5 Underrated Foods from Latin America

There are a few foods from Latin America that you have probably tried or at least heard of - café con leche, croquettas and plantains. All of these foods are so delicious, and more restaurants are selling them every day. But there is so much more to Latin American food than coffee and rice and beans.

There are so many underrated dishes from a wide variety of Latin American countries that are lesser known but just as delicious as the more commonly known foods you might have tried. Exploring new restaurants that feature different cuisines than what you’re used to might lead you to find your new favorite food.

I’m going to give you a list of five underrated and not as talked about dishes from some Latin American countries that I love and think everyone should try!

  1. 1. Bolon

    Food made/photographed by member (Caroline) for a hispanic food article

    My mom is from Ecuador, and bolon is a very popular dish there, so I grew up eating it at home. I was shocked when I would talk to friends about this dish, and they had never heard about it or tried it.

    Bolon is truly one of the best dishes I’ve ever had. Essentially, it’s fried plantains and cheese. What’s not to love?

    To make a bolon, you boil or fry chunks of plantains, wait for them to cool a little, then mash up all the plantains, add cheese, make them into small balls and fry them up. I grew up watching my grandma make these for me, so I’m sorry for the simplified version of the recipe that slipped out – I’ve pretty much committed it to memory at this point.

    I’m from South Florida, and there are a few places I know there where you can get bolon: Barzola and Mi Lindo Ecuador.  But, if you are not near a restaurant that offers bolon, don’t worry! Try to make it yourself! This is not a difficult dish to make, and all your hard work will be well worth it!

  2. 2. Suspiro Limeño

    Food made/photographed by member (Caroline) for a hispanic food article

    If you have a sweet tooth, then you should try a susprio limeño. This dessert is essentially condensed milk with merengue on top of it, so it’s safe to say it’s very sweet. A suspiro limeño is airy and not heavy at all.

    Though it’s not as well known as other desserts from Latin America, like alfajores, it will quickly become one of your favorites. This dessert comes from Peru, and it’s commonly found on the menus of Peruvian restaurants in the U.S. There is a drive through restaurant in South Florida (La Granja) that sells suspiro limeños. I know it’s a drive through, but give it a shot! If you can’t tell, I highly recommend!

    Don’t stress if you’re not in South Florida though, La Granja has locations in and around the Orlando area.

  3. 3. Pupusas

    Food made/photographed by member (Caroline) for a hispanic food article

    I had never been to a Salvadorian restaurant or tried their food until a couple of years ago, and now I can’t imagine a life without it! One food I had never heard about until I started going to my favorite Salvadorian restaurant back home in South Florida (El Atlaklat), was a pupusa.

    A pupusa is very similar to a Venezuelan arepa and is a great addition to many dishes. It’s often served with soup, queso fresco (a very typical cheese in many Latin American dishes), and it can even just be eaten by itself with some sauce or meat on top.

    Although this dish isn’t that different from something you’ve likely seen before, it’s probably still something you haven’t heard of or tried in the context of a Salvadorian dish. Something does not have to be completely out of your comfort zone to be a new and exciting dish to try!

  4. 4. Bandeja Paisa

    Food made/photographed by member (Caroline) for a hispanic food article

    If you order a bandeja paisa at a Colombian restaurant, make sure that you have someone to split it with! A bandeja paisa is a huge, platter-like dish that comes with a variety of foods. Some of the common foods include sausage, rice, beans, a fried egg, avocado, an arepa and a fried pork rind.

    I love this dish because it has so many different elements to it that all work together perfectly. A bandeja paisa has a lot of elements commonly present in lots of other dishes from Latin America and lots of elements that many people might have already tried many times before on their own.

    This is a great new dish to try because it is not too different, which means it’s likely not too far outside your comfort zone.

  5. 5. Cachapa

    Food made/photographed by member (Caroline) for a hispanic food article

    To me, a cachapa is like an arepa’s cousin or an elevated version of an arepa. A cachapa looks like a bigger arepa, but it’s folded over with cheese inside of it and usually a crema drizzled over it.

    Cachapas are from Venezuela, so the dish can usually be found on Venezuelan restaurant menus. 

    This dish is perfect because it can be eaten at any time –  for breakfast, as a snack or for lunch. I highly recommend trying a cachapa: This cheese and corn cake or pancake dish is mouthwatering!

A lot of these dishes are well known in the countries they come from, (some are even their countries’ national dish!) but they often go unnoticed in the United States by people that aren't connected to the countries or cultures that these dishes come from. Unfortunately, many people believe the stereotype that the only foods that come from Latin America are rice and beans, coffee and tacos. It would be a shame if people didn’t get the chance to experience the wide variety of amazing dishes that come from Latin America simply because of a lack of knowledge.

Doing a little bit of research into the restaurants in your area may lead you to discover your new favorite meal or style of food. Be open minded, try new things and explore new foods – your taste buds will thank you!