11 Delicious Latin American Desserts You Can Totally DIY
All countries have their own culinary traditions and they all enjoy their version of a sweet treat. Latin America is no different and the area boasts some of the best and sweetest desserts in the world, which is no surprise since so much of the world’s cane sugar is grown in the region. Caramel also stars in many of the desserts that are popular in Latin America. With so much going for it, it’s no surprise that dessert reigns in most parts of the area. One of the region’s most revered ingredients is cajeta, which is caramel made from goat’s milk. Other parts of the region love using dulce de leche, which means “milk candy.” Latin America is a pretty large place and the desserts tend to vary a bit depending on whether you’re in Brazil, Argentina or Uruguay, but one thing they all have in common is a mouthwatering deliciousness that will always send you back for seconds.
This is a traditional Latin American dessert that you’ll find primarily in Brazil. It was created in 1940 and consists of a delightful blend of condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter. To top things off, this sweet treat is then covered in chocolate sprinkles. Brigadeiros can be enjoyed hot, warm or cold. There are several variations that can change up the flavor, including pistachio, coconut, strawberry and peanut butter.
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cocoa, butter and condensed milk. Cook, stirring, until thickened, about 10 minutes.
2. Remove from heat and let rest until cool enough to handle. Form into small balls and eat at once or chill until serving.
Source: All Recipes
These delicious pieces of fried dough is often dusted with cinnamon and sugar and served with warm melted chocolate for dipping. Most experts will say that the dessert originated in Spain and Portugal, but made its way to Latin America with immigrants where they are often filled with dulce de leche or cajeta. In some parts of Latin America, you can also find them glazed.
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs, beaten
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 cups milk
- 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
- 1/4 cup sugar
- To make the churro dough: Combine 1 cup of water with the butter or margarine and the salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour. Reduce the heat to low and stir vigorously until the mixture forms a ball, about 1 minute. Remove the dough from the heat and, while stirring constantly, gradually beat the eggs into the dough.
- To make the chocolate for dunking: In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in 1 cup of milk and reserve. Combine the chocolate with the remaining cup of milk in a saucepan. Stirring constantly, melt the chocolate over medium-low heat. Whisk the sugar and the dissolved cornstarch into the melted chocolate mixture. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, until the chocolate is thickened, about 5 minutes. (Add extra cornstarch if it doesn’t start to thicken after 5 minutes.) Remove the pan from the heat and whisk until smooth then reserve in a warm place.
- Heat about 2 inches of oil in a heavy, high-sided pot over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 360 degrees F. Mix the sugar with the cinnamon on a plate and reserve.
- Meanwhile, spoon the churro dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large tip. Squeeze a 4- inch strip of dough into the hot oil. Repeat, frying 3 or 4 strips at a time. Fry the churros, turning them once, until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the cooked churros to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
- When the churros are just cool enough to handle, roll them in the cinnamon-sugar (in Spain churros are simply rolled in sugar.)
- Pour the chocolate into individual bowls or cups. Serve the warm churros with the chocolate dip.
Latin American flan is a dense and creamy custard dessert that usually has a smooth, silky texture. It’s most often served in a rich caramel sauce. It’s made with sweetened condensed milk, as is customary with many Latin American desserts. Some people liken it cheesecake, while others say it closely resembled pudding. Either way, the texture and flavor are perfect for each other.
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs plus 5 yolks
- 1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 (12-oz) can evaporated milk
- ½ cup whole milk (half-and-half or 2% milk may be substituted but do not use skim milk)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon Bourbon (see note)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- (This recipe should be made at least one day before serving.) Adjust a rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Stir together the sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium heavy saucepan until the sugar is completely moistened. Bring to boil over medium-high heat and cook, without stirring, until the mixture begins to turn golden. Gently swirling the pan, continue to cook until sugar is a honey color. Remove from the heat and swirl the pan until the sugar is reddish-amber and fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds. Carefully swirl in 2 tablespoons of warm tap water until incorporated – be careful as the mixture will bubble and steam. This whole process should take less than 10 minutes.
- Pour the caramel into an 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan; do not scrape out the saucepan. Set the loaf pan aside. (To clean the hardened caramel from the saucepan, fill the pan with water and bring it to a boil.)
- Whisk the eggs and yolks in large bowl until combined. Add the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, whole milk, vanilla, Bourbon, and salt and whisk until incorporated. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl to remove any bits of egg; then pour the strained custard into the loaf pan over the caramel.
- Place the loaf pan in the center of a 9×13-inch baking or roasting pan (preferably with high sides) to make a water bath. Place the nested pans in the oven; then, using a tea kettle or pitcher, pour hot water around the loaf pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the loaf pan. Bake for 75 – 90 minutes, until the custard is set around the edges but still a bit jiggly in the center. (Don’t worry that it seems undercooked. The custard will continue to cook as it cools, and the center will set completely — I promise!) Carefully remove the pans from the oven and leave the flan in the water bath for 1 hour to cool.
- Remove the loaf pan from the water bath and wipe the pan dry. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge overnight or up to 4 days.
- To unmold the flan, carefully slide a sharp knife around the edges of the pan. Invert a platter with a raised rim (to contain the liquid caramel) on top of the flan and turn the pan and platter over. If the flan doesn’t release immediately, let it sit inverted for a minute and it should slide out. When the flan is released, remove the loaf pan. Using rubber spatula, scrape the residual caramel onto the platter. You won’t be able to release all of the caramel – that’s okay. Slice the flan and spoon the sauce over individual portions. (Leftover flan may be covered loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerated.)
- Note: If you would like to omit the Bourbon, replace with an additional 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
Source: Once Upon A Chef
Helado hails from Argentina and is similar to gelato. The traditional flavors are dulce de leche or chocolate, but there are many others to choose from too, including sweet wine and various fruit flavors. In Argentina, people often have their helado delivered, but you’ll also find a shop selling helado on virtually every street corner too.
- 1 cup of diced strawberries
- 1 cup of diced mango
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- Puree fruit: Puree strawberries with a food processor or a stick blender. Set aside. Mix mango and vanilla extract and with a food processor or a stick blender. Set aside.
- Making jars: Pour two tablespoons of strawberry puree in a small glass jar. Cover with mango puree. Continue layering until you reach the top. Freeze until it’s mostly hard. Serve immediately.
Source: Dominican Cooking
5. Dulce de Guayaba
If you like fruity desserts or you’re in love with a cheese tray, you’re in luck when it comes to dulce de guaybaya. This fantastic creation hails from Paraguay and is surprisingly easy to make. It’s basically just a guava gel, topped with a chunk of hard white cheese. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever had, but you won’t be sorry you gave it a try!
- 8 ripe guavas
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 quart of water (more if necessary)
- 1 cup of brown sugar
- Wash and peel the guavas. Cut into halves and scoop out the seeds.
- In a thick-bottomed pot boil the seeds and the cinnamon sticks in 1 quart [1lt] of water over low heat until the seeds separate and the water is dark. Add more water if it becomes necessary to maintain the same level.
- Strain the liquid and eliminate the seeds and cinnamon. Return this liquid to the pot, along with the sugar and guava halves.
- Boil until the guava becomes very soft, and the liquid has reduced to about one cup. Cool to room temperature.
- Blend the guava and the liquid left from boiling. Return to the pot, cook over medium heat stirring the pot so it doesn’t stick to the bottom or burn. Be careful with splatters!
- To make sauce, stop it when it has thickened enough to drizzle. To make it into spreadable jam, stop when it has thickened to the consistency of yoghurt. To make into candy cubes, wait until the paste starts lifting from the bottom, and pour it into an oiled small square mold and let it cool to room temperature. Cut into cubes.
Source: Dominican Cooking
Native to Peru, picarones are a unique blend of tastes that closely resemble a cross between pumpkin pie and doughnut. They’re made from sweet potatoes and squash, and then seasoned with anise, sugar and then deep fried like a doughnut. They are served with a homemade sugar sauce, similar to molasses.
- 1pound sweet potatoes
- 1pound pumpkin
- 2 teaspoons aniseed
- 1 tablespoons sugar
- 1 ¾ tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1pound all-purpose flour
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 4 cups chancaca syrup
- For the syrup:
- 2 chancaca pieces
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 6 cloves, 1 fig leaf
- 2 star anise
- pineapple peels
- 1 orange, whole
- Peel the sweet potatoes and cut in medium sized squares. Peel and chop the pumpkin. Put in a heavy saucepan with the aniseed, add water to cover, and cook over medium-high heat until soft. Drain, reserving the water, and process in the food processor or mash the sweet potatoes and pumpkin to form a soft puree.
- Cool the water to lukewarm. In a bowl put one cup cooking water and the sugar; add the active dry yeast, stirring until dissolved. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes in a warm place, until it forms a sponge.
- Put the potato and pumpkin puree in a large bowl; add the activated yeast. Add the flour, and mixing with your hands add ½ cup of the cooking water, until the dough is no longer sticky, and feels soft and silky. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest in a warm and quiet place, until double or triple in volume, at least two hours.
- When the dough is ready, heat a good amount of oil in a big saucepan to deep-fry the picarones.
- This is a fundamental step and requires skill and training. With practice, you will get there. Have a bowl with cold water nearby; with one wet hand, take a portion of dough, and quickly try to make a ring shape with your thumb while you put it in the hot oil. With a long wooden stick, turn the picarones around (you can use a kitchen fork to do this). Serve drenched with syrup.
- For the syrup:
- Chop chancaca and put in a saucepan with cinnamon sticks, cloves, fig leaf, star anise, pineapple peels, and orange. Cover with water and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the chancaca is dissolved and forms a thick syrup. Strain discarding the solids, cool to room temperature, and put in a jar to have it ready to pour over picarones. You can substitute chancaca with molasses syrup or muscovado sugar.
Source: Perude Lights
7. Dulce de Tres Leches
Made with three kinds of milk and stacked into four delectable layers, dulce de tres leches cake is a soft and spongy masterpiece. It has an incredible caramel flavor that pairs well with the different types of milk and it’s often topped with whipped cream. It’s popular throughout Latin America, but its origins are likely from Nicaragua.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup sugar
- One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- One 12-ounce can whole evaporated milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup light rum
- Dulce de leche
- Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. In another large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar at medium speed until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Beat the egg whites and the dry ingredients into the egg yolk mixture until smooth.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- In a 13-by-9-inch baking dish, whisk the condensed milk with the evaporated milk, heavy cream and rum. Cut the cake into 3-inch squares and add them to the baking dish, turning gently once or twice. Tilt the dish and spoon the liquid over the squares until well-soaked, about 5 minutes. Pour off all but a thin layer of the liquid and reserve for another use. Cover and refrigerate the cakes overnight.
- Carefully transfer the squares to plates. Drizzle with the Dulce de Leche and serve.
Source: Food and Wine
Hailing from Ecuador, espumillas are meringues served in ice cream cones and can be found sold on the street throughout most cities. The name translates to “little foam” and the dessert is popular among children and it’s often served with blackberry syrup.
- 8 ripe guavas or guayabas – if you can’t find fresh guavas you can get them frozen in Latin grocery stores and defrost them
- 1 – 1 ½ cups sugar, adjust based on your preference, you can start with 1 cup and then taste and add more if needed
- 2 egg whites
- Garnishes: Arrope or berry syrup, sprinkles and/or coconut flakes
- Peel the guavas -they should be very soft and ripe- with a vegetable peeler. Remove the seeds and just keep the meaty flesh parts. Put the guava pieces in a large bowl and mix it with sugar until everything is pureed. You can use a fork or a vegetable masher for this part.
- The alternative method is to cut the guavas in halves, place them in the blender (no water), and blend until you have a puree. Then strain the puree and use an electric blender to mix in the sugar.
- Add the egg whites to the guava and sugar puree, mix using the electric mixer until you have stiff creamy texture. As mentioned the texture will be coarser if you made the guava puree by hand and smoother if it was done in the blender.
- Serve immediately in ice cream bowls or ice cream cones, drizzle with the arrope or berry sauce and sprinkles or coconut flakes.
9. Torta De Mil Hojas
This huge dessert is commonly served in Chile and is a cake made from a multitude of layers. Sometimes called the “thousand layer cake,” it’s a towering creation (though not really 1,000 layers) that combines crispy layers of puff pastry with a gooey caramel and milky filling. The cake is then covered in frosting and served. Some people like to scatter the frosting with nuts for a great dose of added flavor and crunch.
- 3 cups sifted flour
- 250 grams/ 8 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 egg yolk, room temperature
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 tablespoon rum or pisco
- 1 pinch of salt
- 3 cups of dulce de leche or caramel (available in Latin supermarkets, I like La Lechera brand sold in cans, usually right next to the condensed milk)
- 2 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- Combine the flour and salt in a big bowl. Add butter in chunks, egg yolks, milk and liquor, work to form a dough of medium consistency. Do not work with your hands, use a fork or 2 knives or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, the important thing is not to use your hands because the body heat will melt the butter and bits of butter remaining in the dough are what gives the crispness to the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and let stand in the fridge overnight or at least 6 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350F or 180C.
- Divide the dough into 14 equal portions. Roll each piece on a floured counter until very thin, using a paring knife cut circles of 9″ of diameter, I usually use a cake pan as a guide, pierced the circle of dough with a fork in almost the entire surface and bake for 5-7 minutes until golden, let cool.
- Assemble the cake filling in between each layer with dulce de leche, every three layers add ground walnuts also, saved 1 cup for decoration purpose. Cover the whole cake with a thin layer of dulce de leche and sprinkle with a mixture of walnuts, powdered sugar, and crumbs.
- Let it rest well cover in the fridge and serve at room temperature.
Source: En Mi Cocina Hoy
10. Tawa Tawas
Tawa tawas are deep fried dough and are popular throughout Bolivia. They’re easy to make and have such a heavenly flavor and texture that they’ll easily be your new favorite dessert. Similar to a sopapilla, tawa tawas are usually served dusted with powdered sugar and with honey for dipping.
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup water or milk
- 2 cups butter or oil to fry
- 1 cup cane honey
- In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Then, add butter and mix well.
- Add the eggs, slightly beaten. Then add water or milk, little by little, and mixing very well until getting a smooth dough.
- Place the dough on a table, slightly sprinkled with flour, and knead it. Let it rest for ten minutes, covered with a dish cloth or towel.
- On the table, place half the dough and stretch it out until it becomes very thin (about a tenth of an inch). Cut the dough into small rhombus-shaped pieces, 11/2 wide. Then cover them with a cloth. Repeat the process with the remaining half of dough.
- In a large pan, heat oil at a high temperature. Fry several pieces simultaneously. Once they are golden on one side, turn them over until they are golden on the other side too.
- Remove the tawa-tawas from the frying pan, drain them and place them on a paper sheet to absorb oil. Finally, place them in tray and pour cane honey over them. If wanted, sprinkle with fine sugar too.
Source: Bolivia Web
11. Platanos Calados
This dessert might be simple, but it’s packed with flavor and allows a Latin American staple — the plantain — to shine. It’s also a great use for very ripe plantains, which are sugar, water, cloves, cinnamon and lemon juice and simmered. The result is a sweet and spicy dessert that is great on its own, but is often served with a soft white cheese.
- 2 large very ripe plantains, peeled and cut into 4 chunks each one
- ½ cup light brown sugar or grated panela
- 1 cup of water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- ½ tablespoon butter
- In a small pot place all the ingredients, cover and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Transfer to a serving plate and serve with white cheese.
Source: My Colombian Recipes
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