11 Delightful Latin American Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Dishes

All sorts of winter squashes and sweet potatoes are native to the Americas and figure prominently in the cuisines of North and South America and the Caribbean. Though not closely related botanically, sweet potatoes and pumpkin-y squash do have similar colors, textures, and flavors—and their uses often overlap.

Blow some fresh life into your autumn/winter table with the following recipes from Mexico and Latin America in general.

 

  • 01 of 11

    Pepitas

    Winter Squash
    All sorts of winter squash and pumpkins come complete with seeds that can be used for a number of delicious purposes. photo (c) Westend61 / Getty Images

    When a pumpkin or other winter squash is cut up in Latin America, these seeds are used in any one of a number of delicious ways, from savory sauces to sweet desserts. In Mexico, the most common use for these seeds (called pepas or pepitas) is as a salty snack. They can be oven roasted or stove-top toasted, in-shell or out. Learn to make basic pepitas snacks, candied pumkin seeds, or roasted pumpkin seeds 3 ways.

    If you get a little more ambitious, try Pepita Brittle or Pumpkin Seed Brittle.

  • 02 of 11

    Calabaza en Tacha (Candied Pumpkin)

    Calabaza en Tacha
    Candied sweet potatoes and pumpkin as made in Michoacán, Mexico. photo (c) Mockford & Bonetti / Getty Images

    The most Mexican of all ways to serve pumpkin (or similar winter squash) is candied— that is, cooked and served with a brown sugar, cinnamon, and orange juice syrup. Eaten as a snack, dessert, or breakfast, Calabaza en Tacha is one of the most traditional dishes for the Day of the Dead celebration an all through November. Try this rustic treat for yourself!

  • 03 of 11

    Cream of Sweet Potato Soup

    Cream of Sweet Potato Soup
    This Mexican version of Cream of Sweet Potato Soup contains the very rustic-flavored Mexican herb epazote. Robin Grose

    Fancy dinners in Mexico often start with a cream soup, and this is one of the best ones. Full of the rustic flavors of the main ingredient and the herb epazote, this smooth, creamy sweet potato soup is pure comfort food.

    If what you have on hand is pumpkin rather than sweet potatoes, try an equally satisfying Trinidadian Vegan Pumpkin Soup or Creamy Pumpkin Soup.

     

  • 04 of 11

    Sweet Potato Tamales

    Tamales
    Tamales come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, flavors, and wrappers throughout Latin America. photo (c) Romana Lilic / Getty Images

    They have different names in different lands- humitas, pasteles, hallacas, pamonhas, etc.- but tamales in one form or another are enjoyed in most Latin American countries. This version, made with the usual masa harina plus mashed sweet potato, bacon, onion, and raisins, will work wonderfully for you for any autumn occasions.

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  • 05 of 11

    Pumpkin Empanadas

    Empanadas
    Empanadas are feasted upon in nearly every corner of the Americas. photo (c) YinYang / Getty Images

    What could be more Latin American than empanadas? Enjoyed all over the American continent and spiced up with regional variations, few foods can beat empanadas for flavor, soul, and portability. Make some of your own with this recipe for Baked Pumpkin  Empanadas or Halloween Butternut Squash Empanadas.

    If you have apples (or apple pie filling) on hand, try Apple Empanadas.

  • 06 of 11

    Pumpkin Fritters

    Picarones
    Picarones are the classical Peruvian version of pumpkin fritters. photo (c) Stephan Knodler / Getty Images

    Whether you opt for Peruvian Picarones (traditional in the city of Lima) or for West Indian Pumpkin Fritters, you will be making excellent use of your pumpkin puree. Feast on the picarones as dessert, the fritters as an appetizer, or either one as a wonderful snack. 

  • 07 of 11

    Pumpkin Flan lc

    Pumpkin Flan
    Flan was brought from Europe to the New World, and it has flourished in many varieties throughout Latin America. photo (c) Annabelle Breakey / Getty Images

    Flan came to the Americas with the Spanish conquerors, and it has become a favorite dessert in the New World, with versions of it prepared in all Western Hemisphere countries. It was only natural that this beloved dish would be combined with local ingredients such as pumpkin. Don’t go another day without trying Pumpkin Flan, Pumpkin Maple Flan, or Gluten Free Pumpkin Caramel Flan, 

  • 08 of 11

    Beef Stew in a Pumpkin

    Soups in Squash
    Lots of delicious things can be served in a hollowed-out winter squash, including pumpkin soup and the Argentinian stew known as "carbonada.". photo (c) Imagenavi / Getty Images

    Argentina is known for its beef, and this is one of the most original of ways to prepare it. Carbonada en Zapallo (a beefy stew served in a pumpkin shell) delights the eyes with its novelty and feeds body and soul with healthful ingredients. Give your November or December holiday meal a boost of nutritious fun by this meal-in-a-pumpkin.

    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    Arepa Sandwich with Sweet Potatoes and Beans

    Arepas
    Arepas are one of Venezuela´s and Colombia´s most iconic foods. photo (c) Elizabeth Fernandez / Getty Images

    Colombian and Venezuelan cuisines feature arepas, griddle-cooked corn cakes that are eaten in various ways, including split and stuffed like a sandwich. This rendition with black beans, spinach, and chunks of sweet potato may strike you as a real sandwich revelation. 

  • 10 of 11

    Sweet Potato Causa

    Sweet Potato Puree
    Sweet potato puree is used instead of mashed potatoes in this autumny take on classic Peruvian cause. photo (c) Funwithfood / Getty Images

    Causa Rellena, a dish of mashed potatoes and a meat or seafood mix is one of Peru´s most beloved entrees. Switch the traditional white or yellow potatoes for sweet potatoes and add some condensed milk, nuts, and cranberries, and you come up with this wonderful version—Causa de Camote—that works deliciously as a first course or a dessert.

  • 11 of 11

    Pumpkin Arroz con Leche

    Pumpkin Rice Pudding
    Rice Pudding or Arroz con Leche is enjoyed in countless varieties the world over. photo (c) Harald Walker / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Rice pudding is one of those ubiquitous desserts in Latin America and, in fact, a large number of countries around the globe. Dress it up for autumn with some pumpkin, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

    Another enticing option: Pumpkin Tres Leches Cake.