Bring a taste of the country into your own kitchen
Belize's favorite holiday foods!
The holiday season in Belize is a time to celebrate with delicious food and drinks. Belize in December should be on your Christmas wishlist. If you're planning a trip to Belize or just want to bring a taste of the country into your own kitchen, here are five must-try Belizean foods to enjoy during the holiday season:
🍒 Fruit Cake: This coveted dessert is a holiday staple in Belize. As soon as November rolls around, Belizeans start purchasing ingredients for their black fruit cakes. They're often made with molasses, burnt sugar, steeped in alcohol, and topped with chewy preserved fruits and pecans. This unique cake has a sweet and tart flavor that's unlike any other.
🍽️ Christmas Ham: Ham is the star of the holiday feast in Belize. Locals place their orders a month or so in advance to make sure they have the perfect entrée for their holiday guests. The ham is glazed with mustard, studded with cloves, and topped with pineapple slices for a flavorful and festive dish.
Rumpopo: Similar to eggnog, this drink is enjoyed in a few Latin countries, but it's especially popular in Belize. Belizean liquor gives it a bit more of a kick than traditional eggnog, making it a must-try during the holiday season.
🥂 Local Wine: During the holiday season, fruits like cashew, craboo, sorrel, and blackberry are harvested to make sweet and tangy wines. Wine-making is a long-standing tradition in Belize, and you can find a variety of flavors at farmer's markets and stores.
🫔 Tamales/Bollos: These traditional Maya dishes, made from ground corn and filled with chicken or pork, are enjoyed throughout the year but are especially popular during the holidays. They're wrapped in plantain or banana leaves and steamed for a unique and flavorful dish.
Add these Belizean foods and drinks to your holiday celebration for a taste of the country's traditions and flavors. These five Belizean foods are sure to add some rich flavor to your holiday season. Don't be afraid to try out new recipes and bring a little bit of Belize into your home.
Try these Belizean Christmas recipes 🎄
4 large eggs, yolks separated (save the whites)
½ cup thick cream
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 large cans evaporated milk
¼ cup of rum to taste
2 tsp of vanilla
2 tsp nutmeg powder (you can also grate the nutmeg yourself)
- Whisk egg yolks and blend in together the cream, sugar, milk, rum, vanilla and nutmeg.
- Put it to chill for 2 or 3 hours.
- Beat egg whites until fluffy and fold into egg yolk mixture.
Belizean Fruitcake (black cake)
3lb brown sugar (set 1lb of sugar aside for stewing fruit)
1/2 pt. caramel coloring
1 qt. rum
1lb mixed peel
1tsp. baking powder
- Soak fruits in rum and sugar for at least seven days before making cake.
- Put aside some flour to use on fruits before adding to batter. This keeps fruits from settling at the bottom of the cake.
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating constantly. Add flour, baking powder and spices into the butter, sugar and eggs mix with a spoon. Then add stout and coloring to the mixture. Beat for about four minutes at high speed. In a separate dish, pour the rum off the fruits.(The rum should be kept to add to the finished cake after cooling) Flour fruits and add to the batter.
- Heat oven to 300F. While the oven is heating, let the batter “settle” a while. Line baking pan with aluminum foil or wax paper. Grease lightly with butter. Spoon batter evenly into the buttered pan about 3/4 full. Bake in a slow oven for about three hours. Insert toothpick in center and it should come out clean when done.
- When cake is completely cool, sprinkle rum all over. Garnished with cherries and walnuts.
- Flavouring improves with storing. You can sprinkle cake again with rum, brandy or wine before storing to enjoy later!
- texture preference can vary: some like it soaking wet, others like it more fruity, more plain or nutty. Feel free to make changes to the recipe as you like.
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Tsp Soy Sauce
1 Tsp Yellow Mustard
1 Tbsp White Vinegar
1/4 Cup Honey
1 Ham of desired size
1/4 cup Yellow Mustard
- MIx all glaze ingredients and set aside
- Mix all Place ham fat side up in roasting pan.
- Spread Yellow Mustard over surface of ham.
- Roast (covered with foil) approximately 1317 minutes per pound.
- Remove ham 20 minutes before finishing.
- Remove any skin.
- Cut ham’s fat surface in uniform diamond shapes and insert cloves in each diamond.
- Brush on glaze.
- Bake 10 minutes (uncovered).
- Reapply glaze and cook for another 1020 minutes or until glaze brown.
- Ham should be 135 degrees in center to ensure that cooking is complete.
1 ½ lbs corn flour for tamales
¾ cups vegetable or olive oil
2 cups water (you may need to add a little more if the dough feels dry)
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
Prepare Belize’s Traditional Red Sauce
3 Tbs vegetable or olive oil
1 Tbs annatto recado paste, premade, available in Latino markets
1 tsp chicken bouillon
1 onion, medium, chopped
1 habanero or other chile pepper like jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and minced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ lb corn flour for tamales
1 cup water, or as needed
½ tsp black pepper
salt, to taste
3 lbs chicken thighs, or your favorite chicken pieces, skinless
2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 to 2 Tbsp achiote paste, premade
2 tsp salt, or to taste
3 cups water
12 banana leaves
Steam Your Tamales
1 or 2 banana leaves, to line the bottom of your steamer pot
2 to 3 cups water, to fill your steamer pot 2 or 3 inches
Cook the Chicken
- In a large caldero or pot, add the chicken. (You can use bone-in for extra flavor and remove the bones after it is cooked, or start with boneless chicken.)
- Add the chopped vegetables, spices and water. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to medium. Cook at a low boil, uncovered, until chicken is cooked, about 25 minutes.
- Scoop out the chicken onto a plate. When cool enough to handle, remove bones and cut into large bite-size chunks or shred. Set aside.
Make the Col (the Annatto-Flavored Red Filling)
- Add chopped cilantro, onions and a chopped, a seeded habanero chile or your favorite chile, such as jalapeño, seeded and minced.
- In a medium pot, mix the salt, pepper, annatto paste, bouillon, onion, garlic and oil.
- Separately, mix the masa and water until it takes on a pancake-mix like consistency. Push the masa mixture through a strainer. This makes it smooth and gives it a nice gelatin-like texture. Return it to your pot with the simmering col red sauce and stir it in, so that the masa is thoroughly incorporated into the sauce.
- Continue cooking for another 10 minutes or so, until the mixture turns a light reddish color and the sauce thickens to a creamy paste-like consistency. Set aside.
Mix the Tamal Masa
- Mix the tamales corn flour with the oil, until the masa consistency is as soft as clay.
- Knead the dough for a couple of minutes with a fork or your hands. “Using your hands works great. That’s how my grandma did it,” says Kendra.
- Form the dough into 12 masa balls. Flatten each into a thick, round tortilla shape.
Prepare the Banana Leaves
- You can find banana leaves in the frozen section of Latino or Asian markets.
- To prepare them, take the package of leaves out of the freezer and let them thaw. Wipe a damp paper towel over each to clean away dust and plant residue. Hold each leaf with tongs over the stove-top gas flame or electric burner, to slightly heat, but not burn it. Cut each leaf into half and spread it out on your work space, flat.
- Place one flattened masa ball in the center of each section of banana leaf.
Build the Tamales
- With the back of your spoon, make an indentation in the center of flattened masa. Into this round small hole, place about 2 Tbsp of stewed or shredded chicken.
- Add 1 tsp of the col or red sauce to the center of each tamal. (Kendra says her family loves col, so she adds extra sauce more for additional flavor—”more like a ladle-full.”)
- Next, fold the banana leaf over the tamal lengthwise and then fold the wide ends, so that it looks like a wrapped present. Tie it closed with kitchen string. (If using foil instead of banana leaves to seal your tamales, wrap a sheet of tin foil tightly around each wrapped square before steaming).
Steam the Tamales
- Place a coin in the bottom of your large steamer or tall pot before filling with water, like Kendra’s grandmother, did to let her know if there is enough liquid in the pot. (Editors: we love this cooking tip: so much!.)
- Line the bottom of the pot with one or two banana leaves, to cover.
- Place the tamales horizontally on the leaf. Add 3 cups of water and bring to boil. Lower heat to medium-high, cover and gently boil for one hour, covered.
- If you hear the penny rattling around, it means the pot needs more water. Add some and let it continue gently boiling.
- After an hour, check the tamales. If you touch one of the wrapped banana leaves and it feels firm, you will know they are fully cooked and ready.
- Cool for 2 to 3 hours before eating. To keep up Doña Paula’s and Kendra’s family tradition, serve with beans and rice on the side—one time a year, during Christmas.