Belize food & drink

From plush resorts to tiny fishing shacks, island picnics to snacking on the go while sitting in a kayak in the middle of the rainforest, there’s one essential that’s never far from reach: a bottle of Marie Sharp’s hot sauce.

Created by a Belizean businesswoman who has now been inducted into the ‘Hot Sauce Hall of Fame’, this carrot-based habanero pepper sauce lends a burst of fire to every meal. Our tailor made vacations in Belize can even include a tour of the factory, if you’re interested in learning how to make your own.

This guide to what to eat and drink in Belize explores the diverse Caribbean cuisine on offer – and explains why everything tastes better with a sprinkling of hot sauce.

Traditional food in Belize

Each region of Belize has slightly different cuisine – inland, you’ll find predominantly Maya and Mestizo communities, while on the coast it is mainly Garifuna and Creole – but you’ll find some traditional meals everywhere.

Coconut rice and beans are always available, usually accompanied by meat such as stewed chicken that has been rubbed with recado spice, fried plantains, gravy and generous portions of potato salad.
“That’s a typical Belizean Sunday lunch,” says Laura Rendell-Dunn, from our partner Journey Latin America. “During the week, though, tacos are the nation’s favourite dish. Ask anyone from Belize where to eat the best tacos and the reply is always the same: Orange Walk in northwest Belize. The original street food, my favourite tacos were filled with succulent pulled pork pibil.”

On the coast, of course, seafood is the order of the day, and here again Laura is our go-to expert. “The conch season runs from October to May,” she says. “And the best place to eat them is San Pedro on Ambergris Caye – right on the beach I ate the freshest and zestiest conch and lobster ceviche.”

Early July, meanwhile, sees a three-day festival marking the start of lobster season in Belize. “You can pick from barbecued lobster, coconut lobster curry or even lobster thermidor at the many stalls that line the streets in San Pedro town on Ambergris Caye,” says Laura.
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What to drink in Belize

“Belize has great seafood and ceviche, which goes nicely washed down with a Belikin Belizean lager or some form of Caribbean rum-based drink,” says Greg Thurston, from our partner Audley Travel. Cashew wine served over ice is also popular. Belizeans have a saying that it will get you drunk a second time too, if you fall asleep in the sun the next day – so as with Marie Sharp’s hot sauce, a little goes a long way.

Due to the tropical temperatures, you’ll want to stay hydrated while in Belize. Belize’s water company uses groundwater that is filtered and supplied to homes and businesses. The harvesting of rainwater is a practice found in very rural and remote areas of the country. Bringing along a reusable bottle or flask will go some way to reducing the use of plastic in areas where recycling isn’t easy.

Maya chocolate tours

The Toledo district in southern Belize is a little off the beaten tourist track, and an area that Laura suggests visiting if you’d like to add a few more days to a tailor made tour.

“Here, you’ll visit Maya communities who still maintain traditions carried out by their ancestors and are delighted to share the experience with you,” says Laura. “You can learn how the Mayas used to communicate from village to village by beating a drum, and how they crush corn to make tortillas using centuries-old tools and method. Top the experience off with a visit to a cacao plantation. From bean to bar, you’ll not only learn about the chocolate-making process, but you’ll also get to make it yourself.”

Historically, the Mayas believed that cacao was a gift from the gods, and would eat or drink it with every meal. To take the bitter edge off the raw chocolate, it’s often mixed with chilli, cinnamon and vanilla. Locally made chocolate is a popular souvenir from Belize that also provides an income for Maya communities. Taste-wise, it’s leagues ahead of most of the confectionery you’ll find in the supermarkets back home.

Should I eat lionfish in Belize?

Ceviche? Fritters? Barbecued then spooned into tacos? However you choose to eat it, lionfish is a buttery, flaky, white-fleshed fish that has been compared to both cod and lobster – and that for some years now Belizeans and conservationists alike have been eager to see on people’s plates.

Lionfish is an invasive species that breeds rapidly, has no natural predators in these Atlantic-Caribbean waters, and will happily feed on any other fish that cross its path. It’s certainly not good for a healthy reef system. That’s why several of our responsible travel partners offer diving and marine conservation vacations in Belize where you’ll participate in spear fishing programs designed to remove as many of these carnivorous critters as possible.

However, eating the problem away is not that simple. For one thing, lionfish breed at a rate of knots, so even if everyone in Belize was having lionfish for breakfast, lunch and dinner it still wouldn’t put much of a dent in the population. Studies continue into effective, sustainable and humane ways to deal with lionfish, but for now, because of the urgent need for conservation measures, we continue to offer vacations that include recreational spear fishing. We hope that eventually there will be less need for them.

Vegan travel in Belize

“Belizean food is fascinating,” says Emma. “It’s a mix of Mexican, Caribbean, African and Maya culinary influences. Delicious rice and beans, salbutes (think corn tostadas) and coconut curries are just for starters. Our insider contacts mean that we know where to get the best vegan versions of these.”

Traveling as a vegan in Belize isn’t super-easy, but neither is it especially challenging. Plus, the cuisine here tends to be simple and delicious, based around staples such as rice, steamed vegetables, beans and fresh tropical fruits. For an additional thumbs-up from a responsible travel perspective, much of it is organic and locally sourced.

Adept at finding 100 percent vegan food for her travelers, Emma’s own favourite delicacies in Belize include banana bread (“wonderfully gooey”) and fry jacks, similar to beignets and often served at breakfast. Topped with Marie Sharp’s hot sauce, of course.

Responsible Travel would like to thank Belize for their sponsorship of this guide.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Belize Tourism Board] [Marie Sharp’s hot sauce: Chinense] [Rice & beans: Belize Tourism Board] [Cashew wine : Belize Tourism Board] [lionfish: Belize Tourism Board]