Venezuela is popularly known for its magnificent natural landscapes, tropical jungles and its diverse wildlife. It is an amazing place to visit for food lovers (when safe to do so), because of the country’s outstanding culinary traditions that epitomise Latin American cuisine.
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Most Popular Venezuelan Foods
Venezuelan cuisine is inspired by a range of African, European, and Native American influences. Traditional dishes typically vary from one region to the next but the fundamental ingredients include rice, corn, plantains, beans, yams and meat.
Common Venezuelan side dishes typically consist of potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, onion, squash, zucchini and spinach, arranged in different ways. Venezuela is also known for having a large variety of white cheeses (the so-called queso blanco).
So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try traditional Venezuelan dishes along with recipes for you to try for yourself.
Pabellón Criollo is Venezuela’s national dish which has a perfect combination of flavors representing the three great Venezuelan cultures: European, Indigenous, and African. The dish typically consists of black beans, white rice, juicy pulled beef, and fried plantain.
Some say that the secret of a great pabellon is in the beef’s sofrito and the combination of sweet peppers, onions, bell peppers, and adobo seasoning. The salty flavor of the beef and beans goes really well with the sweetness of the plantains along with white rice.
Cachito is a Venezuelan breakfast pastry that is crescent-shaped filled with ham and cheese. It is crispy on the outside but soft and fluffy on the inside.
It is best paired with orange juice and Venezuelan coffee.
Arepas are often considered to be the ultimate Venezuelan street food. The dish is so versatile that it is eaten as a main dish or as a side dish which can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is a round and flat, unleavened patty made with corn flour and filled with a variety of ingredients depending on the region and style of cook.
Usually stuffings include black beans with cheese, scrambled eggs, seasoned ground beef or avocado. Some people even add more ingredients such as beets and shredded carrots. It can also be made healthier by adding oats, chia or flax seeds.
Mandoca is Venezuela’s most famous doughnut with unique sweet and salty flavours that complement each other. It is a Venezuelan breakfast classic made with plantains, cornmeal, panela, and cheese.
It is also called Zulian pretzel pertaining to a region in Venezuela, Zulia, which has a rich variety of dishes. These donuts are unique because they are shaped somewhat pretzel.
Perico is another Venezuelan breakfast favorite that adds a bit of South-American influence for scrambled egg lovers. It is a mix of fresh eggs, tomatoes, onions and green peppers, and you can also add bacon or ham if you like. It can be eaten inside a repa or a bun.
Pasticho is a dish that has Italian influences, in fact this dish is often called the “Lasagna of Venezuela” since it is eerily similar to the classic Italian dish. It is made with thin layers of pasta, meat, cheese, and tomato.
Though it may sound like a typical lasagna, it differs in the mix of spices that they use and the bechamel sauce used is especially creamy.
Cocada is a favorite Venezuelan drink made primarily with coconut milk. This is a classic beverage that can be found in many street stalls and is somewhat half a smoothie and half a dessert.
Locals tend to debate about the most authentic Venezuelan Cocada recipe because some say that a true cocada only consists of soft coconut pulp and coconut water while others prefer to add milk, vanilla ice cream or even condensed milk to make it super sweet.
Tizana is Venezuela’s perfect summer spirit because it is refreshing in the warm weather with its fresh and fruity flavor. This drink is like a fruit punch that can be found on street food stalls or simply prepared at home.
Usually Tizana contains plums, watermelon, peaches, apples and melons that are cut into tiny pieces. But, it certainly depends on your creativity as to how you want the drink to be.
The fruit pieces are mixed with grapefruit, lime, pineapple and orange juice and blended with cinnamon, sugar, grenadine, and crushed ice. To make it even more refreshing, you can also add gin or rum depending on how much you want to pour into it.
Dulce de Leche
Dulce de Leche is one of the best Venezuelan desserts that is slightly difficult to explain to foreigners because it is quite uncommon outside of Latin America.
This dessert is also called “arequipe” which is a milk caramel that you can put on bread, toast or even eat as it is. It is a little like the “Nutella of Latin America”!
Dulce de Leche is made from condensed milk that is cooked until it turns brown, thick and gooey. Venezuelans add a bit of lemon juice onto it to give more flavour and even mix it on thin waffles.
The Venezuelan recipe is creamier and less watery because they use a whole egg instead of just using egg yolk. The caramel sauce on top makes it even more mouth-watering.
Tajadas is a dish consisting of fried, ripe, raw plantains that are sliced and deep fried in vegetable oil until they are golden brown. They can be eaten alone but are often used as a side dish to the main meal.
Pepito is a traditional sandwich made using beef, pork or chicken. It originates in Spain but is a popular street food in Venezuela. Additional primary ingredients used to prepare this sandwich include refried beans, black beans or pinto beans. The bread can be a soft roll, bun or baguette.
Although the ingredients do vary by region and by people’s preferences, there are a large number of common ingredients that can be added to a Pepito including eggs, onions, cheese, lettuce and avocado.
Cachapas are a sweet corn and cheese hotcake dish, made from fresh corn kernels. The fresh corn is mixed with a very small amount of corn flour and other ingredients like eggs, milk and sugar then processed in a blender into a thin batter.
The batter is cooked on a griddle, after which a thick slice of cheese is place on one half of the hotcake and folded over which cause the cheese to melt. Cachapas are also cooked by wrapping the batter in leaves and boiling in water, giving them a similar appearance to tamales.
Tequeños are Venezuelan bread sticks that consist of queso blanco (fresh cheese) in the middle, and are fried till they become crispy. There are several variations of Tequeños, while some are prepared using different varieties of cheese, many people also make it using sweet fillings such as chocolate or guava. However, salty white cheeses are often found to be widely consumed.
Carne Mechada, also known as Venezuelan shredded beef, is a dish prepared using pulled beef. It is typically accompanied by rice and served as a main meal. It is also used as a stuffing for arepas, sandwiches and empanadas, and it also plays a significant role in the preparation of Pabellon Criollo, Venezuela’s national dish.
Other ingredients added to Carne Mechada include onions, sweet red bell peppers and cumin. The beef is slow-cooked until it is tender and juicy, and packed with flavor. The dish resembles Cuba’s popular shredded beef dish, Ropa Vieja.
Salpicón de Marisco
Salpicón de marisco is a seafood salad consisting of shrimp, octopus, and mussels along with onion, cucumbers and bell peppers tossed in a tangy vinegar based-dressing. It is served chilled, making it a great appetizer on a summer’s day.
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.