If you’re anything like me, your Pinterest boards are full of travel ideas, exotic beaches, and culturally enriching experiences (like meeting local guys as tour guides, obviously.) While some friends may be doing the
lame typical summer vacation at the beach or in Europe, you should seriously consider your next Latin American getaway in Nicaragua.
While Nica offers surf and sun (and really cheap flights), it also has some bomb food. When your country has some of the best weather conditions, you’re bound to make some of the best food and drinks. Plus, since Nicaragua combines both Caribbean and Latin American cultures, their food has even more flair. Best of both worlds, am I right?
If you’re less than skilled in the kitchen, these easy Nicaraguan sweets are perfect for you. My host family used only water, corn meal, cinnamon, and sugar, and the entire process took about an hour. They’re sweet, simple, and pair perfectly with a cup of Nicaraguan coffee.
Typically we Americans think of empanadas as savory, cheesy goodness that we order at our local Mexican joint. Nicaraguans schooled me in this judgement. According to them, we were all very, very wrong. While empanadas can technically be filled with practically whatever ingredients one chooses, typical Nicaraguans fill theirs with sugar, cheese, cinnamon, and nuts. Clearly, it’s not for those on a diet, but this one also pairs really, really well with coffee (it’s a theme).
The country is so obsessed with these filled banana-leaf meals that they sell souvenirs praising them. Seriously, they’re that good. They also take mad kitchen skills and patience to make. After boiling banana leaves, Nicaraguans fill them with rice, meat, sauces, and vegetables and bake them for hours. Worth the wait? For sure.
So while America is just catching onto the whole locally-grown phase, the rest of the world has been doing it for years. And it makes a HUGE difference. Nicaragua has fresh mangoes, bananas, and coconuts that taste like literal heaven. Plus, most areas have at least one kind of fruit growing in their backyards. If you’re looking to get your sugar fix the healthy way, this is mo’ def the way to go.
If you’re looking to get yo’ drank on, Nica has that covered. As home to one of the best rums in the world, Flor de Caña, Nicaragua has rum specialties at practically every restaurant, bar, and café. It’s distilled five times and goes down much, much better than the cheap stuff you’ve been drinking in your dorm room.
While I personally love the Trader Joe’s plantain chips, homemade Nicaraguan plantains blow TJ’s out of the water. Just like their fruit, Nicaraguans have easy access to tons and tons of plantains and have gotten really creative with their recipes. Aside from plain chips and fried plantains, you can find chili, lemon-lime, and sugar-coated flavors in any grocery store.
Even if you’re not a caffeine addict, give black Nicaraguan coffee a shot. You may be in for a surprise because most Nicaraguans automatically add sugar into their coffee and it’s really freaking sweet. If you can’t tell by now, Nicaraguans really dig their sugar and I’m def not complaining about it.
This one sounds vom-worthy when you see the ingredients, but I promise that it’s delish. Quesillos are tortillas wrapped around melted cheese, pickled onions (told you so), vinegar, and a softer type of cheese dependent upon the region. It’s one of those foods you just have to try to see for yourself.
healthy sugar-loaded choice from Nica is their chocolate. While their cocoa is good, their true gem is the chocolate-covered guava candies that you can find at any kiosk or grocery store. The surfing will burn off the calories, I promise.
A perfect beach drink, Gaubul is a mix of mashed plantain and coconut water. Sounds gross, but tastes like you belong in a lounge chair on a Caribbean island.
11. Tres Leches
If you speak even a bit of Spanish, it isn’t hard to figure out that “tres leches” means “three milks.” Shockingly, that’s exactly what makes this dessert so yummy: three layers of, you got it, milk. The cake consists of whole, condensed, and evaporated milk. Not the dessert for our lactose-intolerant friends.
Some people love this cocoa and cornmeal drink, while others swear it’s poison. I think it is, at minimum, an experience that any adventurer needs to try.
13. Gallo Pinto
Last but certainly not least is the famous Gallo Pinto. Like most Nicaraguan foods, it’s a simple mixture of rice and beans, but they must put some kind of drug in it because it is BOMB. Chipotle rice and beans will never measure up, but their food is the perfect excuse to come back and visit Nicaragua again.