Bolivia may not be world-famous for its local cuisine, but the country is rich in traditional dishes available for visitors to try. Many of the traditional dishes available throughout Bolivia are recipes that have been passed down through many generations and are often served by independent street vendors. When visiting Bolivia, don’t make the look of some of these dishes scare you off, because you will miss out on some flavorsome meals.
Here is a list of some of the most savory Bolivian food options available and some tips on finding them.
A prevalent dish in Bolivia has skewered beef or chicken hearts, known as anticucho, a recipe that originated in the Andean mountain ranges back in the 16th century. Prepared similar to a Mediterranean shish kebab, you can enjoy this popular South American dish with potatoes and a peanut sauce. If you want to try this traditional Bolivian dish, look for Anticucheras, street food stalls found throughout the country.
Cuñapé is a traditional dish popular in Eastern Bolivia, especially in Santa Cruz and the country’s Northeastern Regions. This dish is made using white cheese, egg, salt, milk, and yam flour formed into bread balls and served with a cup of coffee or tea. If you are busy exploring Bolivia, enjoying some Cuñapé is a great way to build up energy. Cuñapé can be found from street vendors located in and near bus stations.
If you love empanadas, you will fall in love with this Bolivian version made with a cheesy ooey-gooey center. This dish is typical throughout South America, and many locals enjoy this traditional dish for breakfast or at teatime. Empanadas de queso can be made baked or fried and found at many street vendors’ food stalls.
If you love dairy, you are going to want to try queso humacha while traveling through Bolivia. This thick and creamy soup is made with corn, green beans, potatoes, milk, Altiplano cheese (lots of it), and an Andean spice called wacatya. This is such a hearty soup; you are sure to fill up and be ready to get back out exploring.
Queso humacha is available at many Bolivian restaurants, including those in popular touristy areas, such as La Paz and Santa Cruz.
Sajta de pollo is a traditional meal where the traditional sauce (sajta) is accompanied by chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, plain rice, and peanuts. You will love this juicy dish that is often served for lunch, and many locals enjoy this meal on special occasions, such as Carnivals and All Saints’ Day. This dish is commonly garnished with fresh celery, garlic, and parsley, which enhance the flavors of this dish.
Sajta de pollo is most commonly served in La Paz at restaurants such as Luciernagas Restaurant.
Salteñas are a traditional Bolivian street food filled with a juicy mix of sweet and savory sauces. The insides of the salteñas are also filled with beef, pork, or chicken. Some restaurants serve vegetarian salteñas. Additional variations of the salteñas may include those filled with peas, eggs, potatoes, and olives.
This dish is the perfect snack any time of the day, but if you visit La Paz, go out and find a street vendor early in the morning because they tend to sell out early. This dish is also available at select restaurants and cafés throughout the country.
If you are looking for a filling meal when visiting Bolivia, make sure to order the silpancho. This traditional dish from the valleys of Cochabamba consists of layers of white rice, boiled and sliced tomatoes, and thinly pounded meat. Some prepare this dish with onion, beets, parsley, and a fried egg.
If you want to try this dish, you are sure to find it in one of the many restaurants in Cochabamba, such as Casa de Campo and Cayenna Bistro Café.
Are you vegetarian and planning to travel to Bolivia? Then you are going to want to make sure you try tucumanas, a traditional Bolivian dish that is a fried version of salteña. This pastry is stuffed with more potatoes, carrots, olives, peas and has fewer stew-like ingredients. This is a hearty dish enjoyed by both vegetarians and non-vegetarians, but for those wanting meat in their tucumanas, they do have a version stuffed with beef, pork, and chicken.
Tucumanas is a typical mid-morning snack for locals and can be purchased from many street vendors and restaurants such as Condor Café in Sucre, Bolivia.
The yuca, the edible root of the cassava, is a popular root vegetable in South American countries. Traditional dishes using the yuca are made with baked, mashed, boiled, and fried potatoes. Yuca frita, or yuca fries, are thin slices of deep-fried root and served as a snack or with grilled meats, burgers, and barbecue. This is a unique treat you must try during your visit to Bolivia.
If you are looking to experience these fries, you can find them at restaurants across the country, including Riquisimo Grill in Santa Cruz.
Zonzo was served back before there was electricity in Bolivia and was traditionally made by wrapping this pancake-like entrée, made with cheese and yucca, around a stick and grilling it. Currently, zonzo is available a few different ways — friend, baked, or grilled — and still uses traditional methods using a stick. You will want to give this traditional food item a try, especially as a snack in the afternoon with some cuppa. This snack is another one that is readily available through local street vendors and is very popular in Santa Cruz.
Alfajores are mouth-watering cookies you must try when visiting Bolivia. You cannot just eat one of these desserts, which resemble a cookie sandwich. The cookies are very tender, with a layer of Dulce de Leche in the center, which makes this cookie melt in your mouth.
Looking for alfajores in Bolivia? Check out some local bakeries or look for street vendors. These are the most common places to purchase this decadent cookie.
Coconut is a popular fruit used in many dishes, especially desserts, in Bolivia and is used to create cocadas. This sweet treat is a traditional Bolivian confection made with a combination of shredded coconut, eggs, and condensed milk. If you love coconut macaroons, you will enjoy trying these candy treats covered with shaved coconut or almonds. You can find this treat at many food stalls in popular tourist areas of Bolivia.
If you are looking for a light and refreshing dessert while in Bolivia, you must try helado de canela. This beloved treat is a non-dairy frozen treat flavored with natural cinnamon and lemon juice. Enjoying some helado de canela is the perfect way to cool down on a hot day and is sold by many street vendors throughout Bolivia.
All the above dishes are items you must try when visiting the country and can be accompanied by a traditional Bolivian beverage such as mocochinchi or singani.
Hopefully, this helps you find some of the best local Bolivian food to try during your visit to the country. No matter where your travels take you, try to find some of these mouth-watering dishes, so you can experience some local culture and experience Bolivia traditional food.
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