Spice Up Your Cinco de Mayo Fiesta with These Authentic Flavors

Is there anything better than a bowl of spicy rich beans? Even the word “frijoles” makes me think of the best frijoles recipes from around Latin America. Frijoles rancheros, frijoles refritos, Gallo pinto rice and beans, moros y cristianos rice with black beans, and Cuban black bean soup are just some of the dishes you can share this Cinco de Mayo!  It warms my heart to see how Mexican cuisine continues to cross cultural boundaries with more beans, fruits, and vegetables gaining exposure in grocery stores, on restaurant menus, and in-home kitchens throughout America.  Although beans have been a central part of Latin American cuisine for a long time, this Cinco de Mayo, I want you to explore our delicious authentic flavors. You will fall in love with our delicious beans for all the good reasons. What makes beans so special? Let’s start with their nutritional value, delicious flavors, and the great variety they bring to our fiesta celebrations.

Our Latino celebrations can be quite indulging, but as a dietitian, I try to sneak in a healthy twist whenever I can, without ruining Abuelita’s family recipe. As a Latina mom, it is important to me to continue our family traditions, keeping our culture and love for our traditional dishes in mind. So, if you are looking to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a healthy twist, keep reading… I have a delicious and fun surprise for you! The strategies are easy and nutritious but have a wow effect that your family and friends will remember forever. If this is what you are looking for, then let’s get started!

Step #1—Let’s get organized and remember nutritious CAN be simple:

We tend to get into trouble when we try to do too much in a short amount of time. Once we realize we have overcommitted, we run to the nearest store to find any prepared foods we can grab in a snap. Unfortunately, that trip can be expensive and stressful.

Latinos like to share their family’s favorite recipes; therefore, I like to create food stations with appetizers, entrées, side dishes, and desserts. The Frijoles Rancheros recipe below is an authentic recipe you can share this Cinco de Mayo. It uses simple ingredients you most likely have in your pantry.

Step #2—Incorporate the healthy twist:

Adding beans is a simple way to boost the nutritional value of our recipes. Beans provide an excellent source of dietary fiber and many other essential nutrients such as flavonoids and antioxidants. The dietary guidelines for Americans recommend consuming 25 grams of fiber per day for females and 38 grams of fiber per day for males. The fiber in beans may help prevent many chronic diseases and will keep you feeling full after the meal is over. Black beans provide 8 grams of fiber in a ½ cup per serving, and Navy beans offer 10 grams per ½ cup serving. Recent research suggests 1 to 2 cups of beans per day may offer significant health benefits. This may sound unrealistic for you, so start by trying to incorporate just ½ cup per day and work up from there.

One of my favorite bean recipes is this Black Bean Dip recipe (see recipe below), which can be served with baked tortilla chips. Try baking your chips with this simple recipe: Cut a dozen soft tortillas in triangles, toss with 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil, sprinkle lime juice, and a pinch of salt or your favorite ground chile. Bake at 350 degrees F for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. They can also be crisped in the air fryer. Simply delicious!

There are many types of beans available in the market, including black, Great Northern, dark red kidney, light red kidney, white kidney, navy, pink, pinto, and small red beans. The possibilities of making a nutritious meal with beans are endless. Some of the most trendy flavors and dishes from Latin cultures are Frijoles rojos (pink beans) cooked with ham, tomato, onions, and diced plantains from Colombia. Frijoles negros (black beans) with onion, bell pepper, cumin, and oregano from Cuba. And spicy or breakfast bean burritos wrapped in a corn tortilla from Mexico. There are many dishes from Latin America, and especially Mexico that you can serve; the star is beans!

Here are a couple of my favorite recipes using beans:

Spicy Black Bean Dip – Packed with flavor and nutrients

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups cooked black beans or 1 (15 ounces) canned black beans
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup crema sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1 dash hot pepper sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Chopped tomatoes to taste

Preparation:

In a mixing bowl, mash the beans with a fork. Combine the remaining ingredients and blend well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Serve with baked tortilla chips.

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