Traditional Chilean food is a mix of ingredients and dishes from the indigenous Mapuche and the Spanish. The cuisine is not only delicious, but it’s also about as diverse cuisine as everything else in this, the second-longest country in the world, with its enormous range of microclimates, soil, and ecosystems. It’s also heavily influenced by the country’s 2,600 miles of coastline, which offers up succulent seafood. Head further south to Patagonia where the Chilean cowboys, the ‘baqueanos’, ride their horses on the open range, and meat is also on the menu in a big way.
You’ll find lots of quinoa dishes in the Atacama Desert in the northern altiplano region of Chile. It’s a light and tasty seed that’s soft when cooked and served in salads, risotto, soups, and stews. You’ll also see puffed quinoa pops for breakfast and foods made from quinoa flour including some delicious pastries.
This native stew of northern Chile derives its name from the kernels of white corn that “pop” open when stewed for long enough. Besides corn, this tasty dish usually includes potatoes, onions, pork, and beef.
This Chilean-style steak sandwich contains a thin layer of churrasco (sirloin steak) and is cooked on a griddle. The sandwich is completed with two slices of freshly baked Chilean bread called pan amasado.
Chorrillana is a huge pile of french fries with delicious toppings. Most often, it’s topped in sauteed onions, shredded beef, sausage, and fried or scrambled eggs. Restaurants typically serve it with a side of hot sauce (or pebre), ketchup, and mayo. It is served as a large platter and is meant to be shared.
A completo is a Chilean hot dog and a popular street food, which is even larger than American-style hot dogs. A completo comes with a variety of fixings, including mayo, tomatoes, onions, pickles, and sauerkraut. The roll is lightly toasted for a delicious crunch. The completo Italiano is loaded with mayo, tomatoes, and avocado.
Choclo does not mean chocolate. Instead, it translates to “tender corn” or freshly picked corn. Pastel de choclo is a traditional corn casserole that’s usually filled with pino (pieces of cooked meat) and other ingredients. You’ll see it everywhere in Chile and in many variations and shapes from individual portions to large family-style casseroles. Pastele is typically made with garlic, onion, hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, olives, and vegetables as well as meat. It’s the national dish and comfort food of Chile.
Another famous Chile food is Cazuela, which is a popular stew made with peppers, quinoa, chili, corn, potatoes, and chicken or other meats such as pork, turkey, or beef. Some hearty cazuela recipes include rice or noodles. The stew gets its name from the cazuela pot, which is what it’s cooked in. When eating the dish, Chileans traditionally consume all of the liquid first before moving onto the large pieces of meat and veggies left in their cazuela bowls.
If you like clams, razor clams are some of the sweetest you’ll ever have, and one of Chile’s native delicacies. Pink razor clams, called machas, are indigenous to Chilean shores and one of the country’s most popular shellfish. Machas a la Parmesana also includes parmesan and gouda cheese, as well as white wine, cream, and butter. This dish was introduced in the 1950s by Italian immigrants.
Humitas are 100 percent vegetarian and packed with flavor. These simple snacks are eaten during the summer months but can be frozen to enjoy year-round. They are prepared with fresh ground corn with onions, eggs, and spices that vary from region to region, and also by each family’s tradition. The dough is wrapped in a corn husk but is steamed rather than baked or boiled.
Chupe refers to the seafood-style stew you’ll see on menus throughout Chile. It usually includes shrimp, fish, veggies, and potatoes. It should be served with warm bread for dipping. Traditional chupe recipes call for crayfish, but shrimp has become a more popular ingredient. It’s often baked and served in a traditional clay bowl, with a thick and hearty cheese sauce.
Traditionally, in just about every Latin American culture, empanadas take on the flavor of their country with the dough that’s used to make them, the ingredients stuffed inside, their preparation, and their shape, which in Chile is square. These delicious pastry pockets can be found almost anywhere in Chile; they are cooked in a wood-burning oven (al horno) or deep-fried. The most traditional Chilean empanada is the Pino, which is a mixture of meat, onions, hard-boiled eggs, black olives, and raisins.
A summertime favorite, this vegetarian dish is a classic for locals, made with cranberry beans, corn, and squash mixed together into a wonderful stew that will make anyone feel at home. Meat lovers can throw chorizo on top. Ensalada Chilena (sliced tomatoes, onions, and cilantro) is regularly served on the side.
Sopapillas are deep-fried pastries. They’re made using pumpkin and wheat dough with shortening. Most sopapillas come in triangular, square, or circular shapes. They should be flaky, light, and crisp, the fresher the better, and are usually served with pebre on the side, a fresh and spicy condiment made from ahi peppers. The dessert version is often topped with warm honey or a sprinkle of sugar.
Cuchuflí can be found almost anywhere in Chile – from bakeries, grocery stores, and supermarkets to street vendors and beach food stand. These much-loved Chilean sweet snacks look like thin, crispy tubes with a texture similar to that of a wafer. They consist of sugar, flour, butter, egg whites, and vanilla flavoring. These sweet treats are often filled with dulce de leche, but they can also be covered in chocolate.
Tres leches translates to “three milks”, evaporated and poured over a light and airy sponge cake. The milk is also light and moistens the cake without making it soggy. Traditionally, the cake is vanilla, although chocolate and strawberry flavors have become more popular in recent years. The cake absorbs the liquid mixture to create an exceptionally moist pastry, usually topped with whipped cream.
This dessert in a cup is an interesting mixture of sugary syrup made from boiled dried peaches (huesillos) and herbs, with cooked wheat (mote) and a rehydrated peach floating in the middle. Eat it with a spoon in between sips.
Pisco Sour is a Peruvian and Chilean version of a whiskey sour, which uses Pisco − a 37% to 48% proof brandy − as the base liquor. The cocktail contains a mix of tangy citrus juices that give the drink a signature sour flavor. Most Chilean recipes incorporate pica lime and simple syrup.
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