Food & Drink

The Dominican Street Food You Have to Try

Empanadas at El Millón, Santo Domingo

Photo: Massiel Beco

Street food is an important part of Dominican life, and you’ll see it everywhere you go: people lining up for an empanada in the morning, or enjoying chicharrón with their after-work beer on Friday night.

This is the Dominican street food you have to try, according to a local

The Dominican Republic is famous for its bright colors, warm tropical weather, cool beaches with white sand, strong rum and spicy mamajuana liqueur. Dominican restaurants dish up everything from pizza to lobster alongside upscale takes on traditional recipes, but one of the best ways to savour the flavours of the DR is to eat like a local.

 

Here’s our guide to the quintessential Dominican street food to try while you’re here, according to a local.

La Bandera

Photo: Massiel Beco

1. La Bandera

Like other Latin countries, Dominican staples are corn, beans and rice. The national dish is a Dominican twist on chicken, rice and beans, known as La Bandera, meaning “The Flag”.

Sancocho

Photo: Massiel Beco

2. Sancocho

Another Dominican specialty is the sancocho, a stew with up to seven different meats. This melt-in-your-mouth stew is eaten warm, with a side of hot white rice, a slice of avocado and a dash of spicy sauce or fresh lemon. Dominicans associate this dish with parties, hangovers and New Year celebrations.

Yaniqueques for sale at Boca Chica

Photo: Massiel Beco

 

3. Yaniqueques

If you find yourself in Boca Chica, Juan Dolio, Samana or Guayacanes, you will find little stations that sell fish and fried treats called yaniqueques. Yaniqueques are a must-try - a salty fried cornmeal flatbread, eaten plain or with fried fish. They are deliciously satisfying: crunchy, greasy - and if you add ketchup it will change the whole experience.

Empanadas

Photo: Massiel Beco

4. Empanadas

Empanadas, a classic dish across southern Europe and Latin America, are eaten by Dominicans for breakfast, lunch or as a snack during the day. These fried pastries are made of wheat or corn flour pastry, filled with combinations of meat, vegetables, cheese, or eggs. Look out for exotic fillings like fried eggplant or cheese and ripe bananas! Not so hungry? A pastelito is a smaller version of an empanada. In the unlikely event you can’t find an empanada stand, ask around and people will point you in the right direction.

Chimis

Photo: Massiel Beco

 

5. Chimis

Next up: chimis. Chimis are a Dominican street-food version of a burger, and most vendors make their own burger patties and salad. Chimis are juicy and tasty, best eaten hot so the slice of cheese melts as you go. You’ll find vendors parked on the streets around towns, and after a while you’ll be able to recognise the sweet and tangy smell of the chimi cart from a block away. Usually packed during weekends and nights after people leave the clubs, chimis are a must-try after a night out partying.

Yaroas

Photo: Massiel Beco

6. Yaroas

If you love fries, you need to try yaroas. Yaroas is made with a layer of french fries, topped with two or three different cheeses, sauces, and the meat of your choice, commonly ground beef. Think crunchy french fries, hot melty cheese, tasty meat, and optional ketchup and/or mayo. You’ll find yaraos on the menu at chimis vendors.

Chicharrón

Photo: Massiel Beco

 

7. Chicharrón

While in the Dominican Republic you can’t not try the iconic Presidente beer, and the most Dominican beer snack to have with your Presidente is chicharrón. This crunchy, salty, pork rind has the right amount of everything to go with your beer. They also go well with fried plantain tostones or fried sweet potato. Drizzle on some lemon or hot sauce and the chicharron will go from humble pork rind to your new favorite greasy snack.

Fresh tropical fruits

Photo: Massiel Beco

8. Fresh tropical fruit

Anywhere you go in the DR you will find cars and stands selling fresh tropical fruit. You can grab whole fruit to go, but you’ll also find some of the trickier fruits prepared and ready to eat, or freshly-made fruit salad. Some vendors will cut and slice fruit and spread honey onto it for you.

Fresh coconut water

Photo: Markus Winkler / Unsplash.com

 

9. Fresh coconut water

Near beaches and main avenues, there are always one or two vendors selling fresh coconut water, usually served in a foam cup with ice and sugar. It’s a refreshing drink, and it tastes even better if you add some rum.

Vegetarian or vegan? Look out for fresh fruit stalls, tostitos, and vego-friendly options on empanada menus. And don’t forget to check out our vegetarian and vegan guide to the Dominican Republic.

 

Note that most street vendors only accept cash, so make sure you have Dominican pesos on you.


Written by Diego Angeles.

 

Published October 2021.


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