Top 23 Panamanian Foods To Try Today

For the renowned Panama Canal, Bocas Del Toro, or even the San Blas Islands, you might be yearning to visit Panama. 

In terms of cuisine, Panama is exceeding all the requirements for diversity. The range of influences on local cuisine is extensive and includes Afro-Caribbean, American, Spanish, and French.

Top 20 Panamanian Foods To Try Today

Expect to find delicious, fresh fish prepared with Latin American seasonings and Americanized fusion recipes. Panama definitely has something to offer everyone.

The cuisine of Panama is rich and diverse, just like the rest of the country.

The history of Panama is reflected in the cuisine, mixing native ingredients with Spanish influences (the conquistadors arrived in 1501) and Afro-Caribbean influences, just as you’d find in a traditional Guyanese recipe.

Depending on the region, different foods and substances are used.

While vegetables, pork, and chicken are more common in the hilly interior of the country, seafood, pork, and other meats are more common on the country’s Caribbean coast.

Due to the fact that Panama was formerly a part of Colombia, the cuisines of Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, and Panama are similar.

What are the most popular dishes in Panama? See our list of the top 20 foods from Panama, along with a description of each.

Top 23 Delicious Panamanian Foods

1. Arroz Con Pollo

Arroz with pollo in Peru and Cuba might be considerably distinct from one another. The basic ingredients for Arroz Con Pollo are chicken and rice. In fact, locals dislike any extra ingredients that change the original recipe. 

You will undoubtedly eat this dish at some time when visiting Panama because it is a traditional panamanian dish. This traditional Spanish and Latin American recipe combines flavorful rice with tender chicken to make a hearty supper.

2. Sancocho

A traditional Panama soup called sancocho is created with chicken and a variety of vegetables that are cooked in a nourishing broth. It’s one of the most well-known dishes in Panama, and for good reason!

The simplicity and distinctive flavour of this soup contribute to its popularity. Ame, free range chicken, and culantro are the fewest components used in the soup’s preparation.

It is typically served with a substantial serving of white rice and sweet plantains. The majority of eateries in the city give this Panamanian cuisine its own unique spin. Therefore, don’t prejudge how it will taste!

3. Ceviche

If you ever have the honour of attending a party in Panama, you will undoubtedly be offered this delicacy.

Typically, fish is cooked for at least a whole day in a concoction of onions, peppers, lime juice, and culantro. As you might anticipate from a Caribbean nation, the fish is incredibly fresh.

Ceviche (see also ‘13 Delicious Ceviche Recipes‘) is frequently served with soda crackers, fried plantains, or little wheat cracker baskets. One of the various varieties of this tangy dish is something you must try. On a hot day, it goes perfectly with a cold drink!

4. Carimanolas

If you travel to Panama, you’ll immediately learn that fried food dominates the country.

Accept the delicious culinary heritage and hope that later, when you are sightseeing throughout Panama, you will work off those additional calories. 

Carimaola is arguably one of the most well-liked selections among the many delicious deep-fried options.

Small, handcrafted yucca balls are packed with ground beef or cheese and then placed in the fryer to get the ideal level of golden-brown crispness. 

Grab a handful to enjoy for breakfast or as a noon energy boost while seeing Panama City’s greatest attractions.

Just make sure you get more than one because carimanolas are one of Panama’s most well-liked dishes for a reason.

5. Ropa Vieja

Ropa Vieja might be the most well-known of the must-try national dishes of Panama. Typically eaten alongside white rice and cooked, smashed plantains, stewed beef is cooked with tomatoes, garlic, onions, cumin, and oregano. 

According to legend, the dish Ropa Vieja, which translates to “old clothing,” first appeared in Spain many years ago when a hungry man was compelled to cook a stew using old, shredded clothes because he had run out of food. 

Although Ropa Vieja is a common dish throughout Latin America (it is Cuba’s national dish), the Panamanian version is still a delectable favourite and a must-try dish.

6. Tamal De Olla

Don’t miss the chance to sample Tamal de olla, a flavorful dish from Panama that features European components like raisin, olives, and capers—a reminder of the nation’s Spanish colonial past—if your adventures take you there over the Christmas season. 

Tamal de olla, in contrast to typical tamales enveloped in plantain leaves, is a casserole-style delicacy baked in the oven.

The greatest Tamal de olla is made at home around the holidays, but several neighborhood eateries in Panama City serve a delicious version all year long.

7. Patacones

Patacones are firm green plantains which have been fried, crushed, and then fried again. They are a typical side dish to many regional meals in Panama.

When piled high with meats, cheeses, and regional sauces, they become especially mouth-watering. 

They are normally warm, savory, and slightly chewy. Peach Fuzz International offers patacones and garlic octopus, a delicious combination that tastes as good as it sounds, for an upscale twist on the traditional staple.

8. Empanadas

Empanadas are delicious pastries loaded with ground beef, potatoes, or cheese that are deep-fried and oozing with flavor. A tasty savory snack that will fill you up and compliments almost any meal.

9. Hojaldre

Pick up a Hojaldre for a classic Panamanian breakfast. A round, flatbread is cooked until it is crisp and light, and it is then covered with cinnamon or sugar, cheese, or sausage.

This beloved Panamanian dish is unexpectedly light and fluffy, and it tastes great with a cup of rich hot chocolate.

10. Raspao

A raspao is Panama’s version of a snow cone, made of shaved ice covered with sweet flavoring syrups. Make this luscious dessert even more wonderful by adding a drizzling of sweetened condensed milk, like the locals do. 

11. No Me Olvides

This is one of Panama’s most well-known foods. A biscuit serves as the base of an ice cream parfait, which is then topped with a big scoop of ice cream, Chantilly whipped cream, and “Grandma’s secret sauce.”

12. Chicheme

There is nothing that compares to an ice-cold mug of Chicheme during a humid Panamanian day, despite the fact that drinking a beverage composed of milk and corn may not sound like it would quench your thirst.

Vanilla and nutmeg mixed cinnamon are the traditional flavours used to flavor this creamy, sweet beverage. 

13. Carne Guisada

In sofrito sauce and tomatoes, a variety of beef meats and potatoes are prepared as carne guisada. Even by itself, the dinner is filling and delicious.

It is a complete main meal that is incredibly healthy and delectable. Carne guisada, however, can be used as an accompaniment dish for other cuisines. Locals consume it with tortillas and bowls of rice.

14. Panamanian Tortillas

Contrary to the more well-known Mexican tortillas, Panamanian tortillas are thick maize cakes. The version from Panama is shaped like a circle and is substantially thicker. Corn dough is used to make the tortillas.

Typically, eggs and cheese are added to this well-known breakfast dish. Some residents favor it with just eggs, while others want it with just melted cheese.

Colombian arepas, a different variety of corn cake, and Panamanian tortillas are comparable. The method of preparation is another distinction between tortillas from Panama.

They can be either grilled into tortillas asadas or deep-fried into tortillas fritas.

These circular, little maize tortillas are frequently deep-fried as a snack food. They often have a golden color and a light sharpness.

15. Yuca Frita

Yuca roots cooked in canola oil are a delicious treat known as “Yuca Frita.” By all accounts, this meal makes a great dish when you intend to be daring.

The meal has a moderate flavor, a texture that is a little gritty, and a taste that is creamy, much like French fries. The Yuca Frita is distinguished by two qualities: its crispiness as well as its acidic flavor.

Yuca roots are cooked with a few drops of lemon juice, which gives the dish its acidity. Salt and some kind of garlic salt are typically sprinkled on top of Yuca Frita by the majority of locals. 

16. Cocadas

Every Panamanian adores the wonderful coconut delicacies known as cocadas. In order to spice up the mixture, Panamanian natives also add a considerable amount of sweet condensed milk in place of eggs.

Cocadas are frequently served as a dessert to finish the meal strong. They frequently have a golden color after baking. Cocadas can be altered and coloured, nevertheless, by certain people who want to make them look finer.

Cocadas is a favorite dish among Panamanian locals, who eat it with practically everything. These delectable sweets pair with just about anything, ranging from chocolate, cinnamon, and dulce de leche to pieces of dried fruit.

17. Platanos Maduros

In essence, Platanos Maduros is ripe plantains with a tasty twist. They form a really sweet and delicious meal that goes well with main dishes like coconut rice.

Fry the soft plantain in a mixture of oil, cinnamon, butter, and vanilla for the key component. It’s often described as being overly sweet.

18. Tamales

Without a hearty serving of tamales, Christmas in Panama is never complete. Typically, plantain leaves are used to make the tamale, which is then cooked with cornmeal, raisins, and some broth. Then it is filled with flavorful chicken.

In addition to being a beloved Christmas treat in Panama, locals also appreciate portions as a special dish at weddings.

The dish is typically served with fried plantains, raisins, and tomato-based sauces. Tamale dishes from Panama are unquestionably a culinary treat.

19. Bistec Picado

Picado means ground or minced, while Bistec signifies steak. In essence, this dish is a rich, filling delicacy created from minced meat accented with a variety of spices.

The majority of residents in Panama traditionally top this dish with bell peppers, onions, or chillies and tomato sauce (for more red chilli sauce recipes, read here).

It should come as no surprise that locals adore this dish due to the flavorful grilled beef sprinkled with a variety of spices and condiments.

20. Primavera Salad

In Panama, vegetarians prefer the primavera salad in particular. Nevertheless, everyone takes pleasure in it equally. The salad is loaded with vegetables and makes a delicious side dish or a nutritious lunch.

Pasta, fresh vegetables, and a variety of peppers are all components of primavera. There might also include cheese and grilled asparagus.

Despite the fact that this salad is typically served as a side dish, it definitely increases the satisfaction of the main course. The fact that it blends nutrition and flavour in one meal is its best feature.

21. Caldo De Bolas De Verde

The delicious and flavorful soup is a product of Ecuador’s coast. However, as a local delicacy, they have quickly gained popularity in Panama.

The soup has green plantain dumplings floating in a beef broth consisting of corn, yuca, and veggies. This dish is praised by the locals for its beauty and flavor.

The majority of people love the flavorful soup with hot sauces, a few lemon or aji bits, and a few onions. Whatever route you take, this will make your taste buds tingle with delight.

22. Ensalada De Papas

This dish is widespread throughout the nation, and thanks to its recognisable bright pink hue, it is simple to identify.

This dish’s main component is potato salad which has been coloured brightly by beet preparation. The potatoes are usually mixed with carrots, celery, and beets after being boiled and diced.

When ready to serve, this is made with a mayonnaise and mustard dressing that is poured over the veggies.

23. Chuletas En Salsa De Piña

In Panama, where tropical fruit will grow pretty well, pineapple is one of the major ingredients. While the pineapple juice is flavored with garlic and then used to cook the meat, this imparts a pleasant sweetness to the sauce.

Pork chops are typically used for this dish, and they are cooked in pineapple juice before being served.

Where Does Panama’s Cuisine Come From?

Much of Panama’s recent history, like that of many other nations in Central America, came from Spain. This therefore implies that Spanish cuisine has a significant effect on many of the foods and cooking methods.

Much of Panamanian cuisine, like that of many other nations on the Caribbean coast, was inspired by the slaves who were imported from Africa to labor in Central America.

Some meals are highly reminiscent of food from Colombia, Cuba, and Jamaica.

This indicates that many of the country’s foods also possess an African flavor (see also ‘26 African Recipes That You Can Make At Home‘). There is also the wonderful indigenous cuisine, which is frequently found further inland.

These cuisines typically feature fruits and vegetables that are indigenous to the area and are a little heartier.

Final Thoughts

Traditional elements of Spanish and indigenous African cultures can be found in Panama’s food. Additionally, it has Native American ancestry.

The traditional dishes of several other countries, like Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia, are similar to those that you will discover in Panama. When you realize that they were all a part of “Gran Colombia,” this is less shocking.

Panamanian locals’ culinary skill offers normally common items a new dimension, making their cuisine distinctive.

This article has listed a few of Panama’s most popular regional specialties for you to try from the comfort of your own home.

Top 23 Panamanian Foods To Try Today

Top 23 Panamanian Foods To Try Today

Recipe by Jenna

Panama is a country that is rich in unique and delicious foods to try. Why not check out our list of the top 20 Panamanian foods and cook something different tonight?

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