Indulgent food is considered to be the heart of Latin culture. With vibrant flavors, authentic ingredients, and dedicated preparation, this cuisine has kept Latin heritage alive with traditional recipes passed through generations in every Latino household.
While the ingredients are always fresh, ‘healthy’ is definitely not the first word that comes to mind when indulging in many authentic Latin dishes. As healthy lifestyle habits and weight-related problems have become more prominent, how do we keep the tradition going without compromising on our health?
If there’s one thing about Latin food, it’s that it NEVER relinquishes that bold and exciting flavor. There is always a way to incorporate that same nostalgic Latin flavor in these classic recipes while still eating clean. Here are 5 healthy versions of these popular Latin dishes with great taste and zero guilt. They’re easy to prepare and as delicious as their less-healthy counterparts!
1/ Baked Empanadas
These little pastries are a popular Latin snack that originates from Spain. The delicious flakey and deep-fried outer pocket with a cheesy and meaty filling on the inside makes it hard to resist having more than just one, which can really pack on those calories.
Using olive oil instead of butter in the dough is a great alternative to cut back on the fat while keeping the same flavor. Baking your empanadas instead of deep-frying in oil significantly takes out a lot of unnecessary and unhealthy saturated fat from your diet.
2/ Arroz con Pollo
This chicken and rice recipe is a healthy rendition of a popular dish enjoyed in Spain, Latin America and the Caribbean. For a lighter variation, use boneless, skinless chicken breast instead of dark, fattier meat.
Brown rice can also replace white rice and give you added benefits such as energy, better digestion and heart health! You can keep all the traditional spices and fresh vegetables for the same flavor and a lot less calories and fat.
3/ Veggie Chili Rellenos
Traditionally, these cheese stuffed peppers are covered in a very light batter, fried and smothered in a rich and flavorful sauce. Using the same poblano peppers for that smokey flavor, these peppers are stuffed with a green chile and corn mixture and topped off with shredded Chihuahua cheese.
Baking these stuffed peppers will give them a nice melted and crispy outer layer without the added oil. Using a greek yogurt based sauce is the perfect alternative to top these veggie chili rellenos, which are gluten-free and low carb!
4/ Avocado-stuffed Ceviche
This South American seafood dish is considered to be one of the nutritious and fresh foods in Latin cuisine; however, those fried tortilla chips we use as utensils while enjoying this dish counteract the healthy aspect.
Replacing chips with these fun avocado bowls are a creative way to present your traditional ceviche while adding in a lot of good fats into your diet. Leaving the skin on, halve and pit the avocados and fill with about a ¼ cup of your ceviche mixture for a citrusy and creamy ceviche experience.
5/ Salmon and Chimichurri Sauce
Let’s be honest– chimichurri sauce is so delicious that we wish we could eat it with everything. This Argentinian condiment and marinade is boldly versatile but usually paired with a juicy skirt steak. Since most of the flavor of this dish comes from the colorful chimichurri sauce, this recipe replaces the fattier red meat with salmon, which serves as a high source of vitamins and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids essential for a healthy diet.
Rub your salmon with a little olive oil and sea salt and bake until tender and flakey. Top it all off with chimichurri and pair with fresh vegetables for all that authentic flavor in a lighter way.