Panamanian Cuisine: Exploring the Flavors of Central America


Panamanian cuisine is a blend of African, Spanish, and indigenous influences, resulting in a unique and vibrant culinary experience. With its abundance of fresh seafood, tropical fruits, and bold spices, Panamanian cuisine is a true reflection of the country’s diverse culture and geography. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most famous dishes in Panamanian cuisine and discover what makes them so special.

  1. Sancocho: Sancocho is considered Panama’s national dish and is a hearty soup made with chicken, vegetables, and yucca (cassava). The soup is flavored with a variety of spices and herbs, including cilantro, oregano, and garlic, giving it a distinctive and delicious taste. Sancocho is often served with rice and avocado, making it a filling and satisfying meal.
  2. Arroz con Pollo: Arroz con Pollo, or chicken and rice, is another popular Panamanian dish. It’s made with chicken, rice, and a variety of vegetables, including peppers, onions, and tomatoes. The dish is seasoned with saffron, cumin, and other spices, giving it a rich and savory flavor. It’s typically served with a side of fried plantains, adding a sweet and crispy contrast to the savory main dish.
  3. Ceviche: With its location on the coast, Panama has an abundance of fresh seafood, and ceviche is a favorite dish among locals and visitors alike. The dish is made with fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juice and seasoned with peppers, onions, and other herbs and spices. It’s often served with crispy tortilla chips or crackers, making it a light and refreshing snack or appetizer.
  4. Ropa Vieja: Ropa Vieja, which translates to “old clothes,” is a traditional Cuban dish that has become popular in Panama. It’s made with shredded beef cooked in a tomato-based sauce with onions, peppers, and other vegetables. The dish is often served with rice and beans and adds a savory and hearty option to Panamanian cuisine.
  5. Tamales: Tamales are a staple in many Latin American countries, and Panama is no exception. Panamanian tamales are made with masa, a corn-based dough, and are filled with meat, vegetables, and spices. They’re then wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed until cooked through. Tamales can be found in various flavors, including chicken, pork, and beef.
  6. Empanadas: Empanadas are a popular street food in Panama and are made by filling a pastry with meat, cheese, or vegetables and then frying or baking it until crispy. Empanadas are often served as a snack or appetizer and can be found at markets, food trucks, and restaurants throughout the country.

Panamanian cuisine is a rich and diverse blend of flavors and influences that reflect the country’s history and geography. From hearty soups to savory meat dishes and light seafood snacks, there’s something for everyone in Panamanian cuisine. So the next time you’re in Panama, be sure to sample some of the country’s famous dishes and experience the vibrant flavors of Central America.

Photo by Mor Shani on Unsplash


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