9 Central American Street Foods That Need to Get in Your Belly

Lead Photo: Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee
Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee
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Central American food gets a bad rap for being “like Mexican food without the spice,” which is just rude. While it’s true that you may see some overlap, Central American food is unique enough that it deserves more love. I’m totally biased, but the best foods I have ever had have been from Central America. And I want the world to know of these foods because that’s how ñom they are. Today, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica are celebrating their independence day, so in honor of that, we are looking at the street foods that Central America has gifted the world.

Here are 9 street foods you should check out:



Roger Ferrer Ibáñez

Inside the thick corn tortillas of Salvadoran pupusas are customizable varieties. Some options are queso con loroco, refried beans, and revueltas (beans, cheese and chicharrón). Pupusas are already amazing enough, but add more flavor by piling on tangy salsa roja and pairing it with curtido, which is like a briny Salvadoran equivalent to sauerkraut.



Seth Kugel for The New York Times

Around Latin America, quesillo means different things. In Nicaragua, it’s a corn tortilla with cheese, crema, pickled onions, and vinegar. On the street, you’ll find it wrapped up and in a plastic bag for a mostly mess-free meal. (Believe me, I find a way).




Riguas is a sweet dish similar to arepas, in that it’s a dough made from sweet corn and fried on the griddle – like a thicker version of a potato pancake. The Salvadoran meal is sometimes served with cheese or beans.




Shukos are Guatemalan hot dogs, but on steroids. They get that way by getting stuffed with things like guacamole, mustard, chorizo, weiners, bacon, mustard, pepperoni, and more. (If that made you crave hot dogs, check out our list of Latin American perros calientes here).



Roberto Rodríguez

Baleadas are flour tortillas, laid on a hot griddle and folded in half over refried beans, queso duro, and crema. Those are the basics of this Honduran fave, but you can add things like eggs, carne asada, and avocado.


Rellenitos de Platano

This Guatemalan dessert is made of beans and plantains. Platanos are mashed up into a dough, and black beans are prepared separately with sugar. Eventually, the beans make their way into platanos as a filling. They are topped with powdered sugar, and they are the perfect complement to crema.



Mark Brenwall

Vigorón is curtido, yuca, and chicharrones wrapped in a banana leaf. This Nicaraguan meal is the perfect street food because it’s easy to eat on the go.



Enchiladas are one of those foods that differ depending on the country. A row of rolled tortillas, aka the Mexican enchilada, is what some may first picture, but in Honduras, enchiladas have a crispy tortilla at the bottom. On top, there is beef, lettuce, tomatoes, and a red sauce.


Mangos Tiernos/Mangos Verdes

If you haven’t had unripened green mangoes, you haven’t yet lived. Salt, pepper, hot sauce, whatever else you can think of are used to season these mangos, which are a thing all around Central America.