8 Tasty Comfort Foods from Across Latin America

Tamales, empenadas, arepas… oh my!


Graphic by Monica Inouye/SAC.Media.

Throughout Latin America, food is a big part of each country’s culture. It can unlock a memory from a good time in a person’s life or even help create new memories. Every country in Latin America has their own food that identifies them and makes their people happy. Here are eight different comfort foods across Latin America.

1. Pupusas Salvadoreñas

Pupusas are the national dish of El Salvador. They are so popular in El Salvador that there is a whole day dedicated to celebrating them. A pupusa is a thick flatbread made of cornmeal, or flour, that is stuffed with multiple ingredients such as refried beans or cheese.They are often topped with an El Salvadoran cabbage salad and salsa.

2. Picadillo Cubano

Picadillo is a traditional Cuban dinner, but it is also made in many different countries across Latin America. It consists of finely minced ground beef with tomatoes, olives, onions\ or even raisins. It can be made in a variety of different ways using many different ingredients. It is usually served with or on top of rice.

3. Tamales

Whether they are homemade or store-bought, tamales are definitely a comfort food for most Mexicans. Mexicans often eat tamales on Christmas, but also have them on a lazy Sunday morning. They are made from corn masa—a dough made from ground corn—and then later stuffed with a variety of different types of foods, such as chicken or cheese. Tamales can be a sweet dessert or a savory breakfast. They are sometimes eaten with a Mexican style hot chocolate called champurrado.

4. Mofongos

Mofongos are a famous Puerto Rican dish, made from fried plantains that are shaped into a bowl. The bowl is later filled with meat such as pork and bacon bits. It is placed on the plate upside down, swimming in chicken broth. It can be found all around the small Island and is the unofficial dish of Puerto Rico.

5. Locro de Papa Ecuatoriano

This yellow soup is made with potatoes, queso fresco, annatto—a red condiment made from an achiote tree,—milk, and cumin. It can be categorized as an Ecuadorian potato soup. It is often topped with a thin slice of avocado. This soup is great to have on a cold day when you want something basic and simple to warm you up.

6. Empanadas Chilenos

Empanadas are made all over the world, but mostly in Latin America. They are crescent shaped dough pouches filled with an assortment of different meat. They are very versatile and can be eaten savory or sweet.

7. Lomo Saltado Peruano

Lomo saltado is a Peruvian stir fry made with beef, onions, tomatoes, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and french fries. This dinner dish is a staple in Peruvian culture—right next to their ceviche. Lomos saltado is unique and packed with a variety of different flavors.

8. Arepas Venezolanas

Like the El Salvardorian pupusas, arepas are thick maize disks filled with meat and cheese. Arepas are thicker and are filled differently than pupusa. Arepas are cut down the middle halfway and stuffed with things like meat, cabbage and avocado. They are like a sandwich/ taco mixture. Arepas is a very big food in Venezuela and are often eaten in Columbia as well.