Top 37 Foods of Panama – Taste the Authentic Flavors

Panama, a country rich in culture and history, boasts a culinary scene that is a delightful fusion of its diverse heritage. From the bustling streets of Panama City to the serene beaches of Bocas del Toro, the flavors of Panama are as varied as its landscapes.

Whether you’re a seafood aficionado, a dessert lover, or someone who enjoys hearty meals, Panamanian cuisine offers something for every palate. Explore this list, starting from number 37, and embark on a gastronomic journey that will introduce you to the heart and soul of Panamanian dishes.

From the savory Pastel de Carne to the refreshing Ceviche de Conchas Negras, each dish tells a story of tradition, innovation, and passion. Let’s explore the top 37 dishes that define the essence of Panamanian cuisine.

37. Pastel de Carne (Meat Pie)

Pastel de Carne Panama Food

Pastel de Carne is a testament to Panama’s Spanish influence. This savory pie, reminiscent of the European meat pies, is a delightful combination of seasoned meat, fresh vegetables, and occasionally, hard-boiled eggs.

The crust, golden and flaky, adds a crunchy contrast to the moist filling, making it a beloved dish among locals and tourists alike.

36. Ceviche de Conchas Negras (Black Clam Ceviche)

While ceviche is a staple in many Latin American countries, Panama offers its unique version using black clams. The clams, marinated in tangy lime juice, onions, and cilantro, create a refreshing dish that’s perfect for cooling down on a hot Panamanian day.

35. Arepas de Maíz (Corn Arepas)

Corn Arepas Panama Food

Arepas, a gift from indigenous culinary traditions, are thick corn cakes that are grilled to crispy perfection. Versatile in nature, they can be filled with an array of ingredients, from cheese to meat, offering a satisfying meal at any time of the day.

34. Dulce de Zapallo (Pumpkin Dessert)

Panama’s answer to the pumpkin pie, Dulce de Zapallo, is a sweet concoction made by slow-cooking pumpkin with sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. The result is a caramelized dessert that captures the essence of fall, making it a seasonal favorite.

33. Pargo Rojo (Red Snapper)

Panama, with its extensive coastline, offers a bounty of seafood, and the Red Snapper stands out among them. Often grilled or fried to perfection, this fish dish, accompanied by patacones (fried plantains) and a dash of lime, encapsulates the coastal flavors of the country.

32. Sopa de Pata (Cow’s Foot Soup)

More than just a dish, Sopa de Pata is a cultural experience. Made from cow’s feet, vegetables, and a blend of local spices, this soup is not only delicious but is also believed to have medicinal properties, making it a sought-after remedy for various ailments.

31. Bienmesabe (Coconut Cream Dessert)

A dessert that dances between layers, Bienmesabe is a delightful mix of creamy coconut filling and thin wafers. Often sprinkled with cinnamon or other spices, this dessert offers a sweet end to any Panamanian meal.

30. Pesada de Nance (Nance Fruit Dessert)

Pesada de Nance is a testament to Panama’s indigenous roots. The nance fruit, a small yellow berry with a unique tart flavor, is transformed into a delectable dessert when cooked with sugar and water.

The resulting thick, sweet paste pairs beautifully with the saltiness of white cheese, creating a harmonious blend of flavors that is both traditional and beloved.

29. Cocadas (Coconut Candies)

Cocadas Panama Food

Cocadas are a sweet ode to Panama’s tropical abundance. Made primarily from shredded coconut, these candies are often enhanced with the warm notes of cinnamon or the aromatic touch of vanilla.

Found in local markets, they are not only a favorite treat among Panamanians but also a cherished gift, symbolizing the sweetness of the country.

28. Tamal de Olla (Pot Tamale)

Tamal de Olla is a celebration of Panama’s mestizo heritage. Unlike the typical tamale wrapped in leaves, this version is cooked in a pot, giving it its name.

The corn dough, combined with succulent meat and fresh vegetables, creates a dish that is both hearty and festive, making it a staple during celebrations and gatherings.

27. Hojaldres (Fried Dough)

Hojaldres, often referred to as Panamanian “doughnuts,” are a breakfast delight. These deep-fried pieces of dough puff up to achieve a golden exterior that’s crispy, paired with a soft, airy inside.

Whether savored with melted cheese or drizzled with honey, they promise a delightful start to the day.

26. Sopa Borracha (Drunken Cake)

Sopa Borracha Panam Food

Sopa Borracha, or “drunken cake,” is a dessert that tells a story of Panama’s colonial past. This cake, drenched in a syrup made from rum and sherry, is then adorned with prunes and raisins.

The result is a moist, flavorful dessert that carries with it tales of old-world festivities.

25. Plátano en Tentación (Caramelized Plantains)

Plátano en Tentación, or “Temptation Plantains,” is a sweet symphony of ripe plantains caramelized in a rich syrup of sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Their name aptly suggests the irresistible nature of this dish, which can be enjoyed both as a dessert or a side dish.

24. Guacho de Mariscos (Seafood Risotto)

Guacho de Mariscos celebrates Panama’s bountiful coasts. This risotto-like dish, brimming with seafood like shrimp, mussels, and squid, is made creamy with coconut milk.

Local spices add depth, making it a rich, flavorful meal that resonates with the country’s coastal vibes.

23. Bollos (Corn Dough Rolls)

Corn Dough Rolls Bollos

Bollos are a nod to Panama’s agricultural traditions. These steamed corn dough rolls, often filled with seasoned meat or cheese, are a breakfast staple.

Found in most local markets, they are a comforting reminder of Panama’s rich culinary tapestry, blending indigenous practices with modern flavors.

22. Carimañolas (Meat-Stuffed Yuca Fritters)

Carimañolas are emblematic of Panama’s fusion cuisine. The yuca, or cassava, is a starchy root native to South America, and in this dish, it’s transformed into a crispy fritter.

The filling, typically a flavorful mix of beef or chicken, showcases the Spanish influence. Eaten primarily at breakfast, these golden fritters are a delightful start to the day, representing the blend of indigenous and colonial culinary traditions.

21. Bocado de la Reina (Queen’s Bite)

Bocado de la Reina is a dessert that exudes elegance. Combining cake crumbs with raisins and cream, it’s a layered treat that’s both rich and delicate.

The name itself, translating to “Queen’s Bite,” hints at its regal nature, suggesting a dessert that’s been enjoyed by royalty and commoners alike.

20. Carne Guisada (Stewed Meat)

Carne Guisada is a testament to Panama’s love for hearty, flavorful dishes. Slow-cooked beef, tender from hours of simmering, is enriched with a tomato-based sauce, onions, and bell peppers.

The spices used are a nod to the country’s diverse culinary influences. Paired with rice or tortillas, it’s a comforting meal that warms the soul.

19. Yucca Frita (Fried Cassava)

Yucca Frita offers a delightful twist to the conventional fry. Cassava, with its earthy flavor, is sliced and fried to achieve a balance of softness inside and a crispy exterior.

Often served with a tangy sauce, it’s a snack that celebrates Panama’s indigenous roots.

18. Aji Chombo (Panamanian Hot Sauce)

Aji Chombo is not for the faint-hearted. This fiery sauce, made from the potent Scotch bonnet peppers, is a burst of heat and flavor.

Vinegar and spices add depth, making it a must-have condiment in many Panamanian households. It’s a testament to Panama’s Afro-Caribbean influence and the love for spicy foods.

17. Raspadura (Sugar Cane Candy)

Raspadura is a sweet reminder of Panama’s agricultural heritage. Made by reducing sugarcane juice, this candy is a natural sweetener, often used in traditional desserts and drinks.

It’s a rustic treat that connects modern-day Panamanians to their agrarian past.

16. Arepas Panameñas (Panamanian Corn Cakes)

While arepas are popular across several Latin American countries, Panama’s version stands out for its sweetness. These corn cakes, slightly crispy on the outside and soft within, can be enjoyed with cheese or simply savored plain, making them a versatile breakfast item or snack.

15. Chorizo Tablado (Panamanian Sausage)

Chorizo Tablado is a burst of flavors. Made with pork and seasoned with garlic and local spices, this sausage is a culinary representation of Panama’s Spanish influence.

Whether grilled as a side or incorporated into main dishes, it adds a robust flavor profile to any meal.

14. Dulce de Lechosa (Papaya Dessert)

Dulce de Lechosa

Dulce de Lechosa is a sweet homage to Panama’s tropical abundance. Ripe papayas, with their natural sweetness, are cooked with sugar and spices to achieve a jam-like consistency.

Spread on toast or enjoyed as a standalone dessert, it’s a treat that captures the essence of Panama’s lush landscapes.

13. Gallo Pinto (Spotted Rooster)

Panamanian Gallo Pinto stands as a testament to the country’s rich culinary tapestry. Unlike its Costa Rican counterpart, this dish is a harmonious blend of rice and beans, often accentuated by the creamy richness of coconut and a medley of local spices.

It’s a staple that captures the essence of Panama’s diverse culinary influences.

12. Tortilla Changa (Thick Corn Tortilla)

Tortilla Changa is Panama’s hearty answer to the traditional tortilla. Its thicker consistency allows it to be generously stuffed with cheese or meat and then grilled to perfection. Whether enjoyed as a filling breakfast or a midday snack, it’s a beloved Panamanian treat.

11. Bolitas de Queso (Cheese Balls)

Bolitas de Queso

A delightful snack, Bolitas de Queso are deep-fried orbs of cheesy goodness. Their crispy exterior gives way to a molten, gooey center, making them irresistible. Paired with salsa or hot sauce, they’re a favorite at local gatherings.

10. Pulpo a la Criolla (Creole Octopus)

Pulpo a la Criolla is a celebration of Panama’s bountiful coasts. Tender octopus is gently simmered in a robust tomato and onion sauce, resulting in a dish that’s both rich and flavorful. It’s a seafood lover’s dream, capturing the essence of the ocean in every bite.

9. Sopa de Guandú (Pigeon Pea Soup)

This hearty soup, brimming with pigeon peas, vegetables, and spices, is a comforting embrace in a bowl. Especially popular during the cooler months, Sopa de Guandú is a traditional dish that warms the heart and soul.

8. Bistec Picado (Chopped Steak)

Bistec Picado Chopped Steak Panam Food

Bistec Picado is a savory delight. Chopped steak, infused with the flavors of bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes, creates a dish that’s both hearty and delectable. Paired with rice and beans, it’s a meal that satisfies.

7. Tamalitos Verdes (Green Tamales)

Tamalitos Verdes is a vibrant twist on the classic tamale. Infused with a green herb sauce, often made from cilantro or spinach, these tamales are a burst of flavor. Stuffed with chicken or cheese and steamed to perfection, they’re a treat for the senses.

6. Pescado a la Veracruzana (Veracruz-style Fish)

This dish is a nod to Panama’s coastal heritage. Fish fillets, bathed in a tangy tomato sauce adorned with capers, olives, and herbs, showcase the fresh bounty of the sea. It’s a dish that resonates with the rhythms of the ocean.

5. Plátano Maduro Asado (Roasted Ripe Plantain)

Roasted Ripe Plantain Panama Food

Plátano Maduro Asado is a sweet symphony of flavors. Ripe plantains, roasted to caramelized perfection, offer a delightful contrast between their soft interiors and slightly crispy exteriors. Often enjoyed as a side or dessert, they’re a testament to Panama’s tropical abundance.

4. Camarones al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)

Camarones al Ajillo is a seafood aficionado’s delight. Succulent shrimp, sautéed in a rich garlic sauce, create a dish that’s both aromatic and flavorful. Paired with white rice or crusty bread, it’s a culinary experience to savor.

3. Pan Bon (Black Cake)

Pan Bon is a dessert that tells a story. This dense, dark cake, enriched with molasses, dried fruits, and spices, is a festive favorite. Often enjoyed during special occasions, it’s a sweet slice of Panamanian tradition.

2. Chorreadas (Corn Pancakes)

Chorreadas Corn Pancakes Panama Food

Chorreadas is a breakfast favorite. These savory corn pancakes, with their golden hue, can be adorned with cheese, sour cream, or a sprinkle of sugar, offering a delightful start to the day.

1. Sopa de Pescado (Fish Soup)

Sopa de Pescado is a light yet flavorful concoction. Fresh fish, combined with vegetables and seasoned with local herbs, creates a soup that’s both nourishing and delicious. Especially popular in coastal areas, it’s a dish that captures the spirit of Panama’s seas.


Where can I find the best Panamanian food?

The best place to find Panamanian food is in a local restaurant or cafe. You can also find Panamanian food at food markets and street food stalls.

What are some of the most popular ingredients in Panamanian food?

Some of the most popular ingredients in Panamanian food include:

  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Corn
  • Plantains
  • Seafood
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Cheese
  • Spices (such as cumin, cilantro, and garlic)

Final Words

Panama’s culinary tapestry is as vibrant and diverse as its landscapes, seamlessly weaving together indigenous traditions with Spanish and Caribbean influences. From the bustling streets of Panama City to the tranquil beaches of Bocas del Toro, each dish tells a tale of its origins, ingredients, and the hands that crafted it.

Whether it’s the comforting warmth of Sopa de Pescado, the tangy zest of Ceviche de Conchas Negras, or the sweet allure of Dulce de Zapallo, every bite is an invitation to explore Panama’s rich heritage. As we journey from number 37 to the top dish, we’re reminded of the passion and creativity that define Panamanian cuisine.

A gastronomic adventure awaits, so let’s savor each moment and each flavor.