During Hispanic Heritage Month, TODAY is sharing the community’s history, pain, joy and pride. We are highlighting Hispanic trailblazers and rising voices. TODAY will be publishing personal essays, stories, videos and specials throughout the month of September and October. For more, head here.
Wednesday begins National Hispanic American Heritage Month and TODAY Food is kicking it off with some of our favorite recipes from Latino and Hispanic chefs.
Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 was designated by the U.S. government to pay homage to the countless contributions, accomplishments, arts, culture and foods of Hispanic and Latino Americans. Whether you are celebrating your own heritage or a friends', these flavorful recipes for everything from ropa vieja and birria to tembleque and flan will wow everyone at your dinner table.
Appetizers and sides
This TODAY favorite guacamole is topped with fresh green cilantro, white cotija cheese and vibrant red pico de gallo, which executive chef Gabriel Kolofon said he did to represent his country's flag.
"The colors presented in the Mexican flag have great meaning," he says. "The green color signifies hope and prosperity, the white represents peace and the red symbolizes the blood of Mexican heroes."
This salsa verde has a surprise, subtly sweet addition of Granny Smith apples. It has an applesauce-like consistency, which is ideal for entertaining because it can sit out for a while without separating. Serve it with tortilla chips or smother it on enchiladas.
Mexican chef Pati Jinich combines texture with all the right flavors in this refreshing salad. Perfect to enjoy in warm weather or on the cusp of summer's end, she swears by this combo of sweet watermelon, spicy tomatillos, creamy cheese and citrusy vinaigrette.
Maíz rustido is Spain's version of Mexico's street corn. Like its Mexican counterpart, this sweet corn is charred and served with salty cheese, smoky spices and zesty citrus.
Anyone who loves a good Cubano sandwich with Swiss cheese, salami, ham, cheese and Dijon will love these nachos. It's the ultimate finger food with all those classic Cuban flavors.
This simple salad is inspired by the tapas bars and asadores (grilling restaurants) in and around Cordoba, Spain. It highlights sweet and tender little gem lettuce, adorned with warm, garlicky olive oil, sherry vinegar, anchovies and a sprinkle of smoky paprika.
Mofongo — a Puerto Rican recipe of fried green plantains mashed with garlic, pork and seasonings — could easily claim the title of the island's national dish. Mofongo is enjoyed throughout the year as a side for everything from sautéed shrimp to grilled steak and, like in Alejandra Ramos' recipe, with some added ingredients to make it a perfect accompaniment to turkey on Thanksgiving.
A staple of Mexican tradition, birria takes a lot of elbow grease. Meat is slow-cooked to tenderness in a chile-based stew, and served up in tacos with the consommé, or broth, on the side for dipping. This recipe by sisters Stephanie and Cloud Ramos includes a family secret that is not often found in other birria: carrots, which add a sweet flavor, and the absence of vinegar.
Juan Pablo Loza's smoky, bright shrimp tacos take only 25 minutes to make and are, more importantly, reflective of the chef's mission to create awareness about the massive overfishing of species endemic to the region of Mexico's culinary scene.
The marinade in this easy dish packs in all the flavors — whether the steak sits for one hour or overnight. It's made with accessible, everyday ingredients that will make these mouthwatering tacos (that provide a plant-based swap option) a go-to recipe.
Need an all-in-one meal that will warm the body, soul and spirit? This peppery stew is packed with potatoes, garlic and tender flank steak. Anyone who enjoys a beef stew will definitely be making this more than once through the chilly season.
It’s uncommon to see seafood or fish in dishes made with mole. But the trick here is the type of mole, plus salmon, because of its richness and fat content, can stand up well to a strong, nutty sauce.
Choripan is a street-food sandwich with roots in Argentina, though also popular throughout other Latin American countries. The recipe is essentially in the name, which is a playful portmanteau of the words "chorizo" and "pan" (Spanish for "bread"). Alejandra Ramos jazzes her version up with crunchy red onions and zesty chimichurri.
Filled with the flavors of Cuba, the tangy pickles, savory pork, salty ham and melted cheese come together in one deliciously toasty sandwich that is wonderful to make for lunch or dinner.
Chef José Andrés shares his secrets to master the craft of the perfect homemade paella. It's not always easy to "finesse the fire and rice," he says, "but once you get it, there's no better way to feed a group of friends and family. The Valencians believe that paella isn't just a meal; it's a reason to gather with loved ones. Learn to make paella, and it will become part of your life."
Reminiscent of childhood memories in Brazil, Natalie Morales shares one of her favorite cod recipes that is overflowing with nourishing flavors like turmeric, tomato and coconut milk. To prepare it is easy, too. The 30-minute meal comes together beautifully whether you're entertaining or need a last-minute weeknight dish.
There's fried chicken, and then there's chicken chicharrón. What's the difference? A good chicken chicharrón is gifted with supremely crisp skin and is first rubbed with lime. After frying, it's brushed with a garlicky vinegar for a great pop of acidity.
Tender baked eggplant are filled with a savory picadillo-style beef filling seasoned with Latin American flavors. Serve this topped with crumbled queso fresco and fresh cilantro, alongside Colombian-style coconut rice.
Use a slow cooker to make this very hands-off version of an incredibly satisfying dish. Ropa vieja is a blast of flavor that warms from in the inside out. The shredded steak slow-cooked in beer, warm spices and briny olives is a just-throw-everything-in kind of dish everyone loves.
Marcela Valladolid's luscious pumpkin cheesecake topped with shards of pumpkin-brown sugar brittle is the perfect not-overly sweet fall dessert. But honestly, it hits the spot year-round.
Tembleque is a five-ingredient Puerto Rican recipe for a jiggly coconut milk pudding similar in texture to panna cotta or Jell-O. It was Alejandra Ramos' favorite dessert growing up and her homage to it is simple yet outstanding.
Creamy, light and no-fuss, flan is the perfect way to end a feast. Morales keeps it straight to the point with vanilla and condensed milk but gives it some added fall flair with pumpkin pie mix, cinnamon and nutmeg. Each bite feels cool going down with a warm touch.
Soft, moist and delicate, this upside-down cake with a tropical spin is perfect with a nice cup of tea or a cappuccino after a delicious meal (or anytime of day, really).
Elevate plain chocolate brownies with a hint of hot, smoky chipotle powder and dash of cinnamon. It's like Mexican hot chocolate you can slice through with a fork.
Fluffy sourdough gets sweetened by flecks of shredded coconut, a little brown sugar and melty chocolate chips. Pulled apart after dinner or enjoyed for breakfast the next day with a steamy café, it's a homemade treat that's hard to beat.