Belizean cuisine includes influences from Mexican, Caribbean, Mayan & Spanish cultures. If you visit San Pedro, Belize, be sure to try these foods.
I absolutely love traveling and learning about other cultures. Not a single day goes by that I don’t sit back and appreciate how truly blessed I am to live my passion. Even better, I get to share my adventures with others that feel the same. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I’m a dietitian who loves too travel, and my tribe loves to travel too.
That includes Brian – thank goodness he shares my adventurous side. We’re constantly talking about places in the world we want to see, and as soon as one of our adventures is complete, we begin planning another. It’s so much fun!
I’ve traveled a lot, but I rarely write about my experiences. I have the best intensions when I am away – taking notes and photos of the culture and food. But, then I get home. That’s when life happens. My travel notes move to the bottom of my work pile and other prioritizes take the lead. I’ve been to over 20 countries with intentions of writing about each one of them. Sadly, the only travel post I’ve shared is from my trip to Argentina and a video from my visit to Peru.
Food History and Culture in San Pedro, Belize
I’ve decided it’s time for that to change. Today, I’m sharing some food history from our trip to San Pedro, Belize.
Despite this post being about Belizean food, we didn’t choose the location for that reason – we wanted hot weather. I told Brian I don’t care where we go, as long as I was guaranteed a tan. We went to Mexico last December, so this year we decided to check out somewhere in Central America. Though we flew into Belize city, we didn’t spend any time in the jungle this trip.
As soon as we arrived, we took a taxi to the harbor and boarded a water taxi to San Pedro. Other than a few outings – we flew over the blue hole one day, snorkeled there the next, and spent a few hours exploring Half Moon Caye– we spend most of the trip exploring everything the island has to offer.
Now, onto the food. I was so excited to eat in Belize because I knew that red snapper was one of the most popular menu items – and I love fresh fish! I had red snapper 5 out of the 6 days we were there and I certainly wasn’t complaining about it. As long as I’m getting a generous portion of protein, I’m happy – and that we got for sure. Red snapper, shrimp, chicken and pulled pork were all very common protein options.
Most meals came with Belizean beans and rice, and a choice of coleslaw or potato salad. French fries and onion rings were also available as side dishes, but this was mostly because they cater to tourists. Ceviche was another very common menu item. I had my fair share of that served with tortilla chips. Yum! We washed all that food down with lots of bottled water and the local beer – Belkin.
Brian and I made sure to embrace the food culture and eat all of the flavors of Belizean food, but we didn’t want to miss anything either. To make sure we didn’t, we went on a food tour with Belize Food Tour. If you ever go to San Pedro, I highly recommend this tour. It’s the only company doing food tours as of this date, though I’m sure that will change in the future. It’s run by Felipe and Dora, a brother and sister team that grew up on San Pedro. This is their third year in business, and Felipe explained to us that the business continues to grow.
All of the stops on the food tour were filled with locals feasting on the food. Mingling with the locals and eating where they eat is one of my favorite parts of traveling – so this was right up my alley.
Felipe was our tour guide. There were 7 of us total in the group. Before we headed off to our first stop, Felipe explained that all of the seafood is locally caught & prepared, often the same day. All of the fruits and vegetables are farmed in the mainland of Belize and brought to the island by boat.
I won’t make this a six page blog post, but I do want to share some of our stops. I’ll share my favorites so that you can check them out for yourself if you ever visit the island.
First Stop – Elvi’s Kitchen
Our first Stop was Elvi’s Kitchen. The restaurant opened in 1976 which, according to Felipe, was the time a lot of Americans started investing in the Island, resulting in more and more business’s opening. At that time, popular menu items were turtle, manatee and any other seafood that was available.
We got right down to business with a guarapo – a cocktail made with Belizean rum, sugar cane and mint leaves. It was very sweet and had a thicker than expected consistency. Still, I drank it. It was a great way to start an 11:00 am food tour.
Next came an Akin taco— a corn tortilla w/chicken that was marinated in a blend of Central American spices. The flavor was similar to jerk chicken. Mixed in with the chicken was a combination of olives, raisins & Dutch cheese, giving it a spicy, sweet and savory flavor all in one bite. That was served with a side of mashed black beans. I could have eaten four more of those, but it was off to our next stop.
Stop #2 – Lily’s Treasure Chest
Next, we we went to Lily’s Treasure Chest. Lily’s opened three years after the first restaurant on the island. It was our tour guide Felipe’s grandfather that opened the restaurant. Felipe explained how his grandfather had a vision of tourism & thought it was a good idea to get into the business. Pretty smart man, huh?
Local beer was the first item on the menu at this stop. Brian and I had already had our fair share of Belkin beer, but I had only tried one variety. Here, we were able to taste all 5 – the original Belkin, the Lighthouse Lager, Guinness Foreign Extra, Belkin Stout, and the Belkin Sorrel Stout.
Next came two types of Ceviche – fish (red snapper) & shrimp served with Tortilla Chips. This is one of my favorite meals. I ws sure to ask about the Ceviche preparation, since I always have food safety on my mind. Felipe explained that in Belize, it’s common to steam the fish before serving, rather than preparing it the traditional way it cooks in lime juice for 6 or so hours.
Stop #3 – Traditional Belizean Kitchen
Next, we stopped to see what a traditional kitchen looks like in a Belizean home. While there, we had a refreshing treat— Paletas. I chose coconut and it was amazing. It was filled with real pieces of coconut and the higher fat content prevented it from dripping down my hand. Brian had strawberry, which was just as authentic with pieces of real strawberry. We washed it down with a shot of liquor.
Stop #4 – Brianna’s Food Place
Stop #4 was Brianna’s Food Place. According to our guide, this is the most popular grab and go food restaurant with the locals. All of the recipes are originals from the grandparents of the owner. Pig is a popular menu item here, so we tried Pigs tail served with traditional Belizean beans & rice, coleslaw & plantains.
The preparation method was quite interesting for this dish. The pigs tail is boiled for 1-hour, then drained to reduce the salt content. That process is repeated two more times before it is ready to be prepared. We had that with Curtido- a hot sauce made with vinegar, Habaneros & onions that are soaked for about 12 hours. It looks like a bowl of raw onions, but the flavor was fantastic, and it definitely had a kick to it. I stuck with water at this stop.
Stop #5 – Backyard at Brianna’s
We left the restaurant and headed to the back yard of Brianna’s. There, one of the owners was cracking and preparing coconuts, and we learned about the Belizean coconut industry. They use the coconut trash to make coconut milk and use the coconut husk to light fires for grilling bbq. The restaurant is also the home of the owners, so you see their laundry hanging in the backyard.
Stop #6 –Saul’s Cigar & Coffee House
The sixth stop of the tour was to Saul’s Cigar & Coffee House. Saul was waiting for us and when we arrived, and we all got a taste of his three unique rum crèmes’. Wow, talk about strong! We tried coconut rum cream, coffee rum cream & chocolate rum cream.
I also enjoyed hearing about the coffee and getting up close with the coffee beans. I love my coffee! Saul shared some knowledge about fresh cigars, something they market to go along with the cream rums and coffee. I knew it was time for another bottled water.
Stop #7 – Letty’s
After leaving Saul’s, we stopped by a local grab and go place known as Letty’s. This is one of those super cute local markets where you can pick up hot and ready-to-eat food to take with you. They sell lots of Mayan food, so most items are made from corn. Felipe was kind enough to purchase a Ducanu (think Tamaletas) for each of us to take home for later. It was a mixture of chicken & corn wrapped in corn husk.
Letty’s place is the Belizean equivalent to fast food, where locals can walk up to the window & order what they want to go. It got pretty busy when we were there.
Stop #8 El Flogon
From there we headed to El Flogon. This restaurant has a mix of British and creole thatch roof structure & it is the only restaurant in San Pedro that cooks on the authentic outdoor oven. All of the meals are prepared in this oven that sits in the dining area so that customers can watch food being prepared.
The owner came to our table to talk to us and explained how the local fisherman bring their catch during the day & that’s what they prepare for customers. The seafood menu changes in the evening.
We started with jaguar juice – a fruity rum drink that was delicious. By this point, I couldn’t tell if my pictures were blurry or if I was no longer able to focus. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my jaguar juice picture actually turned out pretty good.
We were served Salbutes along with our rum drink. Salbutes are made out of corn masa (dough) and topped w/Belizean stewed chicken, coleslaw, a tomato slice & a pickled pepper. I didn’t think anything would win my taste buds like the ceviche did, but this was my absolute favorite. This restaurant is a must stop if you are ever in San Pedro.
Last Stop – Belize Chocolate Company
It was now time for our final stop, and what better way to end the tour than with chocolate! We made our way to the Belize Chocolate Company – a small chocolate boutique. The company uses certified organic, direct trade cacao beans from small family farms in southern Belize to make its chocolate.
Brian and I had stopped in the boutique earlier in the week, so we already knew the chocolate was good. This time, we both tried something different.
The food tour is a walking tour, but all of the restaurants are very close together, so it’s not a strenuous walk. I am so happy we included this food tour as part of our island adventure. I can say, without a doubt, that we experienced Belizean food culture and ate like the locals while we were in San Pedro.
After the tour, we got back on our golf cart and headed to the beach!
Have you been to Belize? What foods did you try that you loved?