From tamales to empanadas, classic Latin dishes are delicious, filling, and packed full of flavor. Unfortunately, they also tend to be extremely high in calories and fat, creating a bit of a problem for health-conscious eaters.
When Angelo (author, restaurant owner, and Top Chef alum) and Angie (radio host and television personality) recognized this critical health issue within Latin American cuisine, they collaborated on a remedy to the problem: Healthy Latin Eating (Kyle Books, 2015). The cookbook offers fantastic recipes along with simple solutions for preparing healthier dishes without compromising flavors.
Recently we had Angelo answer a few questions about his inspiration behind the book and favorite cooking methods. As a bonus, he shared three dishes from Healthy Latin Eating so you can taste the duo’s incredible recipes for yourself!
Relish: In Healthy Latin Eating, you address how the Latino community faces issues with healthy eating. Why do Latinos and people who enjoy Latin food need to change the way they eat?
Angelo Sosa: Sadly, a lot of amazing Latin dishes were originally prepared with really unhealthy ingredients, such as lard, bacon fat, butter, and other saturated fats. For the recipes in our cookbook, we adapted these classic recipes with healthy options using finer oils and alternative cooking techniques.
RE: How did you two—a celebrity chef and a television and radio personality—initially join forces?
AS: Angie and I met through a mutual friend. Since we each come from a Latin background, we both have a deep passion for our family recipes as well as Latin culture in general. We wanted to write a cookbook that would inspire people to cook healthier dishes derived from the classics they already love.
RE: What were some of the challenges you encountered while putting together Healthy Latin Eating?
AS: Our biggest challenge was lightening up our favorite traditional recipes—for example, arroz con pollo. We had to make them healthier but still find a way to maintain their amazing and delicious flavors.
RE: What are the top three Latin ingredients that wreak havoc on your body? How do you easily replace them without killing the spirit of the dish?
AS: I would say the top three unhealthy Latin ingredients are lard, bouillon cubes, and mayonnaise. I use olive oil or coconut oil instead of lard, spices and salt instead of bouillon cubes, and to replace mayonnaise, I simply create a healthier spread that will give the same textural experience.
RE: From empanadas to chicharron, so many Latin dishes are fried—how do you get around that? What healthier cooking techniques do you use?
AS: Baking! You still get a super crispy result, and all the juices are kept together.
RE: What basic Latin ingredients do you always keep in your pantry or fridge?
AS: I always like to keep bay leaves, cilantro, and avocados in my kitchen. I use bay leaves in a lot of my stews and as a part of my slow-cooking techniques. I love to mash up avocados and use them in sandwiches, and I love cilantro in everything—the stems have a robust flavor that works so well in my favorite dishes.