When we think of Latin cuisine, we immediately think of the bright, vibrant colors and music of Latin America. We also think of salsa dancing and beautiful destinations, such as Cuba and Bolivia. However, the most recognizable is the cuisine. What makes this cuisine so unique is its many flavors, from the sweet of tropical to the savory of pork. It also has many cultural influences due to neighboring countries and empires (e.g. Spain, France, and Portugal) colonizing the different regions. Latin America encompasses many regions — South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. However, its influence spans from Mexico to South America. It has a very diverse culture, but the love of food is universal. Latin America cuisine shares many of the spices and flavors of its surrounding countries, such as Africa and Mexico. Yet, there are some distinctive flavors and dishes, such as tamal, chipa, and feijoada. There are notable condiments as well, including guacamole, pico de gallo and chimichurri.
Food Regions of Latin America
There many staples of Latin cuisine due to its cultural influences, including maize (corn), beans, and pork. The intense flavors come from chiles, cumin, cilantro, and oregano. A variety of meats are part of the cuisine, including chicken, chorizo, and steak. Churrasco is beef or grilled meat, which is a prominent feature in Latin American cuisine (i.e. Colombia and Uruguay). Beans and rice are also featured. The Portuguese brought beans to the region, and they are abundant in Brazil. What is interesting is that many group Mexican and Latin American cuisines together. While they share many ingredients (e.g. corn and tomatoes), they are different in cooking techniques and in spices. You will find signature dishes in certain regions. For example, in the coastal countries, you will find seafood dishes containing shrimp and bass. In the central region, the focus is on meat with steak, chicken, and pork as well as other game. Potatoes and beans are heavily used in dishes as well. And in the Amazon, tropical fruits, nuts, and yams are used in soups and stews. We can’t forget about Latin American beverages! We all know about coffee, but horchata, atole, and cacao are also popular.
From the sweet of dulce de leche to the savory of empanadas made with a sofrito sauce, Latin American cuisine has something for everyone. It is popular as street food as well as fine dining. If you are looking to give your palate something new and bursting with flavor, give Latin cuisine a try!