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A Menu of Traditional South American Christmas Dishes

Tamales, Pavo, Paneton and More...


There are so many wonderful Christmas traditions in South America. In the Southern hemisphere, Christmas comes simultaneously with beach weather and summer vacation, so there are many reasons to celebrate. The main Christmas meal is typically late Christmas eve night, although many families have another celebratory meal on Christmas day itself. Each country has its own special Christmas dishes. Enjoy this sampling from around South America - pick and choose from the list to make your own holiday menu.

1. Tamales de Navidad

Marian Blazes
Tamales are an essential part of the Christmas meal in Venezuela (where they are called hallacas) and in Colombia.

2. Pavo Relleno - Stuffed Roasted Turkey

Roast turkey is a holiday tradition in South America, and the stuffing tends to be rich and complex, spiked with dried fruits, sausage, olives and nuts. The turkey itself is often injected under the skin with wine or brandy, which makes for juicy meat and richly flavored stuffing.

Traditional Holiday Stuffed Turkey
Turkey with Quinoa Chorizo Stuffing
Roast Turkey "A La Brasa" - Pavo Horneado

3. Pineapple Mango Glazed Ham

This sweet-salty spiral cut ham is easy to prepare and feeds a crowd. Any leftovers are wonderful for sandwiches.

4. Quinoa Sausage Casserole – Pastel de Quinoa

Marian Blazes
This casserole can be prepared without the sausage for an excellent vegetarian main course. It would also make excellent stuffing for roast turkey.

5. Mango Pineapple Cranberry Sauce

Marian Blazes
Add some tropical warmth to your holiday meal with this delicious cranberry sauce with diced mangos and pineapples.

6. Cheesy Mashed Yuca

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Mashed yuca is a delicious alternative to mashed potatoes. This mashed yuca is seasoned with cheesy salsa a la huancaina and caramelized onions. You can find frozen peeled yuca root in the Latin section of many supermarkets.

7. Colombian Bunuelos and Natilla

Buñuelos are little round savory "doughnuts" made with cheese. Natilla is a delicious cross between pudding and candy, with cinnamon and raisins. Both are popular Christmas treats in Colombia, often served together with hot chocolate on Christmas eve.

Recipe for Bunuelos
Recipe for Natilla

8. Panettone - Holiday Fruitcake

Marian Blazes
Panettone (panetón in Spanish) is a sweet yeasted bread originally from Italy that has become one of the most important holiday traditions in South America. It's a brioche dough filled with dried fruits and nuts and baked in round decorative paper molds.

9. Chilean Holiday Fruitcake - Pan de Pascua

Marian Blazes
The name of this Christmas cake can be confusing to English speakers, but the word Pascua refers to both Easter and Christmas in Spanish. Pan de pascua is thought to have evolved from two other holiday breads, German stollen and Italian panettone. It's a rich, dense spice cake, flavored with rum (or pisco) and filled with dried fruits and nuts.

10. Pan de Jamón - Venezuelan Ham and Olive Bread

Marian Blazes

 This savory/sweet bread stuffed with ham, olives, and raisins is often served at Christmas in Venezuela.

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