Latin America is a vast continent home to most of a billion people. Its land covers more or less the entire range of climates existent on Earth, from the deserts of Mexico to the rainforests of Brazil, from the high peaks of the Andes mountains to the tundra of Patagonia. With such a diverse climate, it makes sense that the people and cultures would also be astoundingly diverse. And so they are. A component of that, of course, is their food.
Outside Latin America itself, Latin American food can tend to get generalized. Mexican food, perhaps understandably, plays an outside role in the international perception of this region’s cuisines. It’s easy to see why: with its distinctive tortillas, chilis, and salsas, Mexican food is certainly captivating. But, as you might expect from the size of the area we’re talking about, Mexican food is hardly the only type of cuisine that you’ll encounter in Latin America.
Heading south from Mexico, you encounter Central America, a hodgepodge of states occupying the narrow isthmus between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. These countries are poor, and their cuisine is simple and hearty, influenced by the Caribbean: rice and beans cooked together to form casamiento, corn dumplings, and simple meat dishes. Cured vegetables and pickles play a role as well. Like many cuisines of the area, it’s simple, hearty fare.
Further south you reach northern South America: the land of arepas. These are also corn dumplings, little pouches onto which are tucked all sorts of delicious mixtures of meats, beans, and salsas. Further south, you reach the lands of Peru, with their delicious seafood ceviches and dozens of potato varieties. In Brazil, beans and meat is the name of the game. Argentina prides itself for its asadas, giant traditional barbecues, but that’s not all they have—you can also get a mean pizza there.
So how do you start talking about such a diverse cuisine? By selecting a dream team, of course! We’ve picked some of our favorite Latin American recipes for you to try.
Peruvian ceviche recipe
Even though the potato came from here, Peru’s unusual seafood dish, ceviche, is perhaps its best known culinary export. Or at least the most famous one it normally enjoys credit for. But ceviche is certainly worth the hype—call it Latin America’s answer to sashimi. Raw fish is placed in an acidic lime marinade and then… well, that’s just about the whole of it. The key is in the acidic marinade, which changes the proteins in the fish’s flesh, in effect, lightly cooking it without any heat at all. The result is fantastic: bright, sour, and spicy, ceviche is a bracing appetizer or main course, and is especially delicious when enjoyed in close proximity to a body of water.
Brigadeiros (Brazilian chocolate truffles) recipe
Brigadeiros are a special type of Brazilian chocolate truffle that originates in Brazil. Brazil, as one of the world’s leading cocoa exporters, knows its way around chocolatey desserts, and this goes double for ones that contain coconut. This is a great and festive way to finish your Latin American dinner party!
Mexican casserole with sweet corn and meat recipe
Sometimes, just getting the correct flavors is enough. Even if this Mexican-style casserole isn’t the most authentic, you still get a great Tex-mex flavor out of it, and the preparation couldn’t be easier. This is a great meal to throw together when you don’t have time to go shopping, because it’s mostly made out of nonperishable ingredients. Just mix the ingredients together, bake it, and dig in! Olé! Dinner couldn’t be easier!
Argentine Alfajores cookies recipe
Argentines are known across Latin America for their love of dulce de leche, a caramelized sweetened milk product. These Alfajores cookies are absolutely stuffed with the sticky goo, before being rolled in coconut shreds. They make a perfectly elegant dessert after a meal of grilled meats, asada style!
Moqueca de Camarao: Eazy Brazilian fish stew recipe
This uniquely spiced fish stew showcases the best of Brazilian cuisine. Fish, lime, cilantro, and chili—what more could you ask for! This stew is great for a cold winter night, but equally perfect at the end of a hot long summer’s day.
Beef fajitas recipe
Fajitas are a brilliant example of Tex-Mex cuisine. Strips of beef are quickly sauteed in a very type pan, stir fry style, with bell peppers and onion and the whole thing is doused with cumin and chili powder. Once everything is nicely browned, the resulting mixture is rolled up in hot, fresh flour tortillas and served with sour cream, salsa, and a squeeze of lime. Fajitas are great when dining in groups, as it’s a very hands on food—everyone gets to prepare his or her own little burritos. These Mexican beef fajitas are an easy way to feed a lot of guests!