The foods eaten by the people of Panama

The food culture of Panama has been influenced by its indigenous communities as well as Spanish, African, and other immigrant groups. Given its strategic location connecting Central and South America, and its historically significant role as a transit point for global commerce (most notably through the Panama Canal), Panama has a diverse culinary landscape. Below is an overview of the types of foods that have been eaten in Panama over the past 500 years:

Indigenous Influence

  1. Corn (Maíz): A staple in many forms, from tortillas to tamales and soups like "sancocho."
  2. Root Vegetables: Yuca, ñame, and otoe are commonly consumed, often boiled or fried.
  3. Fish and Seafood: Given Panama's extensive coastline, seafood has been a staple in the diet for centuries.

Spanish Influence

  1. Rice: Often served as a side dish or as part of one-pot meals like "arroz con pollo" (chicken with rice).
  2. Meats: Beef, chicken, and pork have been incorporated into the Panamanian diet, often prepared in stews or as grilled cuts.
  3. Cheese: Spanish influence brought in dairy products, including various types of cheese.

African Influence

  1. Coconut: Used in both sweet and savory dishes.
  2. Plantains: Consumed in various forms - boiled, fried, or as chips.
  3. Culantro and Achiote: These herbs and spices were brought by African slaves and are used to season a variety of dishes.

Legumes and Pulses

  1. Lentils and Chickpeas: Used in stews and soups.
  2. Beans: Often served as a side dish or as part of rice and meat dishes.


  1. Bananas and Plantains: Consumed in various ways - fresh, fried, or boiled.
  2. Tropical Fruits: Mango, papaya, pineapple, and watermelon are commonly consumed.

Spices and Herbs

  1. Cilantro, Culantro, and Garlic: Commonly used for seasoning.
  2. Chili Peppers: Used to add heat to some dishes, although Panamanian cuisine is not typically very spicy.

Traditional Dishes

  1. Sancocho: A hearty chicken and vegetable soup.
  2. Hojaaldres: Deep-fried dough, often eaten for breakfast.
  3. Ceviche: Raw fish cured in citrus juices.

Sweets and Desserts

  1. Flan: A caramel custard dessert.
  2. Arroz con Leche: Rice pudding flavored with cinnamon and raisins.


  1. Chicha: A term for various types of traditional fermented or non-fermented beverages.
  2. Coffee: Panama produces high-quality coffee and it is widely consumed.
  3. Seco: A sugar cane liquor popular in Panama.

Modern and Foreign Influences

  1. American Influence: Fast food and processed foods are widely available, particularly in urban areas.
  2. Asian Influence: Chinese and other Asian cuisines are available, reflecting a small but influential Asian community in Panama.

Overall, the food of Panama is a rich tapestry reflecting its multicultural history and tropical location. It offers a range of flavors from the sweet and tangy to the hearty and savory, encompassing a variety of cooking techniques and ingredients.

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