10 South American Desserts for Every Type of Sweet Tooth
South Americans love their sweets. Whether it’s a cup of freshly cut fruit sold by a Cartagena street vendor, a cake made almost entirely of whipped cream and meringue, or a 500-calorie cookie, a sugar-packed snack is a requisite part of the average South American’s daily diet.
Little surprise, then, that the continent has perfected the art of dessert. Fluffy cakes, creamy flans and crispy wafers are staples at every restaurant and bakery. The afternoon tea, or merienda, often features multiple kinds of cakes—to be consumed after slices of toast layered with butter and jam. Carb-free and Paleo diets have no place in this part of the world.
Dulce de leche, and condensed milk in all its forms, is practically a religion in South America, leanding an extra layer of sweetness to its sweets. In Uruguay, it’s layered between biscuits, and in Chile, stuffed into pastry tubes. Fruit makes a frequent appearance, but it’s usually smothered in whipped cream or hidden under a sticky layer of meringue. Even the seemingly innocuous fruit cup is often doused in ice cream, Jello or flavored yogurt.
Our suggestion? Give yourself permission to dig in—you can schedule a dentist appointment for the week you return from your trip. Once you see this collection of the best sweet treats from the southern hemisphere, you won’t want to miss out on a single one.
Nell McShane Wulfhart is based in Uruguay, and writes about South America for Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @nellmwulfhart.
Arepas de Choclo, Colombia
These cornmeal pancakes are just sweet enough to qualify as a dessert, although many Colombians will eat them for breakfast, stuffed with cheese, still piping hot from the grill.
Postre Chaja, Uruguay
This Uruguayan sponge cake has all the right ingredients: peaches, rum, meringue, whipped cream and—surprise—dulce de leche. It’s named after a bird, but you’ll feel less like flying away after eating it, and more like lying down for a lengthy siesta.
Alfajores, Argentina and Uruguay
These hefty cookies—two buttery biscuits sandwiching a generous portion of dulce de leche—are ubiquitous in Argentina and Uruguay. Sometimes covered in chocolate, sometimes dusted with coconut, it comes in infinite varieties. Pair with a cup of coffee for a brain-buzzing midday pick-me-up.
Bien Me Sabe, Venezuela
Translated, the name of this cake is “tastes good to me,” and it’s a sort of Venezuelan version of tiramisu. Coconut cream is spread between layers of moist sponge cake, and the whole thing is topped with meringue and some coconut flakes. Looks like sheet cake; tastes like heaven.
Made from condensed milk (of course) and cocoa powder, these addictive balls of chocolate hail from Brazil, where they’re covered in sprinkles, coconut, or crushed nuts, and served at parties.
Suspiro Limeño, Peru
Port-spiced meringue? Yes. A caramel-like pudding of condensed milk, evaporated milk and egg yolks? Yes. The second topped by the first, served in an individual glass? Yes and yes. This Peruvian classic is flavored with cinnamon and practically guaranteed to give you cavities, but it’s worth every bite.
These are like delicious sweet potato pie donuts—perhaps a new Thanksgiving staple? The Peruvian fried pastry is made from sweet potato and squash, pureed and mixed with flour and sugar, then rolled into rings and deep-fried. Calorie counters can ask for theirs without the sugary syrup usually drizzled on top, but why would you?
Vitamina de Abacate, Brazil
In the northern hemisphere, avocado is a salad staple. In Brazil, it’s a sweet treat. Brazilians drink breakfast smoothies of avocado blended with lemon juice, milk, and sugar (or condensed milk).
These thin, crispy tubes have a texture similar to wafers, and they’re filled with dulce de leche (called manjar in Chile), resulting in an appallingly addictive combination of crunchy and creamy.
These chocolate-covered balls of puffed corn are definitely of the can’t-eat-just-one-bag variety. Like a Colombian version of Maltesers crossed with Corn Pops, these snacks are curiously addictive.