Can You Identify These Latin American Foods and Drinks?

By: Jacqueline Samaroo
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

A feast of flavors awaits! Get ready to fill up on some of Latin America's most popular food and drink.

From Mexico to Chile, Cuba to Brazil, there is a wide range of amazing culinary delights which are ubiquitous throughout the region. Many of these are still made in the tradition of the Aztec, Maya, Inca and other indigenous civilizations who first called the area home.

All over Latin America, various breads, cakes and rolls made with corn are served at almost every meal. Some are flat for folding around a filling, while others are meant to be split open and loads of delicious sweet or savory filling stuffed inside. We know you can think of a couple offhand, but can you recognize all the ones in this quiz? Give it a try and see how you fare!

The dazzling array of colorful drinks for which Latin America is known is a testament to the vibrant nature of its culture. Can you recall the names of the yellow eggnog-like drinks from Cuba and Puerto Rico? How about that red Christmas drink from Panama or the purple corn refresher from Peru? If you know which ones we're talking about, then you need to dive into this quiz right now!

Anyone who is familiar with the dishes of Latin American cuisine is sure to instantly recognize many of these foods and drinks. Give the quiz a try, we're willing to bet we have your favorite in there!

Churrasco refers to grilled meat as well as to the method of grilling, similar to use of the word “roast” in English. It is quite common throughout Latin America with variations unique to different countries and to regions within each country. Churrasco is often served with chimichurri sauce.

The taco was a part of the traditional cuisine of indigenous Mexicans for centuries before Europeans arrived in the Americas. Their current popularity has led to Oct. 4 being celebrated in the US as National Taco Day.

Crème de Vie (French for Cream of Life) is a Cuban drink which includes rum and condensed milk and is very similar to eggnog (and coquito from Puerto Rico). Crème de Vie is associated with the Christmas holiday season in Cuba.

The word “salsa” is used to refer to a type of music, a dance and, of course, a tasty sauce. Salsa originated in the Aztec Empire in pre-Columbian Mexico and some of its ingredients have remained unchanged. Earliest accounts describe salsa containing “tomatoes, smoked chile, hot chile, yellow chile and mild red chile sauce.”

Bandeja paisa is a platter filled with generous amounts of traditional Columbian foods, such as sausage, ground beef, rice, red beans, fried pork rind, a small corncake, plantain, avocado and fried egg. It is said to have originated with early Columbian farmers who depended on its high meat and carbohydrate content to sustain them throughout the day.

Pisco is a type of brandy produced in Peru and Chile, which is typically colorless or yellow-amber. To make a pisco sour, lime juice, simple syrup and egg white are added to the brandy. “Día Nacional del Pisco Sour” or National Pisco Sour Day is a Peruvian holiday celebrated on the first Saturday of February.

Feijoada is very often referred to as Brazil’s national dish. It is a stew of black beans, beef and cured pork. The feijoada originated in Portugal, and the Brazilian version is said to be the creation of African slaves during the country’s colonial period.

The Aztecs of Mexico are credited with the invention of guacamole. One little-known fact is that the Aztecs' choice of name for the avocado also means testicle (apparently that’s what it looked like to them – true!)

The indigenous people of what is now Columbia and Venezuela began making arepas long before Europeans stumbled upon the Americas. Nowadays, arepas are still a substantial part of both countries’ diets, with over three-quarters of their total population eating some variety of arepas daily.

Ceviche is made from a variety of fish and other types of seafood which, similar to Japanese sashimi, is not cooked. It is marinated, however, in citrus juice (such as grapefruit juice) with chopped hot chili peppers added. Corn on the cob is one of the delicious side dishes served with ceviche in Peru.

The empanada may have originated in Spain, but nowadays several versions of it are found all over South America, Central America and the Caribbean. Empanada fillings vary and can include savory meat, steamed vegetables and fruit.

Alfajores originated in the Middle East and were taken to Europe by Moors on a mission to conquer Spain. The Spaniards later brought alfajores to the New World where they have become a delectable part of the region’s cuisine.

Although it is quite common to see tortillas made from wheat, they are traditionally made from maize. White, yellow and blue (or black) maize are often used for making tortillas in Guatemala and Mexico.

Chipá is a kind of cheese bread typically made from cassava flour. It is common throughout Paraguay, where a chipás festival is held in the southern town of Coronel Bogado annually.

The beginnings of the enchilada can be traced back to the Mayans in what is now Mexico. It seems quite fitting that National Enchilada Day is May 5 – same day as Cinco de Mayo celebrations of Mexican-American culture.

Quesadillas are known to typically contain cheese (queso in Spanish) as one of the main ingredients. In Central Mexico, however, the cheese is very often omitted – but the cheesy-sounding name remains.

There is no doubt that caipirinha is a well-loved drink in Brazil – they’ve made it the national cocktail! Caipirinha is made with a distinctly Brazilian spirit known as cachaça (also called Brazilian rum).

There is a common misconception that mole poblano is an Aztec creation. This probably stems from the fact that “mole” is derived from an Aztec word for sauce and they were among the first people to make and use chocolate. The Aztecs, however, regarded chocolate as a delicacy and were not known to use it in any of their sauces.

Coffee may have originated in Africa, but Brazil currently heads the list of coffee-producing countries in the world, with Columbia taking third place. Both café com leite and cafezhino are consumed throughout much of Brazil.

Dorilocos are a snack food which combine tortilla chips and a wide variety of ingredients such as jicama, cheese, pickled pork skins, and fried Japanese peanuts. The name changes depending on the brand of tortilla chips used: Dorilocos (Doritos); Tostilocos (Tostitos); and Takilocos (Takis Chips), for example.

Rompope, or Mexican Eggnog, is made with egg yolk, milk and rum as its base, to which a variety of other ingredients are added. To find the origins of rompope you would have to go back to the 17th century and to convents of the city of Puebla, Mexico. It is said the nuns there made the drink based on a Spanish version of the eggnog.

Whether you call it atol de elote, atole de elote or simply atole, you are sure to find this corn beverage being consumed around Christmastime in much of Mexico and Central America. It has the consistency of a thinned porridge and is typically served warm as a breakfast item.

While several types of grilled meat can be used to make anticuchos, beef heart is the traditional choice and is still the most popular. In this case, the dish is called anticuchos de corazon. Chicken and fish are two of the other meats often used.

Many of the countries in Latin American either make batidos or have a very similar drink. With fruit and milk as its base, the batido is a blended drink made with or without ice.

Plantains can be eaten before they ripen but must generally be cooked first. The raw version is edible when ripe but although very sweet it may be somewhat starchy. Both ripe and unripe plantains can be steamed, boiled or fried. Plantains are found throughout Latin America and Caribbean.

The coctel de algarrobina is a cocktail made with pisco (Peruvian brandy) and algarrobina syrup (made from the carob tree). It also contains egg yolk and cinnamon, as well as milk. Its creaminess tends to get it pinned as a drink meant more for women than men.

Its name may translate to “old clothes,” but there certainly isn’t anything shabby about this succulent dish of pulled beef and vegetables. It is the national dish of Cuba where it is said to have been created in the capital of Havana during colonial times.

Pupusas are an integral part of Salvadoran cuisine. They are stuffed with combinations of fillings such as beans and cheese (frijol con queso). Pork and loroco flowers are the other popular choices.

Canelazos are made with hot cinnamon water plus an alcohol made from sugar cane, generally known as aguardiente. The canelazo cocktail can be found in regions of Ecuador, Columbia, Peru and Argentina, where it is used as a warming way to beat the cold temperatures high in the Andes Mountains.

Cassava (or tapioca) flour is used to make pão de queijo, or Brazilian cheese bread. That’s good news for those who are on a gluten-free diet since cassava does not contain gluten. Those of us with a sweet tooth will be equally happy to know that these everyday breakfast staples are often filled with either Dulce de leche or guava paste.

Tamales are normally cooked wrapped in corn husk or a piece of banana leaf with the wrapping removed before eating – usually. There is a report of President Gerald Ford biting into a still-wrapped tamale while visiting the Alamo in 1976. That mishap has gone down in history as The Great Tamale Incident!

Coquito is symbolic of the Christmas season for Puerto Ricans. It is a mix of coconut milk, rum and condensed milk with spices added in according to family traditions of making the drink. Recipes can be closely guarded family secrets, with each one boasting that perfect combination of body, alcohol and overall flavor.

Fiambre holds special significance for Guatemalans. It is served in celebration of the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) as a way to remember and honor loved ones who have died. The dish traditionally consists of dozens of ingredients, including cheese and various meats.

Tequila is a uniquely Mexican creation. Internationally recognized law dictates that the drink must be made in Mexico (and only in designated regions of the country) in order to legally be called tequila.

Pabellón criollo traditionally contains pulled beef, stewed black beans, rice and fried ripe plantain. Some people like to add a fried egg to the dish “riding” on top of it all, in which case, the dish is called pabellón a caballo (since “a caballo” is Spanish for horseback riding).

Tuna is traditionally the go-to fish for making encebollado, which usually also contains cassava (tapioca). A topping of lime-pickled red onion rings is often added, along with a side dish of fried ripe plantain.

Bottled chicha morada is sold extensively throughout Peru, as are various powdered chicha morada drink mixes. The pretty purple beverage can be easily made at home, however, by boiling dried purple corn, pineapple peel and cinnamon, then adding lime juice once it’s done.

Coca tea is made from the leaves of the same plant from which cocaine is derived. While the tea does contain a stimulant, it’s not in sufficient quantity to be likened to the drug. Coca tea is a favorite among people of the Andes.

While you can slice the plantains in any direction when making patacones, circles are the preferred shape. Some people also like the finished patacones to be very thin and wide because they are crisper and able to hold more topping. Better yet are patacones shaped like cups – that way they hold even more of your favorite topping!

Known as sorrel throughout much of the Caribbean, this deep-red drink is called saril in Panama, where both its flowers and fruits are used. The drink is most popular during Christmastime but can be found year-round.

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