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Belizean Barbecue

A Grilling Paradise: Discovering the Irresistible Allure of the Belizean Barbecue

Gary Peterson takes you on a journey to discover the mouthwatering flavors of the Belizean barbecue, where tradition meets smoky perfection. Indulge in a culinary adventure unlike any other. This article contains links to Amazon, from which, as an Amazon Associate, this website will earn a small commission if you make any purchases. Visit our Affiliate Disclosure Page for more info. 

I’m a barbecue fanatic and a purveyor of grills. Anyone who knows me will tell you that. For me, there’s nothing better for me than a good cookout. I’ve always been this way. I love a barbecue. So it came as a surprise that one of the first pleasures I encountered in Belize was that barbecues seemed to be everywhere!

They’re in every town or village, found roadside or in front of homes. The smells permeating from these black charcoal or propane tanks make you delirious. Ask Belizeans where they eat most often, and the likely answer is the local barbecue favorite, or in their front yard.

Drum barbecues are where it’s at in Belize

In Belize, the drum barbecue grill is king, made from old propane or butane tanks. The local welder cuts them in half, welds on hinges and a handle, adds four legs, and paints them black. Job done.

There are two reasons for the popularity of these kinds of grills: cost and rust. Here on the Caribbean Sea, everything rusts. You can make that cylinder last many years, and replacing it will only set you back about $100. Alternatively, you can get the fancy US-brand gas grill at Benny’s or other stores here for around $600, and it will be a rust bucket in a year or two.

As I consider myself something of a barbecue specialist, I worried about the supply of both pellets for my Traeger Smoker and Vision Grill/Smoker. My issue with the Vision was that it used lump coal, and I wasn’t sure about the supply here. To my delight, I learned that’s all they use here, and, in fact, they produce lump coal.

Still, two years after moving to Belize, I purchased one of those drum grills, bags of lump coal, and plastic bottles of lighter fluid for flavor. Luckily, my wife was still back in the States and wasn’t privy to my varied uses of starter fluid and the regrowth time for my eyebrows. It wasn’t long before my chicken wasn’t blackened, shriveled, and unrecognizable.

The Belizean barbecue is our (much better) version of fast food

I’ve become a frequent taster at almost every roadside barbecue stand from Placencia to Dangriga, Belmopan, Spanish Lookout, and Belize City. In many areas, it’s like almost every home has a little barbecue shack and a Coke sign out front.

Because there are no McDonald’s or Burger King in Belize, these barbecue stands are the fast food equivalent around here.

Late morning brings out mom or dad and the kids, firing up the smoker grills, dragging out the coolers, and soon the smells of chicken and beans fill the air. Many will offer you homemade giant flour tortillas with your choice of dark or white meat. For a side, and there’s always a side, usually, it’s coleslaw and potato salad. This delectable, delicious roadside feast will fill you up for only about $5, and even with a beer or soda, still under $8 per person. See if you can get that back in the States.

Fried and grilled meat and poultry are common in Belize. Gibnut, iguana, wild boar, and armadillo are the more interesting and unusual wild game found on many barbecue menus.

Although the typical roadside barbecue can be a tasty treat, beware. There could be an unwanted surprise in store for you inside. Belizeans don’t like to waste any parts, and I’ve bitten into tamales before to find a mouthful of chicken beak or foot!

A pirate heritage

Our Belizean barbecues are a throwback to the days of pirates standing around barbecue spits, drinking rum, and trading stories of the high seas.

The fact is, a major pirate faction was responsible for much of the population of Belize from the early days as slave traders. When that stopped working for them, the pirate community switched to the lumber business here, which was plentiful with shipbuilding.

But the pirate spirit continued and is still here today, hovering over every well-used barbecue grill.

Gary Peterson lives on the Placencia Peninsula, Belize, where he writes books about Central America and the Caribbean. Read more of Gary’s work on his blog.

Gary Peterson

Gary Peterson

Gary Peterson has traveled and written about many destinations worldwide. He’s written travel guides for Europe including Italy, France, and the Greek Islands. For the past few years, he’s traveled extensively throughout Central America, publishing two books on Belize. Gary lives on the Placencia Peninsula, Belize, where he continues writing about Central America and the Caribbean.