10 Latin American Foods That Belong on Your Thanksgiving Mesa

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres
Art by Stephany Torres
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Thanksgiving is as much about bringing family together as it is about good food. And though turkey is usually the star of the meal, without it being overdry of course, every great Thanksgiving dinner also features a great many side dishes, desserts, or beverages to pick from.

And though mashed potatoes and stuffing are the good old standards, there are some great Latin American side dishes, desserts, or beverages that can bring not just a little bit of our culture to the holiday, but also a little bit of our communities very particular flavor.

From tamal de olla to pernil and the classic coquito, here are ten Latin American side dishes and beverages that can add a little something special to Thanksgiving and belong on your mesa whether you’re from Mexico, Brazil, or Puerto Rico. 


Pastelón de Plátano Maduro

Think of pastelón de plátano maduro like a lasagna, but made with sweet plantains instead of pasta. And meat of course. If you love lasagna, you’ll love this. If you love sweet plantain, this will taste like heaven. 



Okay, maybe turkey is the star, but every star needs a backup singer. There has never been one as capable as pernil, which is basically slow-roasted marinated pork leg or pork shoulder. Plus, there’s the added bonus of leftovers being turned into the best sandwiches.


Tamal de Olla

Just as they make deconstructed lasagnas, tamal de olla is more or less a deconstructed tamal. Perfect for a side dish, because you can just scoop up as much as you want and everyone’s got their own take on what makes the best topping or addition to make it just right.



Corundas are Michoacán tamales that are typically steamed until golden and eaten with sour cream or salsa. Sounds like the perfect complement to just about everything and something that can be enjoyed all year round. 


Ensalada de bombones

The table needs a sweet dish or two, and this one, made with bombones and fruits is the perfect one if you still want to tell yourself you’re not going all out. And if anyone side-eyes you because of the sugar intake, you can tell them it has fruit. That’s healthy, right?



Chicharrón is basically fried pork belly or fried pork rinds. Perfect as a side dish, perfect as a complement to the meal, perfect as the thing you keep munching on afterward. Some even have a little meat left on them to add a little dimension to the crunch.



Sometimes we need a little alcoholic-based beverage to get through Thanksgiving and the everything of family. And coquito, often thought of as eggnog’s coconut-based cousin, makes it even better if you like coconut. 



Provoleta is basically just a round ball of cheese with added meat and some veggies, what could go wrong with that? Nothing. You can eat it by itself, with turkey, or with most of the things on the list. 



This beloved Brazilian side dish makes every other dish even better. It’s made using grated, pressed, and toasted cassava and it’s sprinkled over the top of food. And everyone has their own version as some add bacon, onions, or nuts.



You can’t go wrong with flan, the quintessential Latin American sweet treat. It’s basically a custard dessert with a layer of caramel sauce. And even though the classic flan recipe is the most iconic, there’s room for different kinds of fruit to come into the picture. We’ll have seconds, please.