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Adventure and Epicure

Local Dishes
My Recipes from Honduras

by Luke Shullenberger

Yucca Pie

In the poorer regions of Honduras yucca root is one of their staple crops. It grows anywhere, leached out soil, muddy river banks even in sand. It’s a lifesaver to those living on land where nothing else will grow.  As well, it need not be germinated from seed; merely plant a stalk or branch from another bush and roots will start to grow. Amazing plant.

Alas, yucca on its own fails to be a gustatory treat. In soups or boiled and served with a sauce of some sort it is OK, like a highly glutinous potato. It takes a bit of creativity and savvy to whip up anything special where the main ingredient is yucca. So, check out this desert recipe.

Our good friend Dona Elma Bodden hails from a Miskito Indian village Raista, on the inner shores of Laguna Ibans in the Mosquito Coast region. Her kitchen is locally renowned. The tourists who come to tour the Raista Butterfly Farm, the staff of the NGO Mopawi (internationally funded non-profit group that helps with local development projects in indigenous communities) and a few locals all dine there regularly. I asked what sort of “cuisine” could possibly be made with yucca and she delivered. This is a variation on pumpkin pie, dense, sweet, chewy and wonderfully flavored.


  • 1/2 cup flour

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 cups grated yucca

  • 2 sticks margarine or butter

  • 2 cups coconut milk

  • 2 tsp. baking powder

  • 1 cup of coffee

  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla

  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

  • 1/4 tsp. allspice

  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg

  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Topping for pie:

  • 1/2 stick of butter

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 3/4 cup powdered milk

  • 1/2--3/4 cup water


Combine flour, salt and baking power. Cream butter and sugar, add spices, coconut milk, coffee. Mix in dry ingredients. Pour into greased, floured baking pan and bake in a 375 degree oven until solidifies and turns golden brown on top.

For the topping, melt butter, add sugar, powdered milk and water. Hydrogenate by stirring while heating. Cook until thickens. Pour over top of pie.

Herb Tortilla Pan Bread

We shared a meal with a few fellow travelers while staying in a motel with a little kitchenette in the coastal town of Tela, Honduras. I wanted to make something with a little Euro flair but the oven was broken so I improvised a little pan bread with some flour, baking powder, lard, salt and local rosemary from the town market. I would call it a cross between Indian Nan bread, latin tortillas and Italian Focaccia. The flour, lard and salt were all inspired by tortillas and visions of chewy bubbly nan and fragrant rosemary-topped focaccia influenced the rest. It is extremely simple and ready in minutes. We dipped warm pieces of the bread in olive oil laced with fresh garlic, salt, oregano, rosemary and chile and ate it with slices of sweet red tomatoes and perfectly ripe avocado. And that was only the appetizer.

Back on the water two days later I took the leftover ingredients to see if it was feasible to create the same thing on the beach. Same as before, I mixed up all the dry ingredients in my main cooking pot (as a bowl), added a large dollop of lard and a bit of water to help bond it together. I stirred it around with a fork to get the dough started and then kneaded it for a couple minutes. I set the frying pan over a med-low flame and started forming chunks of dough by hand into flat round tortilla shapes. I cooked them on the pan, flipping them until puffy and golded brown. The crust was slightly crispy and the interior with the warm softness of a tortilla and the fluffy chewyness of nan and focaccia, all infused with an herbal bouquet. Great with one-pot slop camping soups, stews and pastas.

Fresh bread when camping, in less than 10 minutes, nothing better!


  • 3+ cups of flour

  • 1 ½-two tsp baking powder

  • 4 tblsp manteca (cooking lard, comes in handy tube-shaped plastic bag in Cent. Am.)

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 2 tblsp dried herbs (oregano, sage, rosemary, basil work best)

  • few tblsp of water to bond the dough together


Mix all dry ingredients. Add lard and H2O and stir with fork to moisten and start the dough. Mix rest with fingers, incorporating all the flour and knead for a couple minutes. Adjust with water and/or flour to make a slightly sticky, moist and pliable dough. Form tortilla shapes with palms of hand and lay on heated griddle. Cook when puffy and golden brown. Serve hot for best response from fellow diners.

Campers Orange-Coconut Cake

As I believe I demonstrated in the section on outfitting your camp kitchen, it is possible to turn your adjustable flame camp stove into a quite effective oven. But like I said, it has to be a stove with simmer control or you’ll turn the bottom of the cake into charcoal. As well you have to have a foil sheath to wrap around the entire stove and pan to create some convection.

This one was an inspiration that came to me, believe it or not, in the heart of the Rio Platano Biosphere in the Mosquito Coast. We were 50 miles up river at a one room boarding house run by a Pech Indian man Bernardo and his family (see our journals). In only nine years on that plot of land they have turned it into a veritable Garden of Eden. They got lucky and happened upon a spot with thick, fertile top soil and everything they planted thrived. Their holdings include, sugar cane, coffee, cacao, yucca root, corn, peppers, breadfruit, guava, avocado and lovely fruit trees of limes, oranges and coconuts. The juices from them provided the liquid for the cake.

I boiled down the water from a coconut until it was a third of its original volume. It became viscous and sweet and it was difficult to refrain from just drinking it right there. I then juiced one orange and one lime into the pot. Bernardo’s daughter ran and got me one egg from their gaggle of free range chickens and I mixed it with almost a cup of sugar. Then pancake mix and a couple teaspoons of baking powder went into the mix. We set it on the burner on the lowest setting, cocooned it in the sheath and impatiently waited.

10 minutes later, a springy, moist, delicately flavored cake emerged from the pan and was quickly consumed. It was the texture of steamed bread with just the right amount of tangy citrus flavor.  How decadent to sit with a mug of chamomile tea and munch cake while listening to the nocturnal symphony of the deep jungle.


  • 2+ cups of pancake mix (adjust according to amount of liquid produced by fruit)

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • water from one coconut

  • one orange

  • one lime

  • one egg

  • 1-2 teaspoons baking powder (usually don’t need much as pancake mix has some in it already)

  • 1-2 tablespoons oil

Variation: If you are out camping with few supplies there is a much simpler version that is still quite good. You can leave out the egg and replace the coconut water and citrus juice with a small packet of Tang powdered juice and water.


Boil down the coconut juice until one third original volume, take off the heat and cool for a few minutes. Squeeze in lime and orange juice, beat in egg and sugar. Mix in dry ingredients slowly. Cook over lowest possible heat for 10+ minutes. Test with knife, as soon as no dough sticks, immediately take off heat. Latent heat from pan will continue to cook it for a few minutes and nothing is worse than dry cake in the jungle.

Sopa de Milagros Sencillos

This one is a personal creation based on ingredients and preparations found in southern Mexico. I call it “Soup of Simple Miracles” as it is hard to believe that such flavors can be derived from such basic ingredients.

The flavor base for the soup is a paste made from the following ingredients that are dry roasted on a skillet: garlic, chile peppers, almonds and sun-dried tomatoes. The tomatoes and garlic give it a savory sweetness. The pasilla chiles lend a smoky spiciness and the almonds add a toasty depth and complexity.

The other ingredients are easily found at a late Summer or Fall harvest market. Pork or chicken, butternut squash or pumpkin, potatoes, onions and spinach. One further optional ingredient, chorizo sausage, may be a little difficult to find but it’s the secret ingredient that brings the soup from being merely excellent to exceptional.

Your palate will distinguish three stages of flavor as you eat the soup. Savory sweetness is followed by a deep smoky earthiness and what lingers is a touch of heat and whiffs of allspice, cumin and roasted garlic.

Served with hearty bread or warm tortillas and a spicy, full-bodied red wine it’s perfect for a cool Indian Summer night.

Flavor Paste

  • head of garlic

  • 6-8 sundried tomatoes

  • small handful of chopped almonds

  • two dried Pasilla or California chile peppers

  • 1 ½ tsp. oregano

  • 3/4 tsp. cumin

  • 1/2 tsp. all-spice

  • dash of nutmeg

  • salt and black pepper

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Dry roast the unpeeled cloves of garlic over low/medium heat on a dry, thick-bottomed skillet for fifteen minutes turning until all sides are slightly charred. Roughly chop the sun drieds and roast for a few minutes turning often until browned and smoking. Toast almonds on same skillet until golden brown. Cut open chile pods, take out seeds and toast on skillet pressing down with back of wooden spoon until chile started to bubble and smoke, flip and repeat. Rehydrate the chiles in warm water for ten minutes. Add all other ingredients to blender or Cuisenart. Add chiles and a little of the water and blend until nearly smooth.

The Soup

  • prepared flavor paste

  • 2 ½ quarts water

  • 2 chicken bullion cubes

  • 1 large onion chopped

  • 2-3 medium potatoes cubed

  • ½ butternut squash cubed

  • large bunch fresh spinach chopped

  • 0-12 (head) of roasted garlic cloves (same preparation as above)

  • 1/2 tube of chorizo sausage

  •  ½ cups cubed pork loin, chicken or beef stew meat

  • salt, black pepper, cumin, oregano, allspice to taste.

In thick-bottomed stew pot, brown the meat in dash of olive oil over med/high heat. Remove. In the rendered fat, saute the onions until translucent. Add chorizo and saute until cooked. Add water, bring to a boil, add meat and roasted garlic cloves and reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Add potatoes and a few minutes later the squash. When potatoes are cooked, add spinach and simmer for a few minutes more. Serve in large bowls with grated parmesan and a dollop of sour cream.

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