Planning on visiting Latin America?
Well, you’re in for a veritable culinary treat!
But aside from the spices and new flavors, there’s something else that might throw you slightly off balance, and that’s people telling you ‘buen provecho’ before, during or after your meal …
‘Buen provecho’ is a bit like saying ‘enjoy your meal’ and it’s a widespread (and slightly controversial!) custom in much of Latin America.
So, how on earth do you respond (especially when you’ve got a mouth full of tacos)?
Cutlery at the ready, let’s find out more!
These are the most common ways to respond to ‘buen provecho’ in Spanish –
- Gracias, igualmente. = Thanks, you too.
- Buen provecho. (Latin America) = Enjoy your meal.
- Que aproveche. (Spain) = Enjoy your meal.
- Provechito. (Mexico) = Enjoy your meal.
‘Buen provecho’ in English
‘Buen provecho’ (literally ‘good benefit’) is a Spanish phrase meaning something along the lines of ‘enjoy your meal’.
It’s not actually something we say *that* much in English, so it might be more useful to think of it as the Spanish equivalent of ‘bon appetit’.
Un hombre sirve la cena de Navidad a su familia
Listo, la cena está servida. ¡Buen provecho!
A man serves Christmas dinner to his family
Voilá, dinner is served. Enjoy!
And where does it come from?
Well, the phrase ‘buen provecho’ can actually be traced back to Moorish Spain.
In many Middle Eastern countries, belching is still a polite way of indicating that the food has been to your taste / satisfaction and, well, Arabs normally use phrases like ‘buen provecho’ to respond to a resounding belch (but in Arabic, obviously!).
Nowadays, it’s still a widespread custom (saying ‘buen provecho’ that is, NOT belching!), although some do consider it a little rude as it often means interrupting someone’s meal. Regardless, MANY people continue to use it!
It’s also worth mentioning (because you might witness it firsthand) that many people in Mexico may also respond to ‘buen provecho’ with a hand gesture, kinda like a military salute.
It’s basically a super useful way of saying ‘thank you’ without having to speak with your mouth full.
Anyway, let’s take a look at the most common ways to respond to ‘buen provecho’!
1 Gracias, igualmente – Thanks, you too
Since it’s always well-intentioned, the most common response to ‘buen provecho’ is ‘gracias, igualmente’, which means ‘thanks, you too’ in English.
Una familia antes de comer
Hija – Todo se ve delicioso. Buen provecho.
Madre – Gracias, igualmente.
A family before having dinner
Daughter – Everything looks delicious. Enjoy.
Mother – Thanks, you too.
2 Buen provecho – Enjoy your meal
You can also respond with a ‘buen provecho’ in return (easy peasy, right?).
This is actually pretty customary, especially when everybody is gathered around the table at the beginning of a meal.
Compañeros de trabajo a la hora de la comida*
Mariano – Buen provecho a todos.
Gladys – ¡Buen provecho!
A group of coworkers at lunchtime
Mariano – Bon appetit everyone.
Gladys – Bon appetit!
*Erika’s note – ‘comida’ means ‘food’ in English, but in Mexico and Spain it’s also a way to say ‘lunch’ or ‘lunchtime’.
3 Provecho – Enjoy
‘Provecho’ is just a shortened version of ‘buen provecho’.
Feel free to use different combinations of ‘provecho’, ‘gracias’ and ‘igualmente’.
Una maestra entra en la cafetería de la escuela
Maestra – Buen provecho, chicos.
Vinicio – Gracias, profesora; provecho.
Tatiana – Provecho, profe.
A teacher walks into the school cafeteria
Teacher – Enjoy your lunch, guys.
Vinicio – Thank you, teacher; enjoy.
Tatiana – Enjoy, teacher.
4 Provechito (Mexico) – Enjoy
When visiting local restaurants and food stalls in Mexico, you’re bound to hear the word ‘provechito’ sooner or later, which is the diminutive form of ‘provecho’.
But worry not, ‘provechito’ is no less effusive and meaningful than ‘provecho’ itself … diminutives are just extremely common in Mexican Spanish (you can think of them as a linguistic quirk!).
En un puesto de tacos en la Ciudad de México
Cliente 1 – Buenas tardes y buen provecho.
Cliente 2 – Buenas, provechito.
At a taco stand in Mexico City
Client 1 – Good evening and bon appetit.
Client 2 – Good evening, bon appetit.
5 Que aproveche (España) – Enjoy your meal
Whilst ‘buen provecho’ is customary in Latin America, in Spain you’ll likely hear people say ‘que aproveche’.
Un hombre entra a un restaurante y saluda a uno de los comensales
Luis – ¡Antonio! Gusto en verte. Que aproveches.
A man walks into a restaurant and greets one of the diners
Luis – Antonio! Good to see you. Enjoy your meal.
6 Buen apetito – Bon appetit
The literal equivalent of ‘bon apetit’ is ‘buen apetito’, and it’s considered a more polite phrase than ‘buen provecho’ (as long as you don’t say it to someone with a gob full of carne asada!).
Una mujer prepara un brunch para sus amigos
Abel – ¡Te luciste! Todo huele increíble.
Karla – Espero que les guste. Buen apetito.
A woman prepares brunch for her friends
Abel – You outdid yourself! Everything smells amazing.
Karla – I hope you like it. Bon appetit.
7 Que disfrute sus alimentos – Enjoy your meal
‘Que disfrute sus alimentos’ is the literal translation of ‘enjoy your meal’.
It’s considered a more formal alternative to ‘buen provecho’, but in truth it’s only really used by people in the food industry, such as waiters, cooks, chefs, etc.
En un restaurante
Mesero – Quedo a sus órdenes; que disfruten sus alimentos.
Comensal – Muchas gracias.
At a restaurant
Waiter – Let me know if you need anything; enjoy your food.
Diner – Thank you very much.
So, there you have it!
Now you know all about this extremely common Spanish expression. Even though it might be questioned by etiquette sticklers, if you’re visiting a Spanish-speaking country and people wish you ‘buen provecho’, it’s always a kind gesture, and it’s best to respond with a hand gesture at the very least!
Oh, and if you wanna dive even deeper into Spanish vocabulary, I recommend you head on over to our article on the differences between ‘pensar‘ vs ‘creer‘.
¡Hasta la próxima!