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May 17, 2022

The Best Dominican Food: The 15 Dishes You Need to Try in the Dominican Republic

Enjoy our guide to the best Dominican Republic food, from what to eat to where. Just don't blame us if you end up hungry!

 See also 9 reasons to travel to the Dominican Republic with kids and what to pack for the Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic Food Guide - traditional breakfast platter

A traditional Dominican breakfast at the Hilton La Romana

Dominican Food: What and Where to Eat in the Dominican Republic

Simply put, the best Dominican food is some of the best food in the world! It mixes sunshine with juicy fresh produce, melts a chequered history into a diverse range of flavours and weaves a taste of culture into each and every bite.

It features influences from each wave of immigration, from the original Taino Indians to the Spaniards to the people shipped across from Africa as slaves. Each culture has blended with the one before it, making Dominican cuisine fascinating as well as delicious.

Dominican food is also a cuisine borne out of necessity. Poverty and island life has limited many choices, prompting people to make the most of what they have and be creative with how they prepare it. 

But enough talk in general terms. Let's get down to specifics and introduce you to the highlights of Dominican food.

Dominican Republic rum in a plastic glass

Rum: a core part of the Dominican culinary landscape

Where to stay in the Dominican Republic

Planning a trip to the Dominican Republic?

We tried and tested and would recommend:

Dominican Republic - Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana water park

Kids love water parks! The Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana

Towards Punta Cana

The Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana offers high end dining as well as casual beach fare. It has easy access to a long white sand beach.

Dominican Republic - Hilton La Romana - LOVE Sign and Abigail King

Instagram spot at the Hilton La Romana

Towards La Romana

Hilton La Romana not only has great all-inclusive facilities but also sits within beachside walking distance of the atmospheric village of Bayahibe.

In capital city Santo Domingo

In Santo Domingo, we loved our stay at the cool green Hotel Gran Europa but also heard great things about Hodelpa Nicolas de Ovando as well.  

Disclosure - we travelled to the Dominican Republic with some assistance from Go Dominican Republic and the hotels listed. As ever, as always, we kept the right to write what we like. Otherwise, there's just no point! Plus, if you book or buy through any of the links on this page, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. So, cheers for that!

Disclosure: I was hosted at some of these restaurants for review purposes and not at others. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like. Otherwise, what is the point?!

Dominican Republic - Santo Domingo - Buche Perico Restaurant Exterior

Recommended Places to eat in the Dominican Republic

  • La Chinola - at the Hilton La Romana is the only restaurant in the all-inclusive hotels which exclusively serves Dominican food. Set amid the palm fronds on the sand, it's a beautiful evening experience as well. 
  • Buche de Perico - Gorgeous traditional Dominican food served amid leafy greenery in the heart of the Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo.
  • M7 Restaurant by the Sea - OK, this is less about Dominican food and more about Italian delicacies. But the food is good, plentiful, and affordable and most importantly, you have a fantastic view of the ocean as the sun sets over the Malecon in Santo Domingo.
  • Affogato Cafe - a Santo Domingo breakfast spot in the Zona Colonial. It serves waffles, pancakes and the traditional Dominican breakfast.
  • La Chinola at the Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana serves keto and palaeo options right on the sandy shore, alongside traditional Dominican breakfasts.
  • Kukka Bar - a fun loving Bayahibe rum shack on the beach. Serves fresh coconut water and local beer.
  • Rum tasting at the Museum of Rum and Sugar Cane in Santo Domingo.
  • The Chocolate Factory & Store in Santo Domingo offers free tastings, runs workshops and sells every chocolate infused good you could think of. Cocoa nibs, chocolate coated peanuts, hot chocolate and honey.
Dominican Republic - Bayahibe - drinking fresh coconut at Kukka Bar

Loving my job looking for great places to eat in the Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic - Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana oatmeal

The Best Dishes in the Dominican Republic

Ah, now we're onto the good part! The best dishes to try in the Dominican Republic!

While you'll find some similarities in the cuisine across all Latin American countries, the Dominican Republic really does have a distinct cuisine. And we are here for that!

Pull up a chair, a fork and a sense of adventure.

Traditional Dominican Breakfast with mangu, salami, egg and fried cheese with onions

Breakfast in the Dominican Republic

A traditional breakfast in the Dominican Republic is a beautiful dish to behold. It consists of mangu, fried eggs, fried Dominican salami and fried cheese. It's bright, it's colourful and it feels surprisingly healthy, despite the calorie count. 

Los tres Golpes: The traditional Dominican Breakfast

The Dominican breakfast is also known as Los Tres Golpes. Now, if your Spanish skills have picked up that the number three is in that nickname, whereas I've just listed four items... Well, truthfully, I can't really explain why. But the mangu doesn't get counted in the greatest hits. 

You'll often find pickled or fried red onions on the top as well, and sometimes avocado on the side (Los Cuatro Golpes.)

It's worth pointing out that the queso frito (fried cheese) is a hard, Halloumi type cheese. So the edges turn a bubbly golden brown but the core is still the semi-hard unripened cow's milk cheese slab. Rather than a collapsed mess. The salami, or salcichon, too, resembles chorizo rather than a thin-sliced Italian salami.

Dominican Republic Food Guide - traditional breakfast platter

A traditional Dominican breakfast at the Hilton La Romana

Where to find The traditional Dominican Breakfast

Unlike many of these examples, the traditional Dominican breakfast is also something you can find in some of the better all-inclusive hotels around Punta Cana, as well, like the Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana and Hilton La Romana.

Of course, much like the Full English, most Dominicans don't tuck into this feast of a meal every day before work. Its origins hail from the days when labourers went to spend the day in the fields, rather than scrunched up behind a desk trying to get someone to mute or unmute on Zoom.

  • Trivia tip: in the Hollywood movie In the Heights, you can catch this breakfast being plated up in the Dominican neighbourhood opening scene.
Best Dominican Food Cover image

The Best Dominican Dishes

When it comes to the main meal of lunch or, at a push, dinner, look out for the following top Dominican dishes.

Dominican Republic Food - Sancocho and rice

Sancocho and rice

Sancocho

Whether you call it a stew, a soup or a broth, Sancocho warms the stomach and the heart with its hunks of beef, chicken or pork, combined with vegetables and stock. To cook the real, traditional sancocho takes all day and the word itself comes from the Spanish verb sancochar: parboiled. It's possibly the most popular Dominican food, making an appearance at special occasions as a treat. It's also a great hangover cure. 

While the texture can be creamy, that comes from the corn rather than any dairy. Don't be surprised to find the dish served with a slice of sweetcorn in the middle.

Dominican Republic Food - Buche Perico dish

Delicious buche perico at the Buche Perico restaurant

Buche Perico

This typical dish from Moca City inspired the restaurant of the same name in Santo Domingo. It's a stew based on corn and sausage and packs a punch of flavour.

Mangu

Mangu (or mangú if we're being proper) is the mashed potato equivalent of Dominican food. 

It's made from mashed green plantain, plus or minus some butter, and served with pickled red onions on top. While plantains now grow plentifully across the island of Hispaniola, they hail from Africa and mark an important link in the history and development of the people of the Dominican Republic. 

You'll frequently find mangu served at breakfast but will also find it sidling up to other main dishes at lunch and dinner time. When it's this warm and comforting, who cares? The more mangu, the merrier!

Dominican Republic Flag in Santo Domingo - La Bandera

The real bandera: the Dominican flag

The Dominican Flag: La Bandera

"We eat a lot of rice, meat and beans on this island," said our guide Eric as we ventured into the mountains. "But that's not all we eat. Sometimes we eat beans, meat, and rice, in that order."

La Bandera is the most popular dish in the Dominican Republic. Nicknamed after the flag of the Dominican Republic, it consists of rice and beans with chicken or pork, served in a red, tomato-based sauce. 

Now, part of the puzzle is that the Dominican flag is red, white and blue. Whereas this dish is largely red and white. Maybe a little purple if you squint in poor light after a few sips of mamajuana. But I wouldn't advise bringing it up with people if I were you...

Dominican Republic Food - Sancocho

Sancocho: one of the most popular Dominican dishes

Mofongo

Mofongo is another comforting mash of fried green plantain. But unlike mangu, which keeps the ingredients simple, mofongo is often cooked in animal fat and decorated with pork crackling chicharron, bacon, garlic and stock. 

A great place to try this is on the beachfront Chinola restaurant at the Hilton La Romana, where the mofongo is chunky and the service smooth.

Mondongo

Mondongo is one of those dishes that tasted much better before you knew exactly what it was. As a soup or broth, it's salty and tangy. It's made of tripe in the spirit of using whatever you have, which is a common feature of Dominican cuisine. 

Mondongo is slow cooked, combining the tripe with a mix of vegetables, like bell peppers, carrots, celery and cabbage in an onion and garlic base.

Is it technically Dominican food? Or is it Puerto Rican? Experts disagree on the exact origins and it's one of those conversations that's best to keep to yourself!

Dominican Republic food manioc croquetas

MANIOC CROQUETAS

These crunchy comfort food bites are deep fried from manioc, a product of cassava.

Dominican Republic Food - Yucca Arepitas

Crispy and tasty yuca arepitas at the Hilton La Romana

YUCA AREPITAS

These small yuca fritters can be mixed with vegetables - or just left to fry in their sinful glory.

Pollo Guisado Dominicano

This dish consists of flavoursome braised chicken with peppers and onion. Cooked over a long time, the meat is so tender it just falls apart with the touch of the fork.

Dominican Republic - stewed plantain, manioc croquetas, pork belly and rice with pigeon peas

Pork, rice, pigeon peas, stewed plantain and manioc croquetas. A feast!

Dominican Food Traditions

While flavoursome, you won't find eye watering spice in traditional Dominican food. Instead, think onions, garlic, plenty of fried green plantains and a warm sense of comfort infused into every dish.

For drinks, of course, you'll find rum, but don't miss the legendary mamajuana. 

Typically, a traditional Dominican lunch is the main meal of the day, rather than dinner.

Of course, in the 21st century Dominican Republic, you'll find international food in the capital of Santo Domingo and certainly in the all-inclusive resorts that cluster around the southeast.

Dominican Republic - Bayahibe - Presidente Beer

Presidente Beer - a local taste in the Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic Drinks

The Dominican Republic's drinks are as colourful as the islands itself. Here are the char toppers...

Dominican Republic RON sign

Rum: kind of a big deal in the Dominican Republic

Rum

Developed from the life experiences of people enslaved on the sugar plantations, Dominican rum has become an art form. I'd highly recommend a rum tasting, such as those run at the Hilton La Romana, or a session at the Sugarcane and Rum Museum in Santo Domingo. 

Morir Soñado

The translation means "to die dreaming" and this heavenly cocktail makes you think that this is perhaps not a bad idea. It's made of orange juice, sugar and evaporated milk and is served over crushed ice. Perfect for a hot day.

Dominican Republic - Taino Mamajuana Bottles

Bottles and bottles of mamajuana. Drink if you dare!

Mamajuana

Mix rum, red wine, honey, tree bark and spice together and what do you get? Well, yes, you get a hangover, but that's not all. You get mamajuana, the official drink of the Dominican Republic and possibly the best selling souvenir. Every family has their own secret recipe and you have to try it at least once.

Dominican Republic - roaasting coffee beans the traditional way in the mountains

Roasting coffee beans the traditional way

Coffee

The Dominican Republic's tropical climate makes it perfect for growing coffee and roasting beans in the open air. Plus, you need it after all that mamajuana...

DOminican Republic Food Facts

  • Santo Domingo has twice been crowned the 'Culinary Capital of the Caribbean' by the Ibero-American Academy of Gastronomy.
  • Chinese immigrants arrived in 1864 during the Dominican Restoration War and chofan, fried chicken and rice, comes from the Chinese chow fan. You can even find a Chinatown in the Dominican Republic.
  • Dominican food is often called Comida Criolla, reflecting the numerous influences from the Taino, Spanish, and African people that met and developed here.
  • Sofrito is known as sazon in the Dominican Republic. It's a fine paste of coriander, onion, garlic, peppers and tomato. Mmm...
  • Mangú is the number one breakfast choice in the Dominican Republic. 
  • At Christmas, look out for arroz con almendras y pasas and tamales.
  • Mamajuana is the unofficial official drink of the Dominican Republic.
  • And pork is the main meat.
Dominican Republic Food - Pallitos de coco

Pallitos de coco - a sweet snack in the DR

Dominican Republic Snacks & Staples

Not got time for a proper meal? No worries, you will find plenty of snackable options.

Staples & Street Food

  • Plantains - whether fried, mashed or boiled, plantains are a staple of Dominican life.
  • Cassava flatbread, often sold as a wedge, keeps the munchies at bay.

Fruits

As you'd expect, the Dominican Republic bursts with fresh, tropical fruit. In particular, you can have a taste of...

  • Super sweet and fresh pineapple
  • Coconut and coconut milk
  • Bananas
  • Mango
Dominican Republic - Jungle - Fresh cocoa beans

With cocoa beans on the island, you know the sweet stuff is going to be good...

Dominican Sweets

You can find most of these Dominican sweets at any supermarket in the country. For the slightly fancier desserts, however, look out for a decent Dominican restaurant, like those recommended here.

  • Pallitos de coco - sugary sweet coconut sticks
  • Chocolate - do we need to say more?
  • Raspadura de leche - Dominican "fresh scrape" milk fudge looks like the fudge we have back in the UK, but is less buttery and not so sweet. They're sold wrapped in banana leaves and make for a very portable sweet snack.
  • Majarete Dominicana - a corn based, gelatinous cinnamon dessert. Best enjoyed at a restaurant, like the beachside Chinola at the Hilton La Romana.
  • Jalao - Dominican honey and coconut balls.
  • Dulce de leche - a rich caramelised milk paste which is excellent on toast.

Inside tip: if you're in Santo Domingo and interested in Dominican food then don't miss a visit to the Mercado Modelo, the fresh food market.

Why not bookmark this article on the best Dominican Republic food on Pinterest for later.

Best Dominican Food Cover image

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