Never heard of pastel del choclo? Don’t know the difference between tostones and tlayudas (never mind how to pronounce them)? You’re not alone. It’s not uncommon for diners to open up a menu at a Latin American restaurant and then frantically reach for their phones to Google various food items. If you can relate, here’s a guide to some of the most common Latin American dishes and drinks so you can find your way around the offerings con confianza.
Alfajores: Buttery cookie sandwiches with a dulce de leche filling.
Arroz con leche: A Mexican dessert made from rice mixed with water or milk, cinnamon, and raisins.
Caipirinha: Brazil’s national cocktail, crafted with cachaça (a distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice), sugar, and lime.
Churrasco: Popular across Latin America, churrasco is a grilled steak (usually flank or strip) topped with chimichurri, a sauce often made with parsley and spices.
Lomo saltado: This traditional Peruvian dish is a stir-fry that typically features onions, tomatoes, fries, and marinated beef.
Papusa: A classic Salvadoran dish consisting of a thick corn tortilla stuffed with a savory filling, such as pork, beans, and cheese.
Pastel del choclo: A Chilean shepherd’s pie, often filled with ground beef, chicken, raisins, black olives, onions, and slices of hard boiled egg—all encased in a thick, caramelized layer of choclo corn.
Ropa vieja: Literally translating to “old clothes,” ropa vieja is a Cuban dish made of shredded meat in a tomato-based sauce with veggies.
Tlayuda: This iconic Oaxacan street food consists of a large, thin, partially fried tortilla covered with refried beans, asiento (unrefined pork lard), shredded lettuce or cabbage, avocado, strips of meat, Oaxacan string cheese, and salsa.
Tostones: These twice-fried plantain slices are a popular side dish in Puerto Rico.
Read our full feature Stay Local, Eat Global.