4 South American Recipes Take You South of the Border for Meatless Monday

south american recipes - empanadas

We’re all familiar with Mexican food, but how much do you really know about the varied cuisines of Central and South America? Dishes from these countries unite a number of influences — indigenous, African, and European — for South American recipes that are full of flavor and the perfect guests for your Meatless Monday table.

Empanadas have a long and illustrious history, beginning, most experts agree, in India. Local samosas were brought back to Portugal by colonists in Goa, and they later appeared throughout medieval Iberia before finally following Spaniards to South America. As a result, these little dough pockets appear in many different South American cuisines and with a variety of fillings.

These “three sisters” empanadas get their name from their vegetarian filling of squash, beans, and corn, which were traditionally grown together by indigenous peoples, as the plants literally support one another and help each other thrive as they grow. They’re just as good a match when cooked up with green onions, cilantro, green chiles, and spices, then stuffed into a half-whole wheat dough and baked until browned.

quinoa avocado salad

Image: shutterbean

Before quinoa became a superfood darling in the U.S., it was a staple of Bolivian cuisine and features in several traditional South American recipes. In this quinoa salad, the pseudo-grain (it’s technically a seed) is served with creamy avocado and a punchy lemon, parsley, and cumin dressing. It’s easy to make and just as delicious served slightly warm as cold; we love making a double batch of the quinoa and taking the leftovers to work on Tuesday with a fresh avocado.


Chimichurri image via Shutterstock

You’ll often find chimichurri in Argentina, where it’s usually served alongside the nation’s famous grilled beef. But you can still enjoy this herby sauce on Meatless Monday by pairing it with roasted (or grilled) carrots.

Carrots pair wonderfully with chimichurri, as their natural sweetness is the perfect foil for the acidity in the sauce. The charred exterior that is achieved through high-heat cooking methods like roasting or grilling allow you to get the same contrast of flavors as you would with a seared piece of meat, so the sauce still shines in this dish — in our opinion, even better than with beef.

Sopes image via Shutterstock

Mexican sopes aren’t nearly as well known as tacos or burritos, but with this recipe, you’ll see how wrong we’ve been to deny them their place in the spotlight. A thick, chewy base made with cornmeal is topped with chipotle-infused refried beans and a crisp and lively cabbage slaw in this recipe, which has the benefit of being deliciously vegan — perfect for Meatless Monday. Garnish your sopes with sliced avocado, lime juice, and your favorite salsa, and buen provecho!

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Empanadas image via Shutterstock

Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco