10 Thanksgiving Foods With a Latin American Twist

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
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Despite the colonial and violent history of Thanksgiving, Latinos appreciate the comfort food delights that are essential on this day and the opportunity to bring the whole family together. Staple dishes include turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing or dressing, casserole, and cranberry sauce–all generally very American in their preparation. The following recipes come from Latina chefs and are all their own unique take on Thanksgiving flavors featuring flavors from Central and South America as well as the Caribbean. So while this year celebrating will look very different, family and food can still be a part of the day with video chats sharing the experience of attempting to make these 10 recipes for a Latin American-inspired Thanksgiving.

Turkey in Apricot, Tequila & California Chile Sauce

Chef Marcela Valladolid gained fame on the Food Network with her series Mexican Made Easy and co-hosting The Kitchen. She’s now focused on her cookbooks–she recently released Fiestas: Tidbits, Margaritas & More–and this week she hosted a Thanksgiving Zoom cooking class. Her turkey with apricot, tequila, and chile sauce only requires two additional ingredients, butter and low sodium chicken broth making for a flavorful yet low-stress dish unlike the usual preparation a traditional turkey takes.

Dulce de Leche Chocolate Pecan Pie

Chef Pati Jinich is the host of Pati’s Mexican Table on PBS and Amazon Prime where she features recipes inspired by her life growing up in Mexico. Dulce de Leche (a.k.a. Mexican Cajeta) is the star of her take on Thanksgiving dessert favorite, pecan pie. In the post, she writes, “Dulce de leche caramel makes for a more gooey, more sticky, more chewy filling with a rich, deep and intrinsic rustic caramel taste. The pecans have a better cushion to sit on and be coated in. The chocolate chunks can shine even more.” But there’s no need to sell this recipe because we all know anything covered in dulce de leche is going to be good.

Chipotle Coca-Cola Braised Sweet Potatoes

This sweet and spicy recipe for chipotle coca-cola braised sweet potato comes from chef and food writer, Alejandra Ramos who created the award-winning food and entertaining blog “Always Order Dessert.” She also released an e-book dedicated to Puerto Rican recipes for Christmas aptly titled “The Puerto Rican Christmas Table.” This recipe is both flavorful and approachable since all you have to do is blend the ingredients (no peeling required either) and cook it in the oven for about 45 minutes.

Pumpkin Arroz con Leche

Ericka Sanchez was born in Mexico, raised in Texas, and now resides in Los Angeles and her recipes are a mix of her roots and American flavors. She launched her bilingual blog “Nibbles and Feasts” in 2010 where she shares recipes for her favorite foods with a Latin twist. This recipe brings together pumpkin, a Thanksgiving and fall staple ingredient, with Mexican comfort food favorite arroz con leche.

Sandwich Elena Ruz

Cuban-American food writer Ana Sofía Peláez has a food blog, Hungry Sofia, and in 2014 she published The Cuban Table which was nominated for a James Beard Award.In the recipe post, she explains that the Elena Ruz sandwich is named after a Havana socialite who asked for the unusual combination at a local cafe. The unique combination includes roasted turkey, cream cheese, strawberry preserves alongside ham, lechon asado, and cheese. This recipe is perfect for post-Thanksgiving turkey leftovers and though it calls for strawberry preserves, feel free to substitute some cranberry leftovers too.

Creamy Yuca Mash

Dominican-American Wendy Lopez is one-half of the team behind The Food Heaven Show a blog and Youtube channel focused on nutrient-dense and affordable plant-based recipes. Lopez and her co-host Jessica Jones are both dieticians with master’s degrees in nutrition. “Growing up in a Dominican household, we would make yuca all the time…in fritters, soups, mashed, or boiled,” she writes in the recipe post. The recipe for mashed yuca (also known as cassava and separate from yucca) is simple enough with just two ingredients making it an easy yet flavorful and lighter substitute for mashed potatoes.

Spicy Cranberry Mango Sauce

Layla “Laylita” Pujol was born in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, and currently lives in Seattle so the recipes featured on her site “Laylita’s Recipes” are a combination of those she grew up with and Pacific-Northwest inspired dishes. She likens the spicy cranberry mango sauce to Ecuadorian tree tomato hot sauce with its mix of fruit, cinnamon, and Fresno peppers and habaneros. This is perfect for getting that cranberry taste with a medley of sweet and spicy additions that pair well with turkey, pork or chicken.

Boneless Turkey Roast with Mexican Stuffing

Mely Martínez is a home cook born in Tampico, Tamaulipas in Mexico, who launched the blog “Mexico in my Kitchen” sharing recipes made with accessible ingredients and this year she released her cookbook The Mexican Home Kitchen. In the recipe post for the boneless turkey roast she wrote, “This large, beautiful bird was often the main meal in festivities prepared in honor of the Aztec emperors.” She explains that “pavo”, is derived from the Náhuatl word “Huexolotl” and that the dish fascinated the Spaniards who introduced it to Europe. She goes through the steps to debone the turkey and includes her stuffing recipe which features four different kinds of meats and wine.

Pumpkin Tres Leches Cake

Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack is an Emmy-winning producer and writer, award-winning food blogger, and author of Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor co-written with her mom and sister. She also launched a blog called “Muy Bueno” in 2010 to share homestyle Mexican recipes. Tres leches cake is present during holidays in many Latin American homes and for her pumpkin tres leches recipe she includes ginger and cloves with homemade whipped cream.

Caramelized Onion and Quinoa Crescents

Mother-daughter foodie duo Morena Cuadra and Morena Escardo launched their blog, “Peru Delights” in 2011 to honor the flavors of their homeland. Cuadra attended a Pillsbury cook-off event and was inspired to develop the caramelized onion and quinoa crescents recipe, giving this All-American canned croissant a Peruvian twist. Peru is the world’s largest quinoa producer so it’s naturally the star of this dish providing texture and richness alongside caramelized onions, thyme, and balsamic vinegar. This is an accessible and affordable recipe that elevates the basic dinner roll.