5 Healthy Versions of Your Favorite Recipes

It's a cultural imperative in a Latin household that when you have guests, you serve them food. You probably try to serve them coffee too, regardless of the time of day. No matter how politely your guests refuse the offer, you will go down fighting to give your guests something to eat. But here's the thing that no one ever wants to talk about: Many traditional Latin recipes (including my favorite, Empanadas de Carne) are fried, breaded, or otherwise loaded in trans fat, calories, and cholesterol. As delicious as these recipes are, they're like serving a heart attack on a plate. Still, that doesn't mean you have to give up your favorite foods! We've rounded up five lighter versions of classic recipes to enjoy the next time you're having a party or a guest stopping by. Salud! 

1. Healthy Latin Food: Cauliflower Power Tacos

Cauliflower power tacos: These tacos are so good, even meat-eaters will love them. Swap out fatty crema for cool chickpeas and pesto and use cauliflower in place of meat or poultry to get a hearty, filling meal that's bursting with flavor, not calories. Bonus: They're gluten-free.

Still not convinced? This recipe comes recommended by hottie Mario Lopez, who's paired up with Betty Crocker to bring you the best of the best in Latin-inspired food.

Makes 8 servings.


Roasted Cauliflower

1 medium head cauliflower (2 lb), separated into florets

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt


Crispy Chick Peas

1 can (15 oz) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp. ground oregano


Cilantro-Pepita Pesto

2 cups fresh cilantro leaves

1/3 cup pepitas

1 very small clove garlic, cut in half

2 tablespoons chopped jalapeño chiles

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 cup olive oil



8 gluten-free white corn tortillas, heated as directed on package

1. Heat oven to 425°F. Place cauliflower florets in large bowl. Drizzle with 2 tbsp. oil; sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir until evenly coated. Arrange on large cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes; stir. Bake 15 to 20minutes longer or until cauliflower is tender and browned.

2. Meanwhile, mix crispy chickpeas ingredients. Spread on 15x10x1-inch pan. Bake 15 minutes; stir. Bake 10 to 15 minutes longer or until chickpeas are slightly browned and crispy.

3. Meanwhile, in food processor, place all pesto ingredients except oil. Cover; process using quick on-and-off motions. With food processor running, slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup oil through feed tube, stopping halfway through to stir mixture with spatula. Remove pesto to small bowl.

4. Spoon about 1 tbsp. pesto on each tortilla; top with about 1/2 cup roasted cauliflower and 1 tbsp. crispy chickpeas. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired. Serve with remaining chickpeas.

Recipe and photo provided by Betty Crocker

2. Healthy Latin Food: Chile Rellenos de Espinaca

Chile Rellenos de Espinaca: Chile rellenos are a Mexican comfort food classic. Unfortunately, all the things that make them so delicious -- melted, gooey cheese, the crispy, battered shell -- also make them loaded down in fat andcalories. In fact, the average chile rellenos recipe has more than 700 calories, 42 grams of fat, and 177 mg of cholesterol. Luckily, our friends at Rosa Mexicano have provided a waistline-friendly alternative using spinach and goat cheese and baking them instead of frying them, thus slashing the calorie count by almost 300 calories and dropping the cholesterol level by more than 100 milligrams. 

Makes 6 servings.


Seven 6-ounce bags baby spinach or 2 1Ž2 pounds loose baby spinach

1/4 cup mild olive oil

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup pine nuts 


2 cups ranchera sauce

6 large poblano chiles (about 1 1/4 lbs), roasted and prepared for stuffing

1/2 cup crema, crème fraiche or thinned sour cream

6-ounces plain goat cheese cut into 6-slices

1/4 cup coarsely chopped epazote or cilantro


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Stir in the spinach a bagful at a time and cook just until bright green, about one minute.  Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water until cool enough to handle.  Working in batches, squeeze as much water from the spinach as possible (be very serious about the squeezing!).  Coarsely chop the spinach.  There will be about 2 very tightly packed cups. 

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the spinach, raisins, and pine nuts and cook, stirring to break up the cups of spinach until the raisins are puffy, the pine nuts are starting to toast and almost all the liquid has evaporated.  Season the spinach with salt, then pour in 1Ž4 cup water and cook until the water has evaporated.  (it may seem odd to add water after taking the time to cook off the liquid but there is a sound reason, the addition of water helps carry the salt evenly throughout the dense spinach mixture.) Remove from the heat and let cool.

3. Pour the sauce into an 11 by 9-inch baking dish or other baking dish that will hold the stuffed chiles snugly.  Divide the filling among the chiles, filling them loosely.  Put them opening side up in the baking dish.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until heated through, about 25 minutes. 

4. Drizzle the crema over the chiles while they are still in the baking dish, then transfer them to serving plates, spooning some of thecream-enriched sauce over and around them. (it is not necessary to blend the cream completely with the ranchera sauce, in fact, the plates will look nicer with a streaky sauce.)  Top each chile with a round of goat cheese andsome chopped epazote and serve.

Recipe provided by Rosa Mexicano, NYC

3. Healthy Latin Food: Seared Scallop Tacos

Seared scalloptacos:  Taco-lovers, rejoice! I couldn't resist adding another taco recipe to the list. Where the first recipe called for roasted cauliflower, this one calls for fresh sea scallops. Coming in around 170 calories per taco, with only 7 grams of fat, this recipe makes the perfect light and refreshing spring meal. 

Makes 6 to 8 tacos.


6 green Anaheim chiles

1 small jalapeno pepper

8 large sea scallops

3Ž4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp. canola oil

1Ž2 tsp. cumin seed, toasted and ground

2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano, toasted and ground

1Ž4 cup apple cider vinegar

1Ž4 cup sugar

1 tsp. chipotle chile in adobo

1Ž2 cup sour cream

1Ž4 cup fresh lime juice

6 or 8 corn or flour tortillas

1 cup shredded green cabbage



1. Preheat the over to high broil

2. Place the Anaheim chiles on a sheet pan on the highest rack in the oven. Use tongs to turn the chiles every minute until they are completely black on all sides. (You can also blacken the chiles over an open flame on the grill—just be careful not to let them catch fire.) Place the chiles in a bowl, cover the bowl tightly with aluminum foil, and let sit for 10 minutes to cool—this will also steam the skin loose. Once the chiles are cool, wipe off the skin gently with your fingers. Do not use water to get blackened skin off chiles; the flavorful oils will get washed away. Remove the seeds and finely chop the chiles. Set aside.

3. Finely chop the jalapeno, removing the seeds for milder chutney or leaving them in for the maximum heat. Add the jalapeno to the Anaheims and set aside.

4. Rinse the scallops well and pat dry with a paper towel. Remove the rubbery lip from the side of each scallop. Season with salt and pepper.

5. In a medium skillet over medium high heat, add the canola oil. Once the oil is hot (you will see a haze coming off the oil,) add the scallops to the pan. Sear on the first side until a nice golden crust forms, about 3 minutes. Flip over the scallops and continue cooking until the sides of the scallops turn from translucent to opaque, about 1 minute. Be careful not to over cook. Remove from the pan and set aside. The scallops will continue tocook when you remove them from the pan due to the residual heat. 

6. In a separate medium skillet over medium heat, add the cumin and oregano. Toast for 1 minute just until you can smell the perfume of the spices. Add the vinegar, sugar and 1Ž2 teaspoon of the salt and bring to a boil. Add the chopped Anaheim and jalapeno chiles and simmer until the mixture thickens but still easily flows from side to side as you tilt the pan. Using a rubber spatula, remove the chutney to a bowl and let cool.  It will continue to thicken as it cools. (Will last for 3 weeks in a tightly closedcontainer in the refrigerator.)

7. Smash the chipotle chile in a bowl. Use a fork to stir in the sour cream and the remaining 1Ž4 teaspoon salt. Pour in the lime juice and mix well. Set aside at room temperature.

8. Toast the tortillas until warm, soft and slightly golden. Lay them on three or four plates. If not serving right away, place the tortillas in a bowl and cover with a dry towel.

9. Divide the shredded cabbage evenly among the tortillas. Cut the scallops into pieces and lay them on the cabbage. Top with the chutney, then the seasoned sour cream. 

Recipe and photo provided by Jeffrey Saad, Cooking Channel host of United Tastes of America, restauranteur, chef, and author of Jeffrey Saad’s Global Kitchen: Recipes Without Borders

4. Healthy Latin Food: Breadfruit Tostones

Breadfruit tostones: From Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic, tostones are a perennialpopular side dish. Blogger Madelyn of Karma Free Cooking puts her own spin on the traditional recipe by using breadfruit instead of plantains in her recipe, as well as frying them only once instead of the usual twice. Try the recipebelow--it's easy and only contains four ingredients. If you're feeling adventurous, try Madelyn's tuno antipasto  and top your tostones with it. Bien provecho!

Makes 4 servings.


1/2 breadfruit

2 garlic cloves

canola oil for frying

Kosher salt to taste


1. Cut the breadfruit in half; then cut the halves into wedges. Peel it and remove the spongy part and seeds.

2. Wash the wedges thoroughly under running water to remove any "mancha," or stickiness. 

3. Cut the wedges into smaller pieces and fry them in canola oil under medium heat until they're just golden on the outside. 

4. Flatten the breadfruits, using a tostonera. 

5. Sprinkle with garlic and salt to taste and enjoy right away or put in the freezer to enjoy at a later date. 

Recipe provided by Karma Free Cooking

5. Healthy Latin Food: Skinny Chicken Ropa Vieja

Skinny Chicken Ropa Vieja: Ropa vieja is a staple in Cuban cuisine and why not? It's freaking' delicious (or as we say in Chile, suuuper rica!). Although traditionally made with shredded skirt steak, chicken makes a wonderful andlight alternative. By making the peppers and onions the focus of the meal, and using the chicken almost as a condiment, you get a meal that's flavorful and spicy but easy on your skinny jeans.  

Makes 4 servings.


3 (22.5 oz) chicken breast halves

1 small onion, quartered

1 tomato, quartered

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 small green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1 small red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup tomato sauce

reserved broth

1 tsp. cumin, or more to taste

garlic powder to taste

salt and pepper to taste


1. Place chicken, onion, tomato, carrot, and 2 cloves of garlic into crock pot. Add water to cover, and set to high for 4 hours until the chicken is tender. If cooking on the stove, cook on medium-low, and simmer until the chicken is tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

2. Place the chicken into a bowl and shred it into strips using a fork; set aside. Reserve the liquid.

3. In a large deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions, green peppers, and red peppers. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in chicken, tomato sauce, white wine, and about 3/4 cup of the reserved broth to create a nice sauce.

4. Season with cumin, garlic powder salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer on low for about 10 minutes more adding more broth and seasoning if needed.

Recipe and photo provided by Skinny Taste