10 reasons Latinos do Thanksgiving better than anyone


  • Photo of a coquito via Que Rica Vida
While the rest of America prepares to stuff its face with turkey and pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, Latino households bring their own own approach to the traditional holiday meal.

We season things differently, make things spicier and sometimes just nudge classic dishes off the table (I’m looking at you, cranberry sauce). Some Latinos don’t like turkey, so they slow roast a pork shoulder or just skip ahead to December’s tamale season.

Whatever your holiday fare may be, here are 10 ideas on how to make it a bit more interesting.

1. Pavochón: Hailing from Puerto Rico, this recipe seasons a turkey (pavo) like you would a pig roast (lechón). Caribbean countries will fight over whose mojo (marinade) would result in a more delicious pavochón, but in the interest of fairness and because Puerto Rico did invent this, here’s a recipe from Puerto Rican food blogger Janesse Torres of Delish D’Lites.

2. Mofongo stuffing: Traditional stuffing tastes...interesting, so instead, people have used mofongo, a fried plantain-based mush mixed with pork cracklings or bacon, to fill the bird. Que Rica Vida’s mofongo turkey stuffing also includes onion, green peppers and red peppers.

3. Congrí stuffing: This stuffing is so extra, but that’s why it’s the best one. It starts with congrí, a traditional Cuban rice and beans mixture, then adds ground beef, ground pork, ham, chorizo, and olives, and finishes off by seasoning the whole thing with sofrito. Que Rica Vida provides a simpler recipe here with only chorizo and ham.

4. Fricasé de pavo: This recipe takes your abuela’s traditional fricasé de pollo, which is a tomato-based chicken recipe, and substitutes turkey for the chicken. The dish is best for families who hate dry turkey, and La Cocina de Nathan has a Cuban take on the meal. 

5. Pavo en mole poblano: Mexican mole is a thick, chocolate-tinged sauce made from a concoction of ingredients that’s traditionally served over chicken or turkey and a bed of rice. No two moles are alike, and I would give you my mom’s recipe, but it’s a family secret, so you’ll just have to look at this one from Pati’s Mexican Table.

6. Pastelón: Pastelón is basically Puerto Rico’s version of lasagna. Instead of pasta sheets, this dish substitutes sweet plantains and seasons the ground beef with onion, garlic and adobo. The Noshery has a yummy version that's not too hard. 

7. Jalapeño macaroni and cheese: No fancy methods to this one. Take your favorite version of mac and cheese and add diced jalapeños and a dash of Tabasco to be on the spicy safe side. If you’re up for a challenge, try adding pickled jalapeños, habanero peppers or chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. NPR’s Here and Now host Jeremy Hobson has a family recipe that's pretty mild, but very much worth it.

8. Pão de queijo: If you’re tired of Pillsbury biscuits, try this puffy Brazilian cheese bread. Brazilian chef Leticia Moreinos Schwartz’s recipe is simple enough, but you will have to find manioc starch.

9. Buñuelos de yuca: There’s no doubt flan is iconic, but Latinos have other desserts that are equally as delectable, like buñuelos de yuca. This Dominican recipe from Aunt Clara’s Kitchen takes the doughy cassava-based dessert that’s pretty dense and makes it fluffy like a beignet, with spiced syrup on top.

10. Coquito: How could this post end and not mention coquito? Puerto Rico saw eggnog and came up with a better version that has sweetened condensed milk, coconut, evaporated milk, white rum and cinnamon. Coquito recipes abound, but Daisy Martinez’s version at The Kitchn includes Choquito, the chocolate version of a coquito. 

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