26 Essential Guatemalan Dishes and Foods

Guatemalan dishes are a vibrant blend of Maya and Spanish influences, featuring corn, beans, chilies, and an array of regional specialties.

Lastest Updated April 19, 2024
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Basic Information

Guatemalan Food: Basic Overview

Common Ingredients

Corn, beans, rice, chicken, beef, pork, turkey, tomatoes, chilies, plantains

Common Cooking Methods

Stewing, boiling, deep-frying, assembling, steaming, grilling, baking


Main course, appetizer, dessert, soup, salad


Breakfast, lunch, dinner

Key Taste

Savory, sweet, complex, bitter

Eating Etiquette

Communal eating is common, especially during festivals and family gatherings; meals are often shared from a central dish.

Meal Presentation

Traditional dishes are often served with accompaniments like rice, tortillas, and a side of vegetables; presentation can vary from simple family meals to elaborate dishes for festivals.

Culinary Festivals

Dia De Los Muertos, Dia de Todos Santos, New Year

Influence and Fusion

Maya and Spanish culinary traditions
Origin and Region

Guatemalan Food: Origin and Region



Cuisine’s Geographical Territory

Central America
Guatemala Map
Ingredients and Preparation

Popular Types of Guatemalan Food

  • Stews

    Guatemalan stews are hearty, often incorporating a rich blend of indigenous and Spanish influences with ingredients like meats, vegetables, and a complex array of spices.

    They are a staple in Guatemalan cuisine, reflecting the country’s agricultural diversity and culinary traditions.

  • Desserts

    Guatemalan desserts range from sweet, fried treats to more sophisticated, layered cakes, often featuring local ingredients.

  • Soups

    In Guatemala, soups are a fundamental part of the diet, offering a comforting and nutritious meal with a base of local vegetables, legumes, and often, a protein source.

    They can range from light and brothy to thick and hearty, serving as both a starter and a main dish in Guatemalan meals.

  • Sandwiches

    Guatemalan sandwiches blend the simplicity of fresh, local ingredients between slices of bread or tortillas, often featuring a mix of textures.

Guatemalan dishes are rooted in Maya traditions with Spanish influences, characterized by the use of corn, chilies, and beans. The country’s culinary landscape is marked by regional diversity, often isolated due to its volcanic highlands and historical factors.

Maize has been a staple since ancient times, especially in many dishes, alongside ingredients introduced by the Spanish, such as pork and beef.

Guatemalan dishes often avoid cooking oil, favoring direct grilling or wrapping in leaves. The cuisine features many variations of Spanish culinary creations, opting for local ingredients in the recipes.

There’s more to uncover about Guatemalan dishes, such as the cooking styles and some drink pairings to have with these specialties.

When diving into the food of Guatemala, you need to know the following important features:

  • Core Ingredients: Corn, chilies, and beans are staple ingredients in many dishes of Guatemala.
  • Special Occasions: Certain dishes are reserved for specific days or celebrations, like fiambre for All Saints Day.
  • Regional Varieties: Despite its rich culinary landscape, many Guatemalan dishes remain hyper-regional, and often have variations in specific regions.
  • Historical Influence: Maize has been a fundamental part of the diet since ancient times, with pork and beef introduced later by the Spanish.
  • Rice Dishes: The cuisine includes a variety of rice dishes, showcasing the versatility of Guatemalan cooking.

Furthermore, you should take a broader view of Guatemalan food around the world to see how important they are to the cuisine world.

Guatemalan food, with its rich blend of Maya and Spanish influences, has made its mark in various countries.

In the United States, states with significant Hispanic populations, including California, Florida, and New York, have seen a rise in the availability and appreciation of Guatemalan dishes.

Mexico has a border with Guatemala and includes variations of traditional Guatemalan recipes. Similarly, Central American neighbors such as Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador feature Guatemalan-inspired dishes in their local cuisine.

Furthermore, Spain has incorporated aspects of Guatemalan cuisine into its diverse food culture.

To provide you with more information, I suggest taking a peek at the health aspect of consuming dishes in Guatemala.

These are the factors that contribute to the healthiness side of Guatemalan food:

  • Legumes: Beans, a staple in Guatemalan cuisine, are an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, supporting heart health and digestion.
  • Antioxidant-rich Spices: The use of spices and herbs, such as cilantro, achiote, and chili peppers, not only adds flavor without extra calories but also offers antioxidant benefits.
  • Healthy Fats: Dishes that incorporate avocados and seeds provide healthy fats, which are beneficial for heart health and overall well-being.
  • Moderate Portions: Traditional eating habits emphasize moderate portion sizes, helping to prevent overeating and maintain a healthy weight.

With that said, you can start your journey into the world of Guatemalan food, with 26 dishes just for you.

26 Popular Guatemalan Dishes with Filters

To have a fun experience through these dishes, use the filter system to view these specialties in alphabetical order, tastes, ingredients, cooking methods, dish types, and global popularity.

Plus, I want to provide you with some exciting categories of Guatemalan food featuring the most popular, national, traditional, street food, and fusion options:

  • Widely recognized and frequently consumed both within Guatemala and by international admirers of Guatemalan cuisine.
  • Reflect the country’s rich culinary heritage, often featuring ingredients like corn, beans, and various meats.
  • Easily found in restaurants, homes, and street food stalls throughout Guatemala.
  • Symbolize Guatemalan identity and culture, often served during national holidays and significant events.
  • Incorporate ingredients and cooking methods that are intrinsic to Guatemala’s culinary traditions.
  • Enjoyed and celebrated across the entire country, transcending regional variations.
  • Rooted in ancient practices, often dating back to the Maya civilization and influenced by Spanish colonization.
  • Utilize local, indigenous ingredients and traditional cooking techniques passed down through generations.
  • Serve as a means of preserving Guatemalan heritage and are central to family and community gatherings.
  • Casual and accessible, reflecting the everyday diet of Guatemalans.
  • Offers a glimpse into the country’s culinary diversity with quick, flavorful, and affordable options.
  • Served from markets, street carts, and roadside stands, providing a vibrant aspect of Guatemala’s food culture.
  • Blend Guatemalan culinary traditions with foreign influences, resulting from historical interactions and modern globalization.
  • Innovative and evolving, these dishes adapt traditional recipes to incorporate new flavors and ingredients.
  • Reflect the dynamic nature of Guatemalan cuisine as it interacts with other culinary traditions, creating unique and contemporary dishes.
Pepian Guatemalan Spicy


  • National
  • Traditional

Pepián is a Guatemalan stew specialty, declared a national dish in 2007. The savory creation is known for its spicy, brownish-red sauce, made using tomato and tomatillo.

Aside from chicken, the stew also works well with pork or beef. Once paired with rice, baked potatoes, and vegetables, the stew offers a perfect balance of flavor.

Originating from the Maya-Kaqchikel ethnic group in Chimaltenango, Guatemala, pepián is one of the oldest dishes in the country.

Jocon Green Chicken


  • Traditional

Jocón is a traditional stew staple in Guatemala, with chicken at the center of attention. Often, the chicken is simmered in a vibrant mix of cilantro, tomatillo, dried chilies, and bread crumbs.

Common in many Guatemalan households and local markets, the has become a signature dish of Huehuetenango and is prevalent in some western regions of Guatemala.

Thanks to the addition of a green sauce, the stew bears a signature color of cilantro and tomatillo available in the mixture.

Hilachas Traditional


  • Traditional

Hilachas is a rich stew of beef, tomato, potatoes, and sweet chili in Guatemala. On weekends, the staple is a common find in local markets.

With its name, meaning “rags,” the dish is all about shredding beef to a fine texture. For serving, the shredded beef soaks up the savory stew well enough that you will need rice or beans to accompany it.

Carne Guisada

Carne Guisada

  • Traditional

Carne guisada is a beef stew popular in Guatemala and Latin America. In Guatemala, it stands out for its rich flavors, often centered around lomo (beef loin).

This stew is distinguished by its seasoning, a traditional mix of cinnamon, thyme, cloves, and black pepper, contributing to its unique taste profile. Plus, the stew comes with vegetables like carrots and potatoes cut into medium-sized pieces.

Typically accompanied by white rice and hot tortillas, carne guisada offers a comforting meal when served warm.

Kak Ik


  • Traditional

Kak’ik is a traditional soup from Guatemala, particularly renowned in Cobán, where it’s considered a local specialty. The name derives from the Q’eqchi’ words, with “Ik” meaning “spicy” and “kok” indicating “red”.

This soup offers a spicy profile and a vibrant red color. Interestingly, the soup is often made with turkey as the main source of protein.

While Guatemala has diverse chili varieties, the dish maintains a moderate spice level.

Gallo En Chicha

Gallo en Chicha

  • Traditional

Gallo en chicha is a chicken specialty popular in Guatemala and El Salvador. The dish features a delightful mix of rooster meat and fruit wine, with the alcohol content varying differently depending on the amount used.

By cooking the chicken in chicha (fruit wine), it infuses the rooster meat with a gentle sweetness.

Pulique Chicken


  • Traditional

Pulique is a rich stew coming from the Mayans in the highlands of Guatemala. In Chimaltenango City, the stew is a favorite of the population.

As a staple for holidays, ceremonies, and special occasions, the specialty calls for a blend of carrots, garlic, and various meats such as beef, pork, chicken, or turkey.

Traditionally served with rice or tortillas, locals prefer using yellow-skinned chicken over white chicken.

Revolcado Stew


  • Traditional

Revolcado is a Guatemalan dish that involves stewing pig heads and other organs until they reach perfect tenderness. Furthermore, the protein is complemented by a rich broth of tomato chile sauce.

The dish pairs excellently with rice to enjoy the tenderness of meat cooked for hours over low heat.

Guatemalan Tostadas


  • Street Food

Tostadas are a staple in Guatemalan cuisine with corn tortillas that are either deep-fried or oven-toasted to achieve their signature crispness.

Traditionally in Guatemala, they’re adorned with recado salsa (tomato sauce), refried black beans, and guacamole.

Before serving, tostadas come with sliced onions, crumbled cheese, and fresh cilantro for extra layers of flavor and textures.

Enchilada Tortillas

Guatemalan Enchilada

  • Traditional

Guatemalan enchilada is a delicacy that stands apart from the Mexican version most people are familiar with. Instead of being a rolled tortilla filled with meat and covered in sauce, the Guatemalan version is an open-faced dish built on a crispy fried tortilla.

It’s layered with a variety of ingredients including lettuce, a mixture of meat (often beef and pork), vegetables (such as carrots and beets), and sometimes egg, all topped with salsa and sometimes guacamole.

Chuchitos Guatemalan


  • Traditional

Chuchitos are a Guatemalan take on steamed tamal. Crafted with corn masa dough, these delightful parcels are filled with either pork or chicken, simmered in a rich, tomato-based sauce known as recado.

Each chuchito is carefully wrapped in corn husks before going through a steaming process for cooking. Chuchitos are a staple at holiday celebrations and special festivities, though they’re equally enjoyed as a daily treat.

Shucos Guatemalan


  • Street Food

Shucos is one of the most famous street foods in Guatemala, featuring grilled red sausage (Spanish chorizo), white sausage (longaniza), or salami and topped with guacamole, mayonnaise, and ketchup.

Guatemalans often eat it with long, narrow shuco bread or toasted hot dog buns. This Guatemalan version of a hot dog has many variations made with different elements.

Tamale Steamed Corn Dough


  • National
  • Traditional

Tamales are a cornerstone of Guatemalan cuisine made with maize dough buns filled with meats and spices. Today, they are a festive staple, especially on Christmas and New Year’s Eve, served with chocolate, yolk bread, and punch.

Commonly, Guatemalans enjoy a variety of tamales, including black, red, and sweet, with unique ingredients like achiote, chocolate, or honey. In Guatemala, places that sell tamales tend to have a red light as a traditional practice.

Pupusas Masa Cake


  • Fusion

Pupusas are thick pastries in Guatemala coming from El Salvador. Created by the Pipil tribes over 2000 years ago, they are cooked on a griddle for a specialty that looks like a tortilla.

Made primarily from masa dough, pupusas are filled with ingredients such as cheese, chicharron, and refried beans. Additionally, curtido, a fermented cabbage slaw, is a popular side to pupusas.

Pacaya Flower Fritters


  • Traditional

Pacaya is a unique Guatemalan dish made from the male inflorescence of the pacaya palm similar to clusters of baby corn. It is known for its somewhat bitter taste, which can be milder in cultivated varieties.

To prepare pacaya, it is typically hulled and blanched before being battered with corn flour and pan-fried to achieve golden crispiness.

This unique vegetable is served in various forms, including fried “en huevo” (encased in crispy egg) and topped with tomato salsa, or simply grilled with a sprinkle of salt and lemon.



  • Traditional

Subanik is a stew-like specialty among the Maya of Guatemala, particularly originating from San Martin Jilotepeque. This rich and thick sauce dish is characterized by its robust flavor, derived from a blend of chili peppers and various meats, including chicken, pork, and beef.

Alternatively, subanik even has vegetarian versions incorporating mushrooms or eggplant. Traditionally, the stew is cooked in a nest of mashan leaves and steamed with cibaque, though a Dutch oven can serve as a modern substitute.

It is typically served with rice and tamales, presented on a dish lined with banana leaves.

Rellenitos Swanky

Rellenitos De Plàtano

  • Traditional

Rellenitos de plátano is a fried dessert in Guatemalan with sweet mashed plantains enveloping a rich filling of black refried beans, chocolate, and cinnamon. The plantains are initially boiled with cinnamon, mashed, and then shaped into a bowl to contain the flavorful filling.

These components are then formed into egg-shaped balls and deep-fried before being served with a dusting of powdered sugar or a drizzle of honey.

Arroz En Leche

Arroz En Leche

  • Traditional

Arroz con leche is a rice sweet dessert from Guatemala, known as “Rice Pudding” in English. The mixture consists of milk, rice, and sugar.

Often garnished with cinnamon for added fragrance, arroz con leche has ancient origins and has become a traditional choice during Ramadan and various special occasions.

Plus, Guatemalans sometimes add raisins to the thick rice mixture for a sweet and slightly chewy texture to the dessert.

Guatemalan Sesame Cookies


  • Traditional

Champurradas are traditional Guatemalan cookies known for their crispy texture and ease of preparation. These delightful treats boast a buttery flavor that almost resembles shortbread.

They come with a generous sprinkle of sesame seeds for an extra crunch. For serving, champurradas serve as a perfect complement to coffee, tea, or hot cocoa.

While they can be enjoyed as a dessert, champurradas are most commonly found as part of a typical Guatemalan breakfast, alongside a basket of sweet bread rolls.

Quesadilla Cake


  • Traditional

Quesadilla is a traditional sweet cake in Guatemala boasting a rich, sweet profile. Made with rice flour and cheese, the cake is often enjoyed with coffee.

The Guatemalan version has a moist yet crumbly texture, similar to cornbread, and is flavored with ingredients like cotija cheese, cottage cheese, and sometimes sour cream.

The cake is a beloved dessert in Guatemala, especially in the region of Zacapa, where it originated.

Platano En Mole

Platano En Mole

  • Traditional

Platano en mole is a traditional Guatemalan dessert with ripe plantains as the main ingredient. They are cooked until tender and enveloped in a velvety, sweet mole sauce.

This sauce is a blend of spices and chocolate providing a rich, chocolatey aroma that perfectly complements the plantain sweetness.

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake

  • Fusion

Tres Leche is a dessert cake famous in Guatemala and many other Latin American countries. The treat makes use of sponge cake covered with condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whipped cream.

This fabulous dessert is a recipe from the people in Nicaragua and gradually spread to many other areas. It appears in most celebrations, holidays, and special events in Guatemala.

Bunuelos Fried Dough


  • Traditional

Buñuelos are a traditional dessert in Guatemala, particularly beloved during the holiday season. Created from a wheat flour-based dough, these treats are shaped into small balls and fried to achieve a doughnut-like fritter.

Buñuelos boasts a crispy exterior with a soft interior. They are customarily served drenched in a golden syrup materialized by combining brown sugar, water, and anise seeds.

Black Bean Soup

Sopa De Frijol

  • Traditional

Sopa de frijol is a traditional Guatemalan black bean soup from Guatemala with a focus on black turtle beans. The soup is prized for its deep, earthy taste.

This soup is crafted from simple yet flavorful ingredients, offering a lightly creamy texture.

Tapado Seafood Soup


  • Traditional

Tapado is a traditional seafood soup from the Caribbean coast of Guatemala, particularly famous in the Garifuna culture. This flavorful dish is known for its unique combination of fish, shrimp, crab, and sometimes squid or other shellfish.

The seafood protein is cooked with coconut milk, plantains, yuca (cassava), and a medley of spices. The soup is characterized by its aromatic and slightly sweet coconut base.

Fiambre Salad


  • National
  • Traditional

Fiambre is a renowned Guatemalan salad, deeply intertwined with the traditions of Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on November 2 and Dia de Todos Santos (All Saints Day) on November 1.

This dish combines an array of flavors from chicken, pork, sausages, vegetables, and cheeses. Fiambre boasts a refreshing profile with layers of complex flavors.

Jocotes en Dulce

Jocotes en Dulce

  • Traditional

Jocotes en dulce is a traditional Guatemalan dessert, especially popular during the Easter season. This sweet treat is made by simmering ripe jocotes (a type of small plum) in a sugary syrup infused with cinnamon.

The resulting delicacy balances the natural tartness of the jocotes with the rich sweetness of the syrup. In Guatemala, jocotes en dulce is enjoyed by families and communities during special occasions.

What Is the Cooking Style of Guatemalan Food?

The cooking style of Guatemalan food is characterized by its rich heritage and diverse influences. These are the key aspects that define local cooking:

  • Maya and Spanish Influences: Most traditional foods are based on ancient Maya cuisine with a significant Spanish influence.
  • Cooking Techniques: Many dishes are cooked without oil, using direct heat on a comal or wrapped in leaves.
  • Special Occasions: Certain dishes are associated with specific days or celebrations.

To know more about Guatemalan food, it’s wise for you to find out the right combos of food and drinks in Guatemala.

What Guatemalan Dishes to Have with Beverages?

In Guatemalan cuisine, traditional foods are often enjoyed with specific drinks in Guatemala that complement their rich flavors. Here are some recommendations to have a taste:

  • Tamales: A staple in Guatemalan celebrations, these are often enjoyed with warm beverages that complement their rich, savory flavors.
  • Pepián: This hearty meat stew, rich in spices and flavors, is typically accompanied by beverages that can refresh and balance its depth.
  • Tostadas: Versatile in toppings, tostadas go well with a variety of drinks, from refreshing cold beverages to complement their crispiness to warm drinks for a comforting meal.

Do you know other delicious Guatemalan dishes? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section and spread these dishes with others around you!

Jamie Scott

Jamie Scott

Editor in Chief, Senior Content Writer


Home Cooking, Meal Planning, Recipe Development, Baking and Pastry, Food Editor, Cooking-video Maker, Western Food Evaluation Expert


Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts

  • Program: Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts
  • Focus: Gained foundational knowledge in French and European culinary techniques. Participated in workshops and hands-on training sessions under the guidance of seasoned chefs.

Local Community College, New York, NY

  • Program: Associate’s Degree in Nutrition
  • Focus: Acquired basic understanding of nutrition principles, dietary needs, and the importance of balanced diets in daily life.

Jamie Scott is a skilled culinary expert and content creator specializing in Western cuisine. With over 15 years in the culinary field and formal training from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, Jamie deeply understands how to blend nutrition with delicious flavors. His passion for cooking matches his commitment to making healthy eating accessible and enjoyable.

On Fifteen.net, Jamie brings a fresh perspective to classic dishes and beverages, offering readers insightful recipes, cooking tips, and a fresh view on meal planning that emphasizes taste, health, and simplicity.

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