The newly rejuvenated interest in all things breakfast is a great opportunity for creativity and profit potential, and Latin influences can be key drivers for growth in this category. On the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot forecast, ethnic-inspired breakfast items was ranked the fourth top trending concept out of 20 food trends.
Several factors are fueling the popularity of Latin American cuisine and its influence on the industry, but by far the largest is the rapidly increasing U.S. Hispanic population. According to the U.S. census, the Hispanic population is projected to balloon to 119 million by 2060. It’s the largest ethnic demographic group in the U.S., with the trendsetting youth population making up one quarter of the under-18 U.S. population. More Latinos means increased Latino food consumption, greater awareness of the cuisine, and scores of contributions to the culinary world. Incorporating dishes with roots in Central and South America as well as Spain in your breakfast offerings will help attract customers and increase profitability.
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Here’s a look at some of the most popular Latin dishes that are primed for innovation and how you can make them your own.
Huevos Rancheros (rancher’s eggs) is a familiar Latin dish that’s an excellent canvas to showcase your kitchen’s creativity. It typically features two sunny-side up eggs atop fried corn tortillas covered in spicy tomato salsa with refried beans on the side – the flavor combinations from there are endless. Create menu distinction with a signature huevos rancheros by adding protein such as steak, chorizo, or bison. Get creative with garnishes and experiment with pickled vegetables and house-made salsas. Instead of braised beans, a breakfast chili is a simple differentiator that adds a unique and flavorful twist to this popular plate. New York restaurant, Agave Restaurant & Tequila Bar, serves its huevos rancheros with blue corn tortillas, beef and pork chili, and a golden fried egg.
Arepas are Colombia’s and Venezuela’s contribution to the sandwich world. They are the equivalent of tortillas in Mexico and are often split to create round corn flatbreads that provide a blank slate for flavor building. These stuffed pocket sandwiches are often filled with quesito Colombiano (traditional Colombian farmer’s cheese). Make your arepas stand out by utilizing various cheeses such as queso blanco, cream cheese, or a combination of sharp white Cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Arepas can be filled with anything from cheese to chorizo to braised ribs to seafood, making it a perfect option for a “build-your-own” concept. Satisfy today’s interactive millennials by offering a range of cheese, protein, vegetable, and sauce options for diners to customize their arepas. Also consider giving the option of serving it deconstructed with arepas chips or open-faced to further personalize their experience. These indulgent handhelds are also perfect to-go items and can help you strengthen your takeout category.
Tostadas, translating to “toasted,” feature a crispy, toasted tortilla as the carrier for a variety of flavor and texture combinations. This open-faced sandwich with a crunchy base is the perfect platform to highlight your creative takes on traditional breakfast items, making for an Instagram-worthy Latin breakfast. Instead of the basic bacon or sausage, chefs are maximizing the flavor of tostadas with interesting proteins such as arctic char or hearty pork shoulder. Try adding house-made spicy quick pickled radishes, chipotle-agave bacon, a fried egg, and corn elote salad for a rancheros breakfast tostada. They’re also great for showcasing a range of trending global flavors such as Mediterranean with creamy red pepper hummus, scrambled eggs, cucumbers, olives, and feta.
Pozole is to Latinos what chicken noodle soup is to Americans. The various types of pozole range from red, green, and white to chicken, beef, and pork, but the one thing they all have in common is hominy (a starchy corn). Hominy, broth, meat, crunchy fresh cabbage, radish, chile peppers, onion, and lime are the traditional components of this robust stew. However, as it evolves on menus, use the standard combination as inspiration and experiment with different ingredients as well as spices such as oregano, cayenne, or curry powder. It takes a few hours for the flavors to develop and fuse in this luscious stew, but the time-intensive preparation is worth the wait. With the addition of eggs, this beloved Mexican stew is easily adaptable to breakfast menus. Bacon, sausage, shredded pork, avocado, and sweet potatoes are all fresh ingredients that can give pozole a morning makeover.
Chilaquiles are becoming just as common as omelets and waffles on breakfast menus, and it’s no wonder with its comforting and craveable combination of tortilla chips doused in savory sauces and topped with beans, cheese, and eggs. According to Datassential, chilaquiles menu mentions are up 36% over the last four years. While this traditional comfort food dish can easily be showcased as a breakfast appetizer, snack, or shareable dish, there is always room for innovation. Chilaquiles easily translate across different cultures. Try combining global flavors for inspired mash-ups. Pair Latin and Asian flavors by adding Korean pulled pork and kimchi or try an Indian-inspired version with ethnic spices such as cumin, coriander, and curry powder.
Migas is a simple scramble of eggs, crunchy corn tortilla chips, cheese, and tomatoes. This Tex-Mex breakfast dish is a popular weekend and brunch option, perfect for merchandising as a pick-me-up meal. Chefs can choose whether to mix in the tortillas with the eggs or serve them on the side for guests to use for scooping. Give migas a Southwestern flavor profile with the addition of chorizo, roasted potatoes, red and green peppers, heirloom tomatoes, jalapeños, and chorizo drizzled with salsa verde and fresh cilantro. Migas is a rising item that’s not as well-known as chilaquiles or huevos rancheros, so there is a lot of opportunity to stay ahead of the trend with your signature take on this satisfying breakfast.
Torrijas is the Spanish counterpart to French toast, rounding out your breakfast menu with a sweet, ethnic offering. Torrijas lend themselves well to cross utilization, as they’re often made from leftover or extremely dry bread that’s soaked in milk or wine, coated with beaten egg, and fried. Crisp on the outside and soft and smooth on the inside, it’s hard to go wrong with whatever version you create. Cinnamon sugar, maple syrup, and honey are common flavors highlighted in torrijas. Increase appeal by utilizing trending ingredients such as sweet and creamy dulce de leche (Spanish-inspired creamy caramel sauce) or cajeta (Mexican-inspired caramelized goat milk) as dipping sauces.
To master the hallmarks of Latin cuisine, look no further than 2018 Maines Food Show special guest Chef Jose Garces, the Ecuadorian American chef who is the inventive authority on Latin cooking. The Iron Chef and James Beard award winner started his culinary training with his grandmother who taught him the ways of Latin cooking. Today he’s taking the cuisine to the next level especially with breakfast at his restaurants such as Olon, where the brunch menu features French toast with tres leches cream; crab benedict with chorizo and aji panca (a smoky and sweet chili pepper) hollandaise; and passion fruit waffles with pistachio, coconut cream, and toasted coconut. By infusing classic dishes with Latin flair, Garces is reimagining breakfast for today’s more sophisticated and adventurous palates – and you can too.