These 17 South American Desserts are Fiestas for Your Tastebuds!
Cane sugar originated on the continent, but the sweet stuff quickly took on and South Americans now love their desserts.
South America’s culinary traditions were borne from its indigenous crops fused with outside influences from colonialism and immigration. Each country has its own variety of desserts on offer, but many can be found in several countries, each with their own unique twist.
While there are a wide variety of desserts, many are made with a combination of sugar and milk – condensed or dulce de leche – fruit, and even corn.
Let’s have a look at some South American desserts you need to try!
1. Brigadeiro: Brazil
The brigadeiro is similarly shaped and as decadent as a truffle, making it as beloved in Brazil as the truffle is in France.
They are simply made by heating cocoa powder and condensed milk together to form a paste, then mixing with cold butter and rolled into small balls. These super sweet treats can be eaten as is or rolled in cocoa, sugar, coconut shavings, or other toppings.
Related: Most Popular Brazilian Desserts
These stuffed cookies were invented by the Moors of Spain and can be found all over South America, each with their own delicious, local adaptation.
Two soft, thick cookies are stuffed with anything from chocolate mousse or cream to fruit spread, but the Argentine version stuffed with dulce de leche takes the cake.
These treats can be eaten plan, or rolled in nuts, powdered sugar or coconut shavings, or dipped and coated with a layer of chocolate. They are absolutely delicious and dangerously addictive.
South Americans love meringue so much, it is sold on street corners all over the continent to eat it on its own out of ice cream cones.
Consisting of egg whites, sugar, water, and puréed fruit, and sometimes glitzed with food coloring to give it eye-catching colors, espumilla and its local variations can be found in Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Guatemala.
4. Dulce de Leche: Argentina
History has it that condensed milk was discovered by accident in Buenos Aires, Argentina, when a woman was heating milk and sugar on the fire and left it for too long. When she returned, she discovered a brown caramel-like substance and, from that point on, dulce de leche became ubiquitous as one of Argentina’s and the region’s sweet cravings.
Have it on bread, biscuits, pancakes, or basically anything you fancy something sweet on. You really can’t go wrong with dulce de leche!
Related: Most Popular Argentinean Desserts
5. Suspiro Limeño: Peru
Along with their love of dulce de leche is a love for meringue. In Peru, they combine the two to create the dreamy suspiro limeño.
It is usually made in individual bowls or glasses with a creamy manjar blanco caramel base, similar to dulce de leche, and topped with meringue infused with port wine and dusted with cinnamon. Light, creamy, and super sweet, it is as heavenly as the name implies – the sigh of Lima.
Related: Most Popular Peruvian Desserts
6. Chocotorta: Argentina
Did I mention that Argentinians love dulce de leche? The birthday tradition in Argentina is the chocotorta, or chocolate cake, but this is no regular chocolate cake.
Layers of coffee-soaked chocolate wafer cookies are spread with a delicious mixture of cream cheese and dulce de leche, and don’t be shy with the spread. Put it the refrigerator for a few hours, and this amazing ice-box cake is ready.
Similar to a tiramisu, this is a simple dessert, which is part of the reason why it’s so popular. So why not make it for your next birthday celebration!
7. Chajá: Uruguay
Another delicious cake made with dulce de leche is the chajá from Uruguay. This meringue-laden cake was said to be inspired by the native bird of the same name (the crested screamer), with its bubble wrap-like air pockets under their skin, making them light and airy like meringue.
Basic sponge cake is covered with a rum-spiked peach syrup. If that isn’t good enough, layer on meringue, fresh peaches, dulce de leche, and cover the cake with whipped cream and top it with more meringue and peaches, and dulce de leche if you like (I do).
It is customary to have this cake at celebrations, and once you try it, you will be screaming with delight.
8. Pudim de leite condensado
If you take the love for milk and sugar and add eggs to it, you start entering the flan category of desserts, which is widely popular in South America.
Pudim de leite condensado from Brazil is a creamy, caramel-coated custard made with sweetened condensed milk, regular whole milk, eggs, and sugar. In Venezuela quesillo is made with whole eggs to give it a softer texture, and topped with a thin caramel syrup – because more caramel is always better. In Argentina, they up the game by serving their flan with dollops of whipped cream, and, you guessed it, dulce de leche.
Crema volteada is the Peruvian version, made with sugar, condensed milk, evaporated milk, vanilla essence, and eggs, and topped with caramel sauce. And last but not least is the flan de coco found in Colombia, Costa Rica, and even parts of the Caribbean.
This is made with eggs, coconut milk, condensed milk, cream, vanilla extract, and flaked coconut. Whichever variety you prefer, you will not be disappointed!
Anyone who has ever had a good cheese board knows how well cheese and fruit pair together. And of course, the sophisticated have their fruit and cheese after dinner. So, that’s dessert, right?
South Americans are no strangers to the great combination of fruit and cheese for dessert, and you can find it throughout the region.
The Romeu e Julieta is beloved in Brazil served with a thick slice of traditional Brazilian white cheese such as queijo minas, and a similarly thick slice of goiabada – a kind of solid jam made with puréed guavas.
The Argentinians have postre vigilante, made with goat’s or aged cheese, depending on the region, and an array of fruit pastes (dulce) such as sweet potato, quince, papaya, raspberry, and even cactus in the North, while the Uruguayans enjoy Martín fierro, ideally with salty and firm manchego cheese and a slice of flavorful quince paste known as dulce de membrillo.
Ice cream is loved on every continent and in South America you can find some delicious varieties.
10. Helado: Argentina
With Argentina’s history tied to Italy, it is no surprise that they have taken the gelato recipe and made it their own.
Made with all fresh ingredients, it is a mix between gelato and regular ice cream, dense but still smooth. Of course, dulce de leche is a must-have, as well as sambayón, Argentina’s version of the Italian zabaglione, custard tinged with sweet wine. Yum!
11. Helados de Paila: Ecuador
Ecuador’s version of ice cream, helado de paila, dates back over a century and is still made today as it was first prepared. A large copper wide-mouthed pot is placed in a basin over ice and straw (paila), and filled with a liquid that is continuously stirred until it takes on a soft, frozen consistency.
The liquid consists of either concentrated fruit juice for sorbet, or a cream-milk-egg mixture for ice cream. Slowly prepared, but worth the wait!
Related: 10 Popular Ecuadorian Desserts
12. Queso Helado: Peru
Queso helado is Peru’s ice cream-style dessert, usually made with whole and evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, and spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and desiccated coconut for a warm flavored but delicious cold dessert.
Most Westerners probably wouldn’t think of corn as a key ingredient for desserts, except maybe as corn syrup or caramel corn, but in South America you can find a number of delicious desserts made from this staple crop.
13. Torta Bejarana: Venezuela
This cake is ingeniously based on ripe mashed plantains and corn-based breadcrumbs in place of flour, which was expensive when this cake was created. Add sugar, butter, egg, and spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and allspice, and sprinkle with handfuls of sesame seeds.
Dense and not too sweet, this is a great dessert or tea-time cake.
14. Majarete: Venezula
Also from Venezuela, majarete is a creamy pudding made with corn, coconut milk, sugar and lots of cinnamon sprinkled on top. Depending on the region and family variation, you can also add cloves, shredded coconut, condensed milk, or vanilla for a delicately spiced creamy dessert.
15. Canjica de Milho: Brazil
Each year with the corn harvest, canjica de milho is consumed in great volumes without shame. Similar to rice pudding, hominy (maize kernels) is soaked overnight, then cooked with milk and sugar, and often also condensed milk, peanuts and cinnamon, until thick and creamy.
16. Mazamorra Morada: Peru
Mazamorra morada can be found in high-end restaurants as well as street kiosks, and is recognizable by its striking color. Made with purple corn, this pudding is made with sugar, fruits such as apples, peaches or pineapple, spiced with cloves and cinnamon, and a thickener such as potato or corn flour. As delicious as it is beautiful!
17. Rogel: Argentina
Taking their love of dulce de leche even further, the Argentines created the rogel, a classic cake consisting of (typically) eight thin layers of crispy, sweet pastry that are spread with dulce de leche, and the entire lovely sight is topped with meringue.
Similar to a millefuille, the rogel is a staple on every menu in Argentina – from restaurants to birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. Do yourself a favor and find a recipe for this delicacy!
Related: Most Popular South American Foods