Some of the best ways to explore the culture in Latin America is through the food. Latin America can present you with some delicious and unforgettable culinary experience that will leave you wanting more. The variation of food in each country is great and can be found in fine dining restaurants, street food restaurants or from that very small yet special family-run places that the locals tend to visit. Here are some of my favourite Latin America foods that I recommend you try to get your taste buds going:
1. Tacos (Mexico)
When I say tacos, I am NOT talking about the hard-shell Tex Mex American style tacos but true Mexican ones with soft corn tortillas. Street food tacos in Mexico are divine and tasty with so many variations and the perfect snack to grab. My personal favourite is fried fish taco and Carne asada (beef), with some chilli and the added zest of lime. Another popular taco is taco al pastor made with spit-grilled pork.
2. Empanadas (Argentina)
A personal favourite snack in Argentina is an empanada. A pastry (baked or fried) filled with either meat, cheese or vegetables can hit the spot especially with some chilli sauce added to give a little extra kick. You can even try your hand at an empanada cooking class where you will learn the different folds you make on the ridges depending on what filling is inside.
3. Ceviche (Peru)
Ceviche is a famous Peruvian dish normally served as an appetizer, made of raw fish cured in citrus and some habanero chillies with chopped up sweetcorn, coriander and red onions. The fish used can really vary however as someone who has eaten a lot of ceviche, I recommend snapper or Covina.
4. Steak and Chimichurri (Argentina)
Probably the best place to eat steak in the world. Argentina is known for amazing meat and quality produce and the steak will have your mouth watering. Majority of the good spots to eat steak in Argentina will not even give you a steak knife as the meat is so tender it just cuts so easily. The menu will have a range of cuts, which the staff should help explain what best would suit your preference and cooked to your liking.
No steak in Argentina should be eaten without chimichurri as the main condiment. An uncooked sauce of finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano and red wine vinegar.
5. Açai (Brazil)
Found and grown in the Amazon, this healthy and tasty berry, which is pronounced Ah-Sah-Hee is a staple food in Brazil and something I ate daily when I was travelling around Brazil. Normally sold by street vendors by the beach, you will find açai cups or bowls of the berry blended with banana and topped with oats and honey. This is the best breakfast or snack to have on the beach and one of the more healthier food options in the country.
6. Mole Poblano (Mexico)
I came across and had my first Mole Poblano in Mexico City and it is a delicious meal for the senses. The hint of chocolate combined perfectly with chilli, spices, tomato and almond makes what is basically a gravy that covers a meat (normally chicken). This is a less known food for tourists travelling to Mexico and a must-try for those wanting to taste something different.
7. Arepas (Venezuela & Colombia)
Arepas is the ultimate snack to eat in Venezuela or Colombia. The arepa itself is made from corn (or maize) which gives it that soft texture. My preferred and recommended fillings are cheese, pulled meat or avocado, topped with chilli sauce to give that added spicy flavour.
8. Brazilian Barbeque (Brazil)
If you love meat, then you must visit a churrascaria when you visit Brazil. Churrascaria is the Portuguese word for barbeque which normally serve premium cuts of meat and are seasoned with salt, before being grilled to precision over a charcoal grill. Many of the meats served on skewers range from – from chicken, lamb and wild boar to name a few.
9. Tamales (Central America, Mexico, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia)
Tamales are found in various Latin America countries and is most commonly wrapped in corn or banana leaf. The wrap helps infuse a sweet flavour regardless of the filling. Once you unwrap the leaf you will find a mixture of cornmeal, spinach and meat fried in spices, which are simply delicious. Some tamales are savoury, some can be sweet. My favourite tamales were found in Mexico, which I would tend to buy from the old lady selling her homemade ones on side of the road.
10. Tuna Tostadas (Mexico)
Tuna Tostadas are a crunchy tortilla topped with tuna tartare (raw tuna pieces), avocado, corn, coriander and green onion topped with chilli and lime juice. For me, this was the perfect thing to eat for those hot Mexican days relaxing along the Mayan Riviera with its refreshing flavour, washed down with a mezcal based cocktail.
11. Dulce de leche (Argentina and most of South America)
This one is for those with a sweet tooth. Dulce de leche is found across most of South America, but particularly Argentina. For me, this creamy caramel delight was mainly eaten at breakfast, where I would spread a good amount on top of my toast. You will also discover that dulce de leche is a big flavouring for desserts like ice-cream, biscuits and churros.
12. Chile en Nogada (Mexico)
Considered the more patriotic meal of Mexico, primarily for the 3 colours of the food that are the same as those found on the Mexican flag. Chile en Nogada are poblano chillies stuffed with picadillo (meat) and covered in walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds. From my experience, Puebla is where you are most likely to find the best version of the Chile en Nogada, as this where this dish originates from.
There you have it, the best foods I recommend tasting when in Latin America. To be honest it was hard to choose my favourites to feature in as the vast amounts of food and flavours to be discovered on this side of the world is endless.
Discover some of your favourites - Check out our tours to Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Argentina or other exciting destinations in Latin America.