Central American Food Recipes by Country

With Central American food recipes I mean those belonging to the countries on the isthmus in between Panama in the south and Guatemala and Belize in the north. They all share som common traits like the predominantly Spanish and Amerindian background, spiced with influences from Asia and Africa.

Before Columbus
This area saw the development of one of the most advanced ancient civilizations known to man; the Mayas. There had been several precursors to the Mayas such as the Olmecs and the Toltecs, both were based in modern day Mexico. The Mayas excelled in mathematics, architecture, fine arts and agriculture. In densely populated cities, temples and majestic buildings were erected whose ruins are big tourist attractions today. The Mayas practiced large scale irrigation and the shifting of crops. The main agricultural products were maize, manioc, squash and several cultivars of beans. Deforestation is by many considered a major contributing factor in the dissolution of the Mayan empire since it is thought to have created draughts and floodings. The Mayan civilization is believed to date back about two millennia BC, its heyday is considered to have been between the 3rd and the 10th century AD. When the Spanish arrived in Central America the Mayan empire was gone although Mayan civilization still thrived in a few states mainly on the Yucatan. The newcomers encountered several city states and tribal societies on the isthmus.

Map of Central America

Map of Central America. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The introduction of some Old World diseases proved disastrous and killed more than half of the Amerindian populations. The weakened Indians succumbed to the aggressive invaders superior weapons and cunning tactics, in a few decades the Spanish had included practically the whole region to their empire, with the exclusion of modern day Honduras which remained under dispute with the British. In colonial Central America focus lay on agriculture (coffee, cacao, banana and sugarcane some examples) and mining for export to Europe; labor was many times brought from Africa in the form of slaves. The Spanish lost all their Central American colonies in the beginning of the 19th century, a strong independence movement fueled by the Spanish-Mexican war had helped to provoke that. In the 19th century US American political and economical involvement started to become strong, it has remained as such until today. In most countries the political situation is quite unstable, the economies have been very affected by the US.

Central American Cuisine
Central American food recipes have developed, as mentioned earlier, with influences from mainly Spanish, African and Amerindian cuisines; Asian immigration has also have had a slight effect. With the Spanish started a great exchange of foods; ingredients like rice, citric fruits, sugarcane, banana, mango, coffee, garlic, yam, yellow onion, chicken, goat, cow and pig were introduced. Already existent were sweet potato, manioc, maize, bell pepper, guava, squash, tomato, avocado, guava, papaya, pineapple, coconut, turkey and chili peppers. The tropical climate has made growing easy, thus a great variety has always been readily available to be ingredients in Central American food recipes. Rice, beans and maize are the most important staples. Maize in various forms are made in to various dishes dating back to pre-Columbian Amerindian cuisines.

Get more specific information by following the country links below:

Belizean mini flag Link to page about Belizean food recipes

Costa Rican mini flag Link to page about Costa Rican food recipes

Salvadoran mini flag Link to page about El Salvadoran food recipes

Guatemalan mini flag Link to page about Guatemalan food recipes

Honduran mini flag Link to page about Honduran food recipes

Nicaraguan mini flag Link to page about Nicaraguan food recipes

Panamanian mini flag Link to page about Panamanian food recipes



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