What is Belize food? It’s not exactly famous around the world. So what should you eat when you visit San Pedro Belize?
From a calorific breakfast food you are going to love to fresh lobster & boozy cake. Below are our 21 Top Picks of the best Belize food to eat and drink in San Pedro!
Updated April 2019
Belize Food: Table Of Contents
What to expect from Belize Food in San Pedro Belize?
San Pedro has become incredibly international. Unlike rural areas of Belize where you may end up mostly on a bean, rice and stew diet, San Pedro offers up many world class dining option.
In this article, we’ll focus on a mix of the most traditional Belizean dishes as well as the way Belize has shaped some other cuisine’s and made them their own.
A quick summary of Belizean Cuisine
Belizean cuisine is a mixture of many influences. Primarily Mayan, Mexican and Afro-Caribbean. But also English & Spanish.
Expect to find tacos next to curries and stews on a typical menu.
Belize is the only country in Latin America whose first language is English. And some remnants of English food culture still exist in Belizean cuisines – such as meat pies and Worcester sauce.
San Pedro Belize Seafood
As we are talking about what to eat in San Pedro in this article, being surrounded by both a lagoon on one side and a rich coral reef on the other side, expect restaurants in San Pedro to feature a lot of fresh seafood.
From tropical fish to giant shrimp and Lobster (seasonal). Seafood is present on almost every menu.
Belize National Dish: Rice & Beans
Rice & Beans is not originally from Belize but has become their national dish and is a must eat for any foodie visitor.
Originally a Creole dish but today it’s a staple food of Belizean cuisine and something that will be served with most meals.
In Belize and many other countries there is a big difference between Rice and Beans and Beans and Rice…
At a minimum, the dish of rice and beans in Belize always includes white long-grained rice and red kidney beans, with coconut milk, sage and other spices, ideally it’s a somewhat dry mixture where the individual grains of rice and beans are not stuck together. The beans are cooked separately until soft, and then the rice is added, along with the coconut milk to absorb the bean juice as it cooks.
Belizeans expect that rice and beans will come with three other elements: (1) some kind of stewed meat, (2) a scoop of potato salad, and (3) one or more strips of fried ripe plantain. Often you;ll find that the stewed meat stewed meat is chicken. And it’s good to note that If the host or server doesn’t mention what the meat will be, assume you’re getting chicken. But they do also serve rice and beans with pork, beef or seafood stews.
With Beans and Rice the beans are slowly stewed with onions, garlic, and a touch of recado and coconut oil, until they create a saucy consistency. The rice is cooked separately and the beans are ladled on top or served to the side. Essentially, Rice and Beans is a lot of rice with some beans mixed in. Whereas Beans and Rice is a bean stew served with plain rice.
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Belize Food Podcast
In This Episode:
- We discuss the most important cultural dishes in Belize.
- We ask “Beans And Rice” or “Rice And Beans”?
- Rock Lobster!
- We discover the unhealthiest, yet tastiest breakfast food in the world.
- Plus, The Royal Rat. Is Belize’s famous rodent fit for a queen?
Listen to previous episodes using the links below:
THE BELOW ARTICLE IS A DETAILED COMPANION, NOT A TRANSCRIPT TO THIS PODCAST
Belize Food: 21 Unmissable Dishes To Try In San Pedro Belize Restaurants
NOTE: This is a list of unmissable foods that are popular (and delicious!) in San Pedro Belize. Things you should eat when you visit.
Although many of these dishes are traditional or have traditional elements, this is not solely a list of “mama’s cooking”. Some of these dishes are more international but make use of the local ingredients and cooking styles.
Are they all strictly speaking “Belize food”? No, some have a tenuous connection, but all are must-trys for any trip to San Pedro.
Belize Food: Dinner
Conch Fritters – Palmilla Restaurant (@ Victoria House Belize)
Conch is a marine mollusk. They are all over the ocean floor of the shallow waters surrounding San Pedro Belize. They are larger than you may expect – so discard any images of eating little escargot.
When served fresh, as is easy to achieve when the beach is just meters away, they have a semi-firm texture with a slight chewiness and should not taste “fishy” at all. Somewhat like calamari, but they really have a flavor and texture all their own.
Pictured above – Conch is diced and turned into fritters. The light but acidic pineapple salsa and fruity ginger dipping sauce compliment the salty conch.
Tequila Flamed Shrimp Stack – Palmilla Restaurant (@ Victoria House Belize)
My favorite appetizer from our trip. This shrimp stack was made from layers of red masa cake (made with corn flour) with layers of succulent giant shrimp in-between with mashed avocado and a black bean and pineapple relish.
What made this dish really stand out, other than the fantastic combination of shrimp and the relish, was the masa cake. The photo might make these look dense. But actually, they were light and crispy but soft on the inside.
What could have been a dense and stodgy affair was instead extremely well executed. I want these again!
Shrimp Coconut Curry – El Fogon’s
We tried a few curries while in San Pedro Belize. El Fogon’s Shrimp Coconut Curry came out at number one for a very good reason. Most curries seemed to arrive in two variants – a white sauce, clearly heavy on the coconut and with little other spice. Or a yellow sauce, heavy on the turmeric and more Afro-Caribbean spices, and low on the coconut.
El Fogon provided something outstanding. A dark curry filled with spices and moderate heat, but with a strong undertone of coconut. It was the best of both worlds, a perfect fusion.
Cashew Crusted Grouper – Palmilla Restaurant (@ Victoria House Belize)
The abundant fishing around San Pedro gives this international dish an opportunity to shine. This happened to be one of my favorite dishes from our entire trip.
The crispy cashew crust was perfectly seasoned and seared. Combined with citrus the balance of sweetness and texture from the cashews, along with the sourness and salt took the tender white fish within to a whole another level.
Perfectly cooked and perfectly fresh grouper filet was the star hidden beneath the moor-ish crust.
Papusas – Waruguma
Originally from El Salvador. Papusas are a thick and dense flat bread made from corn flour. They are stuffed with a number of different things. We opted for having them stuffed with cheese! But meat, beans, vegetables or a mix, are also common.
Waraguma in San Pedro Belize is the late evening spot for this post bar snack (which turns into a full meal pretty quickly if you order a few!)
Octopus Tostada – Palmilla Restaurant (@ Victoria House Belize)
Mexican Cuisine is a major influence within Belize food options. A crispy corn tortilla is the base of every tostada dish in this region. This octopus tostada combines the soft and delicate octopus with a Veracruzano sauce made with tomatoes and capers.
Gibnut is a nocturnal rodent that lives in forested areas of Belize. It’s known as the Royal rat since Queen Elizabeth II of England was served one during her 1985 visit to Belize.
It’s a gamey meat that is said to have some similarity to rabbit. During our visit, we were told it was not in season. Visit from December 1st to May 1st for a better chance of trying this unusual food!
Belize Food: Lunch
Lunch seems to be the best time to find the more traditional Belize Food options.
Ceviche is raw seafood cooked without heat using fresh lime juice. Ceviche is incredibly popular throughout Latin America. Each region seems to have its own twist. You can find ceviche for both lunch & dinner in many San Pedro restaurants.
In San Pedro, the main difference seems to be that they add carrot to the ceviche mix. In neighboring parts of Mexico, like Merida & The Yucatan you mainly find tomato and onion to be mixed in.
The carrot adds a sweetness to the dish. I personally find this inhibiting to the overall flavor profile. But doubtless, Belizean ceviche is an important specialty you should try for yourself.
Stew With Rice & Beans And Fried Plantains
Rice & beans, and fried plantains (large bananas). That’s the staple budget meal throughout most of central America.
The rice in Belize is typically cooked with coconut milk which gives it a rich flavor you can’t stop eating.
In San Pedro Belize, it’s normal to have a meat stew with your rice and beans. Chicken, pork or beef are most common. Stews are simple, and everyone has their own recipe. But the primary ingredient of most is “achiote”, a paste made from red recado chilies.
Stew done right will have that umami character, a real sense of comfort food. Normally the dish is not too spicy.
Salbutes are a traditional Mayan food. Mayan cuisine plays a strong part in Belizean cuisine because Belize is traditionally a Mayan land.
Salbutes are a deep fried corn tortilla. A multitude of possible toppings are available. The most common are shredded chicken or turkey (though turkey is more likely in the Yucatan than in San Pedro). Cochinita Pibil (slow cooked pulled pork seasoned with achiote) is also a favorite topping.
Looking for more popular Yucatecan food? Discover more tasty dishes in our Ultimate Merida & Yucatan Guide
Escabeche is a stew or soup made with vinegar as the primary ingredient. The vinegar is typically very strong and overpowering in the dish, so it is a bit of an acquired taste.
Chicken (or other meat) and onions are often the only solids in the dish.
Tacos & Burritos
These universally popular Mexican options are also widely available. The difference is the flavor of the fillings. Ground beef or chicken is most common, with the chicken filling often resembling a version of the chicken stew. We had this breakfast burrito with egg, ham, and cheese.
Lobster (& San Pedro Lobster Festivals)
Lobster season runs from June 15th to Feb 14th each year. It’s impossible to eat lobster legally outside of this season. So, if you are a lobster fanatic, you’ll want to organize your trip to coincide with the season.
At the start of the season, locals and visitors take the opportunity to celebrate freedom from lobster abstinence by holding a number of lobster festivals.
The main one in San Pedro is the aptly named San Pedro Lobster Festival. It runs for about 10 days in June just after the season starts.
Touted as being a little less touristy, the Caye Caulker Lobster Fest runs after the San Pedro Lobster Fest has ended. Around Late June, early July. You can take a quick ferry from San Pedro to Caye Caulker.
Belize Food: Breakfast
Breakfast in Belize starts around 5am – apparently because that’s when the fisherman need to eat before they go out to collect the day’s catch. Fortunately, you can still grab a bite much later on.
Be ready for some calorific breakfast delights…
Belizean Meat Pies
If you like pastry, and why wouldn’t you, then you are going to love these little bites of buttery happiness. And, that said, expect them to be mostly pie and very little meat. The meat filling seems to be mainly to offer some moisture to offset the pastry, and just a little flavor to dance on the taste buds.
Essentially, the local stew will be re-purposed, this time inside a pie. I’m not complaining! It’s worth ignoring your gluten intolerance to try these.
Availability is sporadic. One Deli we went to (Celi’s) has people waiting for the pies to be finished, and can then be sold out within 30 minutes on busy days. Sometime between 7am and 9am is a good bet. Otherwise, you have to go on a pie crawl around town until you find somewhere with some left.
Your life may never be the same again… And your waistline certainly won’t be.
Fry jacks are a fluffy deep fried bread that acts to wrap a variety of fillings. Once again, things like chicken from the stew, ground beef, or a breakfast favorite, scrambled egg with cheese and ham, will all find a place within this calorie laden wake-up food.
After sampling many of these, my favorite was the ground beef option at Neri’s tacos. I’m totally addicted to these.
For a lighter option (breakfast only), Palmilla Restaurant (@ Victoria House Belize) do a healthier version which doesn’t feel like you are eating grease at all – I don’t know how they did it!
A Native American food that is very popular in Belize. The “cakes” are grilled or fried cornmeal flatbreads. Put two together and put ham and cheese in-between and you’ve got yourself a little Johnny cake sandwich.
The name Johnny cake is believed to be derived from a possible original name “Shwanee” after the Native American tribe. When you listen to the local Caribbean sounding accent in San Pedro, you can easily hear the similarity in name, but this is just a theory.
Belize Food: Desserts
Give me some sugar!
Belizean Coconut Pie
Who invented the coconut pie? Many might lay claim to it, but the exact origin seems disputed. Belizean coconut pie differs from other recipes as it’s all about the pie filling, not about the oodles of cream other coconut pies appear to feature.
I’m not dissing cream! I would never dare! But, for the best coconut pie I have ever tasted, Belizean or otherwise, Elvi’s kitchen, a San Pedro institution, is delivering the goods! This dish is popular, and only available from the afternoon until stocks run out. We got a fresh slice just as it became available around 3.30pm. Time varies – welcome to Belizean time!
Belize produces the high-quality cacao, used to produce the finest chocolate. The cacao comes from the inland jungles. In San Pedro Belize we got the opportunity to see the product being made by hand, and you can taste that locally made chocolate too.
Belizean Rum Cake
As you’ll find out below, Belize has an abundance of rum. So, why not bake some in a cake?
We didn’t get to try any during our trip, but look out for this traditional boozy cake when you head to San Pedro.
San Pedro Belize Drinks
What will help quench your thirst in the tropical heat? Rum, of course!
Rum Punch with Belizean Rum
As a sugar producing country, the default spirit is, of course, rum. And lots of it. It’s the primary drink and it’s on every menu.
And as with any tropical country, tropical fruits are just falling off the trees year round. So rum punch is the logical conclusion from these environmental factors.
The recipe is simple. Mix up whatever leftover fruit and juice you have into a big old liquid. Add copious amounts of rum. Optionally, add a little grenadine and a slice of lime if you want to be fancy.
It’s even more fancy when drunk on a Catamaran trip (pictured).
There are multiple rums, but the two main ones you’ll see everywhere are:
- Caribbean Rum – Light golden brown liquid, with a picture of a bird on the front.
- One Barrel – Darker. Picture of a barrel on the front.
According to one expert bartender, locals love the Caribbean Rum, tourists seem to prefer the One Barrel. We managed to confirm that stereotype. The one barrel is richer and fortifies your fruit juice with the taste of spiced sugar. The Caribbean rum is thinner in flavor and more “alcoholy”, it get’s lost in the juice so you can pretend you are not drinking rum at all. Why would you do that?
Belikin (Belize Beer)
Belikin is one of the only beer brands available in Belize, and of the limited alternatives, it’s probably the best beer too. It seems like a smart move to monopolize so that only poor quality beer is able to compete with your brand on a national scale.
So, the good news is, that Belikin regular is a refreshing and slightly malty lager. It does the job! They also make a stout, and some other less available versions like a Chocolate Stout and Verano (summer) beer.
I’d put the chocolate stout at number one, but it’s a little heavy in the hot climate and rare to find. A longer list of beers is available here.
Best Hotels San Pedro Belize – Victoria House Belize Reviews
During our trip to San Pedro we were lucky enough to be staying at The Victoria House Resort & Spa Belize. Lucky because this place exemplifies the very meaning of Caribbean luxury boutique resort.
Pure white sand. Manicured and thick dark green grass, with palm trees perfectly spaced throughout the grounds. White walled buildings with azure colored tin roofs – and sun lounger cushions to match.
Victoria House San Pedro oozes tropical class. You could see yourself sharing a martini with James Bond in his smart-casual linens.
Even though our room was perfect wood chic, and sitting at the pool overlooking the beach is every bit as good as you could imagine… The number one reason for our existence is to eat, and the Victoria House Palmilla Restaurant really excelled beyond expectation.
We’ve mentioned a number of the options above which lie closer to traditional Belize Food. But the international selection will also impress.
Currently, we are awarding the homemade jalapeño poppers as the best poppers we have ever popped, anywhere! The secret? The cream cheese is mixed with shredded chicken. Aside from adding texture, this also holds the inside mixture together – no drippy cream cheese. Just a perfectly warm and gooey interior. Yum!
For beach luxury, impeccable service and a chef that will always leave you wanting more…
For prices and availability Call Toll Free: 1-800-247-5159
Or Check out independent Victoria House Belize reviews plus the latest availability & pricings:
* DISCLOSURE: Our stay & food at Victoria House Belize was provided complimentary. But our opinions are our own, which are that the food and accommodation were awesome! Our blog policy is that any business we feature has attained at least a 4 out of 5 personal, objective rating from us. If not, we decline to promote them.
Food Tours In San Pedro Belize
Looking for a guided foodie trip around the town of San Pedro? At the time of writing the only option is Belize Food Tours.
Transfers to San Pedro
San Pedro is an offshore peninsula, only accessible by ferry or air transfer.
Tropic Air runs direct flights from Cancun (CUN), Belize City (BZE), Guatemala City (GUA), Roatan (RTB) to San Pedro Airport (SPR). Other domestic and international routes are also available
Tropic Air also offers scenic flights of Belize’s famous Blue Hole – Read more in our full article on fun things to do in San Pedro.
The cheaper, slower and less scenic option is the ferry transfer. Ideal for budget travelers. Regular ferries depart from Belize City to San Pedro. There is also an international connection to Chetumal Mexico running once every second day.
See schedules & pricing on Belize Water Taxi Website.
Looking for alternative accommodation? Search for more options in San Pedro Belize now: