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Ever wondered how to add some Latin influence into your meals? Trying to find out what the best ingredients to use are? Well look no further! Alma Latina has got your back. Check out this list of 15 delicious ingredients to add some Latin flare to any meal you make:

 

1.  Cilantro

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Whether it’s to add more freshness and colour to a salsa or to bring an earthy tang to your rice, cilantro is a staple ingredient in Latin cuisine. Although the herb’s seeds are a common ingredient in European and Asian dishes, the leaves are its true star when it comes to Latin dishes. Its health benefits are also great for people with diabetes and heart issues.

Check out this mouth-watering recipe for Cilantro Lime Rice and try it at home! It’s simple, delicious and highlights how essential cilantro is in making a great dish.

2.  Lime

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What’s a latin dish without some lime to add a tangy twist? The juice and zest of a lime is an irreplaceable flavour component in any meal. Used in drinks, marinades, sauces, rices and more, this citrus fruit both brings out and adds on to the flavours in whatever it is squeezed into. Its added health benefits, including lowering blood sugar and improving digestion, are just another way in which its importance in Latin cuisine is amplified.

This recipe for Cucumber Lime Agua Fresca is perfect for the hot weather, try it out!

 

3.  Avocado

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Perhaps one of the most gentrified ingredients of Latin cuisine, the use of avocados has been booming in the past few years. Whether it be in guacamoles, salads or sauces, the healthy avocado creates something rich and creamy every time. Although it is now used as a spread on toast or a way to thicken up a smoothie, we should never forget that avocados made their debut in delicious Latin cuisine.

Ceviche in the summertime is too good for words, and this Shrimp and Avocado Ceviche is nothing less. Enjoy!

4.  Corn

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This delicious grain brightens up any dish and is highly regarded in Latin cuisine. It doesn’t matter if it’s a soup, salad or sandwich, adding corn will take any dish to the next level. Full of vitamins and minerals, eating corn is also said to improve eye health.

Spice up your day by trying out this recipe for Corn and Poblano pepper Empanadas, you won’t regret it!

 

5.  Tamarind

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If you like sour foods, this ingredient is the one for you! Tamarind is used for its tart pulp that adds depth to many Latin drinks, stews and sauces. It is also delicious to enjoy in candies or on its own! Tamarind can also help with digestion, weight loss and reducing heart-related issues.

Check out this super easy recipe for Bolas de Tamarindo (Tamarind Sweet Balls) here.

6.  Pipián

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This immature squash is perhaps one of the most widely used in Latin cuisine, especially in stews and moles. Its flavours are bright and earthy, pairing well with seafood dishes or over rice. Like any squash, pipián is full of vitamins and minerals that are great for your skin, hair and overall health.

Pipián Rojo over Rice is a delicious, hearty meal. Try it at home!

7.  Jalapeños

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Spice is everything nice! Jalapeños are perhaps one of the best ingredients that you could add to a dish in order to give it a spicy, Latin twist. Whether it’s used as a garnish, blended into a sauce, infused into a drink or to spice up a dish, the distinct flavour of the jalapeño is an essential. It also has added health benefits, such as lowering the risk of ulcers and relieving pain.

This recipe for Jalapeño Cilantro Salsa is the perfect pairing for any grilled meat or dip for chips. Enjoy!

8.  Cumin

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This spice is a staple in Latin cuisine, bringing a distinct, smoky flavour to every dish that it is added to. It serves as a great flavour enhancer for meats, especially in fajitas and steaks. Cumin also promotes good digestion and improves blood cholesterol, among its many health benefits.

Make this Latin Spice Mix at home and use it as a dry rub for your meat. You’ll smell the cumin from a mile away!

9.  Chile Peppers

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What Latin dish is complete without some heat? Chile peppers of all varieties are essential ingredients when you want to add a Latin flare to your meal. Chipotle, cayenne and ancho chile peppers are all examples of commonly used spices in Latin cuisine. Although peppers are usually associated with reasons that they might be “bad” for your health, they actually reduce the risk of heart disease and can also clear nasal congestion. So next time your nose starts running from how spicy your food is, don’t be afraid!

These Pork Adobo Tacos are packed with ancho chile peppers that bring the dish to a whole new level. Try them at home!

10.  Pineapple

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Sounds basic at first, I know. But pineapples really are delicious staples in Latin cuisine. Added into salads, salsas and sauces, the tart sweetness of pineapple compliments the spices in any Latin dish. It is also incorporated into desserts such as cakes and flan. With anti-inflammatory benefits, immune system support and antioxidants that contribute to good eye health, there really is no reason to not include pineapples in more of your meals!

Check out this recipe for Cuban Pineapple Flan for a tropical twist on a classic dessert favourite!

 

11. Plantains

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You didn’t think we’d forget about everyone’s favourite snack, did you? With options of either ripe (maduros) plantains, which are more commonly snacked on, or green (verdes) plantains, used in a variety of savoury dishes, this ingredient is a staple in Latin American cuisine. They are also packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber.

This recipe for Bolon de Verde (Fried Green Plantain Dumplings) will leave you struggling to hold yourself back from eating more!

12.  Tomatillo

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Don’t confuse this small fruit for a regular tomato, tomatillos are a much more tart and fruity Latin ingredient. Most commonly when they are green and have not yet fully ripened, tomatillos are delicious in any salsa, sauce or stew. They are also a great source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C.

Latin Pork and Tomatillo Stew? Yes, please! You’ve got to try this at home.

13.  Jicama

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Also known as a Mexican turnip, jicama is an exclusively Latin ingredient that is commonly used in salads, slaws and as a side dish in a meal. Although it looks a bit like a potato, its flavours are sweeter and more starchy. The vegetable is filled with essential vitamins, low in calories and high in fiber and water.

Check out this recipe for a super easy and delicious Jicama Salad!

 

14.  Chayote

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Said to taste like an intersection of apple, cucumber and potato, chayote is a green fruit that is used in Latin cuisine extensively. Whether it be in a drink or a meal, chayote adds a flavour component that is hard to find anywhere else. It contains no cholesterol or unhealthy fats, making it a delicious and healthy component of any dish.

This recipe for Chayote Gratinado is bright, cheesy and full of fantastic flavours, give it a try!

15.  Mango

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Saving one of the best for last? You could say so! Latin meals feel almost incomplete without some mangoes involved, even if it’s just to eat raw for dessert. Mangoes grown in Latin America are a delicious balance between sweet and sour, with a hint of a floral taste. It is a popular ingredient in Latin cuisine to use in drinks, salsas and salads. Mangoes are also great for your skin, digestion and are even said to help prevent cancer!

These Mango and Cayenne Paletas are a perfect icy treat for the summertime, try them out!