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24 Nicaragua Foods & Easy Recipes for Nicaragua Dishes

Fantastic toucan on branch. Nicaragua
Fantastic toucan on branch. Nicaragua

When talking about Nicaragua foods, corn is one of the most fundamental components of most Nicaragua dishes. From the beginnings of Nicaragua Traditional food, it permeates all aspects of cuisine in Nicaragua. However there is much more to be found in Nicaraguan cuisine than just corn.

Nicaragua lies in Central America, north of Costa Rica. It boasts of the most sumptuous traditional food and drinks. The food represents the diversification of Costa Ricans influenced by traditional Nicaraguan, Spanish, Garifuna, and Creole cuisines. This food is affordable and worth every coin in your pocket.

Typical food sold on street from Nicaragua
Typical food sold on street from Nicaragua

The History of Food From Nicaragua

Extended families and tribes who initially occupied eastern Nicaragua got their food by fishing along the shores of Lake Nicaragua. They also hunted and carried out slash and burn agriculture. Pineapples, corn, and cassava made a list of their staple food. Later in the 16th century, the Spanish people arrived in western Nicaragua, and they brought along their Spanish cuisine, which comprised rice and beans.

Since then, most Nicaraguan meals are based on Nicaraguan traditional foods that incorporate flavors and ingredients from Mexican, Spanish, Honduras, and Guatemala foods. These include peppers, rice, corn, plantains, beans, and Yucca, pork, turtle meat, which they seasoned using onions and garlic.

Gallo Pinto Brief History

Gallo Pinto is a national dish for Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans. Costa Ricans believe the dish came into existence in the 1930s in the San Jose suburb. Some Nicaraguans believe the Spanish people and others by the African slaves brought the dish to the Caribbean shores.

To- date, Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans both claim Gallo pinto as their own. This has led to cooking competitions over the years, wherein in 2003, Costa Rica cooked 970 pounds of the food in one go. In response to this, Nicaragua cooked 1200 gallons, which were enough to feed 10000 people.

The competition went on in 2007 where the Costa Ricans cooked the biggest Gallo Pinto meal, which fed over 25000 people. To respond to this, Nicaraguans cooked another big pot that fed almost 50,000 people.

The skyline of Granada, Nicaragua, with its yellow cathedral, rooftops in Spanish-colonial-style architecture and Lake Nicaragua in the background.
The skyline of Granada, Nicaragua, with its yellow cathedral, rooftops in Spanish-colonial-style architecture and Lake Nicaragua in the background.

Old Style Nicaragua Foods and Cooking

The traditional way of cooking Nicaragua is simple with locally available ingredients. As earlier mentioned, most Nicaraguan foods comprised beans, rice, corn, eggs, coconut, garlic, and onions. Nicaraguans would cook rice mixed with boiled red or black beans. The mixture would get fried with garlic and onions and coconut milk.

Nicaraguans used corn to make cornbread and tortillas. Sometimes, residents roasted or boiled corn together with the comb and ate it as a snack. Tortillas are made by soaking dried maize in lime water for curing purposes.

This process made the skin of the corn kernels peel off. The peeled maize was ground using stones to make some floor. The extracted floor would make a dough known as masa nixtamal era, which was flat pressed using a rolling pin to make thin patties. It got cooked on an extremely hot Comal.

People ate tortillas alongside other dishes such as fried beans, pork, and poultry. Corn also made its way into making drinks. Nicaraguans made corn milk which was mixed with coffee or taken plain for breakfast.

Besides cooking food, Nicaraguans had various fruits that they grew on their farms and others alongside the coast. They had plenty of pineapples, coconuts, mangoes, papaya, and yucca roots. People would eat the fruits as side dishes or randomly as a snack.

Modern Nicaragua Foods and Cooking

Today the Nicaraguan kitchen comprises local tropical products with additional ingredients such as tomatoes, onions, cheese, rice, beans, corn, garlic, mustard, milk, mayonnaise, oranges, cinnamon and vanilla.

Most people include meat in their Nicaraguan foods. For instance, they use meat from cow’s tales, stomach, brains, and testicles. Pork comprised pork blood, hoofs, and skin commonly used in making chicharron. Pork skin usually is deep-fried to make a crispy and tasty dish eaten alongside rice and beans. For modern Gallo Pinto, it incorporates additional ingredients such as modern spices and coconut oil that add a unique taste to the food.

As for the fruits, people nowadays slice them all together in a bowl to make fruit salad. Others slice single fruits such as pineapples and mix them with cinnamon to make sweet desserts. Coconut water is used to make coconut juice mixed with other fruits such as pineapples taken alongside Nicaragua foods as a refreshment.

Aerial photography of Masaya Volcano National Park in Nicaragua.
Aerial photography of Masaya Volcano National Park in Nicaragua.

Main Staples of Nicaragua Cuisine

Nicaraguan cuisine is a mixture of indigenous and Creole traditions. As in many other Latin American countries, corn is a staple. It is used in many of the widely consumed dishes, such as nacatamal, and indio viejo. Corn is not only used in food; it is also an ingredient for drinks such as pinolillo and chicha as well as in sweets and desserts.

Other staples are rice and beans. Rice is eaten when corn is not, and beans are consumed as a cheap protein by the majority of Nicaraguans. It is common for rice and beans to be eaten as a breakfast dish. There are many meals including these two staples; one popular dish, gallo pinto, is often served as lunch, sometimes with eggs.

Nicaraguans do not limit their diet solely to corn, rice, and beans. Many Nicaraguans have small gardens of their own full of vegetables.

Commonly used ingredients (including fruits and vegetables) are peanuts, cabbage (shredded in vinegar, this is called “ensalada” and used as a side dish. Sometimes carrots and beets are added.) carrots, beets, butternut squash, plantains, bananas, fresh ginger, onion, potato, peppers, jocote, grosella, mimbro, mango, papaya, tamarind, pipian, apples, avocado, yuca, and quequisque. Herbs such as cilantro, oregano, and achiote are also used in cooking.

Catching Waves at Maderas,Nicaragua
Catching Waves at Maderas,Nicaragua

Frequently Asked Questions About Nicaragua Foods

1. What Are Considered the Nicaragua National Foods?

The country’s national dish is gallo pinto (fried rice mixed with black beans and other spices). The traditional drink known as chicha is made with corn, water, and sugar. Appetizers called rosquillas are made with baked corn dough, cheese, and butter.

2. What Are Some Famous Foods in Nicaragua?

Vigorón: A traditional Nicaraguan dish, basically it’s boiled yuca (cassava) with crispy pork skin and a refreshing cabbage salad.

Gallo Pinto: A traditional dish from Central America. Consisting of rice and beans as a base. It is tossed in a slightly sweet, but kinda spicy hot sauce, called Lizano, along with a few other spices.

Arroz a la Valenciana: A typical Latin American dish. In Nicaragua it is referred to as a Latin American version of Valencian paella.

Tres Leches Cake: The cake with three milks is one of the most traditional recipes of Nicaragua. Uses of three different types of milk: whole milk (or cream), evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk.

3. What Do Nicaraguans Eat for Lunch?

At lunch or dinner, rice and beans are an integral part of a casado (which translates as “married” and is the name for the local version of a blue-plate special). A casado usually consists of cabbage-and-tomato salad; fried plantains (a starchy, banana-like fruit); and a chicken, fish, or meat dish of some sort.

4. What is a Typical Dinner in Nicaragua?

A characteristic Nicaragua meal that you can try all over the country might include a meat like chicken, pork, or fresh seafood from Nicaragua’s expansive coasts. Along with deep-fried plantains, rice, and beans (gallo pinto) and a cabbage salad. Coconut water and meat are also a common ingredient, mostly on the Caribbean coast.

5. What Are Some Popular Desserts in Nicaragua?

Pio Quinto: Every Nicaraguan Christmas table will not be complete without Pio Quinto. A Nicaraguan dessert consisting of cake drenched in rum, topped with a custard, and dusted with cinnamon. Some recipes also include rum soaked prunes or raisins.

Sopa Borracha: A delicious traditional Nicaraguan dessert that consists of bathing the marquesote with a syrup with rum and flavored with cinnamon, rum and tasty raisins.

Roles de Canela: Nicaragua cinnamon rolls. They are considered staples in Nicaraguan cuisine. Nicaraguan cinnamon rolls are actually more similar to Swedish cinnamon buns.

Ayote en Miel: Squash in Nicaraguan honey. The squash in honey is a simple and tasty traditional sweet dessert, which is prepared with sweet squash (known in other countries as pumpkin).

Atolillo: Atolillo is a humble little custard made with milk, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and lightly flavored with cinnamon.

Perrereque: The Nicaraguan perrereque is a delicious dessert based on corn and milk which is very popular in various areas of the country, it is a kind of cake or sweet cake with a lot of traditional flavor.

Typical food sold on street in Nicaragua
Typical food sold on streets in Nicaragua

24 Easy Recipes for Nicaragua Dishes

1. Gallo Pinto – Nicaragua Foods

Gallo Pinto - Nicaragua Foods

Nicaragua’s national dish is definitively, without question, gallo pinto (Nicaraguan Rice and Beans). The name translates to “painted rooster,” which is a reference to the food’s dark red, brown, and white colors. It’s rice and beans, but the preparation elevates the simple dish.

The dried beans are soaked in water for at least several hours if not a full night. When they’re ready to be cooked, they’re boiled in water while the rice is fried. Seasoning and chicken broth are added into the pan. Finally, the beans are combined with the rice and everything is fried together. A staple of Nicaraguan culture, it can be eaten for any meal of the day.
Check out this recipe

2. Arroz a la Valenciana – Nicaragua Traditional Food

Arroz a la Valenciana - Nicaragua Traditional Food

Every Nicaraguan family makes its arroz a la valenciana a bit differently, but the core of the dish is the same. It’s similar to paella and jambalaya made with yellow rice and chicken.

First, the chicken is cooked with onions and peppers; then, it’s stripped of any bones. The rice is prepared next, and the chicken and any additions are mixed in. It depends on the family, but other potential ingredients include raisins, carrots, chorizo, peas, and tomatoes.
Check out this recipe

3. Vigorón – Nicaragua Recipes

Vigorón - Nicaragua Recipes

Vigorón is a popular street food in Nicaragua that’s simple to make. It can be eaten with your hands or with a fork and knife, and it’s commonly served when there are guests visiting or as a side dish. It consists of curtido (cabbage salad), yuca, and chicharrones (fried pork belly or rinds) all wrapped in a banana leaf.
Check out this recipe

4. Nacatamal (tamales) – Nicaragua Traditional Food

Nacatamal - Nicaragua Traditional Food

It is one of the oldest dishes in the history of the country. Nacatamales are the Nicaraguan version of tamales. A nacatamal is made up of seasoned masa (a type of corn dough) that’s stuffed with various foods, such as pork, rice, potatoes, and olives.

Once the masa has been prepared, individual portions are placed in banana leaves and spread by hand. The fillings are placed on top, and it all gets wrapped in the leaves and tied together with string. The final step is to boil or steam the nacatamales for several hours. They’re so delicious that you can eat them at any time of day.
Check out this recipe

5. Indio Viejo (beef stew) – Nicaragua Foods

Indio Viejo - Nicaragua Foods

Indio viejo is a thick stew that resembles a curry. The dish takes approximately two hours to make, and ingredients include beef, onions, tomatoes, peppers, mint, and masa. The meat is sauteed in a saucepan filled with water and sour orange juice while the masa is prepared separately.

The masa is mixed with water on its own to provide the broth’s thickness, and vegetables, more juice, and achiote (a reddish seasoning) are thrown in with it to give it a bright orange color. Once all the food is all together, indio viejo is served on its own or with rice.
Check out this recipe

6. Güirilas – Nicaragua Traditional Food

Güirilas - Nicaragua Traditional Food

Güirilas are a particular type of tortilla that originated in Pacila, a town in northern Nicaragua. It’s made by cooking young white corn on banana leaves to prevent any sticking. Unlike other tortillas, güirilas are on the sweeter side and eaten with cheese and sour cream.
Check out this recipe

7. Maduros en Gloria – Nicaragua Recipes

Maduros en Gloria - Nicaragua Recipes

Plantains, whether maduros (ripe and sweet yellow plantains) or tostones (green plantains), are an essential part of Nicaraguan food. They’re eaten solo as a snack or as a side for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Usually, they’re part of all three.

However, there are some main dishes that revolve around plantains, such as maduros en gloria. It’s close to lasagna in design with its cheesy goodness but fundamentally different because instead of rows of flat pasta, there are rows of long maduros.
Check out this recipe

8. Perrerreques – Nicaraguan Desserts

Perrerreques - Nicaraguan Desserts

A perrerreque is a savory corn cake that’s usually eaten for dessert. Cornmeal, baking soda, milk, cheese, and sugar come together to make the delectable treat. It’s frequently used to mark special occasions — whether it’s a new friend coming over, celebrating a child’s good grades, or a birthday.
Check out this recipe

9. Nicaraguan Quesillo – Nicaragua Foods

Nicaraguan Quesillo - Nicaragua Foods

The Nicaraguan quesillo recipe consists of corn tortillas that have melted cheese, a little onion combined with vinegar and a little cream. Many years have passed and this dish has been modified many times just to be one of the most delicious Nicaraguan Food.
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10. Baho – Nicaragua Traditional Food

Baho - Nicaragua Traditional Food

The Vaho or Baho Recipe, depending on the language and culture, is a wonderful festive dish of Nicaragua. It is the true cornerstone of the country’s culinary influences.

It is prepared with cow breast (but sometimes also with beef liver), bananas, Yucca and several vegetables, and then the whole dish is steamed for a long time in banana leaves. The word baho itself comes from the verb “vaporize”.

This Nicaraguan Baho Recipe mixes the indigenous cultures of the country. It is usually accompanied by tanning, a salad of raw vegetables with cabbage, tomato, vinegar and/or lemon juice.
Check out this recipe

11. Pio Quinto – Nicaraguan Desserts

Pio Quinto - Nicaragua Desserts

Pio Quinto is a Nicaraguan rum cake topped with vanilla custard (natilla) and dusted with cinnamon. This is a delicious and light version of Pio Quinto, made with a butter substitute in the rum glaze and egg whites in the cake. The recipe yields 6 mini cakes.

Instead of traditional Natilla that uses milk and egg yolks, this custard is made with light coconut milk. Like Natilla, it is thickened with cornstarch. The resulting custard is airy and light and deliciously creamy. It is just incredible paired with the rum cakes! Rum-soaked dried plums are also a nice addition and make the cakes look very pretty.
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12. Salpicon (mincemeat) – Nicaragua Traditional Food

Salpicon (mincemeat) - Nicaragua Traditional Food

Easy to make and delicious, salpicon is the Nicaraguan version of mincemeat. It combines ground beef, with onions, peppers, and garlic. Finish off with a squeeze of fresh lime. Salpicon is traditionally served with rice, fried plantains, and a piece of fried cheese.
Check out this recipe

13. Carne Asada – Nicaragua Foods

Carne Asada - Nicaragua Foods

Asado/asada is the Spanish word for grilled meat. In the evening it is common to see street vendors setting up their homemade grills on the curbside.

Nicaraguan asado is often marinated in orange juice, making for flavorful and tender meat. You can buy it on its own or served with tajadas, gallo pinto, and pickled cabbage salad. Try the chicken, pork, or beef- it’s all delicious.
Check out this recipe

14. Quesillo – Nicaragua Recipes

Quesillo - Nicaragua Recipes

These are little corn tortillas that have melted cheese, a little bit of onion that is pickled with vinegar and some sour cream.

They are a popular Nicaragua foods sold on the streets and served in little plastic bags so you don’t lose any of the pickled onions. The cheese in Nicaragua is a soft and chewy white cheese that goes by the same name.
Check out this recipe

15. Rondón – Nicaragua Traditional Food

Rondón - Nicaragua Traditional Food

Rondón or “Run Down” is a seafood stew found on the east coast of Nicaragua. You can find similar dishes in Jamaica and all along the Caribbean Coast. A yummy blend of coconut, fresh seafood, and root vegetables- it’s a hearty dish that satisfies.
Check out this recipe

16. Chancho con Yuca – Nicaragua Food

Chancho con Yuca - Nicaragua Food

This is a pork dish with boiled yucca and topped with a pickled cabbage and tomato salad. The pork is marinated in the juices of sour/bitter oranges and garlic, and then grilled to perfection.
Check out this recipe

17. Pollo Jalapeño – Nicaragua Traditional Food

Pollo Jalapeño - Nicaragua Traditional Food

As the name suggests, this dish consists of cooked chicken breasts smothered in a thick and creamy jalapeno sauce. While jalapenos can provide quite a spicy kick on their own, when combined with the heavy cream and rosemary in the sauce, you’ll be in for a delicious (but not flame-inducing) meal.
Check out this recipe

18. Caballo Bayo – Nicaragua Recipes

Caballo Bayo - Nicaragua Recipes

Caballo means horse in Spanish, but fortunately, that is not one of the ingredients in this meal. Caballo Bayo is a meal served during festivities and special occasions. Corn tortillas are served with a variety of toppings, generally displayed in clay pots.

Some of the items in this buffet may include: shredded cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo (tomato salsa), sour cream, chorizo sausage, moronga (blood sausage), along with other meats. Some side dishes may also be served, including gallo pinto (rice and beans), and fried plantain.
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19. Rosquillas – Nicaraguan Desserts

Rosquillas - Nicaraguan Desserts

A crunchy butter cookie made using corn flour and Nicaraguan cheese (which is dry and a bit salty). While some brown sugar can be added to the recipe, this dessert is not overly sweet.

Rosquillas are unlike most other pastries but is sometimes compared to Italian Biscotti. This comparison is understandable since they are both very dry pastries with a slightly burnt flavor but the two pastries are still rather different from each other.

Rosquilla are traditionally served with a cop of hot coffee and the correct way to eat them is to let them soak in your coffee before you eat them.
Check out this recipe

20. Sopa Borracha – Nicaraguan DessertsSopa Borracha - Nicaraguan Desserts

A delicious traditional Nicaraguan dessert that consists of bathing the marquesote with a syrup with rum and flavored with cinnamon, rum and tasty raisins.

It's called, Sopa Borracha (drunk soup). Funny name but very good. I found a recipe from an authentic Nicaraguan article that's printed in that country. The rum used is, Flor de Cana, which is originally from Nicaragua. It has a distinct flavor so be sure to use that rum.
Check out this recipe

21. Roles de Canela – Nicaraguan Desserts

Roles de Canela - Nicaraguan Desserts

Nicaragua cinnamon rolls. They are considered staples in Nicaragua foods. Nicaraguan cinnamon rolls are actually more similar to Swedish cinnamon buns.
Check out this recipe

22. Ayote en Miel – Nicaraguan Desserts

Ayote en Miel - Nicaraguan Desserts

Squash in Nicaraguan honey. The squash in honey is a simple and tasty traditional sweet dessert, which is prepared with sweet squash (known in other countries as pumpkin).
Check out this recipe

23. Atolillo – Nicaraguan Desserts

Atolillo - Nicaraguan Desserts

Atolillo is a humble little custard made with milk, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and lightly flavored with cinnamon. It's thick enough that you can eat it with a spoon.

It's wonderfully comforting served warm just as soon as it's made, but it's refreshing served chilled, too. The atolillo will thicken only to the consistency of yogurt.
Check out this recipe

24. Picos – Nicaraguan Desserts

 Picos - Nicaraguan Desserts

Picos is a triangular-shaped sweet bread that’s stuffed with dried, grated cheese and sugar. It is the best of both worlds with a hint of sweet and salty.

This classic Nicaragua foods snack can be soft and spongy or thin and crispy depending on who’s making it. The original Nicaraguan recipe includes flour, water, eggs, sugar, vegetable shortening, milk and cheese.

You can use any kind of salty cheese but most Nicaraguans prefer cotija. It is a crumbly and salty cheese that’s used in most food in Mexico. Picos is served with syrup on the side made with sugar and water.
Check out this recipe

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