9 Latino Desserts You Always Have Room for No Matter How Full You Are
Picture this: your abuelita has just made you a feast of arroz, frijoles, lechon, tamales, platanos fritos, ensalada de tomate y aguacate — the works.
You can’t stop eating, not only because it’s delicious, but because your grandma would take it as the gravest offense. By the end of it, you’re stuffed.
Then, abuelita offers you dessert, of course, and although you cannot imagine being able to consume another morsel, how could you turn down some homemade coconut flan, soaked in caramel sauce? Or, a slice of tres leches cake, so moist and so sweet?
Gluttony may be one of the seven deadly sins, but so is refusing any of the following delicious Latino desserts.
Flan de Coco
Anything coconut, really. Bad Bunny revealed that this is his dessert of choice, and who could blame him? Coconut makes everything creamy, nutty and delicious, in whatever form it takes. Coconut inarguably upgrades a regular flan and should never be passed up. Coconut ice cream? Decadent. Turron de coco? Heavenly. Alfajores coated in coconut? Orgasmic. Basically, if you don’t like coconut, you can’t be trusted. Benito agrees.
Very popular in South America, alfajores actually come from an Arabic word meaning “luxurious.” And that they are, as the velvety dulce de leche spills out from between the two crumbly cookies each time you take a bite. Often rolled in shredded coconut or dusted in powdered sugar, these treats never disappoint. If you have yet to try one — walk, don’t run.
Although this dessert is a lactose intolerant person’s nightmare, it’s a lactose lover’s dream. Whole milk, evaporated milk and condensed milk join forces to create this perfect lovechild of a cake. Some recipes include coconut milk — which makes sense since we all just learned that coconut makes everything better — and others top it off with a layer of dulce de leche, making it a cuatro leches cake. Whatever number of milks you prefer, you’re right. Pair it with a little cafecito to offset the sweetness y disfruta.
Arroz con Leche
What can’t rice do? From savory stews to sticky, cinnamon-y desserts, rice is a true jack of all trades. Traditionally, this recipe calls for rice, milk, sugar and cinnamon, with varying interpretations. Some people like to add raisins, although I’m more of a purist. Simple, sweet and to the point, rice pudding is the perfect midnight snack as it somehow tastes better the longer it sits in the fridge… although it still tastes great piping hot and fresh off the stove. Rice pudding can really do no wrong.
The origins of the churro are very mysterious, believed by some to date as far back as ancient Rome, while others think it was introduced to Spain and Portugal by the Chinese, who later brought it to the Americas, which is one good thing we can thank our colonizers for. What I know for sure is, if I see churros on a menu, I’m ordering them. How could anyone say no to warm, crunchy fried dough dusted in cinnamon and sugar, dipped in gooey chocolate or dulce de leche? The sexy cousin of the snickerdoodle, churros don’t need the holidays to make their yumminess known — they’re ready and willing year-round.
A staple at every celebration, pastelitos come in all shapes and sizes and typically in large packs, as they should since they’re everybody’s favorite finger food. Whether it’s guava and cream cheese, guava by itself, coconut or any other kind, these flaky, golden hand-pies always bring me back to childhood. Put a couple on your plate, alongside a slice of cake and some croquetas, and you’ve created the holy trinity of Cuban party food. Pro-tip: dip the croquetas into the cake frosting. If you don’t know, now you know.
Pudin de Pan
There are many iterations of this recipe across regions, but the main ingredients remain the same: bread, milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. (We’re starting to see a trend here among Latin American dessert ingredients, aren’t we?) Typically baked into a loaf, this version of bread pudding has a custard-like texture and notes of caramel, with the occasional pop of dried fruit. But because of its bread base, it’s more than just a dessert, blurring the lines between savory and sweet. And to that, we say: never change, bread pudding. Never change.
These Brazilian fudge balls are the tastiest and easiest truffles you will ever make. Its origins are oddly political, since they were created in support of Brigadier Gen. Eduardo Gomes, a presidential candidate in 1946. He lost, but brigadeiros won, evolving from humble homemade truffles to the gourmet flavor bombs we see today, ranging from white chocolate to banana to key lime pie. These are incredibly dangerous for chocolate lovers due to their small size and mouth-poppable quality. Try as you might, you can’t just have one.
This is right up there with coquito as one of Puerto Rico’s greatest culinary contributions. Tembleque, loosely translated as “the trembling,” is a very aptly named dessert, since it resembles a cross between flan and Jell-O. The main ingredient? You guessed it — coconut! The Brazilian version, called manjar branco, is almost identical. If it jiggle-jiggles when you poke it, then it’s been prepared correctly. If you jiggle-jiggle when poked, then you’ve eaten it correctly.