Also called achiote, this rust-colored, earthy spice–available as whole or ground seeds or paste–flavors and colors Latin soups and rice dishes, such as arroz con pollo (rice with chicken and vegetables). Preliminary research indicates that achiote may help prevent cancer.

Black beans

Frijoles negros are a classic ingredient in gallo pinto, a simple dish served with many Latin American meals. To make it, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil; add cooked black beans and white or brown rice, plus fresh cilantro to taste, and heat through. All beans contain ample fiber and lean protein, but black beans contain particularly high levels of antioxidant anthocyanins (as their deep color indicates) and iron.


This pungent, bright-green herb from the leaves of the coriander plant enlivens any salsa (fresh or bottled) or guacamole. Research indicates that coriander can help lower cholesterol and also protect against heavy-metal toxicity by supporting liver function.


A delicious, fragrant tropical superfruit, rich in antioxidant vitamins, [5] guava makes excellent jam and preserves. Fresh guavas need to be very ripe before eating or they can be hard on the stomach; choose those that are slightly tender but not spotty. For a delicious dessert, Latin Americans serve slices of guava paste—a sweet, rich, thick paste—with cheese.


A relative of tomatoes, these green, hard little ball-shaped fruits sport a papery skin; remove the skin and wash tomatillos well before using. Highly anti-inflammatory and containing good amounts of vitamins A and C, they lend a tart kick to broiled fish, chicken, pizza, and salsas