¡Celebremos! Add These Latin Foods to Your Holiday Table

Your favorite Latin dishes will begin to appear at the holiday table – Esperaste todo el año para probarlos

Many cultures spend the previous eleven months anticipating the enjoyment of these end-of-the-year victuals, a key piece to celebrating the end of each year. While there is great diversity in the foods involved with these customs, a unifying ethos among the many Latin American countries and regions brings these celebrations together.

Passion for family, religious practices, and community activities permeate Latin traditions, from Puerto Rican holiday foods enjoyed in New York to Argentinean holiday foods passed around tables in Buenos Aires. These dishes are a central gathering point at parties, family meals, and local events. In the same ways drinks like eggnog or sweets like gingerbread cookies can excite many communities in the United States, certain Latin foods are part of their holiday table tradition. But there’s no reason these delicacies can’t make their way from their casas to your own home!

Here at Latin Restaurant Weeks, we want people to learn about these Latin holiday foods and see our fellow foodies add them to their staple of seasonal goodies. Below is a short list of some of our personal favorites that we think you’ll be happy to introduce to your taste buds. And if you’re hosting, special surprises will be awaiting your guests. Stay up to date with our newsletter to keep up with special recipes, news, events, and the latest from chefs and restaurant owners.

Ahora, ¡comencemos las festividades!

Pan Dulce

Argentina has a rich ethnic background with its wonderful blend of Spanish roots and a robust infusion of Italian culture thanks to mass migration in the late 19th century. The impact on the overall ethos of the country has resulted in many wonderful traditions from places like Rome and Napoli and, in the case of Panettone, Milan. This sweet bread filled with candied fruits and nuts has been around in Italy since the 1400s. In Argentina, this treat was introduced by the large population of Italian immigrants, quickly becoming a regional favorite. Called pan dulce locally, its popularity spread all over Latin America. When Christmas and New Year’s celebrations come around, you can expect to find it pretty much in every Argentine home. Pairing perfectly with coffee or an aperitif, it can be served both before dinner as part of the hors d’oeuvres or as dessert. And leftovers are often enjoyed as breakfast, too.

Want to make it? Prueba la receta de los Cocineros Argentinos


If you love eggnog and you love coconut, then coquito may be the perfect holiday drink for you. Thought to have evolved from eggnog recipes dating back to the 1700s, the Puerto Rican take on the Christmastime classic adds a tropical twist to the beloved beverage. Like eggnog, it’s a dairy-based concoction loaded up with sublime spices such as nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. But where traditional eggnog uses whole milk sweetened with sugar, coquito uses condensed milk, which tends to be denser and more sugary. And, of course, a good Puerto Rican rum is the finishing touch that distinguishes the elixir. Using local ingredients to make this regional favorite, coquito is a true taste of the island and brings good cheer to holiday tables every year.

Want to make it? Prueba la receta de Carolina Ginorio Rios

Cola de Mono

Literally translated as “monkey’s tail,” cola de mono is a favorite adult beverage in Chile, as associated with Christmastime as eggnog is elsewhere. It’s a lovely hot brew made from the brewing of milk, coffee, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and other spices. Mix in your favorite liquor and voila – you’ve caught the tail! In Chile, the local aguardiente is the favorite go-to alcohol for the mix. But brandy, rum, and vodka can also make the cut. The drink is served chilled as Christmas takes place during the summer in Chile. Legend has it that in the early 1900s, Chilean President Pedro Montt – nicknamed “mono” by friends – created the drink at a holiday party when the wine ran out. And supposedly, his friends hid his prized Colt revolver to make him stir the drinks longer. So the drink was named “Colt de Mono” in honor of the president, evolving to “cola de mono” over time. Ever since it’s been a drink to savor after Christmas dinner.

Want to make it? Prueba la receta de Enzo Vidal

Pan de Jamón

Rolled bread dishes are always interesting, and the Venezuelan holiday treat known as pan de jamón is no exception. The idea is simple: slices of tender ham are folded into rolled dough, accompanied by olives and raisins. Bake and slice for a stuffed starchy delight that everyone loves. But why is it a Christmas staple? As the story goes, a baker named Gustavo Ramella got an idea at his Caracas bakery in 1905. Finding himself with a large amount of ham left over from a holiday dinner, he decided to slice it up and roll it into dough. His customers loved it so much, he started making it regularly. And as his legend grew, other bakeries followed the recipe until it became a national phenomenon. And while nowadays, pan de jamón can be found in supermarkets all year round in Venezuela and other Latin countries, this holiday-inspired history has made the bread a must-have for Christmas.

Want to make it? Prueba la receta de Ángel Lozada


Christmastime in Venezuela can’t really be Christmas unless there are hallacas on the table – in just the same way that Thanksgiving needs some turkey! Made with cornmeal, they bear some resemblance to Mexican tamales, only with some key differences. The typical filling, for example, is made up of stewed meats, olives, and raisins. Combining these strong flavors creates a taste unlike any other. They are also traditionally wrapped in smoked plantain leaves, a technique contributed by the African diaspora and was brought to Venezuela during the colonial era. An old story explains that a bishop had asked the local population to donate leftover food to feed the poor one Christmas hundreds of years ago. Ever since these good works took place, the holiday season has become the time for folks to get together and eat the product of those good tidings.

Want to make it? Prueba la receta de Jorge Rincon

Another holiday meal one could compare to the Thanksgiving turkey is the lechón asado. Unlike the individual servings of hallacas, this Caribbean favorite is a whole pig, which is slow-roasted and becomes the centerpiece of the holiday table. In places like Cuba and the Dominican Republic, lechón asado is a huge part of the anticipation leading up to Christmas Eve. Different homes might make use of different variants such as a suckling pig, whole hog, or pork shoulder, depending on which is the regional favorite, or how many guests are to be fed. Preparation can begin days earlier, with the meat being soaked in adobo marinade. Once cooked to crispy perfection, it’s not just a delicious meal but a sight that evokes gratitude and fosters a sense of communal sharing.

Want to make it? Prueba la receta de A La Carta con Sabor

Bacalao a la Vizcaína

In the colder winter months, a nice stew can be just the ticket to bring our inner temperature up. That may be why bacalao a la vizcaína is such a popular Christmastime treat. Thought to have originated in the Basque area of Spain, this dish was brought to the Americas during the colonial era as local ingredients lent themselves well. Basically, this is slated cod – a fish that is as abundant around Mexico as it is in Europe – which is slow-cooked in a delectable sauce made of tomatoes and chili sauce. Originally, Vizcaína sauce was made with red choricero peppers, but local adaptations work perfectly. It’s such a holiday favorite that it’s also known as Bacalao Navideño, the second word referring to Christmas. Mexican tradition also looks forward to making tamale-like versions out of the leftovers for the next day’s lunch.

Want to make it? Prueba la receta de Mely Martínez


In Spanish, the word “parilla” means “grill.” And the “parrillada” is a communal meal where a small grill is set at the table keeping a grouping of grilled meats nice and warm as hungry diners serve themselves. It’s the ultimate social foodie gathering in Uruguay, a country composed exclusively of Pampas, the legendary fertile lands perfect for raising all livestock. Expect cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and chicken. Special items like offal and savory sausages round out the parrillada nicely. Because this is a beloved communal meal, it is the default centerpiece to any typical Uruguayan Christmas dinner. Following all the meats, the dessert consists of faves like ice cream served with fruit, making for full bellies and joyous memories.

Want to make it? Aprende de Locos X el Asado

Atole and Champurrado

This Mexican tradition goes back to the nation’s Aztec roots. The age-old drinks known as atole and champurrado incorporate ingredients that grew in the region as staples for aboriginal populations well before the Spanish Colonial era. Atole is the base drink here. It’s a comfort beverage that’s served warm, mixing heated water with a cornmeal dough called masa. This thickens the beverage and provides its starchy foundation. From there, spices like vanilla and cinnamon are mixed with cane sugar and different types of fruit for a bellyful of delicious warming goodness. It’s when you add chocolate to the mix that it becomes champurrado, bolstering the strength of the hot drink. During the cooler weather of the winter holidays, especially on cold nights at higher elevations, atole and champurrado bring the taste of connection and togetherness that only such ancient traditions can afford.

Want to make it? Prueba la receta de Salty Cocina

¡Ahora puedes celebrar con tradiciones auténticas!

Whether you’re looking to brush up on your Latin holiday meal bonafides, or want to keep up on regional traditions, at Latin Restaurant Weeks we got you covered with our newsletter. True foodies are always searching for yet-to-be-discovered dishes, but there’s more to it than satisfying our palates. Engaging in traditional foodways is a method of communicating the very soul of a culture, where you can literally taste the history of a people and the place they came from. Becoming a part of our larger world through our tastebuds is the perfect way to bring different backgrounds together as nothing quite unites people the way a dinner table does. We’re happy to keep you up with these traditions while keeping your bellies full with the very best in Latin cuisine!

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