Top 10 Things To Eat In Nicaragua

Sunday, June 29, 2014

You’ve just arrived in Nicaragua and you’re looking for the top things to eat in Nicaragua because that peanut butter jar that you, the savvy traveler, have packed is down to its last spoonful. Your heart sinks when you realize that maybe they don’t sell peanut butter in Nicaragua. Pangs of hunger remind you of the deep animal urges that govern you.

You hold your beckoning belly and look out into a busy market of street food vendors. You gaze down another cobblestone street in Granada full of restaurants, ready to jump into the local cuisine. Since peanut butter is no longer going to be on the menu for your trip, what can you expect to be filling your plate and gut with this trip?

To get a sense of the unique food here, with its Spanish, Creole and indigenous influences, here are the top ten Nicaraguan dishes for you to eat while in the country.

Top 10 Things To Eat In Nicaragua

Gallo Pinto

Literally, painted chicken, gallo pinto is the staple food in most Nicaraguan’s diet. Never have grains of rice danced with so much flavor with frijoles.”How could this be,” you ask yourself, thinking, it’s just rice and beans? But Maria, the cook who made them, has a coy, culinary smile on her face, and now you know, Maria is magic, and so are the rice and beans in Nicaragua, tasting in a way no one ever imagined they could. On the Caribbean coast, they mix the rice and beans with coconut. Is it any wonder then why people there walk with a satisfied swagger and often burst out into random song?

Top 10 Things To Eat In Nicaragua

Indio Viejo

The tongue is for tasting and storytelling, and indio viejo (old indian) is a dish peppered with legend. As the story goes, a huddle of indigenous Nicaraguans had just prepared a feast of indio viejo when a group of Spanish conquistadors came by and asked them, “Damn, what smells so good?” The Nicaraguans, suspecting that the Spanish had come to mooch off them, told them that an old Indian had just died and that they were serving him up with tortillas, sending the Spanish along their hungry way.

Indio viejo is actually a delicious, heavy meal that takes several hours to prepare. Using a fatty piece of beef as a base, it is made with onion, sweet chili, garlic, salt, tortillas, pig fat, hierbabuena and sour orange — the perfect plate of gluttony, served just before a nap in one of the ubiquitous rocking chairs creaking across the country.

Top 10 Things To Eat In Nicaragua


For brave travelers not currently reading The Lord of the Flies, pebre is a dish consisting of pig head and other pig parts that the cook happens to have laying around such as liver, ears, tongue, face meat, skin and feet. Throw in some onion, garlic and achiote, mix in some rice into the soup, and you not only have a meal that would satisfy a rogue black bear, but something to tweet home about.

Top 10 Things To Eat In Nicaragua

Elotes (Corn on the Cob)

There’s a simple secret to the corn in Nicaragua, which adds a second level of flavorful fantastic. It’s all in the second cooking. The corn is cooked in its husk and then reheated on a grill when it’s ready to serve, which allows it to retain much of its flavor. Expect lime and salt to be added for flavor.

Top 10 Things To Eat In Nicaragua

Fried Plantains

Locally called tostones, it is this writer’s opinion that Nicaragua makes them better than anywhere else in the Latin American world. Not mushy like the Guatemalan variety, is it any wonder that the letters from crunchy, jungle-grown tostones can be rearranged to read as “Tootness!”— which is the nonsensical word you exclaim when you try them.

Top 10 Things To Eat In Nicaragua


Along the market roads of Nicaragua, you will inevitably come across a vendor selling little packages wrapped in leaves. Inside these leaves, which are not edible, are meat, rice, potatoes, tomatoes, onions and sweet pepper, all cooked in a dough made of ground corn and butter. Nacatamal is boiled for five hours in the leaves, and can easily be consumed in less than five seconds if you put your mind to it.

Top 10 Things To Eat In Nicaragua

Sopa Borracha (Drunken Soup)/Sopa de Rosquillas

Served around the Christmas holidays,  the conversation goes like this:

Tomato Soup: Sopa Borracha, me and the chicken noodle think that you have a problem.

Sopa Borracha: Cinnamon! Sugar!

Tomato Soup: You can’t go on like this. Are you soup or alcohol?

Sopa Borracha: I came for Christmas! I am not even soup, silly tomato purée, I’m actually an alcohol-soaked bread. I laugh in the face of soup. I am a special blend of liquor, soaked in porous bread, mixed with coffee for power! My bread includes cinnamon, liquor, sugar and water and I taste like Christmas, and I pity the sober fool consuming anything other than me.

Sopa de Rosquillas (Donut Soup) – Because it is time to think outside of the bowl. Drunken Soup’s best friend since forever, donut soup, is made with corn donuts mushed into a sweet base. It’s great because — do I really need to explain? It’s soup made out of donuts and haven’t we been subconsciously craving this for years?

Top 10 Things To Eat In Nicaragua

Tres Leches

Now, it’s time for desert, and travelers to Nicaragua talk about Tres Leches like European backpackers speak about Nutella: in hushed, reverent tones that always end with the entreating question, “Do you have any?” Tres Leches is made with three kinds of milk — straight-up normal milk, condensed milk and cream. After that, throw some sugar, flour eggs and meringue in the mix and you are eating a dish that many a Nicaraguan child has stayed up all night dreaming about.

Top 10 Things To Eat In Nicaragua


Ask a Nicaragua to choose between Pinolillo, a corn flour/cacoa-based beverage, and the person they love the most, and they won’t understand the question because they are the same thing. Nicaraguans love their thick, chocolaty Pinolillo like gringos love Nicaragua. And like gringos, it can easily be found in most market stalls.


[Gallo Pinto by Arvind Grover/Flickr; Pebre by Fermentación Guachaca/Flickr; Elotes via Shutterstock; Fried Plantains by Brian Johnson/Flickr; Tres Leches by Omid Tavallai/Flickr]

By Luke Maguire Armstrong / Luke Maguire Armstrong Twitter Matt Stabile Google+

LukeArmstrongLuke Maguire Armstrong lived in Guatemala directing the humanitarian aid organization, Nuestros Ahijados. His book of poetry, iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About, is especially enjoyed by people who “don’t read poetry.”

  • Elizabeth

    These are some really good looking food. Looking forward to trying it!

  • Aaron Pierce


    • Elizabeth

      Really? Who would post that this? Your immature this isn’t some chat room.

  • great share

  • sofia

    yum yum ill tell mom about nica food is so good 8)

  • Azog The Defiler
  • jackie

    Makes my heart sing… I am a proud Nicaraguan!!! Love the article and completely agree on your top choices; however I would have replaced the elotes with baho. If you did not have it yet, it is a MUST! :-)

  • Honey6639

    I love this article it is really really really good article i have ever read it is the best articke i read

  • Peter Sedesse

    Nice article, pretty spot on. Ironicaly, if I had to replace one (because I´ve never seen it) it would be the pig head meal. But I would probably replace it with ´sopa de cola´ which is soup made with cow´s tail. Not sure how unique all of the foods in your list are to NIcaragua, but they are certainly the foods you see sold most often. Possibly sliced mango with vinager also.

    • Jackie

      I can tell you Nacatamales are unique to Nicaragua. Many other Latin American countries and Mexico make tamales, just can’t compared. Pinolillo is also unique to Nicaragua – we use CACAO, the real thing!!! Sopa borracha and Indio viejo, 100% Nicaraguan

  • lona

    wao its awesome sharing.. i like all recipes and some also try. its yummy. you share a good detailed article for us. now i plan to visit this place in real with bus tour to niagara falls from new york city and taste all dishes with my friends.

  • roger

    WOW!!!! Joe doesn’t know what he’s talking about peanut butter sandwich over these food items. WOW AGAIN Joe is entitle to his opinion but he doesn’t know the history behind every dish. Perhaps you should read more

  • Joe

    Did your writer even visit Nicaragua? The only good item on the list was tres leches and it is common in all of latin america. I have lived in Nicaragua for the past 5 years and I will take the peanut butter over any of the items in this article. I find Nicaraguan food bland, the beef tough and gamey.

    • Whoa Joe, you don’t like drunken soup!? You must at least like the concept. And if you’re not into the tostones it must just break your taste bud’s heart. . .

      On a related note, I left a half-eaten jar of Skippy’s peanut butter on the second floor ledge of the Yajure Surf Hostel and San Juan del Sur… it’s not crunchy, but it is smooth, and I bet it’s still there, so feel free to roll by and get it.

    • Azog The Defiler

      You didn’t prepare it correctly then.

      • Did you hear almost the same thing on Dr OZ but adding a baking soda?

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