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Food, Dining, & Drinks in Belize

Historic Diet

Belizean Food - Rice, beans, & plantains
Rice, beans, & plantains

Belize is a very rich country as far as agriculture is concerned and due to these ideal conditions, there are numerous animals in the region as well. It is these plants, animals, and the sea life that make up the base of the historic diet and even today many of the foods found in Belize are rooted in these locally available foods.

Among the ingredients readily available in the region were maize (or corn) and various kinds of beans, including pinto, black, and red beans. These two staples remains an important part of the diet today with beans a common side and maize the basis for tortillas. However, historically the root crops, like cassava (yucca) and plantains were more popular. There were also numerous fruits available including tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, pineapples, and many more. Just off the coasts were the greatest sources of protein for the historic people as conch, shrimp, lobster, and hundreds of fishes were available and regularly consumed. On land numerous small animals were hunted for food, including turkeys and rabbits.

Culinary Influences

The Mayans and other indigenous people began altering the local ingredients into food that resemble today's foods more closely. The people used maize to create numerous doughs and breads including tortillas and tamales. The Mayans also began the heavy use of beans in their dishes. As the Mayan Empire grew so did its wealth and its use of meat, but their greatest influence remains their creation of Belize's dietary base today.

Due to the fairly loyal cuisine to the ancient diet, the influences that arrived to the area later weren't as significant. The Spanish brought new spices to the region, many of which were implemented into the diet. The Europeans also brought new foods, most particularly meats and dairy products from cattle. The Spanish also used the local ingredients to make new dishes, such as guacamole and empanadas.

As the Caribbean became more diverse with the arrival of more Europeans and slaves from Africa their influences arrived as well. Again, their influence wasn't overly significant although some spicier foods have made their way to Belize from both Mexico and the Caribbean.

Today Belize remains fairly loyal to this historic base and the foods created by the Mayans. However, as international influences grow in Belize and elsewhere, additional ethnic foods are more readily available in the country as today American foods like pizza and burgers are easily to find as are numerous other ethnic foods, including Chinese or Indian food.

Staple Foods

Beans: red beans are the most common, but black beans are also served; usually mixed with rice
Coconut: not as common as rice or beans, but many dishes contain some part of the coconut, including the milk, flesh, and even the husks are used to smoke meats
Ereba: cassava bread that is an essential part of the Garifuna diet
Rice: sometimes cooked in coconut milk, rice can be served alone, but is usually mixed with beans and served together

Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes

Bile Up (Boil Up): boiled eggs, fish, cassava, plantains, yams, and many other vegetables and sometimes meats (including pig tails); the Kriols' "national dish"
Stew Chicken: this stew (or beef or fish stew) is the country's de facto national dish; it contains red recado, chicken, and numerous spices served in a dark broth

Dining Etiquette

Dining in Belize tends to fall on the more informal side both in restaurants as well as in homes. Due to their culture and laid back attitude it's difficult to find any place that requires any sort of dress code. Despite this, if dining out, especially in a local's home, don't wear anything too shabby.

When to arrive for a meal varies on the host or the company you're meeting, but expect locals to be running 15-30 minutes behind schedule, which in Belize is actually on time. Showing up too early will leave you waiting in a restaurant or awkwardly in the way of your host. Fortunately, the point of dining with friends is often for socialization so the most important aspect of a meal is conversing, which can fill that time as you wait for others to arrive or for the meal to be ready.

Let your local hosts seat you and graciously accept (in small portions) whatever they serve you. You will almost definitely be the first served and in some cases you may be expected to eat before others are even served so follow the directions and recommendations of your hosts. The locals will most likely offer you additional food and generally there will be plenty of food to go around. On your second helping you can pick and choose what you prefer, but again only take food in small portions and finish everything on your plate before taking additional food.

Most dining rules are standard, but very relaxed when it comes to actually eating. Eating in the continental style (fork in the right hand, knife in the left), in the American style (as you cut foods with the knife in the right hand, then switch hands and eat with a fork in the right hand), and even eating with your hands are all accepted depending on the food. Many foods allow you to eat with your hands and tortillas are often served, making your hands the best utensils. If served tortillas though, tear them apart into smaller bite-size pieces and eat them that way. If in doubt, follow the locals, although no one will get overly upset if you break any dining rules.

As the meal comes to a close again finish all the food on your plate, then place your dining utensils on the sides of your plate and slightly move your plate away from you towards the center of the table. You may be offered more, but by cleaning all the food off your plate and pushing it slightly away your hosts will argue little if at all.

If dining in a restaurant, once your meal is finished and you get your bill, check to guarantee a service charge is not included. Service charges are rarely added, but some resorts do add them. If no charge is included, tip the server 10-15% of the bill if in a restaurant catered to tourists; if in small out of the way locations servers don't expect more than 10% and locals will generally just round the bill up.

Celebrations & Events

There are a number of foods associated with holidays and celebrations in Belize, including All Saint's Day (November 1); All Saint's Day is filled with homemade candies and snacks left out for the dead. Often times these candies are decorated to look like skeletons and skulls and families often times eat these treats and others together in their homes or in cemeteries on this day.

A more common celebration is Sunday dinner, which is usually a family event serving rice and beans along with potato salad. The main course tends to be chicken and families tend to enjoy this traditional meal whenever possible. The same foods are commonly served at Christmas, although turkey and ham are also common proteins while the meals are generally centered around tamales and finished with rum cake.


Although nearly every non-alcoholic beverage is available in Belize, from colas and coffee to juices and tea, the country is best known for their juices, including lime, pineapple, mango, papaya, and orange juices. For a unique local drink ask for a seaweed shake, which is made from seaweed, condensed milk, ice and a couple spices like cinnamon.

When it comes to alcohol, beer and rum rule in Belize. The local Belikin beer is the favorite, but international beers are widely available. On the rum front, both Prestige and 1 Barrel are locals, but numerous other Caribbean brands are common. The above mentioned seaweed shake can also be ordered with rum or brandy to be made a mixed drink. Wines and other liquors are available, but are not produced locally. A couple fruit wines, including pineapple wines are grown and distilled in Belize.

The tap water is generally not safe to drink in Belize so the most cautious course of action is to entirely avoid the tap water and items that could be made from or with the water, such as ice, fruits, and salads. In limited areas the water might be safe to drink so if you do want to drink the local tap water, first check with your local hotel or guesthouse on the local water's cleanliness. If the water is safe in that particular area, remember that many people may have trouble adjusting to the local tap water as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to if you are not from the region.

This page was last updated: March, 2013