About the food of Nicaragua

Carnaval in Managua, Nicaragua. Photo by Jorge Mejía peralta.

Nicaragua is best known for her namesake, which means “surrounded by water.” She boasts great, rolling waves on both shores as well as in the middle. The Pacific Ocean crashes into her western shore – a treat for surfers. Cross over beautiful lagoons, lush valleys, huge volcanoes, tropical rain forests, coffee plantations, and Spanish Colonial architecture…to her eastern shore and you’ll find dreamy Caribbean waters.

Oh, and in between?

Lake Nicaragua (a.k.a. the “Sweet Sea”) home to the fresh water shark. Here, waves crest tall enough to fool the visitor into thinking they are by the sea.

The fresh water shark actually jumps upstream like salmon back and forth from the lake to the ocean.

Crazy town.

A quiet moment on Lake Nicaragua, a.k.a. The Sweet Sea and Cocibolca Lake. Photo by Aaron Escobar.

No matter what part of Nicaragua you’re in, you’ll find gallo pinto – or red beans and rice. This hearty, affordable meal is served any time of day, including during breakfast (perhaps with some cheese or eggs). We made gallo pinto for our Costa Rican Global Table [recipe] and loved how easy it was to throw together.

Gallo pinto also forms the basis of the national dish, called fritanga, which includes a variety of sides such as beef, cabbage salad, fried plantains [recipe], boiled yucca, and fresh herbs like cilantro or green onion.

Catedral de León, Nicaragua.

Inside Nicaragua’s brightly painted cities you’ll find vigoron [Recipe]. This refreshing street food boasts lime-dressed cabbage slaw, boiled yucca, and crunchy pork rinds. Many versions are spicy, loaded up with chili peppers. But no hands allowed! Simply enjoy with your fingers, like a local.

Street in León, Nicaragua. Photo by Micah MacAllen.

Most sweets include some sort of fresh fruit – there all manner of agua frescas (pureed fruit drinks), as well as horchatas (rice based drinks which can include fruit) [Recipe]. For those looking for a slice of heaven, Pio Quinto, or Nicaraguan Rum Cake, popular around Christmastime, and Tres Leches cake (literally “three milks” cake). Both are known to be moist and addictive. We made a Caribbean Tres Leches cake when we cooked the Dominican Republic [recipe]. As the cake sits overnight, it soaks up more milk than a stray kitten.


So, how would you spend your time in Nicaragua? Are you a water lover? A shark lover? A hiker of volcanoes? Do you like walking through town, people watching? I’ll be sharing the menu we chose tomorrow. Meanwhile, what would you eat?

Maps and flag courtesy CIA World Factbook.



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