Every country has their own holiday traditions when it comes to food, and Guatemala is no exception. Here are the Christmas dishes of Guatemala you need to try to make your Guatemalan Christmas experience complete.
Tamales Colorados (Red Tamales)
Tamales can be had year-round in Guatemala. With over 250 regional varieties, you could spend well over a year trying a different one every day. In Antigua, the specialty is Tamal Colorado (Red tamale), a popular version throughout the country. You can read more about them here as well.
Guatemalan families get together on Christmas Eve to celebrate and dinner is served at midnight – tamales, Pan Frances (Guatemalan “French” bread), and coffee is the traditional meal. And of course, you need to set off fireworks at the stroke of midnight first, eat, then open presents. Fireworks are also set off at midday on the 25th.
Tamales Negros (Black Tamales)
Tamales Negros (black tamales) can be a bit of an acquired taste. They’re basically prepared like a regular tamale for the most part, except a few sweet items are also added to the mix. You can taste the corn dough – disconcerting if you’ve had regular tamales before, but the chocolate sauce, prunes, cinnamon, and raisins make it a totally different dish. The corn dough is also a bit different, as it has champurradas (sweet cookies similar to biscotti) mixed into the dough.
Curiously, these tamales also include a bit of meat (pork or chicken), just like the red tamales, adding to the dissonance of the dish.
Ponche de Frutas (Fruit Punch)
My wife loves ponche de frutas and could chug a gallon daily if she could. Personally, I think it’s super sweet – I like it, but don’t crave it. In Antigua, ponche is easy to find during the month of December, although street vendors might have it only on weekends. This ponche can be consumed hot or cold, though I prefer the first on a chilly night. A cup of ponche, loaded with fruits, goes for Q5.
You can also find the dried fruit required to make this at La Bodegona and pineapple, papaya, and other fruits at the Mercado. Some vendors add jocote fruit as well. This punch is said to originate in Antigua. Find the recipe here.
Ponche de Leche (Milk Punch)
Pretty much every country has their own take on milk punch. In the USA, it’s known as eggnog – their version is much thicker than the Guatemalan punch, as their recipe calls for a much higher ratio of egg yolks to milk and the addition of cream.
Guatemala’s version has a lot more milk, fewer egg yolks, and doesn’t contain cream. For comparison, a standard USA eggnog recipe calls for 3 egg yolks per cup of milk, while the Guatemalan recipe allows just one egg yolk per every 2 cups of milk.
There’s another drink that’s much closer to eggnog here – Guatemalan Rompope. Similar to the Mexican Rompope, the Guatemalan version is creamier (more egg yolks, but less than Mexico’s version) and the recipe includes a generous glass of white rum.
Ponche de Leche (milk punch) is much easier to find in Antigua, as street vendors sometimes offer it during the holidays. To try Rompope, you may have to hunt it down a bit, as this drink is more common in the highlands near Quetzaltenango (Xela) – the drink originates from nearby Salcaja. Or you can make your own, as it’s not terribly difficult to prepare. Find the recipe for Guatemalan Rompope here.
In addition to tamales, you can find other traditional dishes gracing Guatemalan tables. roasted turkey and roasted pork legs are very popular here, as is Pollo Relleno (stuffed chicken).
Pollo Relleno is one of my favorite dishes, but very time-consuming to prepare. My wife makes a delicious version, but it takes her a long time to prepare, as the chicken is completely deboned, including leg bones (lazy cooks do not do this and only stuff the inside of the chicken, bones and all).
The chicken then is typically stuffed with pork, ham, beef, nuts, vegetables, and sometimes raisins, all which has been cooked beforehand. The whole thing is baked in the oven – the smell throughout the house is mouth-watering.
Pollo Relleno (stuffed chicken)
In Antigua, you can find Pollo Relleno at Pimpollo A La Leña, my favorite wood-fired roasted chicken joint. Their recipe is inferior to my wife’s, as it only has beef, apple, nuts, and raisins. It’s the best option available unless you happen to be in my home when my wife makes one ;)
Guatemalans also love to eat apples and grapes at Christmas. Well, all fruits get a lot pricier during Christmas season, to be honest.
What’s your favorite Christmas dish?