Nicaraguan Food


Nicaragua has the most extensive cuisine in Central America, "La comida Nica" as Nicaraguans call their cuisine, is a Latin creole mix of indigenous and Spanish dishes and ingredients. Corn, beans, plantains, yuca and beef are popular ingredients. Seafood is common along the Pacific and Caribbean coast.

Nicaraguans make extensive use of a wide variety of tropical fruits. Due to its history and geographical location, Nicaraguan food uses many North American Maya indigenous corn dishes, South American Inca plantain dishes, Caribbean seafood and Spaniard influence.

Cultural Influence on Nicaraguan cuisine

Three Latin American countries are most famous for their food variety and flavors, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru. Mexico´s gastronomy is based on Maya Indigenous recipes, Peru on Inca recipes and Nicaragua is a combination where multiple cultures meet, North & South America, The Caribbean and Spain.

Unlike Mexican food, hot spices such as Jalapeño peppers are not commonly used, with some exceptions, but typically when that happens your host will alert you. Two notable exceptions are the Nacatamal that has a hot pepper in a corner and Vigoron has some hot peppers sprinkled on top, which you can take out. Everything else the hot spice is served separate.

Pitahaya Nicaragua Pitaya fruit

The tortilla is another daily staple in every meal, Mexicans use the flour tortilla in northern Mexico and a small thin corn tortilla in the south, the tortilla evolves as it moves south, Salvadorians use the Pupusa which is a smaller and thicker corn tortilla filled with beans or loroco inside. Nicaragua uses a thicker plain corn tortilla. South America eats the whole corn kernel instead of ground corn into tortilla.

Northern south american influence into the Nicaraguan food is the fried green plantain, commonly used in Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia and Venezuela. The South American Andes aji, a common spice in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia is not used in Nicaragua, instead, many different spices are used but none that can be highlighted as unique. Rather the signature of most Nicaraguan dishes is the side used, the Gallo Pinto or Rice and Small Red Beans which is almost in every meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Coconut, lobster and other seafood is the Caribbean influence to Nicaragua. And Spain brought the Paella and the different rice such as "Arroz a la Valenciana" and "Sopa de Mondongo" which is like the Spanish "Callos a la Madrileña".

Nicaragua is very extensive in land with very low population density in comparison to other Latin American countries, therefore cattle raising is very popular as well as grains, tropical fruits and vegetables. The beef produced in the country is field raised and not grain or artificially fed, many beef connoisseurs regard the Nicaraguan beef as among the tastiest in the world. You will find many beef dishes, specially steaks, at most restaurants at very reasonable prices.

Nicaraguan Recipes

We have over 100 recipes of Nicaraguan food in our RECETAS section, sorry it is in spanish only.

You will also find the traditional international meals at most restaurants, such as burgers, pizza, chicken and pasta, but you should be adventurous and try the local cuisine, you will love it!!!

Nicaraguan Eating Habits

During the work week, Nicaraguans tend to have early breakfast, tipically gallo pinto and eggs, fruits, orange juice and coffee. Lunch is between 12:30 pm and 2:00 pm, and is tipically a salad and medium size meal, steak, rice, plantains, vegetables and a fruit juice. Dinner is similar to lunch somewhere between 7pm and 9pm. Dessert during lunch and dinner is something light such as fruits, custard or similar. Corn tortillas or bread typically acompany many meals.

Because Nicaragua's corn tortillas are hand made, they are thicker than the traditional Mexican corn tortillas, they are larger and not filled like the Salvadoran Pupusas. They must be freshly made in order to maintain the right texture and taste. People eat them alone, with beans or cheese, specially Cuajada, Quesillo or Queso Seco (fresh cheese, string cheese or dry cheese crumbles). Because of its rich and fresh flavor, they are also used to accompany many meals and snacks.

(Picture: Nicaraguan corn tortilla)

Weekend meals are another story, that is when all diets go out the window and they indulge in the country specialties.

Nicaragua Corn Tortilla

Sunday breakfast is always Nacatamal, a large corn tamal with pork, potato, rice, spices and always a tiny and very hot pepper in one corner so you can find it and take it out if you don't like hot food. This is a very heavy breakfast and is accompanied by fruit juice and coffee. Sunday breakfast is a family affair and starts late, after 9am to allow everyone to get up, if you get up early, get some fruit juice and pastry while everyone joins you. People gather around and talk about the weekend activities and may take a couple of hours of conversation. Almost always people go to a hammock for a siesta after this breakfast to meditate on the conversation.

(Picture: Nacatamal)

You will find popular recipes here:

Any of these breakfast meals can be accompanied with fresh fruits, Rosquillas (Corn rings), Picos (cheese filled triangular pastry) and Fruit Juice.

Nicaragua Nacatamal
Vigoron Nicaraguense

By mid morning you get a snack, some cheese and plantains, or refried beans and tostones or ceviche or shrimp coctail. This is the excuse to open the bar at noon and indulge in some cold drinks.

Lunch is served somewhere between 2 and 3pm and is served in large quantities and variety. Lunch is an event where the family gathers around and spend hours talking at the dinner table.

Later in the afternoon there is another set of snacks, such as Vigoron, to tie you over until the late dinner.

(Picture: Vigoron)

Dinner on Friday and Saturday nights are served late, as early as 8pm or if it is at a party, dinner is served after midnight, so if you are invited to a party, make sure you eat before you go, otherwise you will have plenty to drink before you have your meal.

Both lunch and dinner menus include typical Nicaraguan food mentioned later in this blog.

Some of the typical dishes include:Nicaraguan Snacks

Snacks or bocadillos are typically served on weekends between meals and at parties. These are some of the most popular snacks:

  • Coctel de Camarones: Shrimp Coctail
  • Elote Asado: Fire Roasted Corn on the Cob
  • Enchiladas Nicaragüenses: Fried corn tortilla rolls with pickled onions
  • El Quesillo: String cheese on a tortilla, cream and pickled onions
  • Montucas: Sweet young corn tamaleVigorón: Fried pork, Yuca and cabbage salad
  • Yoltamales: Tamales cooked with corn leaves rather than plantain leaves
  • Tajadas con queso: Fried plantain strips and cheese
  • Tacos: Soft corn tortillas filled with meat, cheese and cabbage
    • Tamales de Elote: Corn tamales
  • Tortilla con queso: Tortilla and fresh cheese
  • Repocheta: Tortilla with melted cheese, may add ground beans
  • Tostones y frijoles molidos: Fried thick platain with fried grounded red beans
  • Ceviche de pescado: Fish ceviche
  • Rosquillas: Cheese filled baked corn rings

Picture 1: Ceviche and Plantain Strips

Picture 2: Assorted snacks with tortillas

See our recipes in Spanish in RECETAS section.

Ceviche y Platanos nicas

Nicaraguan Fruits

The large assortment of fruits and vegetables grown locally will surprise you, as well as their prices. Since local farmers do not use hormones to treat the seeds, most fruits do not have perfect peel, but the taste is much better than treated fruits.

Not only you will find the traditional tropical fruits such as oranges, lemon, cantelopes, pineapple and more, but a few very popular fruits to the local population that are not widespread worldwide are:

Zapote or Mamey Nica
  • Mangoes- served with salt and vinegar when green, and plain when ripeTangerine - straight or in juice
  • Pitahaya - served as juice or as dessert with whipped cream
  • Maracuya - served in juice or as dessert topping
  • Jocote - (Hug Plum) with salt when green or straight when ripe
  • Mamón - Always suck on them after you crack the shell open, but beware of the stains on your cloth
  • Starfruit - served in juice
  • Zapote - Cut it in half and eat it with a spoon
  • Nispero - Similar to Zapote, eat straight
  • Guayaba (Guava) - Straight or used for drinks and dessert
  • Mamey - Peel it and eat the inside
  • Nancite - Eat them straight
  • Mimbre, Mimbro, Bilimbi - Chopped and added to the Vigoron salad
  • Grocella - Very tart, eat straight
  • Avocado - Straight, in salads or guacamole
  • Caimito - (Star Apple)
  • Granadilla or Calala- strait or in juice
  • Noni - After fermenting, used as medicine, cures many diseases and is believed that provides immortality to native indians.

Picture 1: Zapote or Mamey

Picture 2: Maracuya fruit

Maracuya Nica
Nicaragua Tropical Fruits Collection

Pictures: Zapote, Starfruit, Avocado, Maracuya, Mamon

Nicaragua Tropical Fruits Delicious Frutas deliciosas nicas

Picture: Tangerine, Green Jocote, Ripe Jocote, Mango, Guava

Video of Nicaraguan exotic fruits

Nicaraguan Main Dishes

Most of these dishes are not just for special occasions, but served regularly during lunch or dinner time at home.

Most of these are accompanied with rice and small red beans, and salad.

Picture 1: Caballo Bayo Nica

Picture 2: Churrasco Steak

See our recipes in Spanish in RECETAS section.

Nicaraguan Soups

It may seem counter intuitive that a tropical country is famous for its soups, but it is a regular staple in Nicaraguan meals. And it covers the whole gambit of tastes and ingredients, from seafood to beef and everything in between. Some of them are strong with many spices but only one has hot spices, the Sopa de Tortilla Mexican style.

Caballo Bayo
Churrasco Steak Nicaragua Pochomil

Some popular soups are:

Picture 1: Sopa de Tortilla Mexicana (Mexican Soup)

Picture 2: Sopa de Rosquillas (Cheese soup with corn rings)

Mexican Soup Sopa Mexicana Pochomil beach Nicaragua
Cheese & Corn Ring Soup Sopa de Rosquillas Pochomil beach nicaragua

See our recipes in Spanish in RECETAS section.

Nicaraguan Famous Desserts

Housewives receive more praises for their desserts than anything else on the dinner table, and they all have secret family recipes that refuse to share, or if they do, beware that they won't give you all the ingredients since it becomes a family secret inherited from grandma.

Tres Leches is probably the most famous dessert that has been exported to many countries, you will find it in restaurants in all of Central America, Miami, Los Angeles, Houston, and many other latin cities of the USA. But it is not the only one, there are many more, here is a short list of some of them:

Tres Leches Dessert

Picture 1: Nicaraguan Tres Leches

Picture 2: Maracuya Cheesecake

Picture 3: Buñuelos (Yuca fritters)

Picture 4: Caramel Custard

Often the dessert is fresh fruits such as mangoes, tangerine, pitahaya, maracuya, jocote, mamón, starfruit and more. See some pictures of these fruits in our collage of meals and drinks.

If you are offered ice cream, it is common to refer to it as Eskimo, which is a local brand. People will ask you "Do you want Eskimo?" meaning "Do you want Ice Cream?". You will also find the "Eskimero" carts on the streets selling Popsicles ringing their bell constantly.

See our recipes in Spanish in RECETAS section.

Nicaraguan Drinks

Maracuya Cheesecake
Buñuelos or Yuca Fritters Pochomil
Flan de Caramelo Custard caramel Pochomil Nicaragua

Due to its large variety of fruits, Nicaraguan drinks are typically fruit based and are called "frescos" as in refreshments. You will find many fruit juices such as Maracuya, Starfruit, Pitahaya, and the typical orange and mango juices. Also there are some indigenous local drinks such as:

See our recipes in Spanish in RECETAS section.

There are three popular alcoholic brands, Ron Flor de Caña (Rum), Cerveza Victoria and Cerveza Toña (Beer). Although Flor de Caña comes in many varieties, clear, dark and different aging up to 21 years old.

Pinolillo Nica

Ron Flor de Caña is among the most acclaimed rums of the world, since it is among the few rums that has 21 year old rum for sale. They have been producing rum over 100 years and during the 1980´s that Nicaragua was at war, they continued to produce and store all their production, now they have huge inventory of aged rum unlike other well known brands that only age their product a few months to three years due to high demand. You will find the price of Flor de Caña is about half of what it costs in other countries.

Typical alcoholic mixes are used to make Rum based Margaritas and may replace the lime with other fruits, and the "Official Drink of Nicaragua" the Macuá, The Macuá is a cocktail made with white rum and fruit juices, usually lemon and guava juice.

Picture 1: Pinolillo glass

Picture 2: 21 yr old Flor de Caña Rum

Ron Flor de Caña
Macua Ron Flor de Cana

Picture El Macuá

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Pictures of Nicaraguan food, fruits, dessert and drinks

Below is a collage of images of Nicaraguan dishes mentioned above.

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