Hispanic desserts, like the rest of Latin cuisine, are a unique fusion of Indigenous and Spanish food cultures. You may be familiar with classics such as flan and tres leches, but there are nearly endless options of traditional desserts to choose from, each with its own distinct ingredient list and taste.
Common flavors used include dairy (such as whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and cheese) as well as cinnamon and local fruits. The wide variety of desserts and ingredients also means there’s a classic Latin dessert option for everyone’s dietary needs. People who need to closely monitor their blood sugar may do better with a dessert that also features fiber, such as calabaza en tacha or alegrias, for example. In fact, anyone who wants to enjoy dessert as part of a balanced lifestyle can do so by prioritizing satiety. This could mean choosing desserts that feature fiber (such as from fresh fruit) or protein (like in nuts, for example). It could also mean balancing desserts with nutritious, filling meals.
Whatever you choose, there’s a tasty and traditional dessert recipe for you. Explore eight classic Hispanic desserts, their origins, and a recipe idea that’s sure to delight even the most discerning of palates.
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Dulce de Leche
Dulce de leche is a classic feature of South American desserts and also has popular varieties in Mexico and the Caribbean. The origins of dulce de leche are not completely clear, but some stories report it was developed in Argentina in the 1800s. Dulce de leche is a sweet caramel sauce made from milk. There are also varieties made from goat’s milk (cajeta) and coconut milk. Use this sauce on cookies, crackers, ice cream, toast, or even as a dip for fruit.
Calabaza en Tacha
Calabaza en tacha, or candied pumpkin, is one of the oldest known desserts in the Americas and is a classic dessert to serve around Dia de los Muertos. Calabaza en tacha is typically made with pumpkin, brown sugar (or piloncillo), orange, and spices. In addition to being a good source of fiber, pumpkin is a rich source of vitamin A which can be important for eye and skin health.
Pastelito de guayaba y queso
Guava paste and cheese is a popular flavor combination in Cuba, often found in pastries, cookies, and more. The most classic version is this simple guava and cheese pastry that can be served as a dessert or with your morning coffee.
The history of alegrias goes back to before the Spanish arrived in the Americas. Alegrias as they are served today are made from the whole grain amaranth—which also provides fiber—and held together with honey or another sweet binding agent. If you’ve never had alegrias before they may seem similar to a granola bar. They may also feature pumpkin seeds for crunch. It is believed that alegrias originated in indigenous culture from the practice of making religious figurines from amaranth
A staple of Latin American bakeries, tres leches cake is the signature cake associated with birthdays in Mexico and is often seen decorated with fresh fruit on top. What sets this cake apart is the mixture of milks used to soak the sponge cake.
Many countries all over the world have a dessert similar to flan (or creme caramel). Flan in Latin America has taken on a large number of variations, such as the addition of vanilla, or the use of sweetened condensed milk.
Fresas Con Crema
Fresas con crema is an extremely simple dessert featuring fresh strawberries in a sauce made with sour cream and sugar. Usually served on its own, this can also make a good topping for cakes, however! Plus, the strawberries in this dessert provide some fiber and vitamin C, offering up some extra health benefits to your day.
Arroz Con Leche
It’s difficult to pinpoint the origins of arroz con leche because so many cultures around the world have some version of a rice pudding. However, it is believed that arroz con leche arrived in Latin America with the Spanish. There are many regional variations across Latin America: Cuban arroz con leche is very smooth, while Mexican arroz con leche has plenty of mix-ins like raisins.
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