The Mayan civilization gave the world many things and one of the most prevalent things is that of the culinary variety. Many popular dishes today actually have ancient Mayan roots and while a Mayan dish back then would not have looked the way it does today, the influence and inspiration were still taken from a time when people weren't aware of how their diets were shaping the future.

Related: Curious About Guatemalan Food? Try These Tasty Dishes

The Mayans are also known for one food, in particular, that has practically shaped the world - at least where desserts are concerned. This ancient civilization definitely knew what they were doing and with such advanced dishes and cooking techniques, it's easy to see how this shaped the future of cuisines all around the region. We might not consider certain ingredients to be gifts from the gods but we certainly still eat everything on this list so, in some way or another, we can thank the Mayans for some of our favorite modern-day dishes.



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

During Mayan times, the filling of tamales would depend on what was available seasonally or during the harvest season. The whole thing would then be wrapped in a banana leaf or a corn husk before being steamed until everything was fully cooked. Tamales were a huge staple of Mayan culture and were so ingrained in daily life that they were even depicted in ancient glyphs, according to National Geographic.


That's right - the chocolate that we know and love today actually started with the Mayans. In fact, the first earliest record of hot chocolate was actually borne of Mayan origins. They were the first who figured out that by roasting cacao beans, the flavor could be extracted.

However, the hot chocolate back then was not sweet and had no dairy in it and therefore was rather bitter, and it also wasn't made to satisfy a sweet tooth. Rather, hot chocolate was made and drunk during ceremonies or as a palate enhancer. Cocao beans were considered so sacred in Mayan civilization that they were used as currency for trading and were believed to be gifts from the gods.


Coffee plantations are abundant in Guatemala and while it doesn't seem like the history of coffee would go back as far as the Mayans, they were the first to create it. Therefore, we owe all of the caffeine fixes and favorite coffee shops to this ancient civilization.

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


Specifically, 'dog snout salsa' as it's known today, was inspired by the Mayans. Salsa is found all over the world now in many forms but in ancient times, it was simple and contained far more of a kick than we enjoy today.

Much of South America replicate the salsa by using habaneros, although ingredients can also include cilantro, lime, tomatoes, onions, and grapefruit juice, especially if you're in the Yucatán Peninsula.

Simple Breakfast

In Guatemala, Mayan cuisine is still very much alive and thriving and a simple breakfast is part of that. First thing in the morning, the dish includes black beans, scrambled eggs, fried plantains, and Queso Blanco.

Most of the time, scratch-made, warm corn tortillas are served alongside it, as well as a cup of steaming, strong coffee. It's simple and delicious and boasts all the flavors of Guatemala with roots that span back further than many people even realize.


Believe it or not, guacamole is another dish that came from the Mayans and we've recently seen a revival in avocado culture, which means guacamole has consistently been on the upswing. Similar to cacao beans, avocados were also highly valued by the Mayans and were enjoyed regularly.

In Guatemala, the avocados are much larger than Hass avocados and are said to be even creamier which leaves no room to wonder why they're so well-loved. Today, guacamole in the region is served simply with cilantro, lime juice, onions, chilis, and garlic, allowing the avocado flavor to shine through and speak for itself. With such a buttery texture, it's hard to deny that some of the best avocados in the world are grown there.

Next: You Can Visit Tikal, Guatemala, The Ruins Of The Largest Ancient Civilization In The World