making tortillas
By John Garry, Epicure & Culture contributor 

Deciding where to eat in Belize should be a priority when visiting. 

And Caye Caulker, a five-mile-long Caribbean island 20 miles off the coast of Belize, is a surf and turf town.

From the sweet smell of jerked chicken barbecued beachside by sun-kissed chefs to oceanfront restaurants with dishes starring the day’s freshest catch, eating meat is as much a cultural mainstay as the island’s tourist-friendly slogan: “No shirt, no shoes, no problem”. 

It’s no surprise, then, when I asked a shirtless chef grilling food by the beach to whip me up a veggie kabob, he gave me a quizzical look and said, “No meat?”.  

A staunch vegetarian for the past decade, this is a question I’ve grown accustomed to, and I wasn’t shocked to hear it in Central America.

Classic Belizean food focuses on eating animals.

Psst, don’t forget to pin this post for later!

Ultimate Vegetarian Food Guide to Belize

Stewed chicken, tamales stuffed with pork, and ceviche featuring local shellfish are all favorites of the former British colony.

Rice and beans, the ubiquitous meat-free alternative, isn’t the yummiest item on the menu, but often seems the only option for vegetarian food in Belize. 

It’s usually served with a side of coleslaw, which adds moisture when mixed in, but still leaves much to be desired.

Luckily, Marie Sharp’s Hot Sauce is more common than ketchup in the United States, and dousing your plate in habanero dressing will give a pleasurably piquant kick to almost anything.

In my first few days visiting, I ate enough Marie Sharp-saturated red kidney beans and rice to last a lifetime.

But just like her hidden temples and abundant wildlife, Belize is home to myriad culinary treasures I’d yet to find.

marie sharp
Marie Sharp – Belize’s favorite hot sauce. Photo courtesy of @whiskywafflesandwanderlust.

Belize Dishes & Going Meatless On The Mainland

My trip began in San Ignacio, a jungle-adjacent village near the Guatemalan border.

At first glance, the veggie-friendly possibilities are plentiful.

San Ignacio restaurants like Ko-Ox Han Nah (traditional Belize dishes), Guava Limb (American), and Tandoor (Indian) all offer meatless options.

If you plan to cook, you can stock up on vegetables, kombucha, and homemade yogurt — fresh from the farms of local Mennonites — every Saturday at the farmers market near the Macal River.

Be sure to go hungry, as the cheese-filled tortillas handmade by local vendors are exquisite in their simplicity.

In fact, everywhere I ate was accommodating. When it comes to what to eat in Belize, meat-free alternatives don’t pose a problem.

Unfortunately, aside from the farmers market, these options tend to be rice and beans.

bananas
Bananas at the San Ignacio farmers market. Photo courtesy of John Garry.

By the time I scarfed down my fifth plate of Marie Sharp soup, I managed my expectations accordingly:

If the veggie options in San Ignacio left me wanting, the options at my second destination, Caye Caulker, would probably be abysmal.

As a vegetarian vagabond, I’ve learned to pack enough snacks for moments like these and was well prepared.

Waiting for delicious food to appear out of nowhere is wishful thinking; happy thoughts don’t feed a hungry traveler. The Larabars in my bag would have to suffice.

What are your favorite #vegetarian restaurants in #Belize? Here are our top picks! Click to Tweet

Vegetarian Eating In Belize 

Imagine, then, my euphoria when I stumbled upon the aforementioned Caye Caulker grill master.

As I walked from his grill, savoring each vegetable like a million dollar delicacy, he laughed, exclaiming, “I hope that’s enough!”

I licked my lips as I watched pelicans dive into the nearby water, hunting for fish with Olympian precision.

But the surf was for the birds.

My search for more earth-grown grub was just beginning.

Caye Caulker’s shops and restaurants can be easily explored within a half day. From arepas and flapjacks to homemade pasta and falafel, the island’s multicultural street-style eats are just as diverse as its multilingual population.

The compact commercial center, where you’ll find most of these food purveyors, is lined with dozens of eateries that make the slow-paced downtown feel like a friendly neighborhood farmer’s market.

welcomesign
Caye Caulker’s welcome sign. Photo courtesy of John Garry.

Breakfast Restaurants In Caye Caulker

For breakfast, my favorite veggie-friendly spot is a three-level Hawaiian-style hut called Namaste Cafe.

You can begin your day with a donation-based yoga class upstairs and finish by treating yourself to vegan chia pudding and a fruit smoothie.

They make some of the best coffee on the island and offer meat options for those so inclined.

Yoga + #vegetarian lunch in #Belize? Yes, please! Click to Tweet

Lunch Restaurants In Caye Caulker

When it comes to Caye Caulker restaurants, vegetarian lunch options are as endless as the island’s outdoor activities.

A must-try for island first-timers is Errolyns House of Fryjacks, which serves your choice of beans, cheese, and eggs in a classic deep-fried dough pocket.

The Falafel Bar and Amor y Cafe, both around the corner from Errolyns, offer vegan and vegetarian take-out options.

Perhaps the most important midday pick-me-up is from Ice and Beans, a coffee bar equipped with cold brew and non-dairy milk alternatives.

Grab one of the swing seats out back and sip your java under shaded palms while boats pull in and out of the harbor in front of you.

After kayaking, snorkeling, or swimming around the island’s reef-protected waters, a caffeine jolt is a necessary treat.

If coffee isn’t for you, their made-to-order donuts still make a stop here worthwhile.

Dinner Restaurants In Caye Caulker

As a vegetarian, eating in Belize doesn’t have to mean hiding in your hotel room after dark. 

One reason: 

Pasta Per Caso, a homemade pasta restaurant run by Italian couple Anna and Armando, is arguably the finest dinner option on Caye Caulker.

The menu is simple and straightforward:

Choose from two main dishes — one is vegetarian — and end with dessert and coffee.

Sardinia-born Armando is an affable host, and I’d venture to say his wife, Anna, who you see whipping up dishes from scratch in the kitchen, makes the best pasta this side of the Atlantic.

Be sure to make a reservation in advance. This cozy, low-key spot is popular for a reason.

Belize Dishes: Late Night Eats In Caye Caulker

icecream
The Ice Cream Bar offers the tastiest sweet treats on Caye Caulker. Photo courtesy of John Garry.

If you’ve got as much of a sweet tooth as I do, you must stop by the bubblegum-pink Ice Cream Bar for a post-pasta treat.

For those in need of a nightcap, the NoNo Store is your go-to stop before heading to the Split, the main island’s tourist-friendly northern tip.

You’ll save money by purchasing booze here instead of at a bar, and cracking open a cold one is legal all over the island.

nono
Save money by buying booze from local markets like the NoNo Store. Photo courtesy of John Garry.

Grab yourself a Belikin, Belize’s light lager of choice, and imbibe on the Split’s western coast.

You can watch the sun dip into the sea while perched on a popular cement wall that rises from the water. 

Conscious travelers will LOVE this #vegetarian food guide to #Belize! Click to Tweet

Things To Remember When Deciding Where To Eat In Belize

Caye Caulker is best suited for quiet hammock hangs and ocean exploration. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find fine dining and fancy clothes anywhere on the island.

Don’t bother looking.

You should, however, bother budgeting some extra time for eating out.

The island’s residents have a popular saying they regard as gospel:

“Go slow”.

There’s absolutely no reason they’ll disobey the law of the land for your belly’s benefit.

So sit back and relax, my fellow vegetarians. They’ll get around to serving you that delicious food you ordered… eventually.

harbor
Looking out onto Caye Caulker’s reef-protected waters. Photo courtesy of John Garry.

Belize Adventure Experiences

Both San Ignacio and Caye Caulker are chock-full of outdoor adventures. Here are four you can’t miss:

San Ignacio

1. Actun Tunichil Muknal. The tour guides from Pacz Tours will drive you from San Ignacio into the nearby jungles, where you’ll hike, swim, and crawl through a cave once used by ancient Mayans for sacrificial ceremonies.

2. Xunantunich. Visit Mayan ruins at this famous archaeological site along the Mopan River.

Caye Caulker

3. Snorkeling. The expert guides from Caveman Snorkeling Tours curate a diverse adventure through Belize’s barrier reef, where you’ll get close to nurse sharks, all kinds of tropical fish, and the coral gardens they call home.

4. Kayaking. Rent a kayak from the small shop right outside the Lazy Lizard, located in the Split, and paddle around the mangrove forests lining the island’s northern tip. Be careful: You may spot a few saltwater crocodiles lurking in shallow water, and they definitely don’t adhere to the all-veggie diet. 

When it comes to food in Belize, what are your favorite meat-free Belize dishes and vegetarian-friendly San Ignacio and Caye Caulker restaurants? Please share in the comments below!

Further Exploration:

5 Experiential Restaurants On Ambergris Caye, Belize [Blog Reads]

Flavors Of Belize Cookbook [Delicious Reads]

Clever Travel Companion Pickpocket-Proof Garments [Travel Safety]

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Best Restaurants for Vegetarians in Belize
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John Garry is a travel writer, actor, and teacher, who most recently finished ringing doorbells around North America in the Broadway National Tour of "The Book of Mormon." He lives in NYC with his boyfriend, Ben, and their two pets - - Mona Pickles, the world's cutest catahoula, and Ty, the Liberace of cats.

Latest posts by John Garry (see all)

John Garry

John Garry is a travel writer, actor, and teacher, who most recently finished ringing doorbells around North America in the Broadway National Tour of "The Book of Mormon." He lives in NYC with his boyfriend, Ben, and their two pets - - Mona Pickles, the world's cutest catahoula, and Ty, the Liberace of cats.

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3 Comments

  1. I had quite enjoyed eating Papusas in Belize. I was not going south of Guatemala so ate as many Papusas as I could in Belize and Guatemala.

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