Primitive Mayan food was just as advanced as its culture, and we owe these dishes to them.

The Mayan civilization gave the world a lot and one of the most common things is culinary variety. Many popular dishes today actually have ancient Mayan roots and although a Mayan dish then would not have looked like it is today, the influence and inspiration still came from a time when people didn’t know how their diets shaped the future. .

Related: Curious About Guatemalan Food? Try these tasty dishes

The Mayans are also known for one food, in particular, that virtually shaped the world – at least when it comes to desserts. This ancient civilization certainly knew what it was doing and with such advanced dishes and cooking techniques, it’s easy to see how it shaped the future of kitchens across the region. We might not consider some ingredients to be gifts from the gods, but we certainly still eat everything on this list, so somehow we can thank the Mayans for some of our favorite modern dishes.


Making tamales today from scratch involves the same process that the Mayans used centuries ago. They would start with cornmeal, also known as masa harina, and nowadays pork, chicken, vegetables or cheese are added.

make tamales
via Shutterstock

In Mayan times, the filling of tamales depended on what was available seasonally or during harvest season. Everything was then wrapped in a banana leaf or corn husk before being steamed until everything was cooked through. Tamales were an essential part of Mayan culture and were so ingrained in everyday life that they were even depicted in ancient glyphs, according to National geography.


That’s right – the chocolate we know and love today actually started with the Mayans. In fact, the earliest oldest recording of hot chocolate was actually of Mayan origin. They were the first to understand that by roasting cocoa beans, flavor could be extracted.

holding cocoa beans
via Shutterstock

However, hot chocolate at the time was not sweet and did not contain dairy products and therefore was rather bitter, nor was it made to satisfy a sweet tooth. Rather, hot chocolate was prepared and drunk during ceremonies or to enhance the palate. Cocoa beans were considered so sacred in the Mayan civilization that they were used as currency and were considered gifts from the gods.


Coffee plantations are abundant in Guatemala and although it does not appear that the history of coffee dates back to the Mayans, they were the first to create it. Therefore, we owe all the caffeine patches and favorite coffees to this ancient civilization.

Guatemalan coffee beans
via De Jongh Photography /

Similar to hot chocolate, coffee back then was not what it is now and no one was walking around drinking mocha lattes or white chocolate cappuccinos. However, the coffee back then was pure, bold and robust, much like the coffee beans that come from this region today.


Specifically, “dog muzzle salsa,” as it is called today, was inspired by the Mayans. Salsa is now found all over the world in many forms, but in ancient times it was simple and packed much more oomph than we enjoy today.

Habanero Salsa
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Much of South America reproduces salsa using habaneros, although the ingredients can also include cilantro, lime, tomatoes, onions, and grapefruit juice, especially if you’re in the peninsula. of Yucatán.

Simple breakfast

In Guatemala, Mayan cuisine is still very much alive and flourishing and a simple breakfast is one of them. In the early morning, the dish includes black beans, scrambled eggs, fried plantains, and Queso Blanco.

a traditional Guatemalan breakfast
via Shutterstock

Most of the time, hot, hand-made corn tortillas are served on the side, along with a hot, steaming cup of coffee. It’s simple and delicious, and has all the flavors of Guatemala with roots that go back further than many people realize.


Believe it or not, guacamole is another dish that originated in the Mayans and we’ve recently seen a revival in avocado cultivation, which means guacamole has always been on the rise. Similar to cocoa beans, avocados were also highly regarded by the Mayans and were regularly loved.

simple guacamole
via Shutterstock

In Guatemala avocados are much bigger than Hass avocados and are said to be even creamier, which leaves no room for the question of why they are so popular. Today, the region’s guacamole is served simply with cilantro, lime juice, onions, chilies and garlic, allowing the avocado flavor to shine and speak for itself. -same. With such a buttery texture, it’s hard to deny that some of the best avocados in the world are grown here.

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