Food and Drink

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Nicaragua is it food. There are many traditional plates. Nicaraguan plates are always served with fresh ingredients and normally in generous portions. Nicaraguan food is the finest in Central America and the open-minded eater will enjoy a movable feast.

The plate that keeps Nicaragua working hard is gallo pinto, a mixture of fried white rice and kidney beans which are boiled apart and then fried together, often with diced onions and green pepper. Fresh corn tortillas are a great way breakfast with your gallo pinto and also fresh Nicaraguan cream, cheese or cuajada (a slightly salty, traditional soft white cheese). Nicaraguan cheeses are white and vary from dry and slightly bitter to creamy and bland; they are all fresh and many are excellent fried. Similar to the Mexican tamale, the nacatamal is made of corn meal, pork or chicken, peppers, onions and lard and wrapped in a big green banana leaf.

Lunch and Dinner are often big plates full of cabbage salad, white rice, beans, tortilla, onions, fried or boiled plantains and a meat or fish serving. Asado or a la plancha are the healthiest options. Asado is grilled meat or fish and often comes with a mild chile sauce. A la plancha is cooked on a sizzling plate or flat grill, at good restaurants this means the beef, chicken or pork comes out to the table still cooking on its hot plate. For seafood fans, fresh red or white snapper (pargo rojo or pargo blanco), a soft white meat fish, that is best prepared fried whole with a tomato, sweet pepper and onion sauce, is divine. Sea bass (curvina) is also very good as well as lobster or shrimp grilled or sautéed in garlic butter. Lake or river regions are home to fresh water shrimp (camarones de río). Camarones del río are prevalent in the Río San Juan region and very tasty as are the lake fish varieties that include a native perch (guapote) and brim (mojarra) and introduced tilapia, as well as snook (róbalo). These are usually fried whole and served in a tomato, sweet pepper and onion sauce.

Dessert tops off the feast with tres leches, a very sweet desert made from three different kinds of milk with a little cake, while Pio V is a cake with topped with custard and a honey and rum sauce. If on the run there are cajetas, which are various kinds of cane sugar sweets or varied candied fruits.

Nicaragua’s home to numerous fresh fruits, and a fruit drink is called refresco or simply fresco, which means fruit juice, mixed with water and a bit of sugar. There is normally a long list of delicious choices; it will depend on what is in season. Pineapple, carrot, passion fruit, beet, orange, mandarin, lemonade, grenadine, tamarind, mango, star-fruit, papaya, the list is endless. Two very Nicaraguan drinks are cacao con leche and pitahaya. Cacao is the raw chocolate fruit, which is mixed with milk, ice and sugar, while the pitaya is a cactus fruit which is blended with lime and sugar and has a lovely, deep purple color.

Beer lovers can choose amongst three national brands, all lagers, the strongest Victoria, with Toña a softer choice and Premium a clear, light beer. The most famous and popular Nicaraguan drink is rum. Flor de Caña (flower of the cane) may be the finest rum in the world; the factory is more than 100 years old and is a national institution, with seven different flavors aged from 4 to 21 years. Served up with a bucket of ice, a plate of limes and a steady flow of mixers (either Coca-Cola or soda water), this is a social drink and a Nicaraguan way to pass a night at the table. Water is purified and safe to drink in Managua, Granada and León and other major towns. Bottled water is available throughout the country and could be a simple precaution, though ice cubes and fruit drinks need not be from purified water in the cities. Coffee is good if percolated, ask for café percolado.