Sabor Latino: What you need to make homemade Latin cuisine

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The world of Latin cuisine may seem intimidating for a beginner cook, but it doesn’t have to be. We understand the importance of doing justice to the rich flavors and culinary traditions that define Latin American cuisine with the right tools and equipment. 

Mexican kitchen utensils, colorful traditional fabric, comal de peltre and molcajete on wooden rustic table.
Latin kitchen tools. Photo credit: YayImages.

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Whether you’re passionate about Mexican tacos, Peruvian ceviche, or Colombian arepas, having the right kitchen essentials will allow you to recreate authentic flavors in your home.

From a tortilla press to pots for steaming tamales, we’ve compiled a list of everything you need to make homemade Latin cuisine. So let’s dive in and explore the must-haves for mastering the art of Latin cooking.

“Molcajete” or stone mortar and pestle

Every budding Latin cook first needs a stone mortar and pestle. The traditional “molcajete,” or mortar and pestle, is an exceptional choice for cooking homemade Latin cuisine. Crafted from volcanic rock, this stone mortar and pestle offers several advantages for your culinary endeavors.


  • The volcanic rock material retains heat, which helps with enhanced flavors and aromas in your Latin dishes.
  • Made from high-quality volcanic rock, this molcajete is sturdy and built to withstand heavy-duty use.
  • The molcajete can be used for various tasks in Latin cuisine, such as grinding spices, making salsas, guacamole and crushing herbs.


  • Due to its authentic volcanic rock construction, the molcajete is heavy.
  • Made from natural stone, the molcajete is porous and can absorb flavors and aromas over time.
  • The stone surface may have some rough texture initially, requiring a seasoning process.

In summary, the handmade molcajete volcanica Mexicana offers an authentic and durable option for grinding and blending ingredients in Latin cuisine. While its weight and initial roughness may pose minor challenges, we’ve been using ours for years and are happy to report it lasts much better than the porcelain or marble ones and results in better flavor for your cooking.

Tortilla press

A tortilla press is an excellent choice for cooking homemade Latin cuisine. It offers the following benefits:


  • It allows you to create perfectly round and thin tortillas with ease.
  • It is made from high-quality cast iron, ensuring longevity and resistance to wear.
  • The easy-to-grip handle and simple operation make pressing tortillas a breeze.


  • This press is designed for smaller tortillas, which is only suitable for some recipes.
  • Pressing tortillas manually can be physically demanding if making a large batch.
  • The press’s bulky design may require additional storage space in your kitchen.

We love having an authentic tortilla press on hand for when we’re having a family taco night. It makes every tortilla look artisanal and exponentially improves the overall flavor of your homemade tacos. However, it is quite a pain to operate if making a large batch of tacos, so this may not be the best choice if you’re making more than 20 tacos.

Mexican “comal” or griddle

A flat griddle, known as “comal,” is ideal for frying tortillas and cooking homemade Latin cuisine. This versatile cooking tool, typically made from cast iron or clay, allows you to achieve authentic flavors and textures in your favorite Latin dishes.


  • Provides excellent heat distribution and retention.
  • Suitable for various Latin dishes like tortillas, pupusas and arepas.
  • Adds a unique smoky flavor to grilled vegetables and meats.


  • Clay comals require careful handling and maintenance to prevent cracking.
  • Cast iron comals may be heavy and require seasoning before use.
  • Both types of comals may take longer to heat up than other cooking surfaces.

We have used both a cast iron and a clay comal and prefer the ease of the cast-iron one. The clay comal, albeit more authentic, is much more fragile. It would be a shame to see your hard-earned cash invested in a beautiful tool only to watch it shatter upon the first use. A cast iron comal, however, is quite the workhorse and can also be used as a pizza stone later.

Tortilla warmer or “tortillero”

Keep your tortillas warm and delicious with this beautifully designed tortilla warmer. Designed with convenience, this tortilla warmer features a styrofoam construction that effectively retains heat, keeping your tortillas warm and soft for an extended period. And our favorite part is its neutral but attractive white-and-blue appearance.


  • Keeps tortillas warm and moist for an extended period.
  • Microwave-safe and easy to use.
  • It can also be used to heat other flatbreads like naan or pita.


  • Limited capacity, may not hold a large number of tortillas.
  • Requires careful handling as the warmer and lid can become hot.
  • Made of styrofoam, which may not be as durable or eco-friendly as other materials.

While people often gravitate towards woven tortilla warmers, we like the versatility and durability of a styrofoam one. While a tortilla warmer is not strictly necessary, we find that it makes having a prolonged, lazy Latin meal much more enjoyable. 

Tamale pot

An aluminum tamale pot is a versatile cooking pot designed specifically for making tamales. With its large capacity, you can cook a substantial batch of tamales to share with family and friends. 


  • Large capacity for cooking a lot of tamales.
  • Made of durable aluminum for efficient heat distribution.
  • Comes with a steaming rack for convenient steaming and cooking.


  • The large size may be bulky and require additional storage space.
  • Aluminum may react with certain ingredients, causing a metallic taste.
  • The pot may be challenging to clean due to its size and shape.

As someone who has been using a regular large stock pot to steam tamales for years before moving on to a real tamale pot, I can tell you that this purchase will change the life of a budding tamale maker. But if your apartment is short on storage, we will completely understand if you pass over this behemoth. 

Empanada press

Whether you’re making Mexican, Colombian or Argentinian empanadas, an empanada press is a practical kitchen tool that helps you easily create perfect empanadas, dumplings and pastelitos. Its ergonomic design and nonstick surface make it easy to shape and seal your favorite dough and filling combinations. 


  • A versatile tool that helps create perfect empanadas, dumplings and pastelitos.
  • Ergonomic design and nonstick surface for easy shaping and sealing.
  • Lightweight and portable for convenient use.


  • Size limits the diameter and quantity of empanadas that can be made.
  • The nonstick coating may wear off over time, requiring extra care during cleaning and maintenance.
  • Some users may prefer the traditional hand-crimping method for a more authentic appearance.

This was one of the most surprisingly helpful kitchen tools we have ever purchased! Something that looks like a one-trick pony at first glance has actually revealed itself to be the gateway drug to making all sorts of hand-held dumplings, from Argentinian empanadas to hand-held Russian piroshki. So don’t be fooled by its title—this simple dumpling maker is for far more than just empanadas. 

Churro-maker set or “churrera”

Now that you’re done cooking, it’s time to get down to dessert — and we’ve got the solution for making churros. The churro-maker set is a comprehensive kit for making delicious churros at home.

The set includes a “churrera,” or churro maker, and a filling and piping needle for injecting your favorite fillings into the churros.


  • Enables easy and quick preparation of homemade churros.
  • Comes with a churro filling and piping needle for added versatility.
  • Durable and easy-to-clean stainless steel construction.


  • Limited to making churros and may not have other cooking functions.
  • Requires manual effort to pipe and shape the churros.
  • The set may be more suitable for occasional use rather than frequent churro making.

We don’t make churros often, but we love the ease and convenience of this little tool. We were also highly impressed by the quality and durability of this professional-grade churro maker, which was much better than the plastic ones you will find in most Mexican markets.

Mexican clay pot or “cazuela”

The Mexican clay pot, also known as “Cazuela,” is a traditional cooking vessel made of natural terracotta clay. It can be used for stews, beans, soups and casseroles. The clay material will impart flavor to your Latin dishes.


  • Traditional Mexican cooking vessel that imparts unique flavors to dishes.
  • Excellent heat distribution and retention for slow cooking.
  • Enhances the presentation of food when served directly in the pot.


  • Fragile and prone to cracking if not handled with care.
  • Requires soaking before each use to prevent the pot from absorbing liquid.
  • It may take longer to heat up compared to other materials like metal or ceramic.

This beautiful pot is a show-stopper for any Mexican or Colombian food feast. Put it on the table and gather the oohs and ahhs from everyone present! But its bulk and weight present a challenge in most modern homes, so we don’t consider this necessary.

To wrap up

As you probably picked up, selecting cooking tools and utensils plays a crucial role in enhancing your culinary journey into Latin cuisine. Each item mentioned here has its own set of advantages and disadvantages and we don’t recommend you jump into buying any of them blindly.

Whatever tools you’re looking for, consider factors such as functionality, durability, ease of use, versatility and maintenance requirements.

With this list of recommendations, you can choose the cooking tools that align with your cooking preferences and budget. And with the right tools at hand, nothing will stop you from becoming a seasoned pro at Mexican, Colombian, Ecuadorian and other types of Latin cooking.

Ksenia Prints is a food writer, blogger, photographer and recipe developer from Montreal, Canada. She blogs over At the Immigrant’s Table, a food blog showcasing healthy, beautiful international recipes for adventurous home cooks. She loves to highlight ethnic cuisines and immigrant cultures by working with chefs from relevant countries and adapting those recipes to gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, sugar-free and other dietary restrictions.

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