Guatemala’s Local Cuisine You Must Try

guatemalan local cuisine

While traveling, there are many different ways to experience the area you’re in, and one way is experimenting with different kinds of traditional food. Not only is food delicious and fun, but certain meals can tell a story or show what a normal day looks like for locals. It is well worth it to trade the food you’re comfortable with for Guatemala’s local cuisine when visiting this amazing country. The following are some of their dishes you can’t miss out on trying.

Chicken Pepián

If Guatemala were to have a national dish, this meal would be the winner. This is one of the oldest dishes in the country and was created when Spanish and Mayan food combined.

The main part of the meal consists of stew, normally made with chicken, but beef or pork is occasionally substituted, with tortillas and rice served on the side. The stew itself is a combination of many different flavors. The Mayans originally had the main flavor component come from Pepitoria, but once the dish was combined with sesame, coriander, cinnamon, and onions by the Spanish, it became what it is today.

Other components of the stew include fruits and vegetables such as carrots, corn, potatoes, squash, and pear. This is possibly the best dish to try, not only because of all the delicious flavors but also because of its history.


Kak’ik is a dish created by the Q’eqchi’ Mayan ethnic group, and also has a history dating back thousands of years. It’s a traditional turkey soup with many spices, some of the main ones being coriander, chilies, and achiote.

The Q’eqchi’ community continues to prepare Kak’ik the same way they did thousands of years ago, maintaining the authenticity of the dish. Rice and tamales steamed in banana leaves are commonly served with the dish.

Guatemala’s Local Cuisine Takes On Empanadas

Empanadas may be the one meal on this list you are previously familiar with, but this doesn’t mean the Guatemalans don’t have their own version of this treat. During Semana Santa, the week leading up to Easter, Guatemalans enjoy dessert empanadas. The dough is filled with Major de Leche, a vanilla and cinnamon flavored filling, before the empanadas are baked and dusted with sugar.

If sweets aren’t your thing, this is no worry. Guatemala commonly serves savory empanadas as well, although they are typically vegetarian with potato filling as opposed to meat-filled in other places in Central America. Covered in many toppings such as guacamole and tomatoes, these are just as delicious as well.


Although Hilachas translates to “rags” in English, we promise it tastes better than it sounds. The name comes from the fact that it is primarily shredded beef, which is then simmered in a tomato sauce with a bit of kick. Depending on the region, potatoes, carrots, squash, or possibly all three will be added to it. Rumor has it this dish is even better when reheated the next day, but you will have to be the judge!


Pupusas, although simple, are delicious and a great snack or quick meal! They consist of thick tortillas with either refried beans, cheese, or chicharron pork filling. It’s fried to the point where the outside is crispy but the inside is still soft. They also come with salsa and shredded cabbage on top or on the side for dipping. This is a great on-the-go option for travelers who can’t sit down for a full meal, but don’t want to miss out on the chance to try great food!

Try Guatemala’s Local Cuisine Yourself

Interested in experiencing Guatemala’s local cuisine and many of the other amazing features of the country? Buena Onda is the perfect way to experience Guatemala while volunteering as well, doing good for those who need your help.

Posted in Guatemala.