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
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'
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 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
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
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
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.