The word asado means “grilled,” which is how Argentinians love their food. Spending time with family or friends grilling fresh meat in the open air is cherished in Argentina.
This dish includes grilled meat, sausage, and chitterlings (cow intestines), paired with a chimichurri sauce. Argentinians usually serve the meat with a side of bread, potato salad, and a celery mayonnaise salad.
Not only does the asado represent the comradery and closeness that Argentinians enjoy, but it also shows how important meat is to the country’s gastronomy.
Salteñas are a type of empanada, which means “wrapped in bread.” Empanadas usually have a savory filling wrapped in a fried doughy filling.
The salteñas from Bolivia are special because the filling is more liquidy, resembling a soup or a stew more than a regular empanada stuffing. The key ingredient to making salteñas is gelatin.
While many empanadas lie on their side, you can pick salteñas out of a lineup because of their characteristic upright shape. The beautiful pinched seam goes along the top of the half-circle pastry rather than on the side.
Beans are one of the staple foods in Latin America, and many countries have their own take on how to prepare them. One of the most popular bean dishes is the feijoada in Brazil, a delicious stew with meat and beans.
Brazil is a huge country, so people throughout the region prepare their own version of feijoada. While some may kick up the spice with some chorizo picante, other variations are quite mild.
No matter what type of feijoada you try, make sure it has rice, collard greens, and carne seca (or corned beef). If you want an authentic taste, add all parts of the pig to the stew.
Chile: Pastel de choclo
When you think of pastel de choclo, think of a delicious meat casserole. While the name literally translates to “corn cake,” this savory dish reflects influences from both indigenous groups (corn) and European settlers (meat filling).
A pastel de choclo usually has a corn “crust” and topping with a meaty filling called pino. You can even add slices of hard-boiled egg or olives to the top of the dish before applying the final corn topping. Before sliding it into the oven, don’t forget to add a light topping of sugar.
Colombia: Bandeja paisa
La bandeja paisa translates to the “Paisa tray.” Somebody or something paisa comes from the second largest city in Colombia, Medellín, so this platter is a traditional dish from Medellín.
If you want a hearty dish, the bandeja paisa is filling. It has a hearty serving of beans, rice, sausage, egg, plantains, avocado, and fried pork belly. Of course, this dish usually comes with the traditional Colombian form of the tortilla called an arepa.
Costa Rica: Gallo pinto
If you go to Costa Rica, prepare to eat a lot of gallo pinto. This delicious plate is a hearty combination of rice, beans, and a traditional seasoning sauce called lizano. If you want to make gallo pinto at home, you can substitute Worcestershire Sauce, but it won’t add quite the same touch of smoking flavors.
Try adding some veggies, like peppers and greens, to the gallo pinto for an extra healthy touch. Add some fried eggs to the dish, and enjoy a flavorful Costa Rican meal.
Cuba: Ropa vieja
Yes, you read that right! The national dish of Cuba is ropa vieja, meaning “dirty clothes.” This dish is full of rich history, dating back to Spain in the middle ages. People used the leftovers from their stews to make ropa vieja, and when the Spanish conquered Cuba, they brought the dish with them.
Since then, the Cubans have added their own flavorful touch to this Latin American food. The main components include beef, tomatoes, caramelized onions, peppers, and spices. Most ropa vieja dishes use the flank of the cow to give the traditional shredded meat to the dish.
El Salvador: Pupusa
If you’re familiar with soft tortillas, like what you use to make tacos, just imagine filling them with delicious hot cheese and beans. That’s what pupusas are!
Variations of the corn tortilla are popular in much of the Latin American food, but pupusas take them to the next level.
They are slightly difficult to make, because you have to fit enough cheese, beans, or whatever filling you want within the soft masa (dough), while maintaining a circular shape.
People usually eat pupusas with a topping of shredded cabbage, lime juice, a touch of sweet red sauce, and cheese. If you want to add some kick, put some jalapeños inside the pupusas or on top.
Guatemalan cuisine brims with numerous types of stews and soups to keep warm in the colder climates of the mountainous regions. Pepian is one of the popular—and slightly more complicated—stews. This dish takes hours to prepare because the rich flavor comes from slowly roasting the seeds and peppers before making the stew.
While many other stews have a chicken flavor, this one is unique thanks to the pumpkin seeds, which also give it the iconic orange color.
Enjoy this stew with a hearty serving of rice and corn tortillas. If you want to add some spice, chop up some jalapeños or chiltepe peppers.
Baleadas are a cross between tacos, pupusas, and quesadillas. While a lot of Latin American food has corn tortillas, these baleadas use flour tortillas.
Fill a tortilla with a combination of beans, avocados, cheese, and onion. You can also add sausages, chicken, beef, and even hot sauce. Fold the tortilla in half, and you have yourself a baleada!
This authentic Honduran street food is a great way to start your day right or satisfy an afternoon snack craving.
The ingredient list for this dish is wild. You may be wondering how anything tasty can come from a combination of chicken broth, chiles, and chocolate, but Mexican mole is otherworldly.
This traditional sauce, with a touch of chocolate, spiciness, and sweetness, outshines any other accompanying sauce for many Latin American foods. Try mole on top of enchiladas and stewed meats—and you won’t remember life without it.
Even though Panama is near the equator, stews are still a staple Latin American food there.
Sancocho is another word for stew, and there are plenty of variations throughout Panama. Make sure your version of sancocho has plenty of chicken, large pieces of corn, and slices of cassava root.
Despite the Central American heat, this sancocho is a must-have food at family gatherings and celebrations.
Paraguay: Sopa paraguaya
The name of this Latin American food may be deceiving. Sopa paraguaya is not a soup. In fact, it is a moist cornbread casserole that you can eat with a stew, chili, or roast.
To make this cornbread, mix most of the ingredients in a skillet on the stove, then move it to the oven to finish baking the moist bread.
Sandwiches aren’t only popular in the United States! The chivito (which translates to “little goat”), is the Uruguayan version of the perfect sandwich. Loaded with protein, this sandwich packs a big punch.
You can include bacon, egg, ham, and steak strips in the chivito, Add some melted cheese, lettuce, and tomato, and you have the perfect South American sandwich to share with your friends and family.
Venezuela: Pabellón criollo
Just like gallo pinto is the traditional rice and bean dish of Costa Rica, pabellón criollo is the Venezuelan version. Instead of mixing the rice and beans together, they are separated on the plate with the meat to resemble a pabellón, or flag.
The rice represents the yellow upper stripe, the beans the blue middle stripe, and the meat the bottom red part of the Venezuelan flag. Add some fried plantain chips for the perfect taste.