Want to have fun, learn new skills in the kitchen & sit down to a 6 course Guatemalan feast?! Sign up for a cooking class with El Frijol Feliz in Antigua, Guatemala!
There are lots of things to see & do in Antigua such as admiring baroque churches, haggling at markets, exploring incredible ruins & even learning Spanish.
But after reading amazing reviews on Tripadvisor, the one thing we didn’t want to miss was taking a cooking class with El Frijol Feliz!
El Frijol Feliz has been teaching visitors to Anitgua how to cook delicious Guatemalan food since 2007.They’re located in the center of downtown Antigua, just half a block from Parque Central.
Step inside the bright green doors into a lovely shop front with interesting souvenirs & quality products, including official “El Frijol Feliz” merchandise – I absolutely love their cute little “Happy Bean” logo!
This leads into a dining room & kitchen, shared with the Thai restaurant next door – taking a cooking class with El Frijol Feliz is a unique opportunity to cook in a commercial kitchen, alongside professional chefs.
We were warmly welcomed by Leivi, our teacher for the class. Leivi is native from the Sacatepequez area & like most local women, she learnt to cook from her mother at a young age.
Leivi helped to prepare the cooking plans at El Frijol Feliz, using the same recipes & techniques that have been passed down her family for generations.
We booked our class on the El Frijol Feliz website, where we also got to request which dishes we wanted to cook. You get to choose a main dish, 2 side dishes & a desert – there were so many choices, they all sounded different & interesting it wasn’t easy! Finally, these were the dishes we decided on for the cooking class:
- Main: Chiles Rellenos con Salsa de Tomate
- Side dishes: Arroz con Verduras, Frijoles Volteados & Tortillas
- Dessert: Mole de Platanos
We talked about the recipes in general & how we would be cooking them. Leivi explained that we would be preparing one dish at a time but then cooking some of them at the same time.
The class was run in Spanish but Leidi spoke very clearly & slowly so we understood most of what she was saying, even though our Spanish is quite basic. We were offered an interpreter but we felt quite comfortable taking it in Spanish & going for the full immersion!
Now, it was time to put on our awesome El Frijol Feliz aprons & get cooking pronto!
Main Dish at El Frijol Feliz
Chiles Rellenos con Salsa de Tomate
First on the chopping board was Chiles Rellenos – originating from Mexico, Chiles Rellenos are traditionally stuffed peppers filled with melted cheese, meat, raisins & nuts. The Guatemalan version is slightly different, with a filling of shredded pork & vegetables instead. But like the Mexican style, they’re also covered with egg batter & fried, served with a tomato sauce on the side.
The main ingredients we used for the Chiles Rellenos were green chillies, chicken, onion, plum tomatoes, potato, carrots & green beans. These have to be diced very, very finely, together with a mix of garlic, bay leaf, thyme & parsley.
Cover & cook on medium-low heat until the vegetables are tender, then put the mixture aside to cool down.
The next step is to roast the green chilies over a flame, on all sides – this makes the skins start to blister. Then, put them into a plastic lock-bag, which Leivi explained was to “sweat” the chilies out, making them easier to peel.
Set them aside to cool down a little, before peeling off all the skin, while they’re still hot – they’re easier to remove this way. Then, slice the chilies in half and remove all the seeds & veins, leaving only the skin & stem.
Next comes the fun part – putting it all together! Take a piece of chili & pile a small handful of the chicken & vegetable filling on top of it – you’re only using one half of a chili so they’re not actually “stuffed”, though Leivi showed us that you could also place the other half of the chili on top. Don’t be scared to get your paws dirty, they’ll be more of that to come!
Now it’s time to make the batter for the chiles rellenos. Start by separating the egg whites from the yolks. Use a whisk to beat the whites until they start to foam, then add the yolks & whisk for another 30 seconds.
Place the stuffed chilies in the batter & cover well. Then fry them in a large pan of oil until golden brown.
Chiles Rellenos are often served with a tomato sauce. To prepare this, boil some tomatoes, onions & bell peppers, then place them into a blender. Put the mixture back onto the boil for a few more minutes & that’s it!
And that’s how you make Chilles Rellenos con Salsa de Tomate with El Frijol Feliz!
Side dishes at El Frijol Feliz
Arroz con Verduras
Rice is a staple in Guatemalan cooking, but traditional Guatemalan rice is more than just white rice – it includes vegetables too. You can use pretty much any vegetables, we used red bell peppers, carrots, onions & sweet peas.
Sautee the vegetables, then add the uncooked rice with water. Cook the rice for about 20 minutes, as normal.
It’s really easy to make & as Leivi pointed out to us, it’s a great side dish that can go with many dishes, including our Chiles Rellenos con Salsa de Tomate.
Another common side dish in Guatemala is Refried Black Beans, or Frijoles Volteados. Leivi mentioned that meat is expensive so for many families, beans are the only source of regular protein. We really appreciated all her insights into Guatemalan culture & society throughout the cooking class, many of which we didn’t really take the time to think about earlier.
Frijoles Volteados are eaten for breakfast, lunch & dinner. There are different ways to eat it, such as in a more liquid form to dip tortillas in or as dipping it with tortillas or as a sauce over fried plantains.
Leivi shared with us an urban legend that soaking black beans in water overnight helps to reduce it’s gas-producing element… but because the typical back beans in Guatemala are quite small, it’s not really true!
For Frijoles Volteados, you only need to boil the beans for 1-1.5 hours, until they are soft – then add them in a blender to make a bean puree. At the same time, sauté a mix of mix of diced onions, garlic & pork lard in a frying pan. Add the bean puree into the pan & cook the mixture until it reduces.
Although some people prefer a more liquidly-type sauce, Leivi recommended a thicker consistency for our meal.
Handmade Tortillas at El Frijol Feliz
Corn is at the crux of Guatemalan cooking & you will find corn tortillas with every meal.
We learnt to make our own tortillas at El Frijol Feliz, which turned out to be easier said than done! It seems simple, just a mix of corn flour & a little bit of water, but it’s tough to get the right consistency.
Form a small ball of dough in the palm of your hand, then clap your hands back & forth flattening the ball into a thin, round mini-pancake. We had lots of trouble with this, as the dough kept sticking to our hands, even when we put a bit of water on our palms.
Leivi formed perfectly round tortillas with speed & ease – we could only marvel at hers & laugh at our own efforts! 🙂
We did our best & put the finished tortillas directly on the pan, cooking them just slightly.
We wrapped them in a towel & placed them into a basket to keep warm.
Dessert at El Frijol Feliz
Mole de Platanos
Like Chiles Rellenos, mole originates from Mexico. It refers to a variety of sauces made up of chili peppers, chocolate, fruit, nuts & spices.
Mole from Guatemala is similar to the Mexican version (the most famous being mole poblano), though the sauce is used for dessert, not a main dish. In Mexico, mole is served with meat such as chicken or turkey while in Guatemala, it’s traditional to have it with fried plantains.
The local version of mole includes roasted chilies, tomatoes, peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, pumpkin seeds & sesame seeds – you can toast these in a pan but don’t use oil.
Once that’s done, place all the ingredients into a blender with water. Then add the liquid into a saucepan, mixing & boiling it with chocolate & more cinnamon.
Meanwhile, slice some plantains & fry them until golden brown. Place them into the boiling mole sauce for a further 10 minutes.
Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top & voila, your traditional Guatemalan dessert is ready to eat!
The Finished Meal at El Frijol Feliz
The cooking class at El Frijol Feliz took approximately 1.5 hours – after working up an appetite, over a couple of glasses of wine, we were ready to taste our cooking! The dishes were brought out to one of the lovely tables in the dining room. There was so much food & it looked delicious – we couldn’t believe we made all of it ourselves!
First on the plate were the Chiles Rellenos – for large balls with lots of filling, these stuffed peppers were surprisingly light & fluffy. Whisking the eggs for a long time really made a difference.
The Chiles Rellenos tasted even better with the Salsa de Tomate.
The Arroz con Verduras was so flavourful & hearty with the vegetables that we enjoyed eating them just as they were.
The Frijoles Volteados were a surprising taste sensation! I didn’t imagine that black beans could taste this good! The small amount of onions, garlic & pork lard really went a long way.
We ate the Frijoles Volteados with our Handmade Tortillas. While they may have looked misshaped, we thought they tasted pretty good!
We were so full towards the end of the meal but there’s always room for dessert… and we somehow kept making more & more room because the Mole de Platanos were absolutely delicious.
I’d never really liked mole in Mexico, I always found it too smoky, but the Guatemalan version is very different. It’s a lot richer & more chocolate-based, which suits my palette perfectly. I preferred the mole sauce with dessert as well, rather than meat – after all, bananas in a chocolate sauce is a classic combination.
There was a lot of food, more than enough for 4 people but we did a pretty good finishing most of it 🙂
El Frijol Feliz Wrap-Up
Our experience at El Frijol Feliz was everything we were looking for in a cooking class in Antigua. We learnt how to make Guatemalan food in a commercial kitchen, alongside professional chefs.
When we arrived at El Frijol Feliz, we were actually pretty exhausted from sightseeing around the city all day. We were surprised to find all the preparation work & cooking quite relaxing & therapeutic, especially with a glass or two of wine.
Leivi was a very friendly, helpful & patient teacher. We never felt rushed & when we weren’t sure of what to do, Leivi always worked with us until we got it right.
If you’re looking to have fun & learn new skills in the kitchen, sign up for a class with El Frijol Feliz – it might just be your best experience in Guatemala!
In a Nutshell
Location: 4 Ave Sur #1, Antigua (half a block from Parque Central, next to Cafe Flor)
Types of Classes: Cooking Class, Baking Class, Date Night and Antigua Market & Cooking Class
Cooking class times: 8:30 am, 10:30 am, 2:30 pm & 4:30 pm
Duration: 3-3.5 hours including cooking time
Dishes: Chiles Rellenos con Salsa de Tomate, Arroz con Verduras, Frijoles Volteados, Handmade Tortillas & Mole de Platanos
Price: $49.00 or Q365 for the Cooking Class
- Phone: 7832.5274
- Email: email@example.com
- Web: El Frijol Feliz
* Thank you to El Frijol Feliz for hosting us. No compensation was received for this review but our cooking class was offered complimentary. As always, all our opinions are our own.
Visited in October 2016