This weekend we celebrate the newly-established ‘Día de la Baleada‘ in Honduras; a celebration with a sentiment only the people of the small-but-fierce country would understand, as this national dish is only found in this Central-American nation. I would barely call it a dish, though, as most baleadas – typically sold on street corners as a to-go option – are usually eaten with your bare (& hungry) hands. Famous for its simplicity & adored by everyone – local & foreign – we raise a toast & cheer to our beloved national delicacy!
Like most popular foods worldwide, the simplicity of this relatively nutrient-packed meal is crucial in terms of affordability & satisfaction. Essentially a flour tortilla folded in half, it’s filled with some of the most basic ingredients on our menu: beans, cream, eggs, cheese, avocado, & sausage. The fillings range from the simplest: beans, crumbled cheese, & mantequilla, to the ultimate packed flavor explosion with sausage, eggs, avocado, chicken or pork, & even fried plantains!
The baleada originated in the north coast of the country as food for the banana plantation workers in the 1950s; and La Ceiba remains an extremely proud city for it! However, today baleadas are found in corners in cities all over the country in their simplest form, with only some minimal regional differences in the loaded varieties. In the region of Olancho & Ocotepeque (think Wild Wild West), the special baleada, is served with everything mentioned above including carne asada (grilled meat). In the Bay Islands, one of the few places on Earth (still) with no fast food chain restaurants, they do their unique way of fast food with the baleada, adding pickled onions & creole cheese to the beans.
Their popularity, however, curiously remains within our borders. Our neighbors only know of the baleada, and up until a few years ago, little was known by popular international media. Of course, everyone who visits comes face-to-face with this yummy treat, and people like Chef Gordon Ramsay, who visited Honduras in 2017, ate baleadas & declared it the best Latin American dish – according to local media sources…Jaime Oliver also had something to say about our delicious treat: “Baleadas are one of Honduras’ most popular street dishes and they make brilliant party food. Just top the tortillas with whatever you like – refried beans, fried eggs, chorizo, cheese, avocado…the possibilities are endless.” And finally, because good things always need to be made huge, CNN Latinoamérica reported the largest baleada ever made by honduCHEF, a group of student chefs from a number of schools, back in 2017, measuring a whopping 5.5 meters (18 feet!) & feeding a happy community in Tegucigalpa.
For a Baleada:
- 1 flour tortilla, preferably homemade!
- 2 tablespoons of refried beans
- 1 teaspoon of crema or mantequilla
- 1 teaspoon of crumbled white cheese
Grab the tortilla and smear a layer of beans down the center. Place a dollop of crema and spread over the beans. Sprinkle with the crumbled cheese and fold in half. How much easier can that be?!
For the Flour Tortillas:
- 500g of flour, plus extra for dusting
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 tablespoon of baking powder
- 125ml of vegetable oil
Sift the flour & baking powder into a bowl, add 2 teaspoons of salt and make a well at the center. Pour in 125ml of vegetable oil and about 200ml of warm water. Mix with a butter knife until it comes together as a dough, adding splashes of water, if needed. Tip the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth & elastic. Roll the dough into about 12 small balls for each tortilla, cover them with a cloth towel and leave to prove for 1 hour.
Flatten each ball with your hand and roll out on a floured surface into a tortilla roughly 2mm thick and about 18mm across; size is really entirely up to you! Since handmade tortillas are unique to each person, baleadas always boast that artisanal flair that only adds to their magic! Dry-fry each tortilla on a non-stick frying pan, or a comal used locally, for about 1 minute on each side, or until just colored – you want to make sure they stay soft enough to roll!
A quick & satisfying breakfast, lunch or evening meal, the baleada can be bought on the street, freshly made & easily eaten on-the-go. The authentic flavor of the freshly made flour tortilla is essential to enjoying this delicious snack, portrayed as one of the most common and affordable foods in Honduras, making it a widely popular street food enjoyed by absolutely everyone! For more on the delicious baleada, here’s a YouTube video by Honduran vlogger & influencer La Cooquette.