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Food in Panama

Panama is a beautiful country with a diverse and vibrant culture. If you’re lucky enough to visit Panama on an AMIGOS program, you’ll be delighted by the variety of food! With influences from African, Spanish, and indigenous cultures, food in Panama is a fusion of flavors that is sure to delight your taste buds. 

Let’s take a closer look at a food in Panama that might be the most popular: Sancocho.


Sancocho is a hearty and delicious stew that is a staple in Panamanian cuisine. Made with chicken, yucca, corn, and plantains, this soup is flavored with culantro (a type of herb similar to cilantro) and other herbs and spices. Sancocho is often served with white rice and avocado. 


  • 2 lbs chicken, cut into pieces 
  • 3 ears of corn, cut into thirds 
  • 2 plantains, peeled and cut into chunks 
  • 1 yucca, peeled and cut into chunks 
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks 
  • 1 onion, chopped 
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped 
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped 
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 bunch of culantro, chopped (or substitute with cilantro) 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • 1 teaspoon cumin 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • Water 


  1. In a large pot, add the chicken, onions, bell peppers, garlic, culantro, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. 
  2. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside. 
  3. Add the corn, yucca, plantains, and potatoes to the pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. 
  4. Remove the vegetables from the pot and set aside. 
  5. Shred the chicken and return it to the pot. 
  6. Add the vegetables back to the pot and stir to combine. Let simmer for an additional 10 minutes. 
  7. Serve hot with white rice and avocado on the side. 



Hojaldres are a very typical food in Panama, a type of fried bread that is often served for breakfast. They are similar to a flaky pastry and are typically served with cheese, butter, or jam. 


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening 
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • Oil for frying 


  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. 
  2. Cut in the vegetable shortening with a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 
  3. Gradually add the water, stirring with a fork until a soft dough forms. 
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. 
  5. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut into circles using a biscuit cutter or the rim of a drinking glass. 
  6. Heat about 1 inch of oil in a large skillet or deep fryer over medium-high heat. 
  7. Fry the hojaldres in the hot oil, turning once, until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. 
  8. Remove the hojaldres from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. 
  9. Serve hot with butter, cheese, or jam. 


Other popular dishes 


Ceviche is a seafood dish that is popular throughout Latin America. In Panama, ceviche is made with shrimp or fish and is typically served with lime juice, onions, and cilantro. It’s a refreshing and light dish that is perfect for a hot day. 

Arroz con Pollo 

Arroz con pollo, or chicken with rice, is a classic dish in Panama. It’s made with chicken, rice, onions, garlic, bell peppers, and tomatoes, and is seasoned with cumin and other spices. This dish is often served with a side of fried plantains. 


Tamales are a traditional dish in Panama that is often served during the holidays. They are made with corn dough and are filled with a variety of ingredients, such as chicken, pork, or vegetables. Tamales are wrapped in banana leaves and steamed, giving them a unique flavor and texture. 

volunteers in panama making tamales
AMIGOS volunteers in Panama learning to make tamales

Fruits and Vegetables 

Panama is home to a variety of fruits and vegetables that are popular in the local cuisine. Here are some of the most commonly used: 

  • Plantains: This starchy fruit is a staple in Panamanian cuisine and can be prepared in a variety of ways, including fried, boiled, mashed, or baked. 
  • Pineapple: Panama is known for its sweet and juicy pineapples, which are used in everything from drinks to desserts. 
  • Yucca: Also known as cassava, yucca is a root vegetable that is commonly used in soups, stews, and as a side dish. 
  • Papaya: This tropical fruit is commonly eaten as a snack or used in salads and smoothies. 
  • Mango: Panama is home to a variety of mangoes, which are used in everything from juices to salsas. 
  • Guava: This sweet and tangy fruit is often used to make jams and jellies. 
  • Coconut: This tropical fruit is used in everything from drinks to desserts in Panama, and coconut milk is a common ingredient in many dishes. 

huge fruit in panamaThe food in Panama is a delicious fusion of flavors that is sure to please any food lover. From hearty stews to refreshing ceviche, Panama’s food is a testament to the country’s diverse cultural heritage. Whether you’re exploring the streets of Panama City or visiting the countryside, be sure to try some of the local delicacies – you won’t be disappointed! 

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