Got some milk, fruit, ice and a blender handy? Great! That’s all you need to create some delicious and healthy drinks, Latin American style, that are known as licuados (pronounced lee-kwa-dohs).
These drinks are popular throughout Latin American countries and are sold by street vendors in Mexico, where there are even special licuado shops, restaurants, and fruterias (restaurants that specialise in fresh fruit). They become popular in the US in the 1990s, spreading up from Mexico and throughout California, often found in Mexican restaurants. In 2002, the Californian Milk Processor Board promoted the drink to increase milk consumption as part of their ‘Got Milk?’ campaign, so the drinks are now widely known in the US.
Licuados are similar to western-style smoothies, but the main difference is that they are made with a milk base, whereas smoothies tend to have fruit juice as the base ingredient. This means that licuados usually have less sugar and calories, and more calcium and protein, than your average smoothie. They can also contain sugar, honey or nuts (such as almonds or walnuts), and sometimes chocolate and granola.
They make an excellent alternative to sugary, high calorie drinks as they are full of healthy ingredients to go along with the refreshing taste. Bananas, strawberries, peaches, cantaloupe and mango all make delicious licuados, and the drinks are a good way to make use of ripe fruit. In fact, for maximum flavour, try to use the sweetest, most ripe fruit you can find. While licuados are traditionally made with cow’s milk, you can also use soy, almond or rice milk as a base.
Here’s an example of how easy it is to make this delicious drink:
• 1 cup cold milk
• 1 and a half cups of fresh strawberries
• About 1 tablespoon sugar or 2–3 of honey
• Half a cup of ice
• 2 extra whole strawberries, for the garnish
Put the milk and ice in your blender or food processor and blend for 15 seconds. Add the strawberries and the sugar (the amount will vary depending on how sweet the strawberries are); then blend for about another 15 seconds or until the drink is smooth and frothy. Pour into two chilled glasses, add straws and decorate each glass with a whole strawberry perched on the side. Drink immediately and enjoy! There’s plenty of potential to experiment with different combinations of fruit and other ingredients, so here’s your chance to get creative – and healthy!