Caution: Scrolling through this article may result in extreme cravings and cause your mouth to water! Latin American food is known to be full of flavour and absolutely delicious. Here, we reveal the countries behind the creation of some of your favourite meals! Read through to learn more.
Cuba – Ropa Vieja – Ron Dollete via Flickr
The story behind Cuba’s national dish lies partly in folklore — Ropa Vieja translates to “old clothes,” and the traditional story says that a poor old man once shredded and cooked his own clothes because he could not afford food for himself or his family. He prayed over the pot where the clothes were cooking and a miracle changed the concoction into a delicious meat stew. Although the story might be one that not everyone believes, it has resulted in a tasty, rich meal that is a staple in Cuba. Here is an easy-to-follow recipe for Ropa Vieja with photos accompanying each step!
Brazil – Feijoada
Although the name of this dish derives from the Portuguese word for “beans,” a Feijoada is an inherently Brazilian dish. So much so, that Saturdays in Brazil are known as the day of the feijoada! This dish is a hearty bean and meat stew, traditionally made with black beans and a variety of different cut of pork and beef. Check out this mouthwatering recipe!
Argentina – Asados
The most basic but necessary building blocks to achieving the perfect Asado are fire, a grill and meat. But make no mistake, this is not just your average “barbecue.” As shown in the picture above, Asado is comprised of various cuts of meat being slowly open roasted and grilled to perfection. These include, but are not limited to, sausages, beef and pork. To learn more, check out this step-by-step guide to the perfect Asado.
Venezuela – Pabellón Criollo
If you haven’t already noticed, many staple Latin American dishes are extremely hearty meals. Venezuela has strayed true to this pattern with their national dish, Pabellón Criollo. Here lies a plate traditionally filled to the edges with rice, shredded beef stew, black beans and fried plantains. Other variations include a fried egg laid over top or salty white cheese sprinkled on top of the beans. Check out a great recipe here.
Colombia – Bandeja Paisa
Bandeja is the Spanish word for tray, and Colombia’s traditional dish Bandeja Paisa is basically a tray full of deliciously prepared foods that will keep you full for an entire day and then some. Traditionally consisting of pinto beans, rice, powdered beef, fried pork belly, chorizo, fried egg, plantains and avocado, this long list of deliciously cooked components will be sure to fill you to your heart’s (and stomach’s) content! Here is a recipe from someone who grew up eating this delicious dish!
El Salvador – Pupusa
Corn cakes, anyone? The Pupusa is a staple dish in El Salvador, found anywhere from street vendors to family dinners. It is composed of a thick corn cake stuffed with a savoury filling, such as cheese, beans and sometimes meat, then cooked on a griddle. These are so popular in El Salvador that Salvadorans celebrate the second Sunday of November as Pupusa Day! Check out this recipe for authentic Pupusas that includes how to make each individual component.
Mexico – Mole (sauce)
Although most items on this list are actual meals, Mexico’s national “dish” is actually a specific sauce: Mole! Mole is traditionally served on top of a variety of Mexican dishes, such as enchiladas, chicken, burritos, etc. The cooking process for this sauce is a long one, including ingredients such as chicken stock, chilli peppers, a variety of nuts and the ingredient that gives the sauce it’s rich brown colour: chocolate! This video tutorial on how to make Mole at home is super helpful and easy to follow.
Nicaragua & Costa Rica – Gallo Pinto
Due to the fact that a lot of Latin American dishes contain the staple ingredients of rice and beans, there can sometimes be overlap with national dishes. Such is the case for Nicaragua and Costa Rica — both countries identify Gallo Pinto as their national dish, but have slightly different takes on how to make it. Gallo Pinto may seem like a basic dish, with its two main components just being rice and beans, but what it may be lacking in flash it makes up for in taste. The main difference between the Nicaraguan and Costa Rican versions of the dish seem to be the type of bean that is used — Most Nicaraguan recipes for Gallo Pinto call for red kidney beans, however Costa Rican recipes include black beans. Check out a recipe for the Costa Rican Gallo Pinto here, and one the Nicaraguan style here.
Ecuador – Ceviche
We’ve all heard of Ceviche, but did you know that this fragrant ensemble is actually the national dish of Ecuador? This makes sense, as the dish is traditionally made with shrimp or other seafood and Ecuador is right by the Pacific Ocean. Ceviche is traditionally composed of seemingly “raw” fish and seafood, that are actually cooked through the marination process of being soaked in citrus juices. Seafood cooked with no heat, could it get any easier? Ceviche is most commonly made in Ecuador with shrimp, and this recipe results in a great one!
Bolivia – Salteñas
Salteñas are a form of baked empanadas that hail as Bolivia’s national dish. They consist of a savoury pastry that is stuffed with flavourful meats and vegetables that are mixed with a sweet and spicy sauce. The meats can be anything from chicken, pork or beef in shredded or ground forms. They are known to be extremely juicy, so try not to eat them while wearing a white shirt! Check out this recipe for delicious Bolivian Salteñas.
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