Panama may not be known around the world for its cuisine in particular, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ample dishes to savor during your trip to the country. Many of the dishes you’ll find are similar to those in other Central American countries; however, they are unique in their own Panamanian way and give testament to the country’s Spanish, Indigenous and Afro-Caribbean cultures.
The best way to experience Panama’s unique flavors is to grab a seat at a local fonda and try whatever it is the locals are chomping down on. Here is what you’re likely to find:
Traditional Plates: Similar to Costa Rica, you’ll find that the typical plate in Panama is also called a casado. It often consists of coconut rice, beans, fried plantains, yuca, and some sort of meat or fish.
Sancocho: Don’t miss this delicious chicken stew. It’s a popular hangover food, but scrumptious at all times of day. You’ll find this soup across Latin America, but Panamanians claim it as their national dish. In addition to chicken, name, culantro, and yuca are key ingredients.
Seafood: Given the country’s ample coastline, in makes sense that fresh seafood would play a fundamental role in Panama’s cuisine. You’ll find all the staples here, including fish (especially corvina), squid, octopus and shrimp. Be sure to grab a bite of fresh ceviche, or citrus-marinated raw fish.
Hojaldras: Start your morning off right with a Panamanian donut. These pieces of fried dough might not be the healthiest option, but they sure are delicious. Make sure you try them when they are fresh and warm.
Panamanian Coffee: Panama is known internationally for its coffee, and for good reason. The country produces some of the best coffee in the world, especially from the region of Boquete. For an expensive but memorable brew, don’t miss the Geisha.
Fruits: Tasting the tropical fruits and smoothies of Panama is a highlight for many. Local favorites include maracuya, guanabana, guava and papaya, but there are countless yummy varieties.
In addition to local dishes, you’ll also find plenty of international cuisine in Panama. In Panama City in particular, there’s everything from Chinese to Middle Eastern to Italian. Panamanian cuisine does tend to be very fried and very heavy, so indulging in global dishes can be a nice change.
Have you been to Panama? What was your most memorable dish?