You might be dying to go to Panama for the famous Panama Canal, or Bocas Del Toro, or the San Blas Islands. We’ll warn you beforehand, though. There’s one thing you absolutely won’t see coming. And it’s the exquisite Panamanian food!
Expect all the goodness of fresh seafood with the spices of Latin America, combined with Americanized hybrid recipes. There’s truly something for everyone in Panama.
And you’ll be spending a long time scrolling through restaurant menus. Luckily, we’re here to help you out a little!
In this article, we break down 13 of the most incredible Panamanian dishes and foods to try.
Arroz Con Pollo
Arroz Con Pollo is made from a simple recipe of chicken and rice. Nothing more, nothing less!
In fact, locals frown upon any unnecessary additions that alter the original recipe. This is one of those Panamanian staple meals that you will end up eating at some point in Panama. It’s just that impossible to miss!
You can also try cooking Arroz Con Pollo at home, here’s a great recipe to try.
Sancocho is a staple Panamama soup made of chicken and a range of vegetables cooked in a wholesome broth. It’s among the most prominent Panamanian dishes, and for all the good reasons!
The popularity of this soup lends itself to the sheer simplicity and unique flavor. The soup is cooked with minimal ingredients: ñame (a root vegetable), free range hen and culantro.
It is usually served along with a hearty portion of sweet plantains and white rice. Most restaurants in the city put their own little twist on this Panamanian dish. So, don’t assume how it tastes beforehand!
You can find a great Sancocho recipe here.
If you happen to grace any celebration in Panama – this is one dish you’ll inevitably be served.
Here, Fish (or other seafood) is cooked in a mixture of onions, peppers, lime juice and culantro for at least a whole day (yes, it takes that long to prepare). As you’d expect from a Caribbean country – the seafood is super, duper fresh.
Ceviche is typically served along with mini wheat cracker baskets, fried plantains or soda crackers. You must try one of the many variations of this zesty dish. It makes for an ideal pairing with cold beer on a warm day!
Here’s a great authentic Panama Ceviche recipe to try at home.
Guacho di Mariscos
Guacho is a traditional panamanian dish that has become a rare delicacy over time. It’ll definitely be a little hard to find!
The dish is a combination of porktails, beans, rice and yuca (not a combination you’ve heard of elsewhere). When you’re feeling that extra dose of hunger and want to try something unique – Guacho is the dish to try. It’s also served with seafood in some restaurants.
Try cooking Guacho yourself with this recipe.
A true local delight – Chorizo originates from the province of Los Santos, in the city of Las Tablas. Every bite you take, this smoked pork sausage will be bursting with a unique Panamanian flavor.
It’s now prepared in a more modern way, but also cooked with the traditional recipe. We’d suggest you to try the latter!
This dish makes for a festive breakfast in Panama, although it can be eaten at any other time of the day, too.
Carimañolas are a crunchy yuca roll, deep fried and filled with ground beef. The taste is as unique as the name. Don’t miss out on it! Here’s a great authentic Panamanian Carimañolas recipe to try.
One of the most popular fried foods in Panama – Hojaldra is a delicious fried bread that can be eaten solo, or paired with items like cheese or cinnamon sugar, or criolla sauce.
Whether you eat it sweet, savory or plain – you’re sure to thoroughly enjoy the flavor and texture. There’s a great Hojaldra recipe to try from 196 Flavours.
Bolo De Maíz Nuevo
The classic Bolo is one of the most traditional corn-based dishes in Panama. It’s made by grinding fresh corn into a dough, wrapping it in corn husk and then boiling until it’s firm.
A great companion to fresh cheese and coffee – the Bolo is a must-try Panama dish!
Think you’re a sucker for Fries? Wait till someone (hopefully) offers you Papas (which is actually the Spanish term for “potatoes”). You’ll find Papas served in a bunch of different ways in Panama.
All these variations have one unmistakable ingredient in common; fresh, delicious potatoes. All the stuff of a potato lover’s dreams!
Panamanian Fresh Fish
Panama has no dearth of fresh seafood. Whether you like it baked, fried or grilled: you’ll find it here, and it’ll make for an unforgettable meal.
Panamanian Fresh Fish is made with a unique Carribean twist to it that’s better experienced than explained. One thing we assure: it’ll be the freshest fish you’ve ever tasted (unless you’ve already had a seafood meal in Panama!).
Trying to stick to a diet? You’ll be tempted out of it the instant you set your eyes on Panama’s’ churros. They melt in your mouth and taste like heaven. Save your sweet tooth for this divine experience, y’all.
Of course, churros are also popular in Uruguay and Argentina and so here is a basic churros recipe you can use and customize to your tastes.
Panama has its own twist on turkey! On holidays like Christmas, Panamanians choose to replace the gravy and stuffing with a twist of Latin spices. After the turkey has been sliced, they pour a zesty sauce over it that’s made of finely chopped, minced vegetables.
Looking to beat the sweltering Panama heat? Raspao is the perfect refreshment: it’s sweet, light, and cools your system down in the most orgasmic way.
This is Panama’s offering of a snow cone – shaved ice with a flavored, sweet syrup poured on top. We’re salivating already!
Watch: Top Dishes of Panama
If you don’t return from Panama with a refreshed palette and a passion for Panamanian Cuisine – your taste buds need an examination!
Jokes aside, the food in Panama will definitely be a stand-out memory. Make sure to indulge in the local flavors and ditch the usual junk food choices as soon as you land in Panama.
Wishing you a whole bunch of Guacho and Raspao during your stay!