15 of our favorite Latin American recipes

15 of our favorite Latin American recipes

The United States celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month every year from September 15 to October 15. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile commemorate their independence days from Spain during this time, and in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we honor the history and cuisines of these and other uniquely Latin cultures. We’ve got 15 of our favorite Hispanic Heritage Month recipes for you to try, such as Chef Richard Sandoval’s Oven-Fried Pork Carnitas with Guacamole and Orange Salsa, Chef Elena Reygadas’ Vanilla-Sugar Conchas, F&W Best New Chef Fermín Núñez’s Homemade Corn Tortillas and much more.

Homemade Corn Tortillas

Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Nidia Cueva

F&W Best New Chef Fermín Núñez of Austin restaurant Suerte shared this recipe for making fresh tortillas at home using only the highest quality masa harina, salt and warm water. Slightly nutty with a bit of natural sweetness and a wonderfully strong corn flavor, these tortillas are a flavorful canvas for tacos. Choose a heavy duty tortilla press: the weight of the press does all the work and helps form the most evenly shaped tortillas. Núñez prefers the Doña Rosa x Masienda Tortilla Press. “This is the press that will outlive you,” he says. “It’s like the tortilla press you find at every reputable place that makes tortillas in Mexico, from fancy restaurants to markets.” Pair the fresh tortillas with Núñez’s Charred Chile-Marinated Grilled Chicken and Tomatillo Salsa Cruda, or enjoy them with your favorite taco fillings.

Tomatillo Salsa Cruda

Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Nidia Cueva

Fermín Núñez’s raw tomatillo salsa combines crisp, fresh tomatillos; jalapeño and serrano chiles; tender spring onions; and pungent cilantro for a juicy, refreshing salsa, perfect for topping tacos, eggs, or tortilla chips.

Cuban style black beans

Romulo Yanes

Rob, the partner of the late and beloved food photographer Romulo Yanes, wanted to have Yanes’ mother’s Cuban dishes at his birthday party for a year. 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 this was the first time he’d cooked her recipes without her, and she never wrote anything down. He accepted the challenge, saying, “There was a freshness to my mom’s kitchen. It was homey and not overly fussy. Her black beans are a perfect example.” These dried black beans meet onion, green pepper, and bay leaf in a pressure cooker, making them quick to work while getting really soft and tender, but soaking overnight works well too.

Bollitos de Papa y Elote (Potato Elote Bites)

Emily Kordovich

Crispy, cheesy and a little spicy, these potato elote bites are confectioner Paola Velez’s take on bollitos, one of her favorite snacks in the Dominican Republic. She makes a spiced corn filling based on elote, the classic Mexican street food, then wraps it in spiced mashed potatoes and deep-fried it. The delicate crust on the potato chips is made with tapioca flour, which keeps the recipe gluten-free. Topped with lime-flavored crema and fresh coriander, the appetizers are as beautiful as they are delicious.

Skirt Steak and Asparagus with Salsa de Semillas

Victor Protasio

“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 accompaniment to quickly seared steak and crisp asparagus.

Oven Baked Pork Carnitas with Guacamole and Orange Salsa

© James Ransom

Chef Richard Sandoval first tasted the moist, creamy, slightly sweet Spanish Requeson cheese used here during trips to the market with his grandmother. In the US, Requeson is sold in Latin markets and some supermarkets. If you can’t find it, substitute fresh whole milk ricotta.

Chicken breasts with Mol

© Maura McEvoy

Oaxaca is known for its complex mole sauces, often made with more than 20 ingredients, such as unsweetened chocolate, seeds, and chiles. Because moles are so time-consuming to make, many Mexican chefs rely on the prepared pastas sold in the open-air markets, and Alejando Ruíz Olmedo is no exception. Instead of stewing chicken in the mole, he takes a more deliberately compound approach, roasting chicken breasts until the skin is crispy and serving the mole next to it.

Birria Tacos

Greg Dupree

A combination of two types of meat provides the best balance between tender texture (from roast meats) and juiciness (from short ribs). Chef Claudette Zepeda’s Birria tacos get a slow-cooked flavor from an adobo sauce.

Niños Envueltos Dominicanos (Dominican Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)

Ellen Mary Cronin

Rich in the flavors of sofrito and three types of ground meat, these hearty cabbage rolls are irresistible, especially in this version, which comes from writer Stephanie Gravalese’s Dominican grandmother. The dish’s name, which translates to “complicated children,” comes from the shape of the cabbage rolls themselves, but also winks at their deeply comforting nature.

Vanilla sugar Conchas

Victor Protasio

Crunchy vanilla crust gives these sweet rolls their eponymous 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 overnight, with airy results.

Alfajores de Maizena (Sandwich Cookies Filled with Dulce de Leche)

Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Extra thick dulce de leche between two buttery biscuits rolled in shredded coconut, everything provides the perfect bite in this Alfajores de Maizena. Argentine League of Kitchens instructor Mirta Rinaldi learned from her mother how to make these melt-in-your-mouth sandwich cookies. One of the most popular cookies in Argentina, they come in all sizes at bakeries and are picked up by the dozen for special occasions and celebrations throughout the year. The generous amount of cornstarch in the dough keeps the cookies tender and soft after baking. Find dulce de leche repostero, which is made for pastry and baking, for this recipe; it’s extra thick, with a firm body that won’t squeeze the edges of the cookies between bites.

Tres Leches Cake

© Christina Holmes

Star chef José Andrés makes a delicately light and sweet version of tres leches, the classic chilled cake soaked in three types of milk: evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and whipped cream.

Cinnamon-Sugar Churros with Cajeta

Greg Dupree

Churros need a relatively stiff batter to hold their ribbed shape, leaving plenty of corners for cinnamon sugar, says chef Claudette Zepeda. To avoid blowouts while piping the batter, make sure to double-line the piping bags, which also gives you more control.

Banana Pie Yelapa Style (Pay de Plátano de Yelapa)

Victor Protasio

What could be better than enjoying a good Paloma while relaxing to the sound of sapphire blue waves on a secluded beach only accessible by boat? How about a freshly baked pie made with fruit collected just a few hundred yards away? Yelapa, a small beach community about 45 minutes by water taxi from Puerto Vallarta, is known for its tropical pies. This version from chefs and writers Javier Cabral and Paola Briseño González features caramelized bananas and vanilla custard. The firm crust is salty and shortbread-like because the pie has always been eaten while sunbathing, without any utensils. Take big bites – it will taste even better.

Natilla (Creamy Egg Custard)

© Lucy Schaeffer

“A direct descendant of the Spanish crema Catalana, Natilla is a rich, creamy egg custard made without the crunchy sugar topping,” says writer Lourdes Castro. “It’s sweet, thick, comforting and perfect for entertaining as it can be prepared ahead of time. Be careful when adding eggs to the warm milk mixture; if you combine them too quickly you could scramble the eggs. To avoid that , add the milk mixture to the eggs very slowly to gradually increase their temperature.”