16 Best Foods from Guyana with Recipes

Perhaps the only thing more vibrant than the culture of Guyana is their traditional food! Guyana is the only South American nation in which English is the official language. The majority of the population, however, speak Guyanese Creole, an English-based creole language, as a first language. 

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Due to the abolition of slavery, many immigrants moved to Guyana from places such as India, China, and Portugal. And where there are people- there is food. People from all over the world brought their own dishes and recipes to Guyana, creating the versatile range of cuisine now associated with the country. Here’s the very best Guyanan food you can find:

Pholourie

This yummy Guyanan dish is made from flour, ground split peas, water, and an array of spices. Depending on the specifics of the recipe, you may also find that it contains green seasoning, garlic, pepper, turmeric, onions, and even cumin.

The dough balls are typically around the size of a golf ball and are usually formed by hand. The dough balls are then deep-fried until golden brown and crispy on the outside. 

Pholourie is popular street food in Guyana and you’ll often find it served on street corners from food carts and stands with some chutney dip and tamarind or mango. They’re perfect as a light lunch or as a quick snack. Alternatively, they can be incorporated into part of the main meal. For example, many Guyanans like to add pholourie to Karhi. 

Metemgee

Metemgee is a Guyanese one-pot cuisine that consists of cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, plantains, onions, and garlic stewed in coconut milk with various spices, meats, and duff (wheat flour dumplings). Saltfish or fried fish is traditionally served as a side dish with metemgee. 

According to Guyana tradition, men tend to particularly enjoy the stew, believing it to be a source of virility and physical vigor. This rich and satisfying dish can be eaten at any time of day, but Guyanese prefer it for lunch.

Pepperpot

This dish is a popular holiday meat stew in Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean. In fact, it’s considered the national dish of Guyana. It is cooked carefully and left to simmer slowly on low heat in a dark and rich gravy flavored with cinnamon, brown sugar, and cassareep. Most people enjoy it on a regular basis, and it is no longer limited to the holidays. 

This is not to be confused with the Jamaican pepperpot. It's created with greens and is very different from this one. The base of the sauce used in Guyanan pepperpot is a thick brown sauce called cassareep.

Cassareep comes from the juice of the cassava root, coupled with additional spices. These are all boiled together until it forms a thick molasses-like consistency. You’ll also notice a slight aroma of burnt sugar. 

Fudge

Many people in Guyana enjoy eating fudge, both as a tasty treat or a small snack. Although traditional Guyanese fudge might be difficult to create, most people there have acquired the art.

In Guyana, you can do so at local shops, supermarkets, or small bakeries. Many Guyanese people recall enjoying the traditional fudge in their younger years and in their school days. However, it’s still enjoyed by adults today as a tasty dessert.  

The classic vanilla recipe uses simple ingredients such as evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla essence, margarine/butter, and cocoa powder if desired. Some Guyanese people add other ingredients into the mix including pistachios and other flavorings. 

Lime cookies

These are essentially just regular butter cookies, but they’re packed with a punch of lime flavor for a refreshing and unique twist on a British favorite. You’ll be able to taste both the lime and the nutmeg, and the two will combine on your palate to create a delicious flavor all of its own. However, be careful not to overbake these and always keep a close eye on them as they bake. You’ll know they’re done when they’re golden brown around the edges. 

The surprising flavor combination of lime and nutmeg was sublime. Upon the first bite, these taste almost buttery-sweet thanks to the sugar coating, and tangy all at the same time. The closest American alternative would be a “lime snickerdoodle” which is common among girl scouts. This is a fun Guyanese twist on a popular classic.

Cassava pone

This is a dense vegan sweet pudding that is made using a range of different ingredients including grated cassava, coconut or almond milk, pumpkin, sweetener, and spices- all of which are whipped into a smooth batter before being baked until golden brown. There is a Filipino version of this that is similar, also made with cassava but known as cassava cake.

Keep in mind cassava pone is a pudding NOT a cake. The texture of it when baked will be gooey/dense. You can also make changes and adjustments to the recipe as you see fit. For example, some people choose to switch out the pumpkin and instead replace it with grated sweet potato. The possibilities are endless with this traditional Guyanese dessert. 

Cook-up rice

Cook-up Rice is a one-pot rice dish that consists of rice, a variety of meats, and fresh herbs that are cooked in coconut milk. It was originally considered to be a “peasant dish” as it was very cheap to make.

It was traditionally made to be eaten at the end of the week, by which time, rations would usually be very low or empty. So, making cook-up rice is a great way to use up ingredients that would otherwise go to waste. 

Much like many other peasant recipes, it's made with a lot of seasoning, with the inclusion of fresh herbs such as thyme, green onions, and basil, as well as onions and tomatoes.

Cooking the ingredients in coconut milk imparted a richness that was well appreciated. Prepare a meal Rice is still made to be eaten on Saturdays, but it can also be cooked and eaten every day of the week.

Fried bora

Bora is a fast-growing annual plant grown for its long pods and tasty seeds. It belongs to the Fabaceae family of legumes. It is grown in home gardens and is available at a variety of booths, markets, and supermarkets throughout Guyana. It's used in a variety of dishes, including fried rice, chow mein, macaroni, salad, and soups. 

In Guyana, it is cooked either stewed, curried, fried with chicken, pork, beef, and shrimp. It can be found all across Guyana. It is packed with numerous health benefits and is cholesterol-free. 

Bake

Despite their name, these tasty dough discs are fried. Although they come from the Caribbean, it is difficult to pinpoint an exact origin because the recipe traveled around and altered from island to island before eventually reaching Guyana at some point. Caribbean bakes are all unique. Some are leavened using yeast, while others are leavened with baking powder. 

Although the discs are fried in numerous varieties, some are flatter and some are fluffier. Caribbean bakes, also known as roast bakes when roasted on a griddle, baked bakes when baked in the oven, and floats or fry bakes when fried, are popular on various islands and in Guyana.

Plantain salad

Plantains are a type of banana that looks very much like the real thing but taste completely different from what you’d expect from a regular banana. Plantains are usually larger and tougher than bananas, with much thicker skin. They can be eaten raw but are best when fried. The edges caramelize and become crispy like the edges of pancakes cooked in butter.

Many Guyanese people opt to use plantains in a salad. Green plantains pair well with assertive flavors like chile, onion, and curry, as well as with fatty meats like pork. Partially ripened yellow plantains can be boiled or fried, then mashed to a doughy consistency to make dumplings.

Soursop

Also known as paw-paw, sirsak, and Graviola- soursop belongs to the Annonaceae family, which is commonly known as the custard apple family. The fruits grow on trees and are huge and oval in shape.

The spine-encrusted green skin hides a white, fibrous flesh beneath it. They can grow to be 8 inches long and weigh up to 10 pounds. The flavor of soursop is best described as a cross between mango and pineapple.

Soursop has a long history of use in traditional medicine, and it has been used to treat a variety of health issues and maladies. It delivers a number of health benefits due to its high nutritional profile.

It’s also extremely high in beneficial vitamins such as vitamin C, which is known to boost the immune system and improve overall health. This improves your body’s ability to fight off any infections and harmful pathogens. 

Coconut choka

This is essentially just Fire-roasted coconut pounded into a fine texture, seasoned with onion, garlic, and hot pepper served over dhal and rice and eaten with your bare hands. In order for the coconut choka to have a similar texture to that of using a lorha and sil, the ingredients must be blended or pureed.

If you don’t have a fire pit or an open fire, you can make coconut choka by using a food processor. Making choka by hand is a time-consuming and tiresome process, but the tasty result is definitely worth it!

Gun oil 

Despite the strange name, this dish (thanfully) doesn’t have anything to do with guns, or oil for that matter. Guyanese-style corn is seasoned with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme and simmered in fresh coconut milk.

The corn is cooked until it has absorbed all of the liquid. This is what is known in Guyana as “Gun Oil.” It's extremely tasty and a must-try if you ever find yourself in the country. 

Farine

Farine is what remains after removing the juice from cassava. It's hardly much to get excited about on its own. It's tasteless and dry, yet it serves a purpose.

It has provided for generations of islanders throughout difficult economic times. Cassava grows abundantly in most Caribbean regions; farine is filling and can be securely preserved for extended periods of time.

  • Farine is an acquired taste, owing to its lack of flavor. It can be made into a nutritious drink by combining it with milk and sugar, although it is most commonly used as a component in porridge and bread. It's also used as a thickening factor in soups and stews, such as when preparing cassava cassareep.

Salt Fish

Saltfish is essentially just regular cod that has been preserved by drying after salting. This shouldn’t be confused with stockfish, which is cod that has been dried without the addition of salt. Saltfish is considered a staple food throughout the entire Caribbean. Drying fish was a method used in preserving fish and it helps to give the fish its distinct texture.

Saltfish is a versatile food and can be made with a whole host of other foods and dishes. In Guyana, it is traditionally enjoyed with bake (see above). If you’re frying your saltfish in a pan, you can toss in any vegetables you like but the Guyanese favorites include green onions, mini bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, garlic cloves, fresh thyme, and some fresh parsley along with the all-important salt and pepper to season.

Eddoe soup

Eddoes, also known as taro, dasheen, or cocoyam, is an Araceae family starchy edible root vegetable. It's covered in microscopic hairs. Its flavor is comparable to that of a potato, but with a nutty undertone. It is grown in exotic countries all over the world. They can be cooked, roasted, fried, or included in homemade loaves of bread and puddings. It's also known as the tropical potato.

Eddoe is a barrel-shaped plant with inedible "hairy" skin on the outside. Its flesh can range from white to grey on the inside. Eddoe has a light crumbly texture and a mildly sweet flavor, similar to potatoes. 

Guyanese chow mein

Guyanese chow mein is a fried mixture of noodles, chopped vegetables, meat, and sauces of your choosing with Chinese influences. While heated, this cuisine tantalizes the senses with the exquisite flavor of marinated meat and sauces such as soy, cassareep, and others.

Cassie Marshall
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