15 of our favorite Latin American recipes
The United States celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15 each year. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile commemorate their days of independence from Spain during this time, and in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we honor the history and cuisines of these and other unique Latin cultures. We have 15 of our favorite Hispanic Heritage Month recipes to try, such as Chef Richard Sandoval’s oven-fried pork carnitas with guacamole and orange salsa, Chef Elena Reygadas’ vanilla and sugar conchas, homemade corn from the best new chef Fermín Núñez. Tortillas, and more.
Homemade corn tortillas
F&W Best New Chef Fermín Núñez of Restaurant Suerte in Austin shared this recipe for making fresh tortillas at home using only the highest quality masa harina, salt and hot water. Slightly nutty with a bit of natural sweetness and a deliciously strong corn flavor, these tortillas are a tasty canvas for tacos. Choose a heavy tortilla press: the weight of the press does all the work and will help form the most evenly shaped tortillas. Núñez prefers the Doña Rosa x Masienda Tortilla press. “It’s the press that will outlive you,” he says. “It’s like the tortilla press you find at any reputable place that makes tortillas in Mexico, from fancy restaurants to markets.” Pair the fresh tortillas with grilled chicken marinated in charred Núñez pepper and tomato salsa cruda, or enjoy them with your favorite taco toppings.
Tomatillo Salsa Cruda
Fermín Núñez’s Raw Tomatillo Salsa combines fresh and tangy tomatillos; jalapeño and serrano peppers; tender green onions; and zesty cilantro for a juicy, refreshing salsa perfect for topping tacos, eggs or tortilla chips.
Cuban black beans
Rob, the partner of the late and beloved food photographer Romulo Yanes, wanted to have Yanes’ mother’s Cuban dishes at her one year old birthday party. Yanes told Food & Wine before his death in 2021, “He always liked certain dishes she made, especially her beans and rice.” Yanes’ mother had died earlier that year, and it was the first time he had cooked his recipes without her, and she never wrote anything down. He took up the challenge, saying, “There was freshness in my mother’s kitchen. It was simple and not too difficult. His black beans are a perfect example. These dried black beans meet onion, green pepper, and bay leaf in a pressure cooker, which does a quick job while making them very tender and soft, but an overnight soak works well too.
Bollitos de Papa y Elote (Elote potato bites)
Crispy, cheesy and a little spicy, these potato elote bites are pastry chef Paola Velez’s take on bollitos, one of her favorite snacks in the Dominican Republic. She prepares a spicy corn filling made from elote, the classic Mexican street food, then wraps it in spicy mashed potatoes and frys it. The delicate crust of the potato bites is made with tapioca flour, keeping the recipe gluten-free. Topped with lime flavored cream and fresh cilantro, the bites are as pretty as they are delicious.
Skirt steak and asparagus with Semillas salsa
“Loaded with pumpkin seeds, cashews, and sesame seeds, salsa de semillas is a lesser-known but beloved Mexican nut-based salsa,” notes chef and writer Paola Briseño González. It’s a perfect complement to a quick-seared steak and tender, crispy asparagus.
Oven-fried pork carnitas with guacamole and orange salsa
Chef Richard Sandoval first tasted the soft, creamy and slightly sweet Spanish Requeson cheese used here during childhood trips to the market with his grandmother. In the United States, Requeson is sold in Latin markets and some supermarkets. If you can’t find it, substitute it with fresh whole milk ricotta.
Mole Chicken Breasts
Oaxaca is famous for its complex mole sauces, often made with more than 20 ingredients, like unsweetened chocolate, seeds, and chili peppers. Because moles take so long to make, many Mexican cooks rely on prepared pasta sold at outdoor markets, and Alejando Ruíz Olmedo is no exception. Instead of simmering chicken in the mole, he takes a more deliberately composed approach, roasting chicken breasts until the skin is crisp and serving the mole on the side.
A combination of two meats creates the best balance between tender texture (of the chuck roast) and succulence (of the short ribs). Chef Claudette Zepeda’s Birria Tacos get simmered flavor from adobo sauce.
Niños Envueltos Dominicanos (Dominican stuffed cabbage rolls)
Rich in the flavors of sofrito and three types of ground meat, these savory cabbage rolls are irresistible, especially in this version, which comes from the Dominican grandmother of the writer Stephanie Gravalese. The dish’s name, which translates to “swaddled children”, comes from the shape of the cabbage rolls themselves, but also nods to their deeply comforting nature.
The crunchy vanilla crust gives these buns their seashell appearance. Conchas are popular in Mexico for a light breakfast, served hot with a cup of coffee. “For me, experimenting with the Mexican tradition of sweet bread has always been fundamental,” says chef Elena Reygadas of Panaderia Rosetta in Mexico City. She enriches her dough with eggs and butter and lets the dough rise slowly overnight, with airy results.
Alfajores de Maizena (sandwich biscuits filled with dulce de leche)
Extra-thick dulce de leche between two butter cookies rolled in shredded coconut, it all adds up to the perfect bite in these Maizena Alfajores. Mirta Rinaldi, a teacher with the Argentine Kitchen League, learned how to make these melt-in-your-mouth sandwich cookies from her mother. One of the most popular cookies in Argentina, they can be found in all sizes in bakeries there and are picked up by the dozens for special occasions and celebrations throughout the year. Due to the generous amount of cornstarch in the batter, the cookies stay tender and chewy after baking. Look for repostero dulce de leche, which is made for pastry and baking, for this recipe; it’s extra thick, with a firm body that won’t stick out over the edges of the cookies between bites.
Tres Leches cake
Michelin-starred chef José Andrés offers a delicately light and sweet version of tres leches, the classic ice cream cake soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream.
Cinnamon-Sugar Churros with Cajeta
Churros require a relatively firm dough to help them retain their ridged shape, leaving plenty of room for the cinnamon sugar, says chef Claudette Zepeda. To avoid blowouts when piping the dough, be sure to double the pastry bags, which will also give you more control.
Yelapa Banana Pie (Pay de Platano de Yelapa)
What could be better than sipping a good Paloma while relaxing to the sound of the sapphire blue waves on a secluded beach accessible only by boat? How about a freshly baked pie with fruit picked a few hundred yards away? Yelapa, a small beach community about 45 minutes from Puerto Vallarta by water taxi, is known for its tropical pies. This version by chefs and writers Javier Cabral and Paola Briseño González features caramelized bananas and vanilla custard. The solid crust is salty and resembles shortbread because the pie has always been eaten while sunbathing, with no utensils around it. Take big bites, it will be even better.
Natilla (creamy egg custard)
“A direct descendant of the Spanish Catalan crema, natilla is a rich, creamy egg custard made without the crispy sugar filling,” says writer Lourdes Castro. “It’s soft, thick, comforting and perfect for entertaining as it can be made ahead. Be careful when adding eggs to the hot milk mixture; if you mix them too quickly you risk scrambling the eggs. To avoid this, add the milk mixture to the eggs very slowly to gradually increase their temperature.”