¡Ay Caramba! As all eyes turn to the Rio, here are 15 fabulous Latin American foods

We'll take the Men's 100m hurdles with extra chilli, please...

We'll take the Men's 100m hurdles with extra chilli, please...

As the eyes of the world turn to Rio (and the British summer is predictably a wash out), we are all for adding a little spice to our lives.

The best way to convince yourself you’re celebrating on Copacabana Beach and not in your dreary British sitting room is to fill your fridge with mouth-wateringly tropical LatinAmerican delicacies, such as sparkling Caipirinhas, sticky alfajores biccies, pulled pork fejoidas, and juicy empanadas.

After all, just because you can’t go to the carnival, doesn’t mean the carnival can’t come to you. Here are 15 fabulous Latin American foods that win gold for flavour every time. On your marks... get set... go!

1. Dulce de Leche

Salted caramel’s sexy Latin American cousin, dulce de leche is sticky, gooey, creamy, molten loveliness made by heating condensed milk until it resembles pure, unadulterated heaven. M&S have created a ludicrously delicious Dulce De Leche Honeycomb Cheesecake (210g, £3) as part of their Spirit of Summer range, alongside their Brazilian, all-butter, dulce de leche-stuffed Alfajores biscuits (155g, £2), Dulce de Leche Eclairs (175g, £2.50) and a Banana & Dulce de Leche Slice (170g, £3.50) – a tropical twist on the classic New Orleans pudding, Banana Foster, made with brown sugar cookie dough, dulce de leche, a sponge soaked in dark navy rum and banana liqueur, all layered with banana and vanilla mousse. Yikes. (In a really, really, really good way.)

Brazilian alfajores biscuits, sold in M&S, are all-butter treats sandwiched with dulce de leche

Brazilian alfajores biscuits, sold in M&S, are all-butter treats sandwiched with dulce de leche

2. Empanadas

If a Cornish pasty travelled to Latin America it would return with a spring in its step, colour in its cheeks, and saucy tales of a holiday romance with a feisty little empanada. These delicate pastry treats can be stuffed with either savoury or sweet fillings, such as meat, cheese, vegetables or fruit. Try M&S’s Handcrafted Sweetcorn Empanadas (120g, £2.80), bursting with black beans and summery freshness.

Empanadas are small pastries stuffed with all sorts of delicious fillings, both sweet and savoury

3. Anticuchos

Anticuchos (ox heart kebabs sizzled on a barbecue), are top dog on the Peruvian street food scene – the ones prepared by chef Grimanesa Vargas in Lima have earned her the nickname La Reina De Corazones (Queen of Hearts). M&S have crafted a slightly, er, milder version for British palates. Their scrumptious Peruvian Style Chicken Kebabs (250g, £4.50), inspired on anticuchos, are tender cubes of chicken thigh glazed with a sticky chilli, garlic and cumin marinade.

4. Malagueta peppers

Latin America is a hotbed (literally) of chilli peppers, including the malagueta, used in Brazil

Latin America is a hotbed (literally) of chilli peppers, including the malagueta, used in Brazil

Try out this scorcher in M&S’s sizzling Spicy Malagueta Chicken Wings (600g, £4)

Try out this scorcher in M&S’s sizzling Spicy Malagueta Chicken Wings (600g, £4)

A hot chilli pepper heavily used in meaty stew cooking throughout the Bahia state of Brazil, the malagueta (Capiscum frutescens malagueta, for those wishing to use its proper, scientific name) is closely related to the birdseye chilli and known as the piri piri pepper in Europe. It scores a whopping 50,000 - 100,000 on the Scoville heat scale, and is up to 40 times hotter than a jalapeno. Try out this scorcher in M&S’s sizzling Spicy Malagueta Chicken Wings (600g, £4), Spicy Malagueta Chilli Dip (170g, £1.50, heaven with cooling cucumber), Malagueta Chilli Hot Sauce (150ml, £1.85), and Malagueta Pulled Chicken Soft Corn Taco (£2.80). Pra caramba!

5. Huacatay

Also known as Peruvian black mint, this indispensable Andean herb is a fundamental part of cooking all over Peru. A cousin of the marigold, its aromatic leaves are ground into a deep, flavoursome paste whose taste sits fruitily between tarragon, mint, lime and sweet basil – a wonderfully a refreshing counterpoint to chilli heat and other spices. Taste it in M&S’s Cooling Mint Yoghurt Dip (170g, £1.50), which provides the perfect dunk for their spicy, Peruvian Style Chicken Kebabs.

M&S have used Peruvian black mint 'huacatay' in their Cooling Mint dip, left, and chipotle chilli peppers, right, in plenty of their other Spirit of Summer range

6. Chipotle

You can’t turn around in Mexico without knocking into someone pushing a cartload full of wrinkly little chipotle chillis: smoke-dried jalapeño peppers. Invented by the Aztecs who smoked ripe red jalapenos as a means of preservation, chipotles are now used to flavour sauces, stews, soups, salsas and meat marinades. Typically mild in spiciness but rich in deep, smoky, earthy, somewhat chocolatey savouriness, chipotles can be tasted in M&S’s Spirit of Summer Chipotle Chilli, Chia & Nigella Seed Flatbread (120g, £2.50); Chipotle, Broccoli and Cauliflower Cous Cous (155g, £2); and even their Mexican Chipotle Chilli & Ecuadorian Dark Chocolate Cookies (255g, £2).

Chipotle chilli peppers are used in cooking all over Mexico
Chipotle chilli coated cashews from M&S

Chipotle is used as a deep smoky flavouring across M&S's new Spirit of Summer range

7. Quinoa

Quinoa - which is actually a seed - has been used by M&S inventively as a crumb for their Quinoa & Turmeric Potato Wedges (550g, £3.75)

Quinoa - which is actually a seed - has been used by M&S inventively as a crumb for their Quinoa & Turmeric Potato Wedges (550g, £3.75)

Before becoming the darling of the #eatclean brigade, this ancient grain was the darling of the Andean people of Peru and Bolivia as early as 5,000 BC. Spanish invaders of Latin America called it ‘the wheat of the Incas’. Curiously, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) isn’t actually a grain, it’s a seed, and belongs to the same family as beetroot and spinach. Similar to amaranth and buckwheat, quinoa is gluten-free, easy to digest, rich in protein and vitamin B, and has a nutty, earthy flavour. Delicious in salads, M&S have used it in a Rainforest Supergrain & Avocado Salad (160g, £2) with brazil nuts and a mango and Amarillo chilli dressing, as well as inventively as a crumb for their Quinoa & Turmeric Potato Wedges (550g, £3.75).

M&S have used the ancient Aztec grain quinoa in their avocado and Brazil nut salad

M&S have used the ancient Aztec grain quinoa in their avocado and Brazil nut salad

8. Sweetcorn

Sweetcorn is a seriously versatile vegetable, husk can even be used as a cooking pot – just try M&S’s fresh, bright, lime-zesty Seabass In A Corn Husk (281g, £7)

Sweetcorn is a seriously versatile vegetable, husk can even be used as a cooking pot – just try M&S’s fresh, bright, lime-zesty Seabass In A Corn Husk (281g, £7)

Yellow, black, purple, crunchy, soft, chargrilled, steamed, floured, buttery, spicy... Sweetcorn comes in many guises, and we love every darn one. A versatile cooking staple across Latin America, sweetcorn is ground into flour for the crunchiest nacho chips and the softest tortilla wraps imaginable, mingled with chillies and onions to make salsa, scorched quickly into popcorn or deep-fried as a fritter. Heck, the husk can even be used as a cooking pot – just try M&S’s fresh, bright, lime-zesty Seabass In A Corn Husk (281g, £7). We’re addicted to M&S’s new Sweetcorn Fritter Wrap (£2.50), and their Monterey Jack Refried Bean Corn Chips (150g, £1.50) dunked in Charred Sweetcorn Salsa (210g, £250). Mmmmm, double sweetcorn.

9. Coconut

Coconut doesn't always have to be virtuous... why not indulge in M&S's decadently creamy Chocolate & Coconut Slice (£3.50, 165g)?

Coconut doesn't always have to be virtuous... why not indulge in M&S's decadently creamy Chocolate & Coconut Slice (£3.50, 165g)?

Britain’s love affair with the coconut doesn’t end with coconut water – we want it in our cereals, our curries, our cakes, our biscuits, our smoothies, our soups, our snack boxes and even our shampoos. Technically a stone fruit (a drupe) not a nut, you’ve only got to glimpse one of these hairy, tropical, super-nutritious beasts to find yourself instantly transported to a white sand paradise. 

Marks & Spencer have now brought out a refreshing Guava & Lime Caipirinha Sparkling Fizz (750ml, £6)

Marks & Spencer have now brought out a refreshing Guava & Lime Caipirinha Sparkling Fizz (750ml, £6)

So let’s gobble more! M&S’s Jalapeno, Key Lime & Coconut Cashews (180g, £3.50) are a great new way to snack on coconut – and they would go terrifically with an ice-cold glass of Coconut & Lime Rum (50cl, £14) or Costa Rican Pineapple & Coconut Water Sparkling Presse (750ml, £2). Maybe followed by a decadently creamyChocolate & Coconut Slice (£3.50, 165g).

10. Guava

Proclaimed ‘the ultimate superfood’ in 2011 after scientists found it contained a higher concentration of antioxidants than any other edible, the guava is up there with the coconut, the papaya and the mango when it comes to lending dishes a totally tropical taste. 

Tricky to track down in the UK (unless in Rubicon’s guava juice drink), Marks & Spencer have now brought out a sticky BBQ Guava Ketchup (300g, £2), a refreshing Guava & Lime Caipirinha Sparkling Fizz (750ml, £6), and a Pineapple, Guava & Granadilla Jelly (560g, £3.50). 

Now, where did I put my hammock?

Guava is up there with the coconut, the papaya and the mango when it comes to lending dishes a totally tropical taste

Guava is up there with the coconut, the papaya and the mango when it comes to lending dishes a totally tropical taste

11. Watermelon

Watermelon is 2016’s hippest fruit, thanks to Beyoncé proclaiming her love for WTRMLN WTR from the rooftops. Several other companies have jumped aboard the cold-pressed watermelon juice wagon, including What A Melon, all insistent that watermelon is even more hydrating and electrolyte-boosting than coconut water. Which is fine by us, since we’re rather partial to Marks & Spencer’s new Mexican-inspired Watermelon & Lime Agua Fresca (750ml, £2.20), a fruity, refreshing, sparkle of a drink, and heavenly when shaken over ice. (Even more heavenly when shaken over ice and a shot of tequila...)

12. Tacos

Thomasina Miers won Masterchef in 2005, thanks to her adventurous take on Mexican food, later going on to open Wahaca, a chain of Mexican eateries, famed for their spectacular tacos. In homage to Mexico’s street food dining scene, M&S have launched a line of taco treats, including a Malagueta Pulled Chicken Soft Corn Taco (£2.80), laden with tomato and black bean salsa and coriander mayonnaise.

M&S have launched a line of taco treats, including a Malagueta Pulled Chicken Soft Corn Taco (£2.80), laden with tomato and black bean salsa and coriander mayonnaise

13. Ancho chilli

A dried poblano chilli, the ancho is a Mexican flavour staple originating from the state of Puebla. Mild, sweet and fruity, ancho chillis add depth to sauces and stews. Taste it for yourself in Marks & Spencer’s scrumptious Ancho Squash & Guacamole Soft Corn Taco (£2.60), or their Ancho Chilli Pulled Pork Pastry Taco (140g, £2.20).

Dragon Fruit & Watermelon lollies

Dragon Fruit & Watermelon lollies

14. Chocolate

The cocoa bean has been bringing people all over the world happiness for thousands of years, and for that Mexico – its first home – deserves a big pat on the back. Huge. Enormous. And this summer, to make chocolate even more celebratory of Latino culture, M&S have crafted a Single Origin Dominican Milk Chocolate loaded with Jalapeno Chilli Tortilla Chips (45g, £4). Yep, tortilla chips. Jalapeno chilli ones. Not a typo. Because jalapeno chilli tortilla chip chocolate is the new salted caramel. Trust us.

15. Dragon Fruit

The most magical of all the fruits – possibly of all the foods… maybe even of all the actual things – this wizardly delicacy is indigenous to Mexico and possesses all sorts of special qualities. Low-calorie, hydrating, not too sweet and jam-packed with vitamins and minerals and fibre, the refreshing, mesmerising dragon fruit has inspired M&S’s new bright purple Dragon Fruit & Watermelon Lollies (4 for £3), made with watermelon juice, grape juice and dragon fruit puree.


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