With fantastic flavors and familiar ingredients incredible Latin American food can be made in your own home. You can make easy weeknight food that the whole family will love, including kids, with these easy tips!
In the United States, the most commonly associated food with Latin America is Mexican food. Although many of the countries share similar ingredients and flavors, there is a whole world of flavor beyond tortillas, tacos, and burritos!
If you haven’t gone over the above guide it’s a good place to start so that you can successfully introduce your children to new and adventurous foods. Here’s some things to get you started on your next food adventure- Latin America!
Latin American food comes from the following countries:
- Costa Rica
- Puerto Rico
Tips to Make Latin American Food Kid Friendly:
- Tone down the heat!– Although chile peppers feature predominantly in most Central and South American food, most children would not be accustomed to the heat found in many dishes. Start small and remember to scrape the seeds and membranes from fresh peppers. This is where much of the heat resides.
- Remember the sides! Rice, beans, and plantains can be prepared in ways to give kids other choices. Salsas and sauces can also be served on the side and with various heat preparations to give kids the options to dip.
Top 10 Flavors of Latin American Cuisine:
- Beans– Beans are a big staple in Latin American food. Although black and pinto beans are most commonly associated with Latin American food, other beans are also used throughout Central and South America. Great northern, lima, kidney and navy beans can also be found in various regions.
- Rice– Rice is another daily staple of Latin American food. Rice and beans became a staple because of how inexpensive they are, but they are now very much a key part of Latin American cuisine.
- Plantains– Plantains are the less sweet, higher starch cousins to bananas. They can be served steamed, boiled, mashed, baked, and fried.
- Tomatoes, garlic, and onions– These are the holy trinity of Latin cuisine. They form the basis for salsas and especially sofrito, which is the base for many beans and stews.
- Citrus fruits– Although citrus fruits are an imported product from Asia, they have become a central ingredient in Latin American food. Lemon, lime, and orange are popular for use in marinades.
- Chile Peppers– Jalapeno is one of the milder peppers and perhaps the most widely used. Other favorites include chipotle and serrano. But you can swap out bell peppers or mini sweet peppers for milder versions of recipes.
- Cumin– Cumin is probably the most used spice in Latin American food. It’s got a pungent smell and tons of flavor.
- Cilantro– Cilantro, or coriander as it’s known in some areas, is a member of the parsley family. That might explain why flat leaf parsley and cilantro can easily be confused in the grocery store. Fresh cilantro and ground coriander have very different flavors and therefore cannot be used in place of one another.
- Maize– Maize, better known to us as corn, are an integral part of Latin American cuisine. They not only form the basis for tortillas but maize is also used to make arepas.
- Squashes– like butternut and pumpkin
Other Resource You Might Need:
What Tools and Gadgets do you need for cooking Latin American Food at Home?
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You really don’t need any special gadgets or tools for making Latin American food at home. However, these are some good additions if you are looking for something fun.
- Tortilla Press
- Cast Iron Skillet
Additional Kid Friendly Resources About Latin American Culture:
A big part of getting kids excited about new cuisines is introducing them to other aspects of the culture. Using music, books, and movies help spark children’s interest and open them up to trying new foods.
- What Can You Do With a Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla – In this bilingual paperback edition, discover the joys of a paleta—the traditional Mexican popsicle treat sold from the wagon with the tinkly bell that brings children running from every direction. Create a masterpiece, make tough choices (strawberry or coconut?), or cool off on a warm summer’s day—there’s so much to do with a paleta.
- Tito Puente by Monica Brown – In this vibrant bilingual picture book biography of musician Tito Puente, readers will dance along to the beat of this mambo king’s life. Tito Puente loved banging pots and pans as a child, but what he really dreamed of was having his own band one day. From Spanish Harlem to the Grammy Awards—and all the beats in between—this is the true life story of a boy whose passion for music turned him into the “King of Mambo.”
- Drum Dream Girl by Maragarita Engle – Girls cannot be drummers. Long ago on an island filled with music, no one questioned that rule—until the drum dream girl. In her city of drumbeats, she dreamed of pounding tall congas and tapping small bongós. She had to keep quiet. She had to practice in secret. But when at last her dream-bright music was heard, everyone sang and danced and decided that both girls and boys should be free to drum and dream.
LEARN THE LANGUAGE
Incorporating a new language into meal time is also a good way to engage children with the culture. Here are some resources:
- Learn to sing Mi Burro Le Duele La Cabeza
- Learn to sing The Little Mermaid’s Under The Sea in Spanish
Want to speak more? This is another great resource:
Kid Friendly Latin American Food Recipes:
Slow Cooker Shredded Cuban Beef Bowl – These Cuban Beef Bowls are a perfect slow cooker meal the whole family will enjoy! Tender slow cooked beef in a Cuban Mojo sauce with rice, beans, fried plantains and a pineapple salsa is exactly what your family needs on a busy weeknight. This meal can serve everyone in your family from baby to adult!
Chimichurri Ground Beef and Rice Skillet – Try this Chimichurri Ground Beef and Rice Recipe for an easy dinner that is sure to become a family favorite meal. This traditional Argentinian recipe is turned into a quick and easy weeknight recipe that is kid-friendly and is the perfect finger food and kid-friendly recipe! Made with ground beef and rice, this skillet recipe is served with a tasty chimichurri sauce. This easy dinner recipe for families is sure to be a big hit!
Costa Rican Rice and Beans Breakfast Bowl (Gallo Pinto) – Gallo Pinto is an easy and delicious breakfast from Costa Rica with loads of flavor! This easy 30 minute skillet meal is a great Costa Rican Rice and Beans Recipe that uses a combination of leftovers and fresh produce to make a lovely meatless meal for any time of the day!
Easy Beef Empanadas – Get your kids excited to try new recipes when they learn what a Princess might have enjoyed eating! This weeknight recipe for beef empanadas is so easy and delicious and inspired by Princess Elena of Avalor!