Get Healthy: Add Some Spice to Your Meals!

For those who take their favorite Latin foods with extra cheese, like to add a dollop of cream or prefer food fried, scientists have discovered you can savor those foods without fretting so much over the high fat content. All you have to do is be heavy-handed with the spices, as researchers at Penn State recently found that spices can cut the risks associated with high-fat meals. And while many traditional Latin American dishes are cooked without a concern for saturated fat or cholesterol, nobody skimps on the seasonings. These are five spices used widely in Latin American cuisine, accompanied with some of Latina’s best recipes ideas. Stock up and get cooking!

1. Spices: Oregano


In contrast to oregano, another leafy spice, oregano is most flavorful dry, and the dried form is usually what is consumed and sprinkled in dishes. Perhaps why it is called for in so many Latin American recipes is because it balances the hot kick of peppers. It also often is used with meat dishes, and is a key ingredient in that flavorful chimichurri sauce, necessary to whip up Steak and Chimichurri Toasts.

2. Spices: Chili Powder

Chili powder

Whether you write it as chili or chile powder, it is the same spice and it is hot! The center of chili peppers, the hottest part, is ground to a very fine powder. Some chili powders also have additional spices mixed in, such as oregano and garlic powder. The spices is so important in Latin food that it is even right in the name of one classic dish: chili con carne. Looking to make something different? Stick a Mexican Lasagna in the oven.

3. Spices: Garlic


Working this pungent spice into a meal might be better for a girls’ night than dinner date, but there is no denying the Latinos love it in their food. Crush it up fresh or get it in powder form; it is considered heart-healthy and its benefits are numerous. Pick up four cloves and put Chicken Enchiladas with Fresh Tomatillo Salsa on the menu. 

4. Spices: Cilantro


This spice also goes by the name coriander. The small, green plant tastes leafy (understandably) as well as citrusy. It is used widely in Latin American fare and especially Tex-Mex food, often with a just a few sprigs balancing out the heat. Get more inventive with it than garnishing it on tacos and grill up a Frita Cubana Burger.

5. Spices: Saffron


A big bowl of steaming yellow rice is a staple at every Latin table. The spice saffron, which is a bit sweet, is what lends the rice that hue. It also packs in the antioxidants, as many spices do, and is even used in a number of natural medicines and remedies. Amp up your standard pollo con arroz and work the saffron into the chicken following this Chicken Braised with Saffron, Cinnamon, and Lavender recipe.