The Lent Table

With Catholicism the most widespread religion in Mexico and Latin America at large, many of the holidays marked on our calendars belong to Judeo-Christian traditions. The Day of the Virgin of Candelaria (February 2), Christmas (December 25), Advent (usually the two weeks prior to Christmas), and Easter are an integral part of our traditions and identity. Some of these celebrations, such as Advent or Easter, do not occur on the same date each year as they are subject to the lunar calendar and the spring equinox. This year, from Ash Wednesday, which took place on February 22, until April 6, we are celebrating Lent.

cuaresma tacos de pescado
Photo: ©LauriPatterson via

Lent (Cuaresma in Spanish, from the Latin “quadragesĭma”, fortieth day) is the commemoration of the forty days that Jesus of Nazareth spent in the desert fasting and resisting the temptations of Satan. This passage of the Bible refers in turn to the forty years in which the Jewish people wandered the desert with Moses. It is a season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, where certain foods, mainly meat, are abstained from on Fridays during Lent.

Flautas or tacos dorados in green salsa

qué comer en cuaresma flautas o tacos dorados
Photo: Gastrolab

If you’re confused about the difference between a flauta and a taco dorado (golden taco), it all comes down to size. The tortilla from which flautas are made is larger. Regardless of size, they should be filled with chicken or potato to respect Lent traditions. Flautas and golden tacos are a classic that usually steals the spotlight during any Mexican meal.

Fish and seafood

aguachile qué comer en cuaresma pescados y mariscos
Photo: El Sabor de lo Bueno

With meat off the table, this is the time of year when the most seafood is consumed, a copious variety of seafood and fish dishes including dogfish empanadas, crab cakes, fish tacos al pastor, mole tamales, and shrimp enchiladas. Don’t miss the ceviches and aguachiles, prepared with raw seafood, lime, chile, onion, and cucumber. Since these dishes are prepared raw, it’s important to eat them in places that specialize in seafood to avoid the risk of food poisoning. If you prefer to prepare them at home, remember to buy your ingredients in places with good hygiene and that sell their products as fresh as possible, like the cevichería Barracruda.

Torrijas and capirotada

torrijas qué comer en cuaresma
Photo: El Corte Inglés

The most popular breakfast during Lent is torrijas, inherited from Spain and adopted throughout Latin America. They consist of slices of bread coated in a mixture of egg, milk, wine, and cinnamon, which are fried in a pan and sweetened with honey, molasses, or syrup. Capirotada is the Mexican version. The recipes vary from state to state but in general the bread slices are dried and then cooked together with plantain, raisins, guava, and peanuts and served with piloncillo (brown sugar) and cheese.

Latin American Lent

fanesca ecuatoriana qué comer n cuaresma
Photo: Recetas 123

The rest of the continent also has its own Lent dishes that follow similar customs. Here is a brief list for those who would like to venture into other cuisines.

Chile – potaje de vigilia (garbanzo stew) and tuna empanadas

Peru – fish a la chorrillana (fried fish with vegetables) and aji de gallina (chicken stew)

Brazil – moqueca de camarão, a stew made with shrimp, peppers, onion, tomato, and coconut milk

Ecuador – fanesca, a soup with grains, legumes, egg, and salted cod cooked in milk

Paraguay – sopa paraguaya, similar to cornbread prepared with corn flour, milk, cheese, and onion

Lent, while originally a religious celebration, has developed its own traditions and customs on the continent, particularly in Mexico, where it has left its mark on our tables. 

Do you have a favorite recipe for Lent that you would like to share with us? You can do so using hashtag #GuiaCuaresma2023. Once again, thanks for reading!

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