When I first arrived in Panama, I was astounded by the diversity of the country’s cuisine. Despite its popularity as a tourist destination, Panama’s cuisine is reminiscent of its core Latin American culture and heritage.
Panama’s cuisine mixes Spanish and African influences with indigenous American culinary techniques.
Panama’s cuisine tastes like cultural paradise; those who have experienced the famed dessert, Sopa Borracha, and the traditional main course meal, Sancocho de Gallina, know exactly what I mean.
Locals on coastal shores served delectable fish and vegetable combos. Apart from the sea, however, the most prominent components in Panama are corn, rice, yuca (edible roots), and meat deliciousness.
Wherever I visited in Panama, the cuisine was amazing and unusual, particularly the small places!
If you are visiting the nation and are unsure how to get a true flavor of Panama, I have tasted and evaluated eleven great traditional Panamanian meals.
Panama and its culinary delights topped my list of gourmet hotspots, and here’s everything you should sample on your gastronomic tour of the nation.
Furthermore, check out these 11 delectable Nicaraguan dishes, 15 Greatest Costa Rican Meals, 20 Best Restaurants in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico, and 8 Must-Try Anguilla Restaurants.
- 1 Panamanian Traditional Cuisine
- 2 Snacks from Panama
- 3 Panamanian Cuisine
- 4 Beverages from Panama
- 5 Panama Food Frequently Asked Questions
- 6 The Greatest Panama Meals in a Nutshell
Panamanian Traditional Cuisine
Take a local tour within the quiet villages, street food kiosks, and tiny local family restaurants or eateries before visiting the famous luxury restaurants. There is where you will find Panamanian traditional dishes.
Spending time with locals can help you overcome the language barrier.
Gallina de Sancocho
I first had the famed Sancocho de Gallina at El Trapiche, a tiny, local restaurant with the greatest ethnic cuisine menu in town. Sancocho de Gallina is a Panamanian national dish made with beef, potatoes, cassava, various roots, and seasonings.
The recipes for Panama cuisine are mostly determined by the region. Some people cook Sancocho using chicken, while others use beef or pig. If the restaurants let it, go behind the scenes to see their distinctive cooking method.
The meat (skinless chicken) is first boiled in water with onion, garlic, and sofrito leaf for Sancocho de Gallina.
After sufficiently prepared, the vegetables, which include potatoes, yuca (cassava), plantains, carrots, and sliced corn cobs, are boiled in the same broth (mazorca). The dish is seasoned with salt, pepper, and other spices to add taste.
Sancocho de Gallina is the country’s characteristic chicken stew. This dish combines Caribbean and Spanish cuisines to create two different fusions in one bowl.
Every mouthful of Sancochos was a treat for me. This stew is elevated by the extensive use of culantro (a spicy indigenous spice distinct from cilantro), which adds somewhat sweet overtones to the meal.
Panama’s cuisine does not lack delectable sweets for those with a sweet craving. Sopa Borracha is my particular favorite, and what drew me in were the notes of rum and wine.
Sopa Borracha, which translates approximately as “drunk soup,” is a dish topped with a thick, sugary syrup. Sugar, cinnamon, rum, wine (optional), lemon juice, lemon zest, and sherry make up the syrup. After the cake is finished, it is served with raisins and prunes.
Sopa Borracha is a sponge cake sliced into little pieces served in a cocktail glass. A thick syrup layer is then poured over the cake until it is completely saturated (not submerged).
Locals garnish with dried raisins and prunes. I recall the first time I had it; each taste stood out on its own. With a single mouthful, I could taste the syrup, sweetness, uncommon rum tastes, and softness of the cake all at once; it was intoxicating and little tipsy!
Sopa Borracha is a celebratory meal in Panama, particularly for birthday celebrations, weddings, and Christmas Eve. It is mostly influenced by Spanish cuisine and bread. During the year, you can always find them at local street counters!
Picado de Bistec
Stir fry is fiery, crunchy, and juicy, and it’s ideal for you. Bistec Picado is often served for breakfast in the region, but it may also be served with rice for lunch or as a solitary meal for an evening snack. Breakfast with Bistec Picado was nutritious and very hot! If you like spicy foods, you will enjoy this beef stew.
Bistec Picado is fried in Panama with beef meat (steak or ground) and veggies. After that, the fried meat and veggies are simmered in a delectable tomato sauce and served hot. Every mouthful had a mild and crunchy flavor of onions and bell pepper.
As a snack, pair this meal with a unique Panamanian salad for additional crunch. This meal, which originated in Panama, is already a favorite among both residents and visitors. It’s also a popular meal in Guatemala and Cuba.
Hojaldras is a traditional Panamanian fried bread roll that may be served as a dessert or a savory brunch. While this bread is available during the week, residents prefer it on weekends with bacon, beans, Fritos, and other toppings.
For a superior texture, the bread dough is allowed to rest overnight. The next day, it is cooked and resembles doughnut buns. Panamanian bread is often served with cheese, cream, and various side dishes such as steak and bacon.
The dish is similar to a French breakfast. Hojaldres with Salchichas is a side dish made of sausages stewed in tomato sauce.
When cooked as a dessert, hojaldras are dusted with crushed sugar and flavored with maple syrup or honey. I had the opportunity of tasting both of them, and they were both fantastic!
Snacks from Panama
Traditional snacks abound in Panamanian cuisine. I ate more snacks than main course items. Snacks are widely accessible everywhere in Panama. Every community and beach has a distinct flavor of ethnic food to offer. If you like eating little meals during your vacation, don’t miss out on these classic Panamanian snacks.
Yuca Carimanolas (Meat-Stuffed Yuca)
Carimanolas are crunchy deliciousness in the country, perfect for morning meals and early evening munchies. The snack has yuca and a beef filling.
I was fortunate to discover a local seller who made wonderful Carimanola with a hefty pork filling (not scarce). The outside was crunchy like buttery pastry, but the interior was soft and delicate.
Carimanolas or Yuca fritters are popular Panamanian foods among natives, travelers, and neighbors. They are a terrific buddy to have when walking the streets of Panama.
Locals in Panama provide practically every form of filling, including meat, veggies, and a mix of the two. This snack came in a variety of flavors, including meat, onions, bell pepper, cumin, garlic, and tomato sauce.
Boiling yucas are often mashed with egg, butter, sofrito, and other herbs. It is then allowed to chill in refrigerators. After preparing all of the ingredients, the yucas are filled and then packed in a torpedo-like form for frying.
Patacones, or fried green plantains, are another traditional evening food in Panama. Fried plantains, or plantains in general, are a popular snack in Latin America, not only in Panama.
Fried plantains are to Central America what French fries are to the rest of the globe. Plantains are greener, rawer, and starchier than bananas, and are utilized as a vegetable rather than a fruit.
Green plantains are fried many times in Panama to make crisp and golden brown Patacones, which are then seasoned with salt for a unique flavor.
Want to experience the distinctive cuisine of Panama that people adore every day and night? I stumbled upon a meal called Panamanian tortillas, which is unlike any tortilla you’ve ever had in other Latin American nations.
Platanos en Tentacion and Torrejitas de Maiz are two more unusual Panamanian side dishes. What makes them unique? So, keep reading.
Tentacion de platanos
In Panama, I experienced many unripe plantains, but Platanos in Tentacion was my first ripe plantain encounter; its sweet flavor was calming. Platanos in Tentacion, or “plantains in temptation,” is the next delicious joy for me after Sopa Borracha.
When I first saw this Panama cuisine, I was enticed to try it since it looked unusual, dripping with spicy and sweet sauce. This meal is made by simmering ripe plantains in a thick sweet syrup made of vanilla, cinnamon, sugar, and water.
In addition to frying the plantains thoroughly, the locals add syrup and simmer for another fifteen minutes. The whole tray seems to be sizzling and scrumptious.
If you like hot sweets, Platanos en Tentacion is a must-try during your stay to Panama! Locals eat this as a side dish rather than a dessert.
Torrejitas de Maiz, like Carimanolas, is a fritter delicacy. The batter, which consists of flour, eggs, corn, butter, cheese, adobo, and baking powder, is dropped immediately into hot oil to cook.
Torrejitas de Maiz are a classic Panamanian snack served with Pico de Gallo and Salsa Verde in the evening. Pico de Gallo is a raw salsa prepared with tomatoes, cilantro, chiles, onions, and salt.
Salsa Verde is a green chutney produced from green tomatoes that is often acidic in flavor. These are wonderful, crunchy, and irresistible when dipped in both salsas and more cheese!
The Panamanian tortillas were one of my favorite breakfast options throughout my time in Panama. They’re delicious with eggs, melted cheese, sour cream, and green salsa. Unlike in other parts of the Americas, tortillas in Panama were thick, circular, fried, and crispy, similar to Colombian arepas.
These tortillas, also known as corn cakes, have the thickness of pancakes and are perfectly round in form.
Cornflour is used to make these tortillas in Panama. Both maize and tortillas are typical American cuisines. Tortillas in Panama are either fried or baked. Although frying enhances the overall taste, baked Panamanian tortillas are both healthy and equally delicious.
Tortillas fritters are deep-fried snacks in Panama, while Tortillas Asadas are baked snacks.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. I ate fried tortillas, but baked tortillas are as excellent if you’re trying to eat healthily. These tortillas are cooked in either case.
Beverages from Panama
It’s a hot nation, but happily, Panama is full of wonderful beverages, such as handmade beer, energy drinks, and other local gems that you won’t find in fine dining establishments. Seco was one such satisfying drink for me.
Seco is a well-kept Panamanian secret. It is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from sugar cane. The drink is distilled three times by the natives to attain its full potential.
Seco pairs well with milk and ice, but you may add fresh grapefruit juice to intensify the taste. It is called Panama’s national drink.
Ron Ponche, like other Central American nations, is a favorite Christmas beverage in Panama. Nevertheless, you can find them at any time of year, not only around Christmas.
Panama’s beaches are one of the best places to be intoxicated in love. When the sun warms you, this cold rum eggnog cools you down. It’s a sweet, thick drink mixed with rum, egg yolk, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, and condensed, evaporated milk.
When it has thickened and chilled, a particular quantity of rum is added, depending on how strong you prefer your eggnog. Your Panamanian rum punch is now ready to drink.
Panama also offers the traditional Chicheme beverage, which is non-alcoholic and healthful. Dried corn kernels, condensed milk, sugar, nutmeg, and spices such as vanilla and cinnamon are used to make this thick corn-based drink.
In Panama, I used to sip Ron Ponche at night, and my early mornings were filled with Chichemes sweetness. All of the ingredients are heated together until they produce a thick, sweet liquid.
Some people drink it hot and sweet as a dessert, while others drink it cold and with ice. In the morning, I like my Chicheme as a pleasant cool beverage.
Chicheme is also incredibly nutritious and satisfying. Therefore, if you miss breakfast, have this ready while you’re on the go to explore Panama!
Panama Food Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re already in Panama and wondering where to begin your cuisine adventure, this guide is all you’ll ever need.
But, Panamanians are kind and helpful; they may expose you to aspects of Panamanian food that you would never discover on your own.
These are some of the questions and concerns I had when I first visited Panama, which you may use to help you navigate the nation.
What should you eat in Panama?
Avoid the posh restaurants that serve generic meals available all around the globe. Instead, seek local eateries that only provide traditional and typical Panamanian cuisine. I enumerated eleven1 Panamanian delicacies, but that’s not all.
Panama is rich with unusual dishes that closely resemble the country’s strong culture. While visiting Panama communities, walk the streets and sample all of the native cuisine.
What cuisine is renowned in Panama?
Panama is known for its maize, rice, plantains, and beef, and is heavily influenced by Spanish, African, and American culture. Every traditional cuisine I had in the nation had a distinct maize and plantain flavor.
- Seco—the national beverage of Panama.
- Sancocho de Gallina—the national food of Panama.
- Ceviche dish—A seafood cocktail delight.
- Platanos en tentacion—dessert to melt your days in Panama.
What kind of cuisine do Panamanians consume?
Locals like their traditional and traditional cuisine, such as meat (chicken, hog, and beef), fish, maize, and plantains.
What are the most popular veggies in Panama?
As previously said, Panama mostly eats yuca (cassava), squash, and other common vegetables such as onion, tomatoes, and so on. Plantains are also a prominent vegetable in most cuisines, snacks, desserts, and side dishes in Panama.
The Greatest Panama Meals in a Nutshell
My journey in the nation presented me to numerous traditional cultures, local cuisine, their significant culinary history, the stunning sunsets at the beaches, the Panama Canal, and contemporary, sophisticated towns, in addition to the original food.
Panama is endowed with captivating avenues, tranquil beaches, mild waters, hospitable settlements, and helpful natives. If you want to see this wonderful nation, stay in tiny cottages rather than an expensive hotel.
You will never be bored if you live with the people, wake up with their culture, and tour the land with their knowledge. Every day brings a new surprise in Panama, and the food is amazing, making Panama a must-see destination!