With its close vicinity to the Caribbean and South America, as well as its strong and storied culture, the food in Nicaragua is literally a culinary melting pot! Tastes of island seafood, Spanish spices, and fresh indigenous ingredients make Nicaraguan food something different, and delicious!
As is with Mexico and its Central American neighbors, Corn is King in Nicaragua. Historians say that the vegetable was used for trading between local societies, and it is as prevalent today. And make no mistake; the Nicaraguan people don’t stop at using corn only in its entrees. In fact, many snacks, deserts and even certain beverages list corn as its main ingredient.
Maybe the most famous of local Nicaraguan meals is the Nactamal. Take the second half of that word, “tamal” and you will have a stronger understanding of what you are about to enjoy. Like Mexico to the North, Nicaragua serves Nactamal as a main dish on special occasions such as Christmas, weddings…and Sundays! Cornhusks or even banana leaves are wrapped around variations of meats, cheeses and vegetables rolled in ground corn and butter dough, then steamed. Much like the traditional tamale, it is presented as a culinary gift, of sorts. Unwrapping the cornhusks reveals the delicious meal inside!
Some of us like to drink local too, and a great pairing (outside of a traditional cerveza) to go with Nactamal, is the Nicaraguan national drink, Macua. This cocktail is made with local white rum (the largest alcohol spirit in Central America), along with locally grown guava, orange and lemon juices. This drink is refreshing, and will leave you wanting “uno mas”!
While you will have many choices for breakfast at your hotel, you will always notice a food that most locals will be enjoying, called Gallo Pinto. I shouldn’t confuse you as to the time of day, though, as you will see Gallo Pinto served in every meal throughout the day. In fact, it is consumed by Nicaraguans almost daily and is considered a national symbol. It’s a mixture of fried rice with onion and sweet pepper, red bean and garlic. It is packed with protein, and depending on your activities that day, you may do well by putting a scoop on your plate.
As with all countries that you visit, you will sadly be able to see a McDonalds or other American fast food restaurants in the larger portions of the cities. We always encourage you to be a traveler, not a tourist…and that starts with eating as the locals do! ¡Bon Provecho!