What Is a Pacaya Vegetable?

A pacaya vegetable is the flower of tepejilote palm, or date palm, and is a common ingredient in Guatemalan and Salvadorian cuisine, which is where the palm is primarily grown. Pacayas are used in a variety of ways, but the most popular way of serving them is fried. The vegetable itself is usually considered bitter-tasting, but some flowers can be quite sweet.

The dish known as “pacaya” using the blossoms of the date palm is made by hulling and blanching the flower in boiling water, which is supposed to help with the bitterness that marks the taste of the pacaya vegetable. The texture of the flower in its raw form is somewhere between a courgette and a baby corn. The flower is then coated in a beaten batter of egg whites, maize flour, chili powder and salt, and shallow fried in oil. The fried flower is topped with a tomato puree, which varies in the spices used from region to region, but is composed primarily of tomato and onion. The pacaya vegetable is eaten year round and particularly associated with Holy Week and Nov. 1, which is All Souls’ Day in Latin American culture. Pacayas are sold pickled in brine by Goya Foods.