Latinos Don’t Do Basic Holiday Desserts: Milk Edition

There are certain things we all heard growing up in a Latino family. Eat your veggies! Drink your agua! Give your abuela besos! And of course, the one we hear the most: toma leche, it’s good for you.

Dairy milk is a staple in the Latino diet, especially during the holidays. C’mon, we even have a dessert that highlights not one…but three milks: tres leches cake. 🤤 We’re drooling just thinking about it. And on top of being delicious, dairy milk has a lot of benefits! It’s a win-win.

Fun fact about milk: it’s an excellent source of protein, ​containing 8 grams in just a single cup​, proving to be a great energy booster. And let’s be honest: during the holiday season, you need your energy. Especially when your tía starts grilling you about your dating life at the family gathering.

mitú has partnered up with the California Milk Processor Board to celebrate the benefits of milk and the role it plays in our favorite Latino desserts. Here are 5 reasons why the holiday season just wouldn’t be the same without our beloved leche!

1. Arroz con leche wouldn’t be the same without milk.

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Do you know what’s good? Rice. Do you know what’s EVEN BETTER? Dessert rice. Yep, we said it. Arroz con leche has to be up there as one of the top three Latino desserts. There’s nothing more comforting than a warm bowl of arroz con leche during the winter months. Every culture and family seems to have their version of this simple dessert consisting of rice, cinnamon, water, and of course…milk. Often, it’s made with both regular and condensed milk.

The protein in milk helps to thicken the pudding, along with the starch from the rice. Thanks to milk, arroz con leche is not only a deliciously creamy treat, but it ​delivers hearty nutrition​, including potassium, B12, calcium, and Vitamin D. So go ahead and enjoy that bowl of arroz con leche! Que rico!

2. Dulce de leche (or manjar) is the ultimate holiday treat…

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Dulce de leche is used in all sorts of holiday treats, from alfajores to crepas and dulce de leche cake. If you’re Latino, then dulce de leche basically flows through your veins. There are variations on how it’s made, which can include vanilla, sugar, baking soda, and of course, the ingredient that brings it all together: whole milk. By slowly simmering the milk with the sugar, most of the water evaporates from the milk and the concoction becomes a thick caramel-like spread. Yum! But hold up: dulce de leche isn’t caramel.

Caramel is the basic version of the very extra ​dulce de leche since it’s literally just heated sugar. Dulce de leche has to have milk in it, mixed in with the sugar. It’s fancy AF. The flavor and look of dulce de leche comes from the Maillard Reaction, which is a chemical reaction that occurs between sugars and amino acids when they are heated, resulting in the “browning” of foods.

Now, don’t you feel smart, knowing how dulce de leche is created? It’s the perfect piece of trivia to drop to your family, even the tía mas criticona will be impressed!

3. It wouldn’t be the holidays without a delicious helping of gelatina de leche.

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Many of us are familiar with the standby dessert that our abuelos and abuelas love – gelatina de leche. Chances are, that if you grew up in a Latino family, this old-school dish makes a regular appearance at celebrations and holidays.

It’s made with plain gelatin, sugar, and cinnamon sticks steeped in milk. While this dessert may be of a different generation, it’s still delicious and since it’s mostly milk, it’s also super beneficial to enjoy. Did you know that the intake of dairy products is associated with a ​reduced risk of cardiovascular disease​ and ​Type 2 diabetes​? Not to mention, it also helps with lowering blood pressure in adults. And during the holidays, you know your family needs to have their blood pressure under control between all the dancing and heated chisme.

4. Flan will always be a holiday favorite.

The holidays just wouldn’t be the same without family chisme. Whether it’s your tía and mami whispering about who isn’t speaking to who this year, or the latest gasp-worthy scandal starring your primo, a delicious piece of flan is the perfect sweet treat for the chisme sesh. While other custards can be extremely tricky to master, flan is an easy and delicious dessert to make. Sugar and a little water are caramelized in a saucepan and poured into the bottom of a mold. Then, eggs, milk, and sugar are whipped up in a blender and poured over the caramel and baked in a water bath or baño maría.

Each ingredient in a flan is incredibly important, but milk is the most nutritious one of all. Remember how growing up, mami would always say to drink your leche if you wanted healthy bones? Well, she was right! It’s packed full of nutrients like calcium and potassium that are totally needed when it comes to bone health. A whopping 99% of your body’s calcium can be found in your teeth and your bones. As if that’s not enough reason to get down with dairy milk, consuming milk and dairy products has also been linked to preventing ​bone diseases like osteoporosis​. Yes, please.

5. Tres leches cake makes the holidays even better.

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There’s no way you can get through the holidays without enjoying a mouth-watering slice of tres leches cake. It’s the perfect dessert to nibble on while you watch your tía start the dance party after the holiday dinner. Who doesn’t love a sponge cake that’s soaked in not one but three different kinds of milk? Traditional tres leches cake uses whole milk, condensed milk, and evaporated milk. YUM.

So there you have it – milk is amazing, versatile, and so incredibly healthy! Plus, we can totally enjoy our Latino holiday desserts even more now, knowing that they’re chock-full of health benefits from the milk we use to make them.