Exploring Guatemala is a true sensory experience. From dopamine-releasing landscapes to the sweet perfume of freshly roasted coffee, a trip to the beating heart of Central America promises to leave your senses tingling!
Your taste buds will also guide you through the flavours, aromas and cultural influences of Guatemalan cuisine, with many dishes that can be ‘veganised’ quickly and simply – all thanks to an abundance of fresh produce.
Latin America may not be known for its vegan food scene, but with staples like chilli, beans, avocado and maize, there’s a love affair just waiting to happen between regional Guatemalan cooking and plant-based cuisine.
Below, I’ve listed five mmm-inducing dishes that here at Vegan Adventure Holidays I just couldn’t imagine a trip to Guatemala without!
1: Desayuno Chapin
Porridge, anyone? No thanks! At Vegan Adventure Holidays, I like to start the day with the vegan version of a typical Guatemalan breakfast, desayuno chapin. Fresh, flavourful and oh-so-filling, this traditional dish offers a hearty combination of pan-fried plantain, salted black beans and steaming hot tortillas. It’s often made with scrambled eggs, but we like to cook it with seasoned rice and scrambled tofu instead.
Whether you’re preparing for an all-day volcano hike or settling down for a morning of work, vegan desayuno chapin will keep you pushing forward! It’s rich in protein and loaded with healthy fats, giving you the perfect combination of nutrients to say “buenos dias” to the day ahead.
2: Chile Relleno
Chile relleno – Spanish for “stuffed chilli” – may be a dish with its roots in Mexico, but it’s brought to life every day in the kitchens of Guatemala! Imagine subtly tart green peppers stuffed with a melt-in-your-mouth medley of vegetables, beans and spices, each encased by a golden batter. They sound too good to be true, don’t they?
After a day of soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of this beautiful country, you’ll love nothing more than enjoying a plate of stuffed green peppers. Plus, chile relleno is a delicacy that can be made vegan with just a few simple swaps, making it the ultimate snack or a must-have addition to any plant-based Guatemalan feast.
When I say that no trip to Guatemala is quite complete without tucking into a plate of tamales, I truly mean it. These steamed corn parcels, each loaded with salsa-topped vegetables and typically wrapped in banana leaves, will take you on a flavour journey across Latin America. With fillings such as fresh tomato, capers, olives and shredded almonds, tamales are the kind of dish you’ll want to eat with your eyes closed and mouth full.
Trying this moreish delicacy is also a brilliant way to celebrate one of Guatemala’s most popular foods and a key ingredient in tamale dough – maize. And, although traditional recipes often use lard and meat, tamales can be made vegan with just a few simple substitutions.
4: Rellenitos De Platano
Sometimes, you just need something sweet! Rellenitos de plátano, a traditional Guatemalan dessert, is bound to bring a sugar high to your day, with a pretty experimental (but absolutely delicious) combination of mashed plantain, refried black bean paste, sugar and cinnamon. They’re deep-fried until crispy and rolled in sugar, and while many recipes suggest using honey, rellenitos de plátano tastes exceptional without.
You’ll find that some recipes include chocolate, an ingredient that holds a lot of significance in Mayan culture. There are plenty of ways to enjoy chocolate without dairy today, and when in Guatemala, feasting on a plate of rellenitos de plátano is certainly one of the best ways to do so!
5: Chocolate Calliente
After a day of kayaking or wandering through ancient Mayan citadels, it’s time to press pause with a mug of hand- and heart-warming chocolate caliente. Ground Guatemalan cacao is the crucial ingredient, but plant milk and sugar will bring an extra level of creaminess to this velvety drink.
Hot chocolate simply tastes better in Guatemala, the birthplace of the world’s favourite treat and a place where cacao beans have historically been called “the food of the gods”. There’s a history lesson in every cup, so wrap up warm, pour a mug of chocolate caliente, and learn more about the role of cacao beans in Mayan communities, both past and present.
At Vegan Adventure Holidays, I know that fully immersing yourself in a new culture means trying as many local delicacies and dishes as possible. That’s why incredible vegan food is key for all my trips and expeditions throughout Guatemala and Central America, whether we’re toasting marshmallows on a volcano or hitting local vegan cafes.
You can take a look at the trips and expeditions I run here to start daydreaming (and drooling!).
I hope this article was inspiring, don’t forget to check out Queztal: A One Month Work & Travel Program In Guatemala and let me know in the comments which Guatemalan experience you would most love to have,
Emma – Vegan Adventure Holidays