The History of Three Famous Hispanic Foods Empanadas, Ceviche, and Flan


Over the last few decades, we’ve seen an explosion of the popularity of Hispanic food, ranging from the Americanized-Mexican treats from fast food chains to the well-loved, authentic offerings along the border. It’s not surprising that Hispanic cuisine has come to the forefront in the States; After all, according to the National Council of La Raza, 50.5 million Hispanics now live in the United States, sharing their culture with their fellow Americans.

Three of the most famous Hispanic foods are flan, empanadas, and ceviche. While many people assume that any type of Hispanic cuisine they find in the States is from Mexico, the fact is that there are countless other Hispanic cultures out there. It’s those cultures who laid the groundwork for the Hispanic additions to the American culinary landscape.

The Peruvian Roots of Ceviche
While popular versions of this seafood dish exist in Mexico and Colombia, most experts agree that ceviche was first created in Peru. According to What’s Cooking, America?, ceviche may date back to times before Spanish exploration and conquest in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. At that time, it’s believed that ceviche was made using seafood, tomatoes, chili peppers, and corn. Unlike the modern version of ceviche, which relies on citrus juice to cook the seafood, early versions were cured in chicha, an early type of beer made from corn.

Empanadas: Spanish Treasures
Empanadas, taking their name from the Spanish verb “empanar,” meaning “to coat in bread,” are believed to have originated in Spain. To celebrate their delicious achievement of lining delicious breads with meat, seafood, and vegetables, the Spanish hold an annual Empanada Festival, a tradition it has since passed onto Argentina. Classically, the Empanada Festival is held in late summer, according to

Food historians have no date of creation for empanadas, nor are they aware whether the Italian calzone inspired the Spanish or if it was the other way around. Either way, we can see versions of the empanada in our every day lives with mass produced meat pockets and the like.

The Roman Invention of Flan
The Roman Empire stretched its life from 27 BCE to the middle of the 15th century CE, if you count the Eastern Roman Empire after the fall. As All About Flan! writes, the Empire is thought to be the birthplace of flan, a sweet custard dish that has since become a staple of Mexican cuisine. Taking its name from the Latin “flado,” meaning “flat cake,” flan spread throughout Europe during the height of the Roman Empire and after the beginning of the Medieval Age in 476 CE. Nearly a thousand years later, the Spanish brought it with them as they conquered parts of South, Central, and North America.

It’s tempting to believe that all of the delicious Hispanic foods we eat everyday are modern inventions or, at least, that they were created someplace close by. However, as you can see, many of the Hispanic recetas we love most, whether it’s flan, ceviche, or empanadas, predate American society by many hundreds of years. More can be found here.

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