced to Guatemala by Spanish colonists, and over time, it has been adapted to suit the local palate. Today, this traditional Guatemalan dessert is enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds, making it one of the most beloved foods in Guatemala.


One of Guatemala’s most popular foods is Rellenitos, or fried plantains. Rellenitos are deep fried balls of mashed plantains, filled with fried black beans or refried beans and topped with sugar and sometimes sesame seeds. They are traditionally served as a snack or dessert, but can also be eaten for breakfast or lunch. Whether you’re looking for a delicious treat or sweet Guatemalan meal, Rellenitos are a must-try when visiting Guatemala.

Tres Leches Cake

Another popular Guatemalan dessert influenced by Spanish cuisine is Tres Leches Cake, a traditional sponge cake soaked in three kinds of milk (fresh, evaporated and condensed). The cake is then topped with whipped cream and fresh fruits, making it both delicious and visually striking. While Tres Leches Cake is enjoyed throughout Guatemala, it is particularly associated with the city of Antigua, which was once the capital of the Guatemala Maya empire. As such, Tres Leches Cake represents an important part of Guatemala’s culinary heritage.

Feast for the Soul: Unraveling Guatemala’s Culinary Tapestry

Within the heart of Guatemala beats a culinary tradition as rich and diverse as its landscapes. Food isn’t merely sustenance here; it’s a cultural cornerstone, a tapestry woven from centuries of history, tradition, and innovation. Influenced by the ancient Mayan civilization, Spanish colonialism, and African heritage, Guatemalan cuisine is a vibrant mosaic of flavors, colors, and textures. From the bustling markets overflowing with fresh produce to the family kitchens where age-old recipes are passed down through generations, food is the thread that binds communities together.

It’s in the aroma of slow-simmered pepián, the warmth of a tortilla fresh off the comal, and the sweetness of atol de elote shared among loved ones. In every bite, there’s a story—a story of resilience, creativity, and the enduring spirit of Guatemala. So come, taste the culture, and let the flavors of Guatemala transport you on a journey of discovery and delight.

Embracing Tradition: The Communal Feast of Guatemalan Cuisine

In Guatemalan culture, food is often enjoyed as a communal experience, bringing together family and friends around the table. Traditional meals are typically centered around staple ingredients like maize (corn), beans, rice, and a variety of meats and vegetables.

Corn tortillas are a ubiquitous accompaniment to almost every meal, used to scoop up bites of food or wrap around fillings to create tacos or enchiladas. Meals often consist of multiple courses, starting with soups or stews, followed by a main dish accompanied by rice, beans, and salad.

Eating with one’s hands is common, especially when enjoying street food or informal meals. This tactile experience fosters a sense of connection with the food and adds to the communal atmosphere.

Family gatherings and special occasions are often marked by elaborate feasts where multiple generations come together to share traditional dishes and stories. Food is not just sustenance in Guatemalan culture; it’s a way of preserving heritage, expressing love and hospitality, and strengthening bonds within the community.

FAQ: Questions and Answer of Traditional Food in Guatemala

  1. Where can I try traditional Guatemalan cuisine?
    • Traditional Guatemalan dishes can be found in local restaurants throughout the country, especially in cities and towns known for their culinary heritage. Street food vendors also offer authentic Guatemalan fare, providing a taste of local flavors in a casual setting.
  2. Are Guatemalan dishes suitable for vegetarians or vegans?
    • While many traditional Guatemalan dishes feature meat or dairy products, there are also plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans. Dishes like frijoles volteados (refried black beans), plátanos fritos (fried plantains), and ensalada de aguacate (avocado salad) are popular vegetarian choices. Additionally, some restaurants offer vegan versions of classic dishes or can accommodate dietary restrictions upon request.
  3. Is Guatemalan cuisine spicy?
    • Guatemalan cuisine is known for its bold flavors, but not all dishes are spicy. While some traditional dishes, such as pepián and kak’ik, incorporate spicy elements like chili peppers, others are milder in heat. Many restaurants offer a range of spice levels to suit individual preferences, so don’t hesitate to ask for a dish to be adjusted to your taste.
  4. What drinks complement Guatemalan cuisine?
    • Guatemalan cuisine pairs well with a variety of beverages, both traditional and modern. Horchata, a sweet rice milk drink flavored with cinnamon, is a popular choice for refreshing the palate. For something stronger, try a Gallo beer, brewed locally in Guatemala, or sample one of the country’s many varieties of rum. And no Guatemalan meal is complete without a cup of rich, locally grown coffee, served hot or cold.
  5. Can I recreate Guatemalan dishes at home?
    • Absolutely! Many traditional Guatemalan recipes are relatively simple to prepare and use ingredients that are readily available in most grocery stores. With a bit of patience and practice, you can recreate the flavors of Guatemala in your own kitchen. Experiment with recipes for pepián, tamales, or arroz con leche, and enjoy the satisfaction of bringing a taste of Guatemala to your table.
  6. Are there any food-related customs or etiquette I should be aware of in Guatemala?
    • In Guatemalan culture, it’s customary to greet others before starting a meal and to express gratitude for the food provided. When dining with locals, it’s polite to try a little bit of everything offered and to compliment the cook on their culinary skills. Eating with your hands is common, especially when enjoying street food or informal meals, but utensils may be provided in more formal settings.
  7. What makes Guatemalan cuisine unique?
    • Guatemalan cuisine is unique in its blend of indigenous Mayan flavors with Spanish and African influences, resulting in a diverse array of dishes that showcase the country’s cultural heritage. From hearty stews and savory tamales to sweet desserts and refreshing beverages, Guatemalan cuisine reflects the country’s rich history, vibrant landscapes, and warm hospitality.

Where to Enjoy Traditional Guatemalan Food?

Eagle’s Nest Atitlan is the perfect place to enjoy traditional Guatemalan food. For a full list of our menu, please visit our Cafe Page. After developing an appetite, you can enjoy your all inclusive stay with us! Come join us for yoga, workshops, and many breathtaking views… Book here!

Written by : Kurt