• Colombia!

    Colombia: Caribbean Sea coast. Go Now!

    Although most of the people live inland, Colombia also has its share of coastline along the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea (pictured). Go Now!

  • Ecuador!

    Ecuador: Sally Lightfoot Crab. Go Now!

    The Galapagos Islands and Ecuador are home to incredible wildlife, such as the famous Galapagos Turtle and the lesser known, but more common Red Rock or Sally Lightfoot crab (pictured). Begin Your Journey!

  • Chile!

    Chile: Torres del Paine National Park. Go Now!

    The Andes dominate much of Chile, including the breath-taking Torres del Paine National Park (pictured). However, the country also hosts the world's driest desert and a thriving metropolis. Begin Your Journey!

  • Venezuela!

    Venezuela: Los Roques. Go Now!

    Rooted in Europe, Venezuela boasts an impressive history, culture, and beauty, including the Caribbean Coast (pictured). Explore Venezuela!

  • Bolivia!

    Bolivia: Salt flats. Go Now!

    This hidden gem is full of surprises, from the impressive salt flats (pictured) to the migrating flamingos. It also clings to the most historic indigenous culture on the continent. Explore Bolivia!

Food, Dining, & Drinks in Venezuela

WARNING: Violence is common in Venezeula, please read this travel warning before going!

Historic Diet

Venezuelan Food - Ham bread
Ham bread

Venezuela offered the early people numerous foods in the form of plants and animals, which includes an incredible amount of diversity. The country shifts dramatically from the Andes Mountains to the Caribbean Sea, giving the region great plant and animal variation and hence a significantly diversity in the historic diet.

The native plants have always made up the bulk of the historic diet as along the coasts and at lower elevations fruits were and still are very popular. These include foods like guava, mango, blackberries, and strawberries as well as less known fruits like zapote, lulo, nispero, mamoncillo, guanabana, uchuva, and others. At higher elevations these fruits weren't as common, as the diet was more heavily based on potatoes and quinoa, a hardy grain. Various types of beans and other plants were, and still are, common in the diet.

The animals present in Venezuela also made up a part of the historic diet, although not to the degree plants did. The animals used for food included mammals such as rabbits, birds like partridges, and sea animals including the freshwater trout, pike, and catfish as well as the saltwater fish in the Caribbean Sea.

Culinary Influences

Both people and foods made their way to what is today known as Venezuela from the northwest via Central America. These foods came via wind, animal, and of course people. However foods also moved from the other directions and after people settled the whole of South America foods from Brazil and other regions made their way to Venezuela. This spread of foods included tomatoes, peppers, corn (maize), peanuts, melons, squash, cassava, papayas, chocolate, vanilla, avocado, and others.

These new foods supplemented the existing foods in the region, including potatoes, beans, and others, giving the people a large variety of edible plants. These early settlers used both these plants as well as animals to form the bulk of their diet and from this point into the 1400s, little changed in the diet other than in food combinations and cooking techniques as the people truly lived off the land as hunters, gathers, fishers, and later as farmers.

The Europeans arrived in the late 1400s and shortly after began settling the lands that are today Venezuela. Instead of adopting the local cuisine, many of these Europeans sought to maintain their diet from Europe, which led to the introduction of European dishes, cooking techniques, and ingredients. However, as many of the ingredients in Europe were not available in South America at the time, many local substitutes were found as plants and animals from Spain and elsewhere in Europe were quickly imported.

The strongest European influence in Venezuela came from Spain as the region of Venezuela became a Spanish colony and most settlers were from Spain. Even today the heavy Spanish influence is impossible to miss in the country, although most dishes in the country now use local ingredients so they are quite different from Spanish cuisine.

Although the cuisine in the region changed from the indigenous diet to a more European-styled diet, the greatest change in the food of the region arrived with the new plants and animals the Europeans introduced to Venezuela. Although hundreds of plants and animals were introduced to the region by the Europeans, a few of the most commonly consumed of these were wheat, rice, pigs, chicken, and cattle. Others were also introduced and are now common, although they differ in terms of popularity and importance. Some are commonly used like onions, cilantro, garlic, black pepper, lemons, bananas, and limes, but others are not as common, including broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, olives, apples, and oranges.

In the late 1800s, and continuing to today, the food in Venezuela has changed in a number of ways, but most importantly in terms of production, transportation, and availability. Due to advances in technology, better transportation, and improved storage techniques, the importation (and exportation) of foreign foods and better preservation methods have increased the shelf life of foods as the people of Venezuela now have access to foods that are not in season or cannot be grown in the country. Despite the technological changes, the people have not truly altered what they eat so much as they have changed how they eat and what they eat when.

In recent decades the people's diet is again being added to, although the traditional foods have not changed much. The base diet in the country is nearly identical today as it has been in the past, but in the past couple decades a number of ethnic restaurants have been opened in Caracas and other large cities or beachside resorts, giving the country more diversity.

When & Where to Eat

The first meal of the day in Venezuela is breakfast, which is often small and may be nothing more than coffee or tea, although many people will also eat a small amount of food in the morning. Mid-mornings are often interrupted by a snack served with additional tea or coffee.

Lunch is usually the largest meal of the day in Venezuela as it can last from about noon to 2:00 or 3:00 pm and during this time many people go home to eat, meaning shops are often closed during this time. Lunch almost always consists of a soup, a meat (or seafood), potatoes or rice, and other fruits or vegetables, including fried plantains or cassava (yuca). It is often finished with coffee or tea and in some places a siesta, or nap. Most people still eat lunch at home, but in the larger cities this is slowly changing as people eat at work, from street vendors, or in restaurants in order to avoid the long mid-day break. For these workers lunch also tends to be a bit shorter and has less food as the largest meal of the day is then often dinner.

If someone eats a large lunch, dinner tends to be a bit smaller and is not usually served until 8:00 pm at the earliest; more commonly dinner is served at about 10:00 pm. At large gatherings, parties, or business meetings dinner will likely begin no earlier than 10:00 pm and it may begin even later. Of course for those workers in the cities dinner tends to be the largest meal of the day and takes on many of the foods mentioned above for a typical large lunch.

Staple Foods

Beans: black beans are served with numerous dishes as a side
Corn: corn is used to make a number of dishes
Plantains: perhaps the most common side with Caribbean-inspired foods
Potatoes: a common side dish, usually potatoes are not served with other starches
Rice: a common side dish, usually rice is not served with other starches

Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes

Coastal Venezuela: fish and seafood is very common, but potatoes, corn, rice, and pasta are also regular foods found in this region
Guasacaca: this common sauce is similar to guacamole
Mountainous regions: potatoes, wheat, and meats like beef and lamb are very common as is chicken
Pabellón criollo: the national dish is simply Venezuela's take on the Caribbean's rice and bean, often served with beef
Western Venezuela: plantains and cheeses are very common as goat and rabbit are popular and near the border many Colombian dishes are present

Dining Etiquette

If you're lucky enough to be invited to a Venezuelan's home, be sure to send flowers, preferably orchids, prior to arrival, but wine, chocolates, or a cake are also good gifts. Dress nicely if you're meeting locals in their home or are meeting business acquaintances. If you are simply eating at a restaurant with friends the dress is a bit more casual, but should still be nice clothing as fashion is very important to the Venezuelans.

When meeting locals for a meal be sure to arrive about 15-30 minutes late and up to an hour tardy for a party. Greet everyone when you arrive; men generally shake hands, while women may kiss each other on the check, but this varies based upon the relationship. As you begin socializing avoid sensitive subjects like religion, politics, money, and any subject that not everyone is well versed in. Even avoid business conversations, although you may be at a business meal; let your host bring up business prior to discussing this as meals are usually a time to get to know each other and socialize.

When you are directed to the table, let your host seat you as they may have a specific place for you; be aware that men and women generally sit on opposite sides of the table and the host(s) will often sit at the head(s) of the table. Stand beside your chair until your host sits, then let women sit first. In a restaurant you may be seated at the same table as other people; politely ignore them, although some people may engage you in conversation if they notice you are foreign.

The host will often begin the drinking with a toast, generally just the word "salud" and he or she will serve you, as a guest, first, but don't eat until your host indicates you may begin with the words "buen provecho." If you are drinking and wine is the beverage of choice, try to avoid pouring wine as there are a number of rules when pouring, two of the most important being that you should only pour wine with your right hand and always make sure when you pour it the bottle is facing forward.

Before eating or drinking, place your napkin in your lap, keep your hands on the table by resting your wrists on the table, and never place your elbows on the table. Eating is done in the continental style, meaning the knife should remain in your right hand and the fork in your left; get used to this style as everything but bread and sandwiches are eaten with utensils, including fruits among others. The bread should be placed on your plate or on the table itself as bread plates are rare. You should try everything offered to you and if you enjoy something compliment the host and you will be quickly offered more; if you are offered additional food, initially turn it down then accept it after your host insists.

When you are done eating leave a little food on your plate then place your fork and knife together with the tines down, handles pointing to the right and facing to about the 10:00 position. Once everyone is done eating expect cake, as the Venezuelans love their cakes, and perhaps coffee, which should be accepted as turning down coffee is considered rude. There will also be at least a half hour of conversation so don't get up or excuse yourself until your host does and invites you to do the same.

If you're eating at a restaurant, the host, or you if with other foreigners, should call the server over by making eye contact and saying "mozo"; if you need the bill you must specifically ask for it. The host is expected to pay for everyone present, but guests should offer to assist, something that will likely be turned down. If a local host does treat you to a meal, try to reciprocate by taking him or her out at a later time. If you're the host, be ready to pay for the entire meal and add a tip of about 10% for good service; sometimes this is already included in the bill as a service charge, but if not tip at your discretion. If you do eat at a local's home be sure to send a hand written thank you note the next day.

Celebrations & Events

When it comes to foods associated with particular holidays in Venezuela Christmas seems to rule. Christmas is usually celebrated in the privacy of the home so it's difficult to experience the true Venezuelan Christmas, but inside those doors there are a few foods found on most tables. Pan de jamon is a bread filled with ham, olives, and raisins, but it can also be found at other times of the year with a little looking. Another popular Christmas food is hallaca, which is beef, chicken, pork, raisins, capers, and olives encased in cornmeal then boiled.


Venezuela has nearly every popular international beverage one can think of from tea and coffee to soft drinks and juices. However the country also has a couple more local drinks worth a try. Cocada is a coconut and milk drink, while malta is a carbonated drink made with malt. If neither of these seems interesting, the fresh juices along the coast are always a popular choice.

Venezuela offers most international beers, wines, and liquors, but they produce few of their own. They have numerous small breweries, but international brands are generally favored by visitors. Most wines are imported from other South American countries, and do expand beyond this. The liquors are where Venezuela is somewhat unique. Sitting on the Caribbean Sea rum is common, including a couple local varieties. More unique is chicha, which is a fermented drink made from corn. It was invented by the Incans and was regularly used in religious festivals, but today can only really be found in certain regions in the mountains.

Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink in Venezuela, but many travelers still get sick from it. To be safe the tap water is best avoided, but for those staying in the country for an extended period of time, it is possible to get used to the water as most illnesses are temporary. Either way, check with locals before consuming the water.

This page was last updated: April, 2013