Thanksgiving in Guatemala

Jill's Thanksgiving Plate

I was stoked.

I had a full day to cook in the kitchen. The owner of El Muro, Max, and his family were coming from Cobán to have a delicious meal with us. They were bringing the meat and desserts. I decided to make some side dishes.

I was thankful that Thursday is one of our market days. 

Lanquin is a very small town. It doesn’t have a grocery store; it only has small convenience-type stores, called tiendas. These stores sell a plethora of Cheetos, Pringles, and Pepsi. I’ve also been able to find coconut milk, peanut butter, and white bread, but not much else. So, the market is the place to buy produce. 

I wandered around the two blocks, examining my options, before deciding on some potatoes, beets, jalapeños, cilantro, bay leaves, garlic, avocados, celery, and red onion. I spent 40 quetzals at the market, or about $5.25. 

I skipped back to the hostal, excited to spend the rest of the afternoon in the kitchen.

My rustic Guatemalan kitchen

My rustic Guatemalan kitchen

Thanksgiving stuffing is my favorite dish, so I had to make it. 

First I caramelized a couple onions to help develop a richer flavor since I was lacking some of my typical herbs. Then, I made some vegetable broth from onion and garlic scraps, celery, and carrot.

Typically, I make croutons by baking them, but since I didn’t have an oven, I toasted all of the tasteless bread in an effort to get some more flavor and crisper texture.

The hardest part of the stuffing was the fact that I didn’t have an oven. So, I scooped the mixture into a metal bowl and placed it over a pot of boiling water. An hour later, the stuffing was on its way to being done, but I became impatient. I decided to make an oven out of a saucepan, an idea I got from the internet. I got it all ready before realizing this was a very bad idea. The bottom of a saucepan is not enameled like a dutch oven; this would ruin the saucepan and burn my stuffing.

I transferred the mixture to a skillet, and it promptly started burning. At this point, I decided it was done and put it in the fridge. 

Toasting bread for Stuffing

I also made my Endless Summer Salad, some boiled beets, and garlic mashed potatoes. 

The mashed potatoes were also an adventure since I didn’t have a potato masher. I used the back of a metal spoon, until it bent too much. Then I used the back of a wooden spoon, but it was still lumpy.

So I mixed it with my hands.

It was still not great, so I decided to try a blender. I put a small amount in the blender and it immediately turned into a gummy goo. Well, crap. I added a stick of margarine (no butter here), and the last tablespoon of heavy cream from the fridge. It still needed more milk, so I sent Martin to the store. He came back with powdered milk. I mixed some up and tasted it. Of course sugar was in the powdered milk. Sugar is in everything. I added it anyway. The potatoes were as good as they were going to get. 

Throughout the day, the locals who work at El Muro would ask me what I was doing. “Today is Thanksgiving!” I’d tell them in Spanish, “I am cooking a big dinner.” Ah, bueno! They’d reply, not really understanding but smiling nonetheless. 


Let’s eat!

At 8 p.m., Max and his family, another co-worker, and two volunteers arrived for our feast. They came bearing ham, another vegetarian stuffing (so good!), sweet potatoes with pineapple, chocolate chip bars, carrot cake muffins, and green bean stir fry. We were STARVING!

Thanksgiving Dinner


Thanksgiving group photo

About a dozen of us partook in the meal and we shared with the hostal guests too. 

We chatted about our traditions back home. We spun the drinking wheel and took some shots. Lorraine entertained us with some Irish dancing. I was so tired but having so much fun I didn’t want to go to bed.


I was thankful for my new friends, for my family and friends back home, for the wealth of food, for the opportunity to celebrate my favorite American holiday in Guatemala.

It was a perfect Thanksgiving. 

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1 Response

  1. Ulrika says:

    My attempt at your Thanksgiving stuffing was probably not even as good as yours cooking in a Guatemalan kitchen without an oven. I will keep trying…