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!
Table of Contents
Most Popular Panamanian Dishes
Here are the absolute must-try traditional dishes of Panama.
Arroz Con Pollo
Arroz Con Pollo is made from a simple recipe of chicken and rice. 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.
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!
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!
Hojaldres are a popular type of bread eaten in Panama. The dough is made from basic ingredients like wheat flour, sugar, salt, oil and water. It’s then portioned out into small pieces, shaped into discs and fried.
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.
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!
Carimañolas are a crunchy yuca roll, deep fried and filled with ground beef. They make for a festive breakfast in Panama, although it can be eaten at any other time of the day too.
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. It is eaten as great companion to fresh cheese and coffee.
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!).
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.
Guarapo (Sugarcane Juice)
Guarapo is a traditional drink made from sugarcane juice enjoyed throughout Latin America. To make guarapo, fresh sugarcane stalks are crushed to extract the juice. The juice is then served as a natural, sweet and thirst-quenching drink. In some variations, guarapo is mixed with lime juice or served over ice for added flavor and coolness.