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    15 Panamanian Dishes You Must Try

    We might have not made it to the World Cup, yet, but we have pretty mean tamales and our tortillas win the WORLD!

    I love Panamanian food, well, yes, I'm Panamanian, but after living almost 10 years in the States and explaining one too many times all the delicious Panamanian food to friends and how we really don't eat tacos as a national dish (nothing wrong with tacos tho), I think it is time for me to share more info about our cocina to the world, at least to the BuzzFeed Foodie World!

    1. Tamal Panameño

    Cocinerita / Via

    Oh, my grandmas Tamales, not a better way to marry corn, tomato, ají chombo (habaneros), garlic, annato, onions, culantro and many other ingredients all put together as a present wrapped in Bijao leaves and then banana leaves. One grandma prepares it chicken/pork bone in, and the other one boneless, one with only capers, the only with olives. There are many ways to prepare a Panamanian tamal!

    2. Ceviche


    There's Corvina (seabass), sole, cod, octopus, shrimp, calamari, mixed seafood, even pixbae ceviche nowadays! In most places you will find these prepared with lime juice, cilantro, celery, onions, and ají chombo, There are a lot of gourmet versions and I personally like to add citrus fruits, avocado and tomatoes!

    3. Mondongo (Tripe Stew)


    Offal isn't for everyone, but if you want a comforting dish to have on a Sunday with coconut rice and even some fried sweet plantains, this is it. At home we make Mondongo on special occasions and I tend to steal most of the olives!

    4. Mamallena (Raisin Bread Pudding)

    Cocinerita / Via

    I'm not waiting until the end to start with dessert! This is my life, 'Mamallena'. Every other weekend, whenever there was a lot of old bread, my mom makes bread pudding. Not really served the way it looks on this picture, but a very comforty and simple dessert. You can find it anywhere, from the most fancy restaurants to the smallest bakery in town. Nothing beats warm caramelized raisins, sweet crust and chewy-crumbly pudding.

    5. Panamanian Corn Tortillas


    Every single one of my favourite Panamanian breakfast dishes will most likely include tortillas, fried, baked, toasted, grilled, cooked in butter. I really don't care. This is a tribute to corn and how versatile it is, and the dish itself, you can eat tortillas by themselves, with queso fresco, fried eggs, chorizo, chorizo in guiso, mondongo, bistec picado, etc, etc etc. I'm hungry already!

    6. Plátanos En Tentación (Caramelized Sweet Yellow Plantains)


    The same green plantains you've eaten (patacones or tostones), but ripen and sweet, cooked in butter with cinnamon and raspadura (raw sugar cane) or honey, or orange juice, or like my grandma makes it, with KoolAid! ha XD (they will be red so watch out!). These plantains are a fancier way to make TAJADAS (fried sweet plantains), and both are served on their own, or as a side dish, most of us Panamanians expect (or hope) to have a few pieces of sweet plantains in our plate, regardless of the cuisine! We're obsessed!

    7. Yuca Al Moho (Crispy Yuca In Garlic-Lime Sauce)


    Another very popular side dish, very savoury with tons of citrus. Great for breakfast or dinner. A different take on yuca, which is usually eaten fried, in soup, boiled or sautéed in butter!

    8. Chicha de Saril (Hibiscus Limeade)


    The refreshing Chicha de Saril, Raspadura, Hibiscus flowers, lime juice, cinnamon and ginger, wonderful for a hot day, or as a mixer for that classic cranberry vodka drink. It's one of my favourite Summer drinks, right after tamarind, corn and oats juice!

    9. Patacones (Mashed Fried Green Plantains)


    The same as yuca al moho or fried sweet plantains, patacones are wonderful side dish. Very savoury, perfect for either breakfast/lunch/dinner, and there are plenty of ways to use it, my personal favourites: on their own with ketchup+sriracha+mustard, instead of nachos (yass), stuffed with ceviche or fried chorizo.

    10. Chicheme (Sweet Corn Juice)


    Chicheme is everything, a corn drink with cinnamon and sweetness. Lovely to have it warm or cold, completely smooth or with pieces o corn. If too thick you can even eat it with a spoon, and I warn you, a big cup of chicheme is a meal in its own, it'll fill you up!

    11. Empanadas De Plátano Maduro (Yellow Plantains Empanadas)

    Cocinerita / Via

    This dish isn't really traditional (at least not around my family and friends) but it should! We eat empanadas of all sorts, yuca, corn, flour and plantains! Stuffed with cheese and guava, or beans, garlic and chorizo, it's perfect for dessert or a regular meal.

    12. Sao-Saus (Pickled Pigs Trotters) / Via

    Pigs Feet, if you love the citrus and acidity of ceviche and pigs feet, this is your dish! Rum and coke with a good serving of Sao is one of the best ways to enjoy a Friday night. I've never seen it at fancy parties, but who cares for fancy when you're eating this deliciousness.

    13. Hojaldres (Fried Bread)

    Cocinerita / Via

    Hojaldres make the best sandwiches, and depending on the dough they could end up being fully, or chewy, crunchy, light or heavy. It's really up to the cook, and I personally prefer the crispy light ones, except for I end up having over 3, with fried chorizo. It's mostly a breakfast food, but I could have it at any time, any day.

    14. Chicha De Avena (Oats Juice)


    An overnight drink (to soak oats in water) and served with cinnamon and blended with milk. I prefer almond or soy milk, but it is made traditionally with evaporated and whole milk. It's delicious!

    15. Torrejitas De Bacalao (Salted Cod Fritters)

    When you're visiting Panama, you can't leave without trying Torrejitas de bacalao, or the regular corn fritters (torrejitas) they are both completely, totally, definitively tasty. A day at what we call now Sabores Del Chorrillo, by the beach, cold beer, torrejitas, ceviche, fried fish and lobster in hand, it's a day you must try when visiting Panama!

    Ohh, comida panameña ^_^

    These are not all of our traditional dishes, I left out Cow's Tongue Stew, Cocada, Arroz con Coco y Guandú y Coco, Carimañolas, Arroz Con Pollo, Kekes, and many other flavourful dishes, maybe I do a round 2 sometime soon!

    I invite you to visit my blog for more Panamanian and other deliciousness on

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