Chile is undeniably beautiful. Patagonia, the lake district, the stunning Torres del Paine National Park — with all of these things to see, you’d be forgiven for looking over the country’s diverse food. However, for a real taste of Chile, you have to experience all of the eats on offer.
Chilean food is a mix of ingredients and dishes from the indigenous Mapuche and the Spanish. It’s heavily influenced by the country’s 2,600 miles of coastline and varied microclimates. Naturally, you can’t come to Chile without enjoying its wide variety of fresh seafood. There are, to name a few favorites, fresh machas a la parmesana (grilled razor clams baked in their shells with parmesan cheese and white wine), salmon, Chilean sea bass, and congrio (white eel usually served fried). And don’t forget about locos, or Chilean abalone, which are a species of large sea snails only found off the coast of Chile and Peru.
It’s not all seafood, though. In cities like Santiago, you’ll find a bounty of street food like sopapillas (deep-fried pastries) served with pebre (a salsa similar to pico de gallo). There’s mote con huesillo (a summertime drink of dried peaches, sugar, and husked wheat) and empanadas de pino (baked empanadas stuffed with Chilean ground beef). Not to be forgotten are well-stuffed sánguches (sandwiches). Leave for the countryside and you might find yourself lucky enough to partake in a traditional Chilean asado where a whole lamb is barbecued over an open flame.
The amount of good food in Chile feels endless. These nine dishes are a good start to understanding the country’s food.
If you’re looking for something hearty, then order a completo, or Chilean hotdog. It’s the perfect on-the-go-food and is the country’s favorite street snack. Try the completo Italiano, which comes loaded with avocado, tomatoes, and lots of mayo.
If you’re going out for drinks looking for a dish to share with friends, the chorrillana is your best option. It’s a huge pile of french fries topped with sauteed onions, shredded beef, sausage, and two fried eggs slapped on top. Enjoy it with a nice cold beer and some live music and you’ve got yourself a good evening.
These savory corn pies will fill your heart and stomach at the same time. Depending on the time of year, you can find a wide variety of pasteles in Chile. You’ll always find the traditional pasteles baked in a clay bowl, which helps maintain the heat and is prepared in layers. During the summertime, make sure you try pastel de choclo, a corn pie filled with beef, onions, eggs, and chicken. If you’re looking for a seafood variety, pastel de jaiba is right up your alley. This crab pie is available almost all year round.
A creamy and stew-like dish, chupes are almost always seafood based and have bread mixed in to brings all the ingredients together. They’re traditionally served in a clay bowl to help maintain the heat. Normally, you can find chupe de camarones (shrimp), centolla (king crab), or locos (Chilean abalone) year round.
5. Porotos granados
A summertime favorite, this vegetarian dish is a classic for locals. Porotos granados is made with cranberry beans, corn, and squash that are 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.
Similar to Mexico’s tamales, humitas are 100% vegetarian and packed with flavor. This simple dish is eaten during the summer months but can be frozen to enjoy year round. Wrapped in a corn husk, most people will eat two humitas in one sitting. There are two ways to eat them. You can add sugar and watch the crystals melt when they touch the hot humita, or you can eat it with an ensalada Chilena, which gives the dish a freshness to it on a hot day.
Almost every country in South America has its own version of this dish. Cazuelas are named after the clay pots they’re cooked in, and, while recipes vary, Chilean cazuelas typically have beef or chicken, squash, potatoes, corn, green beans, and rice. It’s a simple dish that’s packed with flavor and perfect for when it’s a bit cooler outside.
Charquicán is a beef stew that’s slow-cooked with squash and potatoes. It’s traditionally prepared with dried beef though today most Chileans prepare it with beef roast. Charquicán is often served with a fried egg on top.
Cochayuyo is a variety of seaweed common in southern Chile’s coastal region that was a key traditional ingredient for indigenous peoples. There are several ways to prepare cochayuyo, but most people will eat charquicán de cochayuyo, which is the same as the traditional charquicán but without beef. You can also make burgers or salads from cochayuyo.