If there is one thing that you should not miss while in Venezuela, it’s the food. Venezuelan cuisine is born from different cultures such as European, West African and indigenous cultures. The Venezuelans integrated multiple cuisines. They learned to adapt the new food into their cuisine using the ingredients they have on hand to create different fusions.
By combining traditional European and West African dishes with the flavors and spices of Latin America, something special gets created. Even within Venezuela, the flavors of each food can change depending on the region!
Whether you are in Venezuela or just looking for a dish to make this weekend, check out these must-try Venezuelan food for an incredible gastronomic trip!
The Venezuelan Food To Try In This Lifetime
There’s no question why Arepas is so popular across America!
Corn, yam and plantains are staples in Venezuelan cuisine, with many well-known dishes having kinds of maize bread. One such popular food is arepa. Arepa is widely consumed in other countries such as Colombia and Panama, not only in Venezuela.
Arepa is a kind of bread similar to a flat bun. The main ingredient is unleavened corn flour or cornmeal. There are many ways to make arepa, from grilling and baking to steaming. It is common to stuff arepa with various fillings. You can have your arepa stuffed with cheese, meat, beans, eggs, tomatoes, onions, almost anything!
Regions and countries prefer different fillings. This wide variety shows the versatility of the simple arepa bread. Once you taste the slightly sweet, soft cornmeal bread, you will understand why it is such a go-to snack and meal.
Hallaca is the traditional Venezuelan version of tamales, a Mesoamerican dish of corn dough steamed in a corn or banana leaf. The Venezuelan tamales are traditionally a Christmas dish in the country, where families prepare large amounts of them to give to family and friends during the holidays. The festivity is known for its flavorful ingredients.
The ingredients of hallaca include beef, pork, or chicken stew mixed with olives and capers and stuffed in corn dough. These ingredients show how hallaca is different from ordinary tamales; hallaca has a much more generous filling! The flavor and tradition wrapped in this banana leaf dish make it a must-try.
A savory treat wrapped in traditional banana leaves.
Lasagna is a beloved food internationally as it quickly became one of the most iconic pasta dishes out there. It is no wonder that Venezuelans also fell in love with this dish. As lasagna spread through South America, the Venezuelans added their signature touch to the famous dish, making it their own.
Pasticho is a lasagna layered with two sauces. These are the creamy bechamel sauce and a meat sauce seasoned with soy and Worcestershire sauce. Worcestershire sauce is a popular seasoning in Venezuelan dishes, especially stews. Ham is also a customary filling for pasticho as well as cheese. Each family has its unique pasticho recipe, making each bite a unique insight into Venezuelan tradition.
Experience the savory pasta dish, Venezuela-style!
Pan De Jamón
Pan de jamón is a traditional Christmas dish in Venezuela. It is said to originate straight from Caracas. Today, the bread has spread across the country, becoming a beloved holiday staple. Ham, raisins and olives are wrapped together in fluffy dough and baked to create a savory-sweet bread. While the odd, extreme flavor of olives and raisins may be a strange combination, the Venezuelans love their pan de jamon for a reason.
Each bite is sure to be a party of flavor in your mouth! Less traditional versions use cream cheese, nuts, capers, and turkey. A bite of pan de jamón is a memorable experience that’ll keep the holidays in your heart!
A festive bread for a festive season!
If you are looking for a crunchy, cheesy snack, there might be nothing better than tequeños! Legend says that the iconic cheese stick originates from the city Los Teques, the capital of the Venezuelan state of Miranda. Tequeños are very popular these days in the country; they eat it for breakfast, as snacks or as a side dish.
Tequeños are basically breaded cheese sticks. The flat dough is wrapped around a stick of cheese which is then fried or oven-baked. They usually use queso blanco or fresh cheese, giving the snack a salty, chewy inside. The combination of crunch and cream is sure to delight any cheese lover. And remember to whip up a dip to go with it.
Try a tequeño with some guasacaca to ramp up the flavors even more! Guasacaca is a traditional Venezuelan dip akin to guacamole.
A cheese stick with a unique twist.
Venezuela has its version of a creamy liqueur for those that love eggnogs – ponche crema!
Originating in Venezuela, the drink quickly spread to other areas such as Trinidad and Tobago. Ponche Crema involves milk (sometimes condensed milk or cream), eggs, sugar, and rum. The recipe also involves mixing vanilla, cinnamon, lemon zest, and other ingredients into the drink.
While there is a traditional recipe for ponche crema, most Venezuelans know ponche crema by its commercialized version. The original ponche crema was made back in 1904 by Eliodoro González. His brand soon became a holiday staple among Venezuelans.
An official ponche crema did not stop families from creating recipes. You will be able to find homemade ponche crema recipes with their own added flair. Whether homemade or through a bottle, the sweet, creamy spiced liqueur is sure to be a delight on a cold day.
Nothing like a creamy alcoholic drink to warm you up inside!
Perhaps cachapa, a yellow pancake, is just as iconic as Venezuela’s Angel Falls! Cachapa is a pancake made from fresh corn kernels and cooked in a budare, a South American flat girdle. A budare is important in Venezuela since it is a popular tool for cooking arepas and cachapa. Cachapas have been eaten in Venezuela since pre-Columbian times and remain a popular staple up to this day.
Cachapas are folded and filled with queso de mano or handmade cheese. The pancakes can either be a snack or a full meal, depending on the filling you put into it. It can range from light to heavy and sweet to savory. Savory fillings include pork, cheese, and sausage, while sweet fillings can be cream and jam.
A bite of cachapas has a crunchy outer layer and a soft inner layer and combined with soft creamy cheese.
Cheese in a pancake, what’s more to ask?
The Spanish have left a lasting mark in the countries of South America, and one thing that stuck was their food. An example of Spanish influence in Venezuelan cuisine is the humble empanada.
In Venezuela, empanadas are made like arepas, using corn dough instead of flour dough. The filling in Venezuelan empanadas can vary wildly! Fillings include cheese, black beans, shredded beef, pork, and fish! Empanadas are now a staple food in Venezuela. It is also sold all across the country by street vendors. The crunchy corn wrapping and warm, soft filling are enough to satisfy any craving!
A perfect snack or meal for any occasion!
Venezuelans love their soft creamy foods and cheese, and Quesillo is one such delicacy. Translated as little cheese in Spanish, quesillo can differ widely from country to country. In Venezuela, quesillo refers to food akin to flan made of eggs, condensed milk and sugar. It’s pretty similar to what they call leche flan in the Philippines! There are slight differences that make a quesillo distinct from a regular flan. Unlike flans, quesillo uses both egg white and yolk instead of yolk only. A flan has a creamy texture, while a quesillo has a spongier texture.
Quesillo is a beloved Venezuelan dessert. They like to make quesillo for many occasions, from birthdays to holidays. Once you taste the creamy, sweet flavor of the soft Venezuelan flan, you will understand why Venezuelans make quesillos for every celebration.
A comforting creamy explosion in every bite!
If there is one dish that you absolutely can’t forget when thinking of Venezuelan Cuisine, it’s pabellón criollo.
Pabellón criollo is Venezuela’s national dish. It is said that the four main ingredients symbolize the different ethnicities in Venezuela during its independence from Spain: yellow plantains and brown meat for the indigenous people, white rice for the Europeans, and black beans for the Africans. And each of these four ingredients mingles with each other to create this flavorful and beloved dish!
The Carne Mechada or shredded beef is stewed in spices to provide the main flavors with the stewed black beans. The Tajadas or fried plantains add a crunchy, sweet-sour dimension to the dish. And the white rice soaks up the flavorful sauce and rounds up the hearty meal. With such a flavorful yet simple dish, it’s no wonder pabellón criollo has grabbed the hearts of Venezuelans everywhere.
Venezuelan cuisine is something you would not want to ignore. We hope these dishes inspired you to try out the food of this South American country. The next time you are shopping for groceries and see a bag of cornmeal or cornflour, you might want to try out a recipe or two of these delicious dishes.
Consider trying out their artisanal queso de mano on your next trip to Venezuela! No matter the circumstance, tasting Venezuelan cuisine is sure to be a pleasurable experience.
Which of these Venezuelan foods do you most want to try? Let us know in the comments section below!
Written by Julien Mordret
About Exploration Junkie
Julien Mordret is the guy behind Exploration Junkie. He loves to share his passion and experiences with travel, nature, and photography. He’s crazy about all things and his explorations are fueled by his unlimited curiosity.