Easy, Healthy Latin Recipes for Beginner Cooks

Balancing authentic home cooking and healthy eating

Learning to cook is a big deal, and it can seem intimidating. Especially if you grew up in a Latin household with phenomenal cooks who made it seem effortless. It can be easy to jump into the dish that sounds the coolest or that you most want to eat without considering how beginner friendly it is.


It can get even more confusing when you’re also trying to make healthy meals. If you grew up in the U.S., you may be more used to eating Hispanic or Latin food for special occasions with your family. So if the Christmas tamales are what immediately comes to mind, you may not immediately think “healthy” when you think Mexican meals (or any other Hispanic or Latin cuisine).


All of this can lead us first generation Latinas to lose a bit of our food and cooking traditions, and it can make us feel lost when we try to get into meal prepping and healthy eating, because very few of the meal prep guides or healthy cooking resources out there are geared toward Latin food. We can start to associate healthy eating and meal prep with NOT eating the foods and flavors we love.


But what if I told you there were plenty of Hispanic and Latin dishes that were not only easy to cook, but healthy and balanced?


I mean, think about it. Aside from special holiday foods, what are the foundations of Latin food? Healthy carbs from rice, tortillas, or plantains, combined with lean proteins like beans, seafood, or chicken (plus pork and beef on occasion). Add plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable salsas and garnishes and you’ll see the Hispanic diet can be pretty balanced and healthy.

Great, so Latin food is healthy, but that doesn’t mean I can cook it.

Yes you can! While I’ll admit that tamales and mole are labor intensive, there’s no reason you can’t learn to make a pot of beans and rice, or a simple homemade salsa.

I’ve rounded up a list of the Hispanic and Latin dishes that are easiest to make for beginners and will help you become a more confident cook. To make these basic Latin staples, the biggest skills you will need are chopping and using the stovetop.

I recommend picking one recipe to practice every week or two, then explore ways you can add variety with side dishes, sauces, or vegetable toppings.

Easy, Healthy Hispanic and Latin Dishes for Beginner Cooks (with recipe links!)

Salads and sides

Salads are generally beginner friendly, as they mostly involve chopping and adding seasoning or dressing. I like salads that use vegetables other than leafy greens as they hold up in the refrigerator for a while longer than leafy salads. Even something like curtido, which uses shredded cabbage, will last longer than a mixed green salad so it’s better for meal prep or beginner cooks who don’t want to be in the kitchen every single day.

Recipe ideas:

Nopalitos salad by Nutrition con Sabor

Bean and corn salad by Nutrition con Sabor

Curtido by Latina-ish



Salsas may be the easiest recipes to make, if you have a blender. Many fresh salsas only require that you blend raw ingredients, but adding just one extra step of cooking or roasting the ingredients before blending can add a whole new dimension of flavor, while still being a two-step recipe.

molcajete with green tomatillo salsa

Tomatillo salsa two-ways by Nutrition con Sabor

Pico de gallo by Muy Delish

Pantry-friendly salsa recipe by Nutrition con Sabor

Main Dishes

When you think about your main dish, I bet you think about how satisfying that dish will be. Satisfaction often comes from protein, which can keep us full and also often gives us that umami flavor that is so satisfying.

But proteins can also feel intimidating for new chefs. For beginners, the easiest meat-based proteins to cook are something like shrimp or ground beef. Shrimp cooks lightning fast and tastes good even with light seasoning. Ground beef can just be added to a pan with seasoning and browned with little skill needed.

Chicken, on the other hand, is a little trickier, but totally doable! The biggest concern with chicken is that it’s easy to either under-cook it or dry it out. Finding the sweet spot in the middle is tough. My favorite way to cook chicken for beginners is shredded chicken with some sort of sauce added (like tinga) to add some extra moisture. Arroz con pollo is also a good choice because it’s a complete meal using one pot and also relatively hands-free.

plate with chipotle shrimp and assorted vegetables

Recipe ideas:

Chipotle-Apricot Shrimp by Nutrition con Sabor

Chicken tinga by Mexico in my Kitchen

Arroz con pollo (Puerto Rican version) by Ambitious Kitchen

Picadillo by Laylita’s Recipes

Vegetarian Main Dishes

When it comes to vegetarian main dishes, the general categories you will see are beans/lentils, eggs, or cheese. The great news is these are all super easy to cook and a great way to get experience making proteins if you’re a little intimidated by handling meat. Beans and lentils take a little longer than eggs or cheese, but it’s almost all just time spent letting them boil, leaving you free to do other things.


Recipe Ideas:

Rajas con queso (use as a filling for tacos, tamales, on top of rice) by Mexican Food Journal

Vegetarian Feijoada by Easy and Delish

Chilaquiles con huevos by Mama Maggie’s Kitchen



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