Hispanic American Heritage Month is the perfect time to dive into the diverse culinary traditions of people with Hispanic heritage living in the United States. Hispanic cuisine encompasses many different countries and cultures, culminating in a mixture of flavors and cooking techniques. Here, we’ll take a look at some quintessential ingredients in Hispanic American cooking and delicious ideas for preparing them.
- Black Beans
A pantry staple found in all Latin American countries, black beans are versatile and provide a tasty base for creative combinations and spices. Add some cumin, cayenne pepper, and cilantro for the perfect Mexican side dish, or add some molasses for a hint of sweetness and then stuff them in a Venezuelan arepa.
Masa is the Spanish word for dough, and it specifically refers to ground corn flour that is then mixed with water and salt. With this dough, you can make beautifully thin tortillas for tacos or thicker pupusas you can fill with meat, cheese, and beans.
The best part about this staple is that it’s always ready to be cooked, whether it’s ripe or not. However, cooking plantains is a must because they shouldn’t be eaten raw. Green plantains are wonderful for savory dishes and can be fried much like potatoes. Ripe plantains are soft and sweet, so they can be roasted or mashed like in the Dominican dish mangu.
Combine this ingredient with the first one listed and you’ll have a simple, inexpensive, and delectable dish welcome on any Hispanic American table. Nevertheless, rice isn’t only paired with beans. It can be used in drinks like horchata, in the sweet dessert arroz con leche, or paired with chicken in a brothy asopao.
While sofrito can be bought premade in grocery stores, it’s simply a combination of basic ingredients you can prepare at home. You’ll need red pepper, green pepper, tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, and coriander. This mixture of ingredients serves as the base for many soups and stews widespread in Hispanic American cuisine.
The great majority of Latin American countries enjoy long stretches of coastline where fresh seafood is plentiful. That’s why it’s a standard ingredient in some of the most well-known Hispanic American dishes, with ceviche being the most famous of these. This dish is made with raw fish or shrimp that’s marinated in lime juice and accompanied by onions, tomatoes, and seasoning.
The sheer variety of chiles is amazing—more than 4,000! Some you’ve probably heard of are serranos, poblanos, jalapeños, anchos, and chipotles. Each has its place (and heat level) in Hispanic American cooking. Try making a traditional mole sauce to use with chicken or pork.
- Dulce de Leche
Saving the best for last, this sweet sauce is often confused with caramel, but it’s different! Just as it says in the name, dulce de leche is made with sugar and milk, not sugar and water. The milk gives it a smoother texture and a lighter appearance, making it perfect for drizzling on deserts or using as an ingredient in the preparation of tasty treats like chocoflan.
By Kelli Drummer-Avendano