Panama Food and Drink

Tres leches cake
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All about Panama food and drink, from breakfasts to beverages:

This article will take you on a culinary tour of Central America! Explore the food and drink of every Central America country.

If you're traveling to Panama for the first time, you're probably curious about Panama food. Because of Panama’s diverse Spanish, American, Afro-Caribbean and indigenous influences, Panamanian cuisine ranges from the internationally known to the ultra-exotic. Be sure to follow the links for savory Panama recipes and other fun information about Panama food and drink.

A traditional Breakfast in Panama:

Panama breakfasts often contain deep-fried corn tortillas heaped with eggs and other goodies, including fried meat. If your heart can’t handle it, don’t despair – fresh fruit, eggs and toast are easy to find all over the country. American style breakfasts are also offered in most restaurants. And of course, a cup of Panamanian coffee is a must.

The Main Meals in Panama:

A typical Panama meal usually includes meat, coconut rice and beans accompanied by local fruits and vegetables like yucca, squash and plantains. As with Costa Rica cuisine, this platter is often called a casado (a “married”). On the other hand, the food of Panama’s islands and expansive coasts is vibrant with fresh seafood and tropical embellishments, such as mango and coconut.

Other Panama meals:

1. Sancocho: A Panamanian stew, packed with meat (usually chicken) and an assortment of veggies.

2. Empanadas: Savory corn or flour pastries filled with meat, potatoes and/or cheese. They are sometimes served with homemade tomato sauce. 

3. Carimanola: This is a fried yucca roll stuffed with meat and boiled eggs.

4. Tamales: boiled pockets of corn dough, stuffed with meat and served in banana leaves. Even if you tried these in some of the other countries of the reason, ask for them again in Panama. Each country has its own recipe.

Snacks & Sides in Panama:

1. Yuca frita: Fried yuca root accompanies many Panama meals, serving (and tasting) like tropical french fries. 

2. Plantains: in Panama, plantains come three ways. Patacones - are salty fried green plantains cut crosswise; Maduros - are mature fried plantains (slightly sweeter); and Tajadas - are baked plantains cut lengthwise and sprinkled with cinnamon. They are all delicious!

3. Gallo pinto: It is basically rice and beans that are often mixed with pork (unlike Costa Rica gallo pinto).

4. Ceviche: chopped raw fish, shrimp, or conch mixed with onions, tomatoes and cilantro, and marinated in lime juice. Served with fresh tortilla chips. Popular in every coastal region.

Panama Desserts:

1. Tres Leches Cake (Pasel de Tres Leches): A cake soaked in three kinds of milk, including evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and cream. This is my favorite!

2. Raspados: Panamanian snow cones, topped with sweet syrups and condensed milk. Sometimes you can even ask for some fruit to be added on top of yours. 

Beverages in Panama:

Panama beer brands are Panama Cerveza, Balboa, Atlas and Soberana. Balboa beer is a darker stout-like Panama beer, while the others are lighter brews. Beers in Panama are as cheap as $0.35 US in the supermarket, and about a dollar in restaurants. If beer doesn’t provide the kick you seek, try some Panama seco. This is a fermented sugar cane liquor. You can mix it with milk to lessen the bite (thought that particular cocktail might be even more daring…)

Where to Eat & What You'll Pay:

Panama isn’t the cheapest Central America country. Along with Costa Rica, it tends to be the most expensive. That is because all costs are in American dollars (Panama’s national currency), no fancy calculations are necessary to determine the price of your Panama meal. However, even like that, it still isn't as expensive as destinations in Europe. If you’re looking to save money, sample the most authentic food in Panama at a fonda, or roadside stall.