Traditional Panamanian Dishes

Find out about national specialities, traditional dishes, meals and local produce in Panama...

Breakfast (Desayuno)

  • Hojaldras - doughnuts sprinkled with sugar
  • Tortillas - flat pancakes made of corn flour and usually topped with eggs, cheese, or beans
  • Arepas - made of corn flour and usually topped or stuffed with eggs, cheese, or beans
  • Gallo pinto - literally "spotted rooster", made of rice, beans and usually pork, although it can be made with beef, chicken or mixed seafood. It is found in local restaurants

Starters, Snacks or Side Dishes (Entradas, Picadas, Bocadillas, Acompañamientos)

  • Empanadas - pastry filled with meat, cheese, potato or vegetables. Sometimes beef or shrimp is also offered. There are many street vendors with carritos, vendor carts attached to bicycles or motorcycles, selling homemade empanadas on busy streets in Panama City
  • Tamales - corn dough rolls with pockets stuffed with chicken or pork, wrapped in banana leaves and boiled
  • Chicharrones - fried or roasted pork fat and skin
  • Patacones, maduros, tajadas - patacones, or platanos, are fried green plantains, salted; maduros are riper plantains that are sweeter; tajadas are baked with cinnamon
  • Carimañolas - fried rolls stuffed with pureed yuca, meat, vegetables and hard-boiled eggs
  • Tortillas de maiz con queso blanco - corn tortillas with white cheese
  • Yuca frita - fried yuca root served in place of patacones as a side dish
  • Arroz con guandu - rice cooked with beans and spices, often in coconut milk

Seafood and fish (Mariscos, Frutas del Mar, Pescados)

  • Ceviche - a mixture of raw fish, marinated in lime juice, with onion and coriander. The acidity of the fruit juice "cooks" the fish
  • Corvina - locally caught sea bass, fried or baked and served whole, usually with lime or lemon

Main Dishes (Platos Principales)

  • Arroz con pollo -chicken usually slow cooked with vegetables and spices and served with rice
  • Ropa Vieja - literally "old clothes"; made of beef and tomato sauce, served with rice
  • Sancocho - an extremely popular local stew, especially during Carnaval, usually made with chicken vegetables, tomatoes and coriander

Desserts (Tortas, Pasteles or Dulces)

  • Pastel de tres leches - a cake soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream
  • Raspados - ice topped with sweet syrup and condensed milk
  • Flans - egg custard with caramelized sauce
  • Cocades - A light biscuit-like dessert made from shredded coconut, eggs and sugar

Local Produce

A rich variety of locally grown fruit and vegetables (Frutas y vegetales) is brought into Panama City daily. Some are common in other countries but there are also many that are less known, such as uchuvas, guanabana, ñamé, granadilla, nampi, camote, otoe and plantain.

Coconuts are commonly found and used in Panama; vendors sell them on the streets with a slice hacked off to fit a straw. Coconut milk and water can be bought in most shops and is used frequently in cooking.