One of the best ways to discover and learn about new cultures is by tasting their gastronomy. All the textures, colors, and flavors can tell you so much about the people and the places they come from. Every piece of a traditional meal is a fragment of treasured memories and stories. That’s why it is so comforting and cozy when we eat them because they are part of ourselves. A steaming bowl of your favorite soup can lift your spirits in a second, and that might be because it reminds you of a loved one or a simpler time. It’s nice to keep that in mind when trying out new dishes—because this feeling is universal.
Latin Americans are lucky to have a lot of culinary diversity since many recipes were born out of the many influences they received in the past. Some dishes carry hundreds of years of history, and most are so good they haven’t changed much after all. Others have improved over time, yet they still cling to their past.
Latin American Desserts: Revisited
While there is a lot to talk about Latin American gastronomy, our focus will be on desserts for now. We definitely can’t deny our sugar craving, but we chose them because they are the sweetest and most comforting foods all around the world. Nothing can beat the pleasant and fuzzy feeling of tasting a fluffy piece of cake or warm crispy cookies. No matter where they come from—if they taste good, they will make you feel good! Even though this part of the world is famous for tropical dishes, they have a whole other sweet side that many are not aware of.
Traditional Latino desserts are very pleasant looking. We love their creamy and soft textures, and how natural they look! This inspired us to delve deeper into their ingredients, and after some research, we found out how easy it can be to make them healthier.
An authentic Tres Leches cake can be hard to resist, but a vegan recipe for the cake is no less tempting. And the same applies to the rest of the desserts we chose for this article. We hope you find the motivation to try them out and make some new and warm memories by doing so.
Latin American Alfajores have a pretty interesting origin. Its predecessor is a Spanish treat that shares the same name, but they look nothing alike. The Spanish Alfajor came into the Americas during the colonial period, and it comes from the Andalusia region of the country. This dessert resembles an Arabic nougat: It is a cylinder made with grounded nuts and honey. Another version of the sweet consists of a sandwich cookie made with two wheat flour wafers with a nut and honey filling. It is uncertain how it came to be, but Latinos embraced this less popular version of the sweet.
The Latin Alfajor is a sandwich of shortbread cookies with stuffed jelly or jam. Yet the most popular kind of Alfajor comes from Argentina, and that might be because of its delicious Dulce de Leche filling. This is a syrupy and sweet candy jam that comes after heating sweetened milk.
Making vegan Alfajores is just as simple as making the authentic cookie. We’ll show you how:
To prepare at least ten cookies, you’ll need:
- 4 tbsp of coconut oil, softened
- 4 tbsp of maple syrup
- 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp of cinnamon
- A dash of salt
- 1¼ cups of blanched almond flour
- ¾ cup of tapioca starch
- 8 tbsp of raw Dulce de Leche. You can use the AvenueSweets Classic Caramel Sauce.
- Powdered coconut milk—this is optional.
- In a bowl, add and combine coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Once everything blends, add the almond flour and tapioca starch. At first, you can use a spoon to stir, but after a while, you will need to use your hands to shape the dough ball.
- Flatten the dough ball into a disk, and cut out small circle-shaped cookies. You can also use a round cookie cutter. Then, put the cookies into a baking tray, and place them into the fridge for 10 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350F, and once the cookies are chilled, put them into the oven to bake for 8 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, and allow them to cool.
- Finally, add less than a tablespoon of Dulce de Leche into the center of a cookie. And press it down with another cookie to form a sandwich. To decorate them, you can dust them with powdered coconut milk. Enjoy!
These sweets are another adaptation of a Spanish dessert. While Cocadas are from Latin America, it appears that they came out of the city of Valladolid. Before the Spanish Civil war, a local cook was famous for his pine nut sweets. But the war’s shortage forced him to use grated coconuts as an alternative. The treat consists of a cooked mixture of coconut, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and egg. This version got popular in all Caribbean countries, and it hasn’t changed much since then. The coconut’s flavor is what stands out, which means we can use different ingredients without altering the final result. You can make your vegan version of these treats in no time. We’ll show you how:
To prepare at least 12 Cocadas, you’ll need:
- Half a cup of Aquafaba—an egg replacer, this is leftover water from cooked chickpeas. You can get the liquid by draining a can of chickpeas or boiling some chickpeas.
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 tsp of vanilla
- 1 tsp of salt
- 2 tbsp of coconut oil
- 4 cups of grated coconut
- Lemon gratings— this is optional
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- In a cooking pot, add and combine Aquafaba, sugar, vanilla, salt, and coconut oil. Do this while the mixture is heating on a stove, and stop stirring only after the sugar dissolves.
- Take it out of the stove and add coconut and lemon gratings to the blend. Continue mixing until the coconut absorbs all the liquid from the pot.
- With the resulting concoction, make small balls with a spoon, and place them in a greased baking tray.
- Put them into the oven for 25 minutes, or after they look crispy and yellow.
- Remove from the oven, and let them cool down for half an hour. Enjoy!
Tres Leches Cake
The origin of this marvelous cake is quite debatable. Some historians give credit to Nicaragua for its creation, but others say it came from Mexico. The oldest records for this soaked treat date back to the 19th century, and they came from the state of Sinaloa. What is certain is that it became popular during the 20th century when a canned milk company made the recipe their promotional campaign.
The name gives away its three main ingredients: Condensed, evaporated, and whole milk. This creamy combination gives this dessert its distinctive and delicious moist look. While making a vegan recipe for the cake requires more ingredients than the regular version, it is worth the try. We’ll show you how to do it:
To prepare a small cake for the dessert, you’ll need:
- 1 cup of flour
- Half a cup of sugar
- 1 tsp of sodium carbonate
- 1 tsp of dry yeast
- ½ tsp of salt
- 6 tbsp of coconut milk
- 5 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 tsp of vanilla
- 3 tbsp of apple sauce
- ½ cup of Aquafaba
- ½ tsp of cream of tartar
To make a vegan Tres Leches cream, you’ll need:
- 1 cup of almond milk
- 1 cup of cashew milk
- 2/3 cup of condensed coconut milk
- 2 tbsp of powdered sugar
- 3 tbsp of agave syrup
- ½ tsp of cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350F.
- In a bowl, sift the flour, sugar, sodium bicarbonate, yeast, and salt. Let it rest.
- Use another container to mix the coconut milk, olive oil, vanilla, and apple sauce. Make sure everything blends well.
- In a third bowl, combine Aquafaba and cream of tartar with an electric blender. Mix for 10 minutes or until it becomes a condensed blend.
- Combine the contents of the second bowl with the third bowl until a soft mixture forms. Then, add the sifted ingredients of the first bowl and blend. Do this at a slow pace.
- Pour the resulting combination into a baking pan, and put it into the oven for 30 to 35 minutes.
- Once baked, let it cool down for 10 minutes, and after that, transfer the cake into a flat tray. Poke small holes into the cake with a fork every 2 or 3 centimeters.
- In a separate bowl, mix all the ingredients needed to make the vegan Tres Leches cream. When everything looks smooth, you can pour the cream on the cake. Pour it gradually—let the cake absorb all the mixture.
- Let the cake cool in the fridge for at least three hours, or an entire night if possible. Enjoy!
Arroz Con Leche
Picture by: Cuponeando from Flickr
Every region of the world seems to have its version of rice pudding. The concept of a creamy dessert made out of rice and milk might have first appeared in Asia, and then it must have spread all over the rest of the continents. But the Latin American kind is unique and deserves a spotlight among all types of rice puddings. The Puerto Rican Arroz con Leche—referred to as Arroz con Dulce— is our favorite variation. This dessert is a soft and sweet combination of coconut milk, rice, and different spices. We’ll show you a simple recipe to make it:
To prepare at least five portions of Arroz con Leche, you’ll need:
- 1 cup of white rice
- A dash of salt
- 3 tbsp of cinnamon
- 1 tsp of vanilla
- 3 cups of coconut milk
- 1 cup of sugar
- Spice cloves
- First, leave the rice soaking in water for an hour.
- In a cooking pot, heat 2 cups of coconut milk with vanilla, cinnamon, and spice cloves until the liquid boils.
- Once boiling, add the soaked rice and cook without the pot’s lid for 15 minutes. Then prolong the heating with the cap on for ten minutes.
- Add the sugar and the remaining coconut milk for ten more minutes. Keep the lid of the pot.
- Remove the pot from the stove, and let it cool for some minutes.
- Add some cinnamon to the final result, and put it in the fridge for at least three hours. Enjoy!
This Venezuelan dessert is a very unique and much better version of Caramel Flan. Many sources coincide in its origins— it came from the Canary Islands of Spain. Known as Egg Flan, the Spanish Quesillo is very similar in looks and ingredients, but not quite the same in taste. What makes the Venezuelan Quesillo different is the way to cook it. We’ll show you a vegan Quesillo recipe, but we’ll respect the original procedure as much as we can:
To prepare a Quesillo with 8 servings you’ll need:
- ½ cup of sugar
- 1 cup of cornstarch
- 1 and ¾ cups of almond milk
- 1 and ½ cups of condensed almond milk. You can prepare it by heating it with 1 cup of sugar for 30 minutes or until it thickens
- 3 tbsp of vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Additionally, prepare a bain-marie, or water bath, by filling a heatproof container with water.
- Melt sugar in a nonstick pan by heating it on a stove for 7 to 10 minutes. Pour the melted sugar into a flan mold, and make sure it coats all the inside of the container. It’ll keep the other ingredients safe from touching the mold.
- In a bowl, mix condensed almond milk with cornstarch and vanilla. Blend well and fold the concoction with a spatula to remove bubbles.
- Transfer the mixture into the flan mold and close it with its lid. Then, place the mold inside the water bath. Keep the water from spilling over the edges.
- Bake the Quesillo inside the water bath in the oven for 45 minutes. Pry the lid open and let it bake for 15 more minutes.
- After baking, let it cool for 25 minutes and then refrigerate for 8 hours. Finally, invert the mold onto a plate to serve the portions. Enjoy!
Sweet treasures are in every crevice and corner of the world— we only need to be willing to find them. It is important to appreciate them for what they mean to entire regions and how far they have come from its origins. We hope you enjoyed all these recipes and that you find the motivation to continue learning about the lovely secrets of Latin American gastronomy.