The rich flavors of Nicaraguan cuisine have recently popped up in America. Now, you’ll find Nicaraguan food in all kinds of establishments—from the East Coast to the West. Nicaraguan cuisine seamlessly meshes the fried with the fresh. There are as many treats fried in oil as there are healthy dishes, like fresh-caught fish served with gallo pinto, a rice and bean combo. In the States, though, you’re more likely to see variations on this Central American country’s favorite street foods, like the barbecued meats served at roadside stands devoted solely to all things grilled and fried. (Carne asada, anyone?) After all, street food with lots of flavor is hard to resist—even when it’s all dolled up, like the chicken churrasco at the beloved Los Ranchos steakhouse in Miami.
Below, we’ve highlighted seven Nicaraguan dishes you should try to understand what’s so special about their cuisine:
Like quesadillas, Nicaraguan quesillos start with a handmade corn tortilla. Add cream, pickled onions, and a fresh, soft white cheese, and you have a prime example of the food Nicaraguans eat on the go—burrito-style.
Ok, ok. Fritangas are not so much the dish as where you get the dish. But these barbecue stands are a much-beloved part of Nicaraguan cuisine and culture. They’ll serve heaping piles of carne asada (marinated steak), pork, or chicken, along with cabbage salad and gallo pinto—so make sure you come hungry.
3. Conchas Negras
When you think of Nicaraguan cuisine, you can’t forget seafood. Whether it’s seafood stew hearty enough to cure a hangover, or a ceviche brimming with citrus, Nicaraguans know their way around fish, lobsters, and clams. Conchas negras, clams poached in coconut milk and served with fresh pineapple salsa, is on the menu at Chicha Cafetín in Bushwick—an upscale play on a comforting Central American dish.
Nicaraguans have taken a tamale and made it bigger, better, and more flavorful. Rather than a corn husk, nacatamales are steamed in plantain leaves and stuffed with masa, pork, rice, and potatoes. Spiced with bitter orange, paprika, and cumin, this is one Nicaraguan street food you can’t afford to miss.
Nicaraguan frescos, or fresh juices, are as much a part of the cuisine as the food. Think fresh hibiscus and tamarind, as well as juices made from corn and barley. There’s a sugary purple variation called chicha maize—essentially dried corn and sugar water—too. And don’t leave the marketplace without trying semilla—a rice and cinnamon milk similar to horchata.
Serve chicharrones on a handmade pupusa, and you have a classic example of Nicaraguan street food. The fried pork cracklings are fatty and delicious, and you can find them just about everywhere—from roadside stands to sit-down joints in Managua.
If you love plantains, then you’re in for a treat. Nicaraguan cuisine features plantains in multiple dishes, from the sweet, sauteéd maduros to crunchy plantain chips, called tajadas. Whichever way you find plantains prepared in Nicaragua, you can’t go wrong.
Looking for more flavorful Latin American dishes in Miami?