If you love Central American cuisine, then you’re sure to love the food that Guatemala has for you! Experience the flavors of this country, even when you’re not there, with this list of 15 Guatemalan appetizers.
Before we get to the recipes, let’s first learn more about this country.
Guatemala is well-known for its Mayan culture and the many Mayan ruins within the country.
It’s also known as the country that gave us chocolate!
As the birthplace of chocolate, it’s interesting to note that the word cacao is derived from the Mayan word ka’kau.
Even the word chocolate comes from the Mayan word chocol’haa!
Aside from thanking them for giving us chocolate, we should also thank Guatemala for producing some of the best coffee in the world, for having some of the finest jade around, and for marimba music!
Yes, Guatemala is a country that has a rich heritage that not only consists of coffee, Mayan ruins, chocolate, and great music.
It’s also a country that gives you lots of fantastic eats to enjoy!
This list of 15 Guatemalan appetizers is just the tip of the iceberg since this Latin American country has a wide selection of mains and desserts that you’ll also want to try once you’re done with this collection.
If you want something sweet and somewhat chocolatey from the region, Rellenitos de Platano is a good choice.
You can also try the Guatemalan’s take on popular Latin staples, like tamales with the Tamales Chapines and salsa with the smokier Chirmol Guatemalteco.
You can also go for something you’ve never tried elsewhere, like the Chojin, which is a salad that has pork rinds in it!
For something spicy, #13 is probably right up your alley!
The variety of flavors you can get from Guatemala is evident in this diverse list below.
Enjoy these treats on your next trip to this Central American country, or make them anytime you want at home.
This first sampling of what Guatemala has to offer features flavors you never expected to come together perfectly.
Mashed plantains stuffed with sweetened and chocolatey black beans are served as a snack or a dessert, but some people love it as an appetizer.
Other variations of this dish include slightly spicy fillings with some cayenne powder and a few that combine rice with the mashed plantains.
Some versions add some sticky rice to give the dish added chewiness and some texture.
A cross between an empanada and a quesadilla, You can tweak this Guatemalan dish even more to suit your taste.
Some chilaquiles are filled with local cheese, some tomatoes, and fresh herbs.
Some versions have chayote added to the filling, making it heartier than the tomato one.
For a meatier version, you can add some sauteed ground meat into the tortilla together with the other fillings.
What do you get when you shrink your tamales and add chipilin leaves?
You get this tasty treat from Guatemala!
Tamatilos de Chipilin is essentially a small tamale that is herby and filling at the same time.
If you can’t find chipilin in your local grocery, you can replace it with spinach or buckwheat greens.
One thing to remember when you go to Guatemala and want salsa, this is what you ask for.
This dish uses charred tomatoes, giving it a smoky flavor and darker color.
It’s considered a cousin of pico de gallo, but it’s not since chirmol uses charred tomatoes and the other uses fresh ones.
This salsa isn’t as spicy as some people think, but it does have some chopped, dried chili on the side.
If you want your Chirmol Guatemalteco with a kick, simply sprinkle a little (or a lot) of the chili peppers into your salsa.
Another appetizer that’s almost like salsa but is called a salad is this dish with pork rinds in it!
This dish is often served with beans and grilled meat, combining crunchy, sour, spicy, and sweet flavors.
Don’t want it spicy?
You can always follow what’s done with chirmol and have the chopped jalapenos on the side.
Do you want to serve Guatemalan street food to your family and friends one of these nights?
Pupusas are a good choice since they are straightforward to make and use readily available ingredients.
If you want to add a fresh twist to this dish, a dollop of sour cream, some sliced avocados, and some mild salsa on top should do the trick!
Some chirmol can also be used in place of mild salsa to give it a more authentic Guatemalan flavor.
Another Latin American favorite with different versions in different countries is this variation of the empanada.
Doblada is usually made using corn flour, broth, and tomato sauce mixed into a dough.
The filling can consist of mashed potatoes, shredded chicken, and more tomato sauce, or it can be something as simple as fresh cheese.
These are fried after filling, giving you an appetizer that is soft inside and toasted outside.
Camaron is the Spanish word for shrimp, so this dish is a shrimp ceviche.
Some recipes ask you to Blanche or parboil the shrimp, so you don’t have to eat raw shrimp.
Others let the seafood cook in the limes for a couple of hours while it sits in the refrigerator for half an hour.
If you’re adding tomatoes to this dish, add them before serving to help it retain its freshness.
Dishes using tortillas are very popular in Central America, and this is one such dish you can add to that long list.
Translated as Guatemalan Tostadas, this dish is like an open-faced quesadilla, which can have a variety of toppings on it.
Toppings for these tostadas include guacamole and tomato sauce with fresh cheese, yellow onions, and parsley.
These bite-sized treats are great as canapes but are often served as appetizers and snacks.
This dish combines three main elements – a pickled coleslaw, some sauce, and a meat component.
When piled together, you get a tasty bite that’s tomatoey, meaty, and tangy!
Sprinkle with chopped jalapenos, and you get a slightly spicy appetizer that makes you want to eat more.
One appetizer you can find worldwide, including in Guatemala, is pickled vegetables.
In Guatemala, this is called Curtido.
This particular dish is pinkish in color due to the addition of beets, which tints all of the other veggies in its juices.
You can keep this appetizer in your refrigerator for extended periods since it is soaked in vinegar, which helps keep it from spoiling.
12. Tamales Chapines
When you hear the word “tamales,” you know you’re about to enjoy flavors down south!
This is another popular dish with many versions you can try, with this take being more on the Guatemalan side.
This is one of those Guatemalan appetizers that combines many flavors in a small package, with spicy and aromatic salsa on top.
Sweet, spicy, salty, crunchy, mushy, and smoky are what you get with each piece!
13. Chiles Rellenos
Stuffed peppers are always welcome on any table as an appetizer, and this is one version worth adding to your repertoire of stuffed pepper dishes.
Instead of using ground meat, this recipe uses shredded meat.
You also roast the chiles before stuffing them, as opposed to stuffing them before roasting, which most stuffed pepper recipes call for.
If you want a spicy twist to this dish, you can use jalapeno or Fresno peppers instead of bell peppers.
This is a potato dish that mimics the traditional corn tamales.
Wrapped in a banana leaf, this recipe combines chicken breast pieces, serrano peppers, green tomatoes, and raisins in a spicy, savory, and sweet combo.
Roasting some ingredients before adding them in also adds a smoky flavor to the mix.
Ever think about having a salad that consists primarily of meat?
In Guatemala, they have Fiambre, a salad with heaps upon heaps of cold cuts, vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, and shrimp!
Served usually during All Saints Day, this salad comes out in huge platters with some vegetables cut in decorative shapes for a more festive look.
Don’t worry about the long list of ingredients for this one since you can create a simplified version by omitting some of the meats (and even vegetables) in the mix.
The bottom line
As you can see, there are many recipes for Guatemalan appetizers you can try out at home.
You don’t need to break your passport to book a trip to this Latin American country.
All you need is your local grocery store, a craving for Guatemalan food, and your kitchen!
Taste the flavors of the south without splurging on an airplane ticket and booking a hotel.
You can have the flavors of Guatemala right in your dining room in a matter of hours simply by trying out these recipes.
And if you want more, you can also make a meal out of this culinary adventure by adding Guatemalan main dishes and desserts to your list!
What are you waiting for?
- Rellenitos De Platano
- Tamalitos De Chipilin
- Chirmol Guatemalteco (Charred Tomato Salsa)
- Chojin (Radish Salad)
- Guatemalan Camaron Ceviche
- Tostadas Guatemaltecas
- Tamales Chapines
- Chiles Rellenos
- Find your favorite recipe from our Guatemalan Appetizers list.
- Gather all the ingredients needed.
- Start prepping and make us proud!