What Did the Mayans Eat?

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The four staple foods in Mayan cuisine were squash, beans, maize and chili peppers, and they were often combined with meat or seafood. Squash, beans, and maize are often referred to as the “three sisters” because they provide all the necessary nutrients when eaten together.

The Mayans hunted, foraged, and grew food. Some meats that were commonly hunted included monkey, deer, iguana, armadillo, manatee, peccary, cavy, tapir, turtle and various birds. They also ate food from the sea, including conch, shrimp, lobster and various fish and shellfish. The Mayans grew food on a large scale, and some of the common crops were chili peppers, avocado, tomatoes, breadnut, guava, pineapple, papaya, apple, pumpkin, sweet potato, and pinto, red and black beans.

The Mayans invented many foods that are still eaten on a regular basis. They were the first civilization to make corn tortillas, and they used their avocado crops to make an ancient form of guacamole. It is believed that the Mayans were the first people to roast cacao seeds to make chocolate, although their version was not sweetened. The Mayans used to eat traditional breakfast with scrambled eggs, black beans, cheese, fried plantains and rich coffee. They also invented tamales, which are corn husks filled with chicken, pork, cheese and vegetables.