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Food, Dining, & Drinks in Honduras

WARNING: Violence is common in Honduras, please read this travel warning before going!

Historic Diet

Honduran Food - Rice, beans, & plantains
Rice, beans, & plantains

Honduras is a fertile land with numerous fruits and vegetables readily available for consumption. The region's historic diet is also based on these local foods, which including pineapple, bananas, papayas, plums, potatoes, peppers, onions, cassava (yucca), cabbage, tomatoes, plantains, and coconuts among many more. However, beans and maize (corn) were the most important historic foods and remain so today.

The historic people also consumed a limited number of meats and seafood from the animals that called the region home. Along the coasts seafood including conch, lobster, and fish were eaten in small quantities and inland small mammals and birds were a more common choice of protein, but again were not frequently eaten.

Culinary Influences

The Mayans and other people in historic Honduras used the local foods to create a more sophisticated diet. Maize was used to make tortillas and to make the dough that defines tamales. They also heavily used the local beans and to a lesser degree spicy peppers to make their dishes more interesting. The influences from the Mayans and other people from the pre-Columbian era remains today as the local diet is still primarily based on beans and maize.

The Spanish brought with them new influences and changed the cuisine forever. They introduced new spices, new animals, including cattle for milk, cheese, and beef, and they encouraged heavier use of rice, which is a staple in the local diet today. The Spanish also used local ingredients in new ways to make dishes now famous in the region, including enchiladas and guacamole.

Other influences on the region's food came first from the nearby Caribbean, again emphasizing rice, then from further reaches like Africa and later in time China and the United States. Today the local cuisine is ever present and an integral aspect of the culture, but the growing number of ethnic restaurants, such as Chinese restaurants as well as pizza and burger restaurants are easily accessible in all large cities.

Staple Foods

Beans: red and black beans are popular; often mixed with rice and cilantro
Rice: sometimes cooked in coconut milk, rice can be served alone, or mixed with beans and cilantro
Tortillas: flat bread often made from corn and served with most meals

Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes

Carneada (or plato tipico): a feast of barbequed beef marinated in orange juice with spices for special occasions; served with drinks and numerous sides
Chilaquiles: egg-covered deep fried tortillas layered with cheese, chicken, and tomato sauce; then baked and served with sour cream
Enchiladas: pork meat in a deep fried tortilla until crisp; served with cabbage, tomato sauce, and a hard-boiled egg
Sopa de caracol: conch soup cooked in coconut milk with cassava, bananas, cilantro, and spices
Tamales: thick corn, rice, or potato casing enclosing meats, nuts, vegetables, and other seasonal foods; usually cooked in plantain leaves

Dining Etiquette

Dining with others in Honduras is all about the socialization aspect of the event so be sure to be ready for conversation. Generally, the Hondurans arrive to meals quite late, arriving 30 minutes late is not unusual and some people will show up 45 minutes late.

Once everyone arrives, drinks are usually served prior to eating, something to help prevent a dry throat from all the talking. This generally begins with a toast of "salud" then followed by drinking and lively conversation. Pre-dinner drinks often are in a bar (if eating in a restaurant) or in a living room (if dining in a home). Your host will eventually invite you to the table, but let him or her seat you and expect to be separated from your significant other if eating together; this encourages meeting new people and greater socialization. Generally the men and women will eat on opposite sides of the table and this sexual division continues in other ways as men are expected to stand when women enter the room.

With the arrival of the food, the host will generally invite everyone to begin eating with the words "buen provecho." Although the Hondurans are fairly forgiving in foreign dining habits that differ from their own, they do expect you to keep your hands in sight by resting your wrists on the table and if possible you should eat in the continental style (fork in the left hand and knife in the right). With some foods, you may be expected to eat with your hands, generally when tortillas are involved. If served tortillas, break off enough of each tortilla to take as a single bite so you don't bite off the tortilla; if in doubt, follow the lead of the locals.

If dining in a local's home take small amounts of food at first so you can ask for a second helping; this is a great compliment to your host. As you finish eating, eat all the food from your plate then place the knife and fork together on the right side of the plate.

If dining at a restaurant, summon the server by making eye contact (don't wave or call his/her name). The inviter is expected to pay for everyone present; if you are the guest be sure to offer to pay, an offer that will likely be turned down. If you are paying, look to see if a service charge is included in the bill. If so no additional tip is needed, but if not a tip of up to 10% is appreciated. In more rural areas tips are not expected at this rate, but rounding up is still an appreciated gesture.

Celebrations & Events

Numerous holidays, celebrations, and events have particular foods associated with them in Honduras. Christmas (December 25) is probably the largest festival of the year that is tied to particular foods and perhaps the country's most widely celebrated holiday. This holiday begins on the 24th and is a very holy and family-oriented holiday, which makes experiences the event tough for a foreigner. Christmas Eve dinner usually serves tamales along with dozens of other dishes, including ham, potatoes, and more.

At other events, including birthdays and nearly all large gatherings, the foods are served in large quantities and there's a heavy proportion of meats. There are also plantains, desserts, cake, and candies present at these events, especially birthdays which usually involve a pinata (a paper mache figure filled with candy).

Drinks

Honduran Food - Coffee beans
Coffee beans

Nearly every popular international beverage is available in Honduras, but the country has few local drinks that are worthy of special note. The favorite drink of the locals a variety of soft drinks and sodas as these are easily accessible everywhere. Coffee, juices, and tea are also readily available.

Among the alcoholic drinks in Honduras, beer is the preferred choice and there are plenty of local beers to choose from, including "Salva" "Vida," "Nacional," "Polar," "Barena," "Port Royal," and "Imperial." Rum is also popular, with the locally distilled "Flora de Cana" leading the industry. For a more unusual taste of Honduras try guaro, a liquor made from sugarcane or giffity (or guifitty), the local firewater. Other common alcoholic beverages, such as wine and liquors are also readily available in stores, restaurants, and bars.

The tap water in Honduras should not be consumed. Be sure to also avoid anything with ice as it may have been made from the tap water. Salads and fruits could have also been washed in the tap water so be careful with those foods as well.

This page was last updated: March, 2013