This spring break, my sister and I decided to go on a service trip to San Pedro, Belize. In Belize, I worked at a local school and participate in various community projects in San Pedro. 

When I was not volunteering, I got to explore San Pedro and get a taste of the Belizean culture. I got to go to various restaurants and try many different foods there. More than that, my host family fed me homemade, classic meals that had been passed down.

My host mom, a chef at a local restaurant, made many traditional meals for me, which were better than the meals at the restaurants. In Belize, there were no chain restaurants, every family owned.

About Belize

Rachael Stockel

Belize is a small country in Central America below Mexico and next to Guatemala. In 1981, Belize gained its independence from Britain, so it is a fairly young country.

Belize, the only English speaking country in Central America, has a very mixed group of languages spoken throughout the country. The main languages other than English are Kriol and Spanish, but many other languages such as Garifuna, Mandarin, Mopan Maya, and German are spoken as well.

The country's complex history has lead it to become one of the very special and unique countries in the world.

Different Cultures

Rachael Stockel

One thing I noticed while in Belize is that Belizeans are a very diverse group of people. The largest ethnic groups in Belize are the Creoles, the Mestizos (a mix of Spanish and Mayans), the Maya, and the Garifuna. Other, smaller ethnic groups consist of East Indians, German Mennonites, and Chinese.

This mixture of many different people create such an interesting ethnic cuisine that I was able to try in Belize this year.

My Traditional Food Experience

Because of the many different people that live in Belize, there is no one type of food that is "Belizean food". From eating out at restaurants and my host family's cooking, I had the opportunity to try a wide variety of foods.


The Belizean tamale is a Mexican adapted dish. Instead of using the traditional corn husks to wrap the fillings of a tamale, Belizeans wrap theirs in Plantain leaves. Tamales are filled with a meat, usually chicken, pork, or beef, cheese, and a variety of vegetables, which is then wrapped in masa. Masa is a dough made of corn flour, water, and oil. The pockets' final step consists of wrapping them in Plantain leaves and boiling them.

When I first tried a tamale I was a little thrown off by the texture because I thought that it was just another form of flour tortilla, but the masa is very different from a tortilla. After getting used to that texture difference, I actually really liked the tamale. The standout flavors in the masa and filling became one of my new favorites.


Originally a Peruvian dish, ceviche is a staple in Belize, as most of Belize has close access to the water. Ceviche, in short, is a mix of fish, shrimp, or other seafood, with diced tomato, hot peppers, diced onion, and lime juice.

Ceviche was such a cool dish to try because it is so light and fresh tasting compared to a lot of the other dishes I tried on my trip. I stayed in San Pedro, an island just off of Belize, so I knew that the fish I was eating was super fresh.

Meat Pies

A British inspired dish, meat pies are a small pie-shaped piece of light, flaky dough typically filled with beef and a savory sauce. This dish was served at the school I was working at in Belize as a snack before lunch. It is typically a snack, but some people have it for a meal as well.


Salbutes are a common street dish in Belize. A salbute is a fried tortilla topped with chicken, tomato, onion, lettuce, and other varied toppings.

Just walking around Belize the street food culture was super interesting to me. People on their lunch break or after work line up at carts on the side of the road to get a snack or even a meal. Street food is very popular because people trust what the vendors are making and it is very good authentic food.

Cochinita Pibil

Cochinita Pibil is slow cooked pork that has been marinated and served on corn tortillas with other desired toppings.

This dish was my favorite dish of the whole trip. The woman I was staying with made it one night, and I was amazed at how much flavor was in the pork. I ate it on homemade tortillas with pico de gallo.

Belize is such a wonderful, diverse place to visit and one of the best parts of Belize is how many different foods they have there. Above are the most popular and traditional Belizean dishes. One last note is that most of their meals include rice and beans on the side. 

I highly recommend Belize as a place to take your next vacation. My trip there was one of the best experiences of my life. Not only was the food there amazing, but the people were so kind and welcoming. Belize is truly one of the best places to go.