Food for the soul: Hispanic Heritage Month

In this article:

  • National Hispanic Heritage Month honors the contributions individuals and descendants from Spanish-speaking countries have made to our society.
  • Feed your soul and celebrate other cultures with a few favorite Hispanic-inspired recipes created by our very own Chef Joy.

Every year, we honor National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15. Families across our country celebrate (and learn about) the histories, cultures and contributions of our fellow citizens who have roots in Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

From the musical influences of artists like Lin-Manual Miranda and Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, to activists such as Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, and the historic appointment of Sonia Sotomayor as the first Latina to the United States Supreme Court, our country has been shaped in countless ways by individuals from the rich and diverse Spanish speaking regions that span from Spain to South America.

Fast Fact: Hispanic refers to individuals or cultures from Spanish-speaking countries. Latino refers to people who are from or descended from people from Latin America (Central America, almost all of South America and most of the Caribbean).

There are many ways to celebrate the achievements and contributions of our fellow neighbors. One great way is to learn a little about the role of food in Hispanic cultures. Like many families, Hispanic loved ones enjoy gathering around the table to spend time together. There are many wonderful dishes and recipes to experiment with – from authentic Baja fish tacos to the ever-popular yuca; deliciously fresh-fried empanadas, refreshingly sweet ceviche to the Spanish-staple paella and so many others.

Here, Joy Cantrell, executive chef and food production manager at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center Burbank, shares a few of her favorite dishes sure to be a crowd pleaser at any time of year – and especially during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Let’s dig in!

Cuban Picadillo

Picadillo is a popular dish throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Called a culinary chameleon, picadillo often takes up the ingredients, traditions and customs of the regions and families that make the dish. At the heart of picadillo is minced or ground meat. In Cuba, it’s a quintessential comfort food with hints of sweetness from raisins and cinnamon. Here, Chef Joy shares a delicious and easy recipe for Cuban picadillo.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

Yield: 8 servings


  • 2 cups red onion, diced
  • 2 cups green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil for sautéing
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 cup green olives, chopped
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt ( Kosher) and black pepper (to taste)


  1. Sauté onion and green pepper in olive oil in a large frying pan for about 5 minutes, until the onion is softened. Then, add the garlic and ground beef.
  2. Mash the onion and green pepper into the sautéing meat and cook until the meat is browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon and oregano. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  4. Add olives and raisins and simmer 5 minutes longer. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve hot over white rice.  

Fried plantains are a great addition to this dinner. See the recipe below.

Note: You can also shred leftover pot roast instead of ground beef

Nutrition facts

Servings Per Recipe: 8

Serving Size: 1 serving

  • Calories: 400.3
  • Total Fat: 26.8 g
    • Saturated Fat: 8.7 g
    • Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.6 g
    • Monounsaturated Fat: 13.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 78.2 mg
  • Sodium: 740.1 mg
  • Potassium: 654.8 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 18.0 g
    • Dietary Fiber: 2.6 g
    • Sugars: 2.2 g
  • Protein: 23.0 g 


Plantains are a staple in many Latin American homes. Considered “the fruit of the Caribbean” this versatile fare is a favorite side dish around the globe. In fact, it’s the 10th most common staple food in the world. So, how did it wind up sprouting first in Southeast Asia and then making its way to the sunny lands of the Caribbean? Unsurprisingly, its route is clouded by much of what drove trade and travel at the time: colonization and enslavement. Slave traders brought plantains from Asia to west Africa, and eventually to the Caribbean as a cheap and effective way to feed enslaved men and women.

Today, the plantain is a staple in many homes and restaurants across much of the world – including Latin America and the Caribbean. Families have reclaimed the fruit as their own – serving it with love to their own families. Try it for yourself and see why it’s a favorite in so many households.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

These are unique because they are fried twice.


2 large green plantains, peeled and cut into 2-inch slices
2/3 cup vegetable oil (approx.)
1/4 teaspoon salt (to taste)


  1. Peel the plantain: Cut the ends of each plantain off with a sharp knife. Use the knife to cut through the peel only the entire length of the plantain. Loosen the peel along the cut and remove peel by hand. Cut about 2 to 2 1/2-inches wide
  2. Fill a large skillet one-third full with oil and heat over medium-high heat to a temperature of about 300 degrees F. Once the oil is hot, fry the plantain slices for approximately 3 to 5 minutes, turning once, just long enough to make them soft.
  3. Remove the plantains and drain on paper towels. Use a plantain press or a brown paper bag folded over to smash the plantains to about half their thickness.
  4. Let the oil come back to a higher temperature – this time about 375 degrees F. Fry once again, turning occasionally, until golden brown on both sides.
  5. Remove and use paper towels to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle with plenty of salt and serve.

Nutritional information

Servings per recipe: 4

Serving size: 1/2 cup

  • Total Fat: 4 g
    • Saturated: 0 g
    • Polyunsaturated: 0 g
    • Monounsaturated:0 g
    • Trans: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 1138 mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 14 g
    • Dietary Fiber: 1 g
    • Sugar: 6 g
  • Protein: 5 g
  • Potassium: 196 mg
  • Vitamin A: 0 %
  • Vitamin C: 4 %
  • Calcium: 0 %
  • Iron: 2 %

Percentages are based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day.

A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

Providence SoCal Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council (SoCal DE&I) is leading some of our efforts to raise cultural awareness and promote diversity to help build appreciation for cultural traditions. We are also starting conversations to help educate people about different cultures as a way to create a more welcoming, equitable and inclusive environment. We support diversity education and awareness initiatives, thus deepening our ability to provide compassionate care and honor human dignity.

Meet the chef

Joy Cantrell is an executive chef and food production manager at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center Burbank. Prior to joining Providence 15 years ago, Joy was the director of operations for the catering division at Warner Music Group and has also owned her own catering company. Joy is also on the culinary board of directors at Los Angeles Mission College and is a Providence Mission Spirit awardee. Fun Fact: Joy was born at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center Burbank.


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Related resources

Food for the soul: Native American recipes

Food for the soul: Collard greens

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.