Bustling indoor food market with diverse fresh produce.

Influences and Diversity

Panamanian cuisine is a melting pot of flavors, blending indigenous techniques with Spanish, African, and even Asian influences. This culinary fusion creates a tapestry as vibrant as the country’s lush landscapes. From hearty meats to zesty salsas, Panama’s gastronomy is a testament to its history as a crossroads of cultures and commerce.

Regional Variations

Head to the Caribbean coast for coconut-infused dishes, or explore the central provinces for hearty inland fare. Don’t miss the Darien jungle specialties that burst with exotic flavors. Each region has its own twist, so consider your palate a passport to the delicious diversity of Panama.

Traditional Panamanian Dishes

Sancocho de Gallina

This is Panama’s answer to chicken soup for the soul. A hearty broth with yam, cilantro, and the key ingredient, ñame (a type of root vegetable), it’s a surefire way to soothe any ailment or hangover.

Ropa Vieja

Literally ‘old clothes’, this dish is anything but. Shredded beef stewed in a tomato-based sauce with a kick of cumin, it’s comfort food that could easily become your new addiction.

Patacones

Fried green plantains smashed into crispy discs—think of them as Panama’s take on french fries. Dunk them in anything saucy for a little slice of fried heaven.

Arroz con Guandú

A festive rice dish mixed with pigeon peas and often coconut, marrying subtle sweetness with earthy tones. It’s the Robin to any Panamanian Batman entree.

Carimañolas

Manioc dough hugs a filling of meat or cheese, then takes a dive into hot oil until it achieves a golden-brown tan. It’s the snack you never knew you needed.

Seafood Specialties

Ceviche Panameño

Raw fish marinated in lime juice and spiced with peppers. It’s like a pool party on your taste buds, and it’s a must-try at the fish market in Panama City.

Corvina

Sea bass often served fried or in ceviche. It’s the Meryl Streep of fish—versatile and universally acclaimed.

Langostinos al Ajillo

Prawns bathed in garlic sauce; it’s the kind of dish that’ll have you plotting to lick the plate in public.

Street Food and Snacks

Empanadas

Stuffed pastries that offer a little pocket of joy. Whether filled with beef, chicken, or cheese, they’re the handheld heroes of street food.

Hojaldres

Panama’s answer to fried dough. Pair it with cheese, or slather it with meats and gravies. It’s essentially a fluffy cloud of fried dough bliss.

Yuca Frita

Cassava turned into golden sticks of joy. They’re like the crunchier, more exotic cousins of potato fries.

Desserts and Sweets

Tres Leches Cake

A sponge cake that’s been swimming in a trio of milks. It’s not just a dessert; it’s a decadent dairy dive.

Flan de Coco

Coconut custard that’s smoother than a salsa dancer’s moves. It’s the kind of sweet that whispers "welcome to the tropics."

Chicheme

A corn-based drink that’s like a liquid hug. It’s sweet, milky, and has the power to transport you to simpler times.

Raspadura

Unrefined sugar cane used in many desserts. It adds a rustic sweetness that’s as raw as Panama’s rainforests.

Beverages

Seco Herrerano

The national spirit made from sugarcane. It’s as clear as your vacation intentions and mixes well with just about anything.

Chicha de Saril

A hibiscus flower brew that’s the color of a Pacific sunset. It’s refreshingly tart and a floral fiesta in a glass.

Ron Ponche

Panama’s take on eggnog, it’s a creamy concoction of rum and spices. It’s like Christmas came early and decided to get tipsy.

Festive and Seasonal Foods

Tamal de Olla

A pot-cooked tamale that’s like unwrapping a present at the dinner table. It’s corn dough layered with meat, then cooked to steamy perfection.

Bollos

Corn dough tamales that are the minimalist cousins of the Tamal de Olla. They’re often enjoyed for breakfast, proving simplicity is delicious.

Dishes for Carnaval

During Carnaval, the country turns into a buffet of indulgence. Think fritters, arroz con pollo, and all the sancocho you can handle.

Dining Etiquette and Mealtime Traditions

When dining in Panama, "elbows off the table" still applies, but leave room for spontaneity. Meals are a social affair, so savor the food and the company. And remember, if someone offers you a hojaldre at 3 AM, it’s not just a snack; it’s an act of love.

Embracing the Flavors of Panama

Panamanian cuisine is a bold, soulful celebration of the country’s cultural mosaic. Every dish tells a story, every flavor takes you on a journey. So, loosen your belt and prepare your taste buds for an unforgettable adventure.