Explore these 20 Traditional Dishes from Hispanic Cuisine

The Hispanic culture dominates a huge portion of the world, with the majority being in the Americas. The Hispanic cuisine offers a variety of food specialities that will satisfy your cravings. Traditional latinos dishes expose the intermarriage between different cultures that resulted in the tasty delicacies we see today. 

In case you are not sure who the Hispanic are, they are basically Spanish-speaking countries and have a Spanish background. These countries are mostly those of South America, the Caribbean, Central America, and Spain. They are mostly referred to as Latinos, but this is a generic term that doesn’t apply to all of these countries. Latinos are mainly people from Latin America, and don’t necessarily mean that they speak Spanish.

Hispanic people are so proud of their culture that they even have what is known as Hispanic Heritage Month. It takes place from September 15 to October 15, where they celebrate their rich heritage and diverse culture. Like many other celebrations in the world, food is always a significant part of major holidays, and this one is no exception.

Whether you would love to be part of this celebration or not, we urge you to have a taste of the aromatic cuisine of the Hispanic communities. Many dishes have easily made their way to the United States, so they gained wide popularity beyond the Hispanic borders. In this list, we are going to introduce the traditional dishes of most Spanish-speaking countries. 

1. Arepas – Venezuela and Colombia

If you are into Latin American films or series, you may find yourself familiar with this traditional Hispanic dish, the arepas. They originally come from Venezuela and Colombia but are quite known among other Hispanic communities. 

So, what exactly are they? Arepas are mainly cornmeal doughs that have a rather crisp texture but are quite fluffy on the inside. They get shaped into cakes and then cooked in a variety of ways, either baked, fried, grilled, or boiled. 

The cooked cornmeal cake is then stuffed with several ingredients. Those fillings include cheese, avocado, chicken, various meats, and ham spread, commonly known as diablito. Some people prefer cutting the dough into half, making it look more like a sandwich. 

2. Tacos – Mexico

Well, this one doesn’t really need a lot of introduction. Tacos are the most famous street food in Mexico that has taken the world by storm when it found its way to different continents. This Hispanic meal is a flavorsome delicacy that even non-Hispanic cultures seem to enjoy. The presence of tacos in different cuisines resulted in it being cooked in several different ways.

But since we are referring to the Hispanic culture, it is essential to reveal the original recipe of the Mexican tacos. This dish is mainly made of corn tortillas, not flour, and the outer shell is rather delicate. Cheese isn’t a staple in the original tacos, instead, they top it with white onion and fresh cilantro. The stuffing includes grilled or fried meat that is left overnight to be marinated in paprika, chilis, cumin, and oregano.

Throughout the years, Americans have taken a different approach to making tacos and that is what’s more popular today. The new recipe includes flour tortillas and lots of cheese. It also 

involved baked meat rather than fried or grilled, and it’s mainly chicken or pork.

3. Paella – Spain

A paella pan is one of the appetizing Hispanic dishes to die for. It’s quite known to be of a Spanish origin, and it’s widely known to be the national dish of Spain. This dish was brought into being in the mid-19th century in Valencia, Spain. Historians claim that the Spanish Muslims, known as the Moors, were the ones to introduce rice into Spanish cuisine.

The dish got its name from being cooked in a large pan, as the word “Paella” is a Valencian one that means “frying pan.” This pan is basically filled with rice that is left to be roasted at the bottom. On top, different kinds of meats, seafood or beef, are added along with green vegetables. The dish is then complemented with saffron, rosemary, and other optional herbs. 

Gaining popularity in more than just the Hispanic cultures, the ingredients used now vary by region. The original recipe includes seafood, but some cultures have integrated other meats like chicken, beef, or pork. Either way, we promise that this Hispanic dish is a very enjoyable one. Even its colorful hue is sufficient to make your mouth water.

4. Gallo Pinto – Costa Rica and Nicaragua

One of the most prominent traditional Hispanic dishes is the gallo pinto. This rice-and-beans-based dish is a popular delight in Central America. It is quite famous in several countries of the Hispanic communities, making it quite hard to identify its origins. Yet, Costa Rica and Nicaragua have always been claiming the dish as their own. 

The plate’s name means “spotted rooster” in Spanish, expressing the appearance of rice and beans mixture, which are the main ingredients of the dish. Gallo pinto dish is all about blending rice along with both black and red beans. It is usually seasoned with cilantro, onions, and chili for a flavorsome taste.

Gallo pinto has several variations that differ according to the region where it is made. Costa Rica seems to be the only country to add black beans to the ingredients. On the other hand, Nicaragua and other Central American countries make it mainly with red beans.

5. Ceviche – Peru

Apparently, the Hispanic folks seem to be fond of rice and seafood, integrating them into most of their traditional dishes. This time, we are shedding the spotlight on the delicious plate of Ceviche, or Cebiche, as the Spanish speakers pronounce it. It is a prevalent dish in all of South America, with Peru earning the credit for its creation.

This dish needs to be prepared fresh and immediately eaten, for the ingredients don’t go through a cooking process. Instead, they are eaten fresh and raw, and the presence of seafood increases the urge for immediate eating to reduce the chances of food poisoning. Common ingredients of this dish include shrimp or fish, lime, tomato, onions, and jalapeño.

Most countries use ceviche rather as an appetizer consumed before main dishes. However, some people prefer having ceviche as a main dish. In this case, more ingredients are added to the plate for a satisfying meal. Such ingredients include avocado, saba banana, maize, and sweet potato. It is also often served in a cocktail glass instead of a plate.

6. Tajadas – Spain

Another staple food in Hispanic cuisine is the tajadas. Although this traditional dish originated in Spain, it is more commonly associated with Latin American culture. This dish is widely enjoyed in Nicaragua, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Panama, and Cuba. However, each country seems to give this dish its own turns and twists.

Tajadas is a mouthwatering plate that may at first seem like slices of fried potatoes. But, this dish is made out of ripe plantains that are cut into long slices and deep fried before being served hot. Tajadas are always served as a side dish along with other food components that greatly vary from one region to another.

Most countries like to serve tajadas with rice and grated cheese, others prefer adding pork or fried chicken too. On the other hand, Cuba is the only country in the Hispanic community that serves tajadas as a sweet dessert rather than a savory dish. They even call them maduros, which is considered the sweet version of this Hispanic dish. 

7. Arroz Con Leche – Spain

Desserts of the Hispanic cuisine are ones to die for. Not only are they mouthwatering, but they are also unique to folks of the other half of the world. Arroz con leche is one of the notable Hispanic dishes that is popular among several Latin American countries, including Venezuela, Mexico, and Colombia along with Spain. 

Arroz con leche means rice with milk in Spanish, referring to the main ingredients of the dish. It is mainly a rice pudding made with nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon. Some regions like to add a citrus flavor to the dish for an extra twist.

Despite being a Hispanic dessert, it’s believed to be of Moorish origins. It’s also found abundantly in Muslim communities in the Middle East, which is more often than not the source of this creamy rice pudding. 

8. Churros – Spain or Portugal

Churros are one of the most prominent desserts in the Hispanic cuisine. It is also popular beyond the Spanish-speaking communities, reaching Portugal, Brazil, and other Latin American countries. Churros are most commonly enjoyed in Argentina, Portugal, Colombia, Mexico, Spain, Peru, and Brazil.

Churros are those sweet finger snacks made out of the fried-dough pastry, usually drenched in cinnamon sugar for an extra flavor. Dipping sauces are also served on the side to assist in satisfying your sweet tooth. You can find this dessert abundantly sold by street vendors in most of the countries where it is popular.

Many people associate the origin of the churros with Mexico, but they actually originated in either Spain or Portugal. Being the main street food in both countries has made it quite confusing to trace its origins. Some theories also believe that this dessert was originally Chinese, brought to Europe by the Portuguese before spreading to other regions.

9. Chimichurri Steak – Argentina and Uruguay

Argentina takes the honor of being home to the highly tempting sauce of chimichurri, with the Rs rolled. It is known to be more commonly enjoyed in Argentina and Uruguay, however, it still has a special spot in Hispanic cuisine. It’s a fascinating plate of juicy meat embellished with chimichurri and usually paired with a small side dish of colorful vegetables for an additional flavor. 

The chimichurri sauce is usually confused with pesto, but it’s totally different. It’s made of white vinegar, oregano, minced garlic, and chopped parsley. It’s served uncooked, yet it has a whimsical effect, adding a magical flavor to everything it touches. This uncooked sauce is best known to be paired with grilled steak, resulting in a mouthwatering dish that you can’t resist.

Legend has it that an Irish soldier, Jimmy McCurry, who joined the army, fighting for Argentine Independence was the one to bring it to the Latin lands. Historians have other theories regarding the origin of the sauce, yet the one with the  Jimmy guy seems to be the most popular. Regardless of how the sauce was brought to life, you will undoubtedly enjoy a hot dish of chimichurri steak.

10. Tortilla Español – Spain

If you wish to dive deeper into the traditional dishes of Hispanic cuisine, look no further than the tortilla Español. It translates to “Spanish Tortilla” and is usually referred to as the Spanish potato omelette. The longer version of the name is the best description of what this dish is made out of. Obviously, potatoes and omelette.

This classic dish is one of the national dishes in Spain that is enjoyed and cooked by other Hispanic communities. It is a tasty combination between potatoes, eggs, and sautéed onions, with those eggs being beaten until they reach a fluffy texture. Onion, parsley, and olive oil are also added to accentuate the flavor. 

There are many theories regarding where this dish comes from and how it was first created. Yet, it is commonly known to have originated in Spain by the Spanish prisoners captured in 1665 during the Portuguese Restoration War. This dish managed to make its way out of Spain and gain popularity among other Hispanic countries to become a traditional dish used to celebrate the Hispanic heritage.

11. Flan Custard/Crème Caramel – Spain

When it comes to satisfying your sweet cravings, Hispanic desserts can just leave you in awe. Crème caramel is a popular dessert that its name has given it a French crunch when it actually is not. Despite being a popular Hispanic dessert, it originated in Europe and Spain was the one to spread the recipe across Latin America.

Flan is a super soft custard that maintains a consistency that makes it into a cake-like shape made of eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk. This sweet mixture gets into the oven to be baked into the irresistible flan custard that we know. The dessert has several variations depending on the region. For example, the Spanish version of flan adds a bottom layer of caramelized sugar while the Mexican version covers it in dulce de leche.

Although flan is not of Hispanic origin, it is deemed among the traditional dishes of most of the Spanish-speaking community. The origins of this dessert is traced back to ancient Rome before Spain adopted it and added several variations. Later on, Spain brought the recipe to Mexico and it then spread across all of the Hispanic community.

12. Empanadas – Argentina

Finger snacks are quite enjoyable since you can have them almost anywhere and at any time. Empanadas are here to fulfill this fine purpose all while leading our stomachs to satiety and pleasure. While it is popular in every Hispanic country, empanada is a daily staple in Argentina.

Empanada is a small crescent-like pie made of pastry dough and stuffed with flavorful fillings before being baked or fried to golden perfection. The fillings could be either sweet or savory ingredients, depending on the region. Savory fillings usually include meats, olive, onions, beans, and pepper. The sweet version can be stuffed with anything like chocolate or fruits.

While Argentines are the highest-consuming folks of empanadas in the Hispanic community, Spain is the original home. It’s still a hypothetical theory that claims that the empanada originated in the Spanish city of Galicia.

13. Tres Leches Cake – Mexico

You don’t really have to be of Hispanic origin to know what a tres leche cake is. This delicate sponge cake has made its way to different spots across the globe. However, its name unravels its Hispanic nature. This cake is commonly known as a Mexican dessert, but every Hispanic country is fond of devouring this delicacy.

Tres leches means “three milk” in Spanish, and that’s because it actually takes three types of milk to produce this sweet thing. The ingredients include heavy milk, evaporated milk, and condensed milk, where a sponge or butter cake gets soaked in all three of them. After gaining huge popularity, variations have been taking place, where different countries use different types of milk.

The recipe of tres leches was first seen in Mexico before traveling to several spots across Latin America. Today, this sweet delicacy is consumed by most Hispanic countries, including Nicaragua, Cuba, Chile, Venezuela, and Colombia. It is also quite popular in many parts of the Caribbean and Central America.

14. Mole Sauce – Mexico

Sauces seem to have a significant impact on Hispanic cuisine, and this time, we’re shedding the light on the mole sauce. This Mexican culinary feat is an always-win addition, transforming a boring meal into a super flavorsome one. This Hispanic endeavor has only one con, and is the fact that is quite time-consuming.

Mole sauce (pronounced as mow-ley) is made of several ingredients, with chili pepper and fruit being the main ones along with other herbs and spices that can vary. These spices are cumin, anise, garlic, cloves, and coriander. Some regions love adding chocolate, but that is quite rare. Mole is known to always be paired with chicken, however, it can also be served over turkey or seafood.

In Nahuatl, a language spoken in Mexico besides Spanish, mole means sauce. The tales of its origin are encompassed in Mexico but in different states. Some tales claim Puebla to be the original home to mole sauce while others go by Oaxaca. Either way, its Mexican origin isn’t argued over. 

15. Ropa Vieja – Cuba

The national dish of Cuba is capable of making you eat like a horse, and it is the ropa vieja. It gives you an authentic taste of the delicious cuisine of the Hispanic countries. Although the ropa vieja is deemed the national dish of Cuba, it was originally brought to life in Spain. Like many other Hispanic dishes, this one traveled and made it through most of Latin America. 

Getting to the important part, ropa vieja is a succulent dish of slow-cooked shredded beef served hot along with some delightful sides. The stewed beef is the main component of the dish and is usually served with rice, yet the side ingredients may vary from one region to another. In Cuba, rice and black beans accompany beef as the main ingredients. However, the ropa vieja is served with potatoes or arepas in Colombia and other spots in the Canary Islands.

According to history, the dish was first prepared by Sephardic Jews that occupied the Iberian peninsula, in which today’s Spain is situated. It served as a national dish during the Jewish holiday of Shabbat. This dish made its way to Latin America and the Canary Islands through Spanish immigrants. In no time, it became a popular Hispanic dish in Latin cultures.

The name of this dish literally means old clothes in English. Its weird naming was said to refer to homeless poor men who shredded their clothes and cooked them as a meal. Well, the oddness of the naming may come from the appearance of this dish. But, regardless of the bizarre naming, it is still a gratifying dish to try with whichever side ingredients you prefer.

16. Tostones – Dominican Republic

Tostones are a rather a side dish than the main one and it’s quite popular around different Hispanic countries if not all of them. These green plantains are famous the most in the Dominican Republic, but it is still enjoyed across other countries as Puerto Rico, Colombia, Venezuela, and more. No matter where they come from, tostones are a staple of Hispanic cuisine.

Tostones are slices of green plantain that get fried twice to reach their golden, crispy taste. They are served as a snack or a side along with other main dishes that greatly vary by region. There is no specific main course to have along with the tostones and that’s the best part. You can enjoy them almost anytime throughout the day and anywhere.

17. Pupusas Con Curtido – El Salvador

If you are looking for a simple, easy, and affordable recipe from Hispanic cuisine, Pupusas con Curtido is the answer. This meal is made up of two different things, the curtido and the pupusas (corn cakes). The original recipe has always been a staple of the Salvadorian kitchen. You will surely find it eaten across different Hispanic countries, but if you’re going to cook it yourself, look up the authentic Salvadorian recipe.

Curtido is more like a colorful salad dish that is served alongside the pupusas (corn cakes). It is a dish of shredded ingredients, including cabbage, red onion, carrots, and oregano, with vinegar drizzled over for an additional taste. On the other hand, a pupusa is a thick flatbread made of rice flour or cornmeal. It greatly resembles the popular Hispanic arepas but is a little thicker. 

It is believed that the pupusa has actually originated in El Salvador several centuries ago. According to history, the Indigenous Pipil tribe used to make this corn cake and brought it to the rest of the world during their fleeing out of the country during the civil war. The same goes for the curtido, which used to be the embellishments added over the flatbread for a satiating meal.

18. Burritos – Mexico

No one isn’t familiar with the finger-licking wrap that is the burrito. It looks pretty much like the Middle Eastern shawarma that many people usually confuse between them. Burritos have that secretive edge that makes it quite irresistible. And, as many people may know, it’s a popular Mexican dish that traveled all the way to the rest of the Americas, sitting high on top of the delicious Hispanic dishes list.

As most of us know, burritos consist of a flour tortilla that is cylindrically wrapped, embracing several savory ingredients. The combination of those ingredients offer us a palatable culinary feat in Hispanic cuisine. These ingredients are most often meat, whether chicken, beef, or pork, along with cooked beans, cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce. The addition of condiments like guacamole, salsa, or crema varies according to personal preferences.

While being a staple dish in most Hispanic communities, the burrito’s origin is known to be Mexican. Historians claim that the existence of burritos goes way back in time. Mesoamerican cultures that resided in what is known now as Mexico used corn tortillas to wrap the food they cook. Later on, it became a culinary custom in Latin America and the rest of the globe.

19. Quesadilla – Mexico

Seemingly, Mexico takes the lead when it comes to the most traditional Hispanic dishes. Most Mexican dishes are well-known beyond the borders of the Americas. Many countries around Europe, Africa, and Asia seem to be aware of the Mexican delicacies, and quesadilla is no exception. This Tex-mex delicacy is irresistible and will guide your way to a full and happy tummy.

Since tortilla plays a vital role in Mexican cuisine, it has a succulent impact on the creation of quesadilla as well. Quesadilla is triangle-shaped corn or flour tortillas filled primarily with cheese. Other fillings are added, including spices, mushrooms, tomatoes, beans, olives and meats, either chicken, beef, or pork. The tortillas are then cooked on a stove until toasted and the cheese melts.

Queso means “cheese” in Spanish and quesadilla means “little cheese thing.” That explains why cheese is the primary filling of this Hispanic dish. It is believed that quesadillas date back to the 16th century when it was widely enjoyed in different parts of colonial Mexico.

20. Fajita – Texas

The sizzling sound of fresh fajita can make your mouth water even if you have just finished your meal. Not to mention the irresistible aroma of this delicious dish. Even the name of the dish is enough to make you realize its Hispanic origin unless you pronounce the j. It’s a popular notion that fajitas are of Mexican origin and while this is not wrong, it specifically originated in the Northeastern part of it, Texas.

Fajita is mainly any type of meat, either chicken or beef, that is thinly sliced and drenched in flavorful spices. Peppers and onions are the main ingredients that give cooked meat an appetizing flavor. They are also cut into thin slices and placed in the hot iron skillet along with the meat. Cheese is an extra addition to this dish and tortillas are served beneath the dish to soak the dripping flavors.

Condiments like guacamole, sour cream, salsa, and pico de gallo are also served alongside this flavorful Hispanic dish. There aren’t many tales regarding how this creation came into being. However, we are all grateful it did anyway. 

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