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22 Christmas Food Traditions (and Recipes!) From Across Latin America

It’s pretty much impossible not to love Christmas. From the family get-togethers to the amazing songs to the sparkly everything, Christmastime is my favorite time of the year. But of course, the best part of December is the food. Whether you are the party planner amongst your group of friends or you are constantly going from one family member’s to another’s holiday party, Christmas food is what makes us all happy this month.

The thing that might surprise you to know about Christmas food across Latin America, though, is the fact that we all have different traditions. Growing up in a Cuban household, I ate different foods than my Dominican or Ecuadorean or Mexican friends. But the best part of growing up and learning about these different Latinx food traditions has been incorporating some of them into my own Christmas celebrations. Whether it’s creating a Puerto Rican Christmas or incorporating some new traditions into your Christmas dinner table, here are 22 traditional Christmas recipes from across Latin America.

1. Coquito


Coquito, also known as Puerto Rican coconut eggnog, is a traditional holiday drink that everyone loves. It’s made with coconut and rum and a few other ingredients. But the best part? You can make a big batch of this and, in fact, you’ll need to because everyone will want to try some. Get the recipe.

2. Ensalada de Noche Buena


Noche Buena is, of course, Christmas Eve in Spanish and it’s when so many of our families actually did the big Christmas dinner. In Mexico, one of the dishes served is this healthy salad that includes plenty of fruits and a bit of greenery to make it look Christmas-y. Get the recipe.

3. Pork Tamales


If you never learned how to make authentic tamales from your mami or you have never even seen them made, then this recipe is for you. Authentic Mexican tamales are a tradition around the holidays and you’ll want to know the step-by-step to make them at home. Get the recipe.

4. Christmas Rice with Balsamic Syrup


When you head to Peru, you can expect a Christmas table adorned with roast turkey or pork, sometimes even chicken or duck, but those tables also include plenty of colorful side dishes — which is where this Christmas rice comes in. It’s made with bacon and all kinds of other goodies. Get the recipe.

5. Buñuelos


It wouldn’t be Christmas without at least one dessert on this list, and you’re lucky because the first one happens to be one of the best. Mexican buñuelos are a sweet treat this time of year and not as difficult to make as you’d imagine. This traditional recipe also includes instructions on how to make that oh-so-special syrup. Get the recipe.

6. Lechon Asado


Lechon Asado is the dish I grew up with over the Christmas holiday. It’s a Cuban classic that my family (and every other Cuban family I’ve ever met) whips up for big occasions. Why? Because it’s actually a bit difficult to make and takes a while… unless, of course, you use this slow cooker recipe that makes it super simple. Get the recipe.

7. Bacalao a la Vizcaína


If you’re looking for a lighter dish for the holidays, then look no further than this Mexican dish that involves bacalao stewed in a tomato sauce. It takes quite a bit to make so don’t be surprised if you want to do it only once a year. It’s quite delicious, though, so definitely worth the trouble. Get the recipe.

8. Alfajores


Argentinian cookies alfajores are absolutely incredible and a delicious treat to make any time of year, but especially perfect around the holidays. This perfect little cookie is made with dulce de leche sandwiched between two crumbly, sugary bits that are as delicious as they are pretty. And yes, you absolutely need a scrumptious cup of cafecito to go along with these. Get the recipe.

9. Christmas Sangria


National Sangria Day is December 20th, so you might want to make an extra large batch of this one for the holidays. Although sangria is perfect for any time of year, this Christmas sangria takes all of your favorite ingredients this time of year (like cranberries!) and incorporates them into this scrumptious drink. Get the recipe.

10. Panetón Filled with Ice Cream


Sometimes, you need a dessert for the holidays that is sure to impress anyone and everyone — which is where this paneton filled with ice cream comes in. Originally hailed from Italy but changed and adapted by various Latin American countries (like Peru), this recipe is perfect to make and bring over to your favorite party and just watch the hostess fall in LOVE… and maybe beg you for the recipe. Get the recipe.

11. Mushroom Cheese Empanadas


Empanadas are a great appetizer or snack to serve during the holidays, and this vegetarian-friendly version is perfect since you can bring it to any party with the guarantee that every guest will love it. If you’ve never made empanadas before, then you’re in luck because this recipe includes the full step-by-step instructions. Get the recipe.

12. Pernil


Puerto Rican pernil is a classic Christmas recipe that you simply can’t not make. This recipe, which includes a crispy skin, is the perfect way to celebrate Noche Buena, Puerto Rican style. This dish is the perfect centerpiece for your Christmas Eve celebration. Get the recipe.

13. Natilla


If you love custard desserts, then look no further than this Cuban recipe for natilla — a traditional Christmas dessert that is made with milk and cinnamon. Honestly, there’s just something about this dish that screams home for the holidays to me (since I’m Cuban) but that I’m betting you will love, too. Get the recipe

14. Arroz con Leche


Another classic Latin American recipe that you simply must have around the holidays (as well as every other time of year) is arroz con leche. This sweet rice pudding is made in different cultures but this recipe hails from Colombia. It’s as classic as they get so don’t be surprised if you enjoy it a little too much. Get the recipe.

15. Relleno de Pavo


I used to think that turkey stuffing (like this one) was a totally American thing but it turns out that I am dead wrong. In Ecuador, they make this delicious relleno de pavo every Christmas Eve to complement whatever other dishes that are on the table. The best part of this recipe is the sweet and salty mix of the raisins and chorizo. You’re welcome. Get the recipe.

16. Puerto Rican Pasteles


If you want a classic Puerto Rican dish that everyone can enjoy, then you simply must learn to make pasteles. Make sure that you equip your kitchen with two staples first, though: sofrito and aceite de achiote. After that, just follow these instructions and you will have plenty of pasteles to enjoy all month long. Get the recipe.

17. Baked Potato and Serrano Croquettes


I grew up eating croquetas in my Cuban household, but this Dominican version of croquettes made with baked potatoes and serrano ham are pretty much to die for. They’re simple yet elegant and make for an exquisite appetizer. Sure, they might take a bit of labor to make but it’s well worth it. Get the recipe.

18. Cuban-Style Beignets


If you’ve never heard of Cuban-style beignets (or buñuelos, just not the Mexican kind above), then get ready to be wowed. Now, I’ll admit that this is definitely not the easiest recipe. In fact, you will probably want to call mami to come over or invite your best girlfriend and tackle this recipe with a partner. But it will be well worth it when you taste these delicious “drunken” pastries. Get the recipe.

19. Pavo Navideño


Turkey is a traditional dish that is made for Christmas in the United States of America but you can give this dish a Latin spin thanks to this Ecuadorean-style turkey recipe. Roasted turkey is definitely a favorite of mine for the holidays and a dish that makes the perfect centerpiece, so why not impress your amigas this year with a criollo style pavo? Get the recipe.

20. Ponche Navideño


Fruit punch is delicious but you know what is even MORE delicious? This Mexican Christmas fruit punch, of course! The best part of this hot punch is that it can be served with or without alcohol, so you can make different batches depending on who is coming over for the holidays. Or, even better, make an adult batch and a kid-friendly one. Get the recipe.

21. Rosca de Reyes


If there was ever a recipe that was THE recipe for the holidays, then it would most definitely be Rosca de Reyes (also known as Three Kings Bread). It’s traditionally made for January 6th, or the day that the three wise men made it to visit the baby Jesus… or at least that’s how the story goes. So if you want to continue your own holiday celebration, then make this. You won’t be sorry. Get the recipe.

22. Arroz con Gandules


We’ve focused a lot of on appetizers, main dishes and desserts here, but we must not forget the shining splendor of a truly amazing side dish like Puerto Rican arroz con gandules. This recipe is the traditional rice dish that’s made with pigeon peas and adorns pretty much every single traditional Puerto Rican table for the holidays. And now it can be on your table, too! Get the recipe.

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Let Us Shed A Tear For The Non-Floridians Who Have Never Experienced Publix

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Let Us Shed A Tear For The Non-Floridians Who Have Never Experienced Publix

Hi, hello, thank you for taking a moment to take a seat at my Ted Talk!

I’d like to take the time we have together today to talk about the wonder that is Publix.

As many of you fortunate enough to live in the Southeast know, Publix is a Florida-based grocery store with all of the class.

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They’re a place known for their remarkable customer service and clean aisles. At Publix, shopping is literally a pleasure.

That’s right folks, this is a place of impeccable cleanliness and organization.

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At Publix, no corner is left unswept and no aisle left without the item you needed.

And their subs have been bringing people to tears circa 1930.

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If you haven’t had an Italian sub from Publix what what WHAT are you doing?

Guys! This place is so good that schools literally send students there for field trips.

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At Publix there’s so much to learn.

And their employees actually love working there!

And it’s probably because of their amazing benefits and vacation set up.

Recently a wave of Publix enthusiasts went viral for their devotion to the store’s key lime pie.

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An article by Buzzfeed boasted about the desserts greatness. And they were right.null

But KEY to the Publix experience has been the grocery chain’s dedication to Latino satisfaction.

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They literally have a STORE that focuses on Latinos called Sabor.

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New vest #publixsabor#nowisgreen#ilikeit ????

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The Southeastern-based store has run a line of Publix Sabor stores for years geared toward Florida’s Cuban, Puerto Rican, and other Latino shoppers. Recently they started to expand its offerings in heavily populated Latino populations with a Publix store called Sabor.

This place is the diggs guys! And they have all kinds of amazing foods to offer.

Like their commitment to the Cubano.

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????????????#winning #publixcuban #yesss

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Which for real will NEVER be good as your mother’s, but will always for real do everything to be top notch.

And their Tres Leches cake which is qualiT


And this is a fact that FOR REAL any Latino in the Southeast knows to be true.

No but for real.

It’s a taste like no other.

And beyond Tres Leche you can count on Publix to STAY stocked on your mama’s favorites.

Literally feels like home at the Publix in Little Havana guys.

And they for real have the hookup.

Yes they do.

Now go forth into the world my people and enjoy your limp meals at Whole Foods and Safeway!

Read: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Calls The Lack Of Black And Latinx Diversity At NYC’s Specialized Schools An “Injustice”

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We Talked to Latina Bloggers About Their Healthiest Food Tricks

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We Talked to Latina Bloggers About Their Healthiest Food Tricks

By: Lola Méndez

The first dishes that come to mind when we think of the diverse delicacies of Latina food aren’t exactly healthy staples. Sometimes, I just can’t resist the Uruguayan dishes of churros with dulce de leche, fried empanadas, and ñoquis doused in a creamy white sauce–not exactly nutrient-rich foods. Many of our most beloved Latino dishes are full of fat, salt, and sugar.

By folding in some of these healthy eating tips from our favorite Latina food bloggers you can have a more balanced diet. Cultivate a healthier meal plan so that you won’t feel guilty when you splurge on some of your favorite rich Latino foods. These Latina food bloggers prove that you don’t have to sacrifice taste in order to eat healthily.

Whenever I’m at a loss for how to make traditionally hearty Latino foods with a healthy twist I turn to Afro-Latina Dominican Cecilia Flores of Coco Verde, Latino Vegan Kitchen.

This mama can seriously make the most lack-luster veggies transform into drool-worthy dishes that will make you forget you ever enjoyed fried milanesa. Becoming a mother motivated her to clean up her diet. “It was really after the birth of our daughter that I started to seriously think about exactly what I was eating because I was determined to give her a good start and get her loving good foods,” says Flores.

This mama can seriously make the most lack-luster veggies transform into drool-worthy dishes that will make you forget you ever enjoyed fried milanesa. Becoming a mother motivated her to clean up her diet. “It was really after the birth of our daughter that I started to seriously think about exactly what I was eating because I was determined to give her a good start and get her loving good foods,” says Flores.

Flores had the same concerns that many of us feel when trying to think about incorporating more plants into our diets. “I started learning about plant-based eating and its benefits. The only issue was the food! I didn’t want healthier and plant-based eating to mean that I was leaving my culture and traditional foods behind,” says Flores. She began to get creative as she prepared and transformed the Dominican foods she loves with healthier ingredients.

Another Latina food blogger we turn to for healthy recipes is Mexican Ana Frias of Muy Delish.

The fondest memories from her childhood are helping her mother prepare meals for their family of nine kids in Mexico. But, it wasn’t until Frias started weight lifting that she got serious about sticking to a healthy diet. She believes that balance and moderation is the key to staying healthy. “Healthy eating is about moderation, not about being restrictive with the foods you eat. If you eat a balanced healthy diet and have a treat here and there, you’ll be less inclined to binge or stop eating healthy altogether. Extreme diets never work,” says Frias.

The founder of Muy Bueno Cookbook and author of “Muy Bueno” and “Latin Twist” is healthyish Tejana Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack. “I’m obsessed with my Mexican culture and sharing my family traditions. I create recipes with a healthy Mexican twist, which means less frying, less fat, high protein, and more fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables,” she says. She goes on to explain that she loves Mexican flavors, spicy food, and fresh ingredients, especially avocados. Avocados are an excellent source of healthy fat and a staple in many ethnic cuisines from Latin America.

Her key to successful healthy eating as a Latina is dining at home often. “It’s easy to overboard when a never-ending basket of tortilla chips and salsa is placed on your table at a Mexican restaurant.” Chips and salsa are her weakness. “I know myself too well. If I open a bag of tortilla chips I will eat them all,” says Marquez-Sharpnack and honestly, we can relate! She continues to say that “If you know your weaknesses, try not to buy those items.”

Healthy Eating Tips from Latina Food Bloggers

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Tomato jam! A delicious (and relatively easy) experiment. So great for toast or as an appetizer for parties! Crackers with vegan cream cheese and tomato jam are my new favorite. One note: next time I’ll peel the tomatoes by blanching them because I didn’t like the pieces of skin left behind in the jam. Have you ever had tomato jam? What’s your favorite way to eat it?! 2 lbs of tomatoes (peeled and chopped) 3/4 cup brown sugar 1 tablespoon of minced ginger 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp salt Dash of cayenne pepper Bring mixture to a boil in a pot (stir frequently so it doesn’t burn) and then simmer until it’s a jam texture (stirring occasionally, about 2 hours). Let cool, store in the refrigerator in an airtight container and enjoy! _____________________________________ Mermelada de tomate! Súper fácil y muy delicioso! Me encanta poner un chin sobre pan tostado o también comérmela con galleticas y queso Filadelfia (vegano). Lo único que cambiaría para la próxima vez es pelar los tomates antes de hacer la mermelada. No lo hice esta vez y en el resulto final quedaron pedacitos aunque trate te pasar la mermelada por la licuadora. Has probado la mermelada de tomate? Con que te lo comes normalmente?! 2 libras de tomates (peladas y cortadas) 3/4 taza de azúcar morena 1 cucharada de jengibre 2 cucharadas de vinagre de sidra de manzana 1/2 cucharadita de canela 1 cucharadita de sal Una pizca de Cayena en polvo Poner todos los ingredientes en una olla a hervir a fuego alto (moviendo la mixtura mucho para que no se pegue a la olla). Luego baja el fuego y deja que hierve a fuego lento hasta que tenga la consistencia de una mermelada (más o menos 2 horas). Deja que se enfríe y poner en un envase dentro de la nevera. Disfrutar!

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It’s easier than you think to make traditional Latino dishes healthier. If you want to incorporate more veggies Flores suggests using black beans instead of beef as they have more protein, fiber, calcium, and iron than beef and less sodium, cholesterol, and fat. Black beans are already a staple of many Latino dishes so you’ll likely already have some in your cupboard. Legumes are going to be healthier for your body and your wallet as they’re significantly less costly than meat. Give beans a chance and whip up Coco Verde’s Niños Envueltos of cabbage rolls stuffed with lentils and rice, preferably brown rice for more protein and fiber.

Some of the other items that Flores suggests every Latinx have stocked in their kitchen are whole grains like brown rice, sweet or red potatoes, dried beans (or low sodium canned). She supplements these with seasonal fruits and vegetables and pairs it all together for unique renditions of Latino dishes.

Frias thinks of creative ways to make unhealthy dishes better such as focusing on spices and salsas and baking instead of frying.

“I stay away from any high saturated fats like sopapillas and chicharrones. I still eat tamales and churros but only about twice a year,” she says. Marquez-Sharpnack echoes a similar sentiment in her approach to healthy eating. “Stay away from fried and fatty foods, choose dishes that are high in protein, and incorporate fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables into your meals.”

If a recipe calls for sour cream or mayonnaise, Frias substitutes with non-fat Greek yogurt which provides extra protein. Going cheese-free can be a challenge so she uses low-fat cheese in minimal portions and opts for lean meat over fatty proteins.

Snacking is hard to resist. Marquez-Sharpnack keeps lots of fresh plant-based supplies on hand such as fruit, veggies, and nuts. “I always have avocados and apples sitting on my counter and a bag of walnuts or almonds. Snack on healthy choices so that you are not starting and make bad choices,” she says.

Healthy Meal Ideas From Latina Food Bloggers

For breakfast, Flores recommends preparing overnight oats similar to avena. Muy Bueno Cookbook has a healthy rendition of old fashioned Mexican oatmeal avena. Breakfast is a surprisingly easy meal for folding in typical Latino foods such as cactus with this licuado de nopal. Avocados are great any time of day–add a Latino twist by skipping toast and serving your mashed avocado over a warm corn tortilla.

At lunchtime, Flores tends to turn to arroz con habichelas instead of rice and chicken. She likes to have a side of some maduros (her maduros pie is to-die-for) and some veggies. Calabacitas are a great side dish to have on hand. Frias says they can easily be turned to the main dish by adding some rotisserie chicken breast chunks. Another fail-proof side or main dish is Muy Bueno Cookbook’s Avocado and Tomato Salad with Feta Cheese which is full of healthy fats.

If you’re a meat eater, lunch is a great time to have seafood which is high in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. The shrimp ceviche recipe that Frias swears by is easy to follow and can be eaten with or without baked tortilla chips. We’re also a fan of her shrimp tacos with mango salsa for an easy and healthy lunch–be sure to use corn tortillas instead of flour. If you want something a bit lighter go for Muy Bueno Cookbook’s Seared Ahi Tuna Salad. Many Latino flavors are bold and low calorie such as lime juice, chile, ginger, garlic, cilantro, onion, and parsley.

If you’re used to having beef for dinner make Muy Delish’s Albondigas Soup–Frias uses 98% lean ground beef instead of fatty ground beef. In the cool evenings of the winter, it’s too easy to fall back into unhealthy eating patterns as you’ll be craving hearty dishes. Marquez-Sharpnack recommends going for a portion of caldo de pollo instead as it’s loaded with protein and veggies and is super flavorful and comforting. Remember, adding veggies is the easiest way to make a dish healthier. There’s always room for more plants in traditional Latino dishes such as arepas, pupusas, tamales, enchiladas, and more.

Why Healthy Eating Matters for Latinas

High rates of health issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes in Latino communities motivate Flores to encourage her fellow Latinos to eat healthily. “We’re oftentimes led to believe that genetics is the main reason for this, but in reality, it has a lot to do with what we eat! That’s also the hard part. A lot of what we eat is guided by where we live, especially for people that live in food deserts, or places where fresh healthy food or even supermarkets are very limited or unaffordable,” she says. Basically, you are what you eat, right?

Frias can relate to this on a personal level, as a major motivator for her own journey into healthy eating was that, like many Latino families, some of her relatives suffer from diabetes. “I believe that prevention is the best medicine. I don’t want to end up dealing with health issues as I get older if I can do something about it now. Si se puede,” says Frias. As Latinos, we have a high rate of obesity, heart and liver disease. “We must break that chain! All of these diseases are easily preventable just by eating healthy foods and having an exercise routine.” Recognizing food as nourishment is a key first step into becoming dedicated to healthy eating practices and decreasing chronic disease.

For Marquez-Sharpnack, it’s her mother’s healthy influence that inspired her to pass down healthy eating habits to her children. “It saddens me to hear that childhood obesity in the Hispanic population is growing faster than other segments of the population. Almost two in five Hispanic children between the ages of 2-19 are overweight or obese.” This urgent call for action shows the necessity for healthier eating in our communities–for the sake of our niños.

Read:7 Body Positive Latina Models That Are Killing The Fashion World and Beyond

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