A Guide to Nicaraguan Food and Drinks

Nicaraguan cuisine is known to most world travelers as unique, inexpensive, and full of variety. With historical and cultural influences from the indigenous Miskito people, to those of the Spanish, Colombian, Caribbean and Creole, Nicaraguan cuisine provides a wide array of flavors. Food in the western region of Nicaragua is dominated by hearty vegetables, fruits, and corn, while the eastern region has a more Caribbean flare with coconut and seafood. With an extensive coastline and a deep rooted small farming culture, Nicaraguan dishes are comprised of many local ingredients including fish, lobster, pork, beef, chicken, mango, papaya, tamarind, pipian, banana, plantain, avocado, yucca, cabbage, cilantro, oregano, onion, garlic, rice, beans, orange, milk, cheese, vanilla, and cinnamon. Nicaraguans are also renown for eating unconventional animals and animal parts including turtle meat and eggs, iguana meat and eggs, other lizards, armadillos, boas, cow tales, udders, feet, blood, stomach, brain, and reproductive organs. So… you might want to make sure you know what you are ordering before you eat.

 

Some must-try Nicaraguan meals include:

 

  • Nacatamal– This savory and sweet dish was traditionally consumed by families on Sundays at mid morning, or on holidays or family get togethers. However, today it can be found in most local cafes, street food stands, and restaurants. It is made by stuffing a banana leaf with cornmeal, seasoned pork, potatoes, peppers, onions, olives, and raisins. The banana leaf is then wrapped and tied with a string, and steamed for hours before being served.
  • Indio Viejo– An indigenous traditional dish. This is a stew of veggies, pork or chicken, tortilla dough, and orange juice. indio viejo is typically served with rice and plantain chips. It is a hearty and comforting family style meal.
  • Gallo Pinto– Typically served at breakfast with eggs and cheese. Gallo pinto is a delicious pan fried mixture of rice, beans, garlic, onion, peppers, and spices.
  • Garrobo Con Pinol– This one is a little unusual to travelers from most parts of the world. This entree is normally served during Semana Santa, or Easter week. Garrobo con pinol is a stew of iguana meat, iguana eggs, veggies, and spices. It calls for a strict traditional recipe that takes hours to prepare.
  • Vigaron– Originally created in Granada, vigaron can be spotted in street food carts as well as in the home or in restaurants. Vigaron is a piece of yuca covered in chicharron, cabbage salad, and tomato served on top of a plantain leaf.
  • Rondon– A Caribbean influenced stew of coconut, veggies, chicken or fish, and sometimes turtle meat. This is a spicy and savory dish that resembles a Thai coconut curry. It is often served with pan de coco, which is a bread made with ground coconut.
  • Plato Tipico– In most Latin countries including Nicaragua, you can always find a typical plate of either beef, fish, or chicken served with beans, rice, plantains, and a salad. It is served in almost every restaurant, food cart, and home.

Tasty typical snacks:

  • Chicharron– Deep fried pork skins

 

Patacones

Patacones

           

  • Tostones– Deep fried smashed plantains that resemble chips.
  • Quesillo– Originally created in the region of Nagarote, this is a common snack or street food that is simply cheese in a tortilla with onions and vinegar topped with fresh cream and salt.
  • Elotes- Corn boiled on the husk, and re-grilled to create a flavorful crispy texture. Lime and salt are added for taste, and it is served on the cob by many street vendors.

Nicaraguan desserts:

 

 

  • Tres Leches Cake– A very sweet cake made with milk, condensed milk, and cream topped with meringue.
  • Cajeta de Coco– Caramelized strings of coconut and yucca
  • Raspados– Shaved ice. In any major city in Nicaragua (Leon, Granada, Managua, San Juan, etc.) you will see raspado carts on every corner. Raspados in Nicaragua are generally topped with fresh fruit juice and coconut creme.

 

Local beverages:

 

  1. Pinolillo– A non alcoholic traditional drink made from cornmeal, cacao, and milk. The drink, like tea, can be served sweetened or unsweetened. This is such a staple in the Nicaraguan culture, that some locals even jokingly/proudly refer to themselves as pinoleros.
  2. Chicha– Made from corn beer, fermented yucca, and local fruits.
  3. Macua– Recently named the national drink of Nicaragua, it is made of light rum, guava juice, lemon juice, and sugar.
  4. Tona and Victoria- Popular local pilsner style beers. You can’t miss these in Nicaragua. They are advertised and served nearly everywhere.
  5. Flor de Cana– The locally made, world famous sugar cane rum. It is smooth, sweet, and oh so delicious.

 

Trying the typical food in a new country is absolutely one of the best ways to acclimate to and learn about any culture, so do yourself a favor and ask the locals where you can enjoy some of these authentic Nicaraguan treats.

 

-Emily Shoemaker

 

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