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Chilean cuisine is diverse with traditional Chilean foods shaped by the terrain and climate.
All along the Pacific Ocean coastline, fish and seafood dominates.
As you approach the Andes mountain range and the Atacama desert, you’ll find unique Chilean foods from the area.
In addition to unique Chile food, the country is also the largest producer of Cabernet Sauvignon wines in South America.
To help your culinary travels to Chile, we highlight a few traditional specialties. These 10 Chilean dishes are the popular comfort foods, every visitor to Chile should try.
1- Completo – Chilean Hot Dog
The Completo (Spanish for “complete” or “total”) is a hot dog variation eaten in Chile. After seeing it at practically every street corner, we knew we had to try it. It’s a huge hot dog (bigger than American ones) with all kinds of trimmings: mayonnaise, tomatoes, onions, pickles, sauerkraut, etc.
While this is one of the most popular Chilean foods, an equally popular variation is the Italiano.
This is the same hotdog but with fewer trimmings – mashed avocado, tomatoes and mayonnaise. We were tempted by this option and tried it at the farmers market.
While it was surprising to have a hotdog with mayonnaise, it was actually quite delicious. The hot dog was tasty, the bread was lightly toasted and the tomatoes and avocado were fresh.
It’s not surprising that it is such a popular common Chilean dish!
2- Pebre – Chilean Salsa
You will find pebre on any respectable restaurant table. It looks like salsa you would typically find at a Mexican restaurant in the U.S., but it tastes nothing like it. It is a seasoning made with tomatoes at the base and topped off with chopped onions, chili, chives, garlic, coriander, oil and vinegar.
It is usually served in a little clay dish and has a nice spicy bite. It is normally served with warm bread. We tried several versions and the recipe and ingredients change regularly based on the chef and regional Chilean cuisine. Below are some ways we tried this traditional Chilean food.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Pebre is a delicious sauce that goes on almost everything. To try it for yourself and make pebre at home, check out our simple pebre recipe with video and add something new to your dinner table in under 15 minutes.
3- Chilean Empanadas
A favorite snack food in Chile, these baked pies or empanadas are available pretty much everywhere. You will not miss them.
In Chile the most traditional empanada filling is called “pino.” These empanadas de pino are made of a mixture of minced meat, onions, raisins, black olives and hard boiled eggs.
Having fallen for empanadas in Argentina, we were quite eager to experience the Chilean version. The empanadas in the two countries are completely different. The most obvious difference is the size.
In Chilean cuisine, the empanadas are huge. Almost double the size you find in Argentina. The second difference is the shape. In Argentina, the empanadas are half-moon shaped, while in Chile they are squared off.
Empanadas are typically cooked “al horno”, which means baked in a wood burning oven, or deep fried.
We tried several empanadas as a street food in different cities. We enjoyed the traditional empanadas de pino which we had “al horno.” We found the seafood or mariscos empanadas absolutely delicious. These ones were typically fried.
And finally, we savored the vegetarian or verdura options as well. All in all, don’t expect them to be anything like the ones you would find in Argentina, but they are deserving in their own right.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: How to Make Delicious Argentinian Empanadas Mendoza-Style
4- Porotos Granados – Beans Stew A Surprising Chilean Food For The Summer
Porotos Granados is a traditional Summer dish made when the ingredients are fresh and in season. The main ingredients are beans, mashed corn, onions, pumpkin, garlic, tomatoes and basil.
It is a time consuming meal to make as beans are soaked overnight and may not be easy to find. We had the opportunity to have it with our Airbnb host in Talca (South of Santiago) who made it especially for us.
It is a thick delicious stew that we really enjoyed. Everything tasted fresh, though it’s a little counterintuitive to eat this hot stew on a hot Summer day.
Nevertheless, when you find yourself in Chile in the Summer, go for the beans, you will not regret it.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Chile is also known for its red wines from Maipo Valley and its white wines from Casablanca valley. Read more about wines in Chile and explore the opportunity to tour wineries near Santiago.
5- Pastel de Choclo y Humitas – Steamed Corn and Beef Casserole
Pastel de Choclo and Humitas are both corn based Chilean dishes. We saw these Chilean meals all over in Santiago and especially at the farmers markets.
Both Claire and I are not big fans of corn. Knowing that these traditional Chilean specialities are made with corn, we decided to try the Pastel de Choclo and skipped the Humitas.
Pastel de Choclo is like a corn pie made with sweet corn or choclo the quechua word for “tender corn” or new corn of the season.
Its filling is called pino, like the one used in empanadas, and it has garlic, onion, minced meat, hard boiled eggs and olives. We tasted the version that included boiled chicken.
We ordered the dish from the market to eat at home for dinner and eagerly anticipated the meal. Given that we are not big fans of corn, let alone sweet corn, so we honestly did not enjoy the dish at all.
The combination of the sweet corn and salty ingredients, plus the meat and chicken did not make for a delicious experience.
However given that Pastel de Choclo and Humitas are traditional Chilean dishes we recommend that you at least try one of them or the both of them.
6- Churrasco and Chacarero – Chilean Steak Sandwiches
Churrasco and Chacarero are traditional Chilean steak sandwiches that are served all day long. These sandwiches come with the same base ingredients.
There is a thin slice of sirloin steak called churrasco cooked a la plancha and two slices of flat bread called pan amasado.
The Churrasco sandwich comes in different options. Either with avocado (con palta), with tomatoes (con tomates), or completo which means with the full ingredients: tomatoes, avocado, and mayonnaise.
The Chacarero, on the other hand, comes with green beans, tomatoes, and aji verde or green pepper.
We had Churrasco sandwich and Churrasco meal as a dish a few times on the road and at corner restaurants. We didn’t get the chance to try the Chacarero.
We really enjoyed the Churrasco sandwich for its freshness and its flavorful ingredients. The thin slice of steak is delicious and flavorful.
The bread is not too doughy and very tasty. The avocado is fresh and works really well with the steak.
7- Sopapillas – Pumpkin fritters A Popular Chilean Street Food
Sopapillas are simple flat breads that are fried. They are made from a mixture of pumpkins, butter and flour, flattened into circles. They are a traditional street food and are found all over the country.
Sopapillas are a versatile snack that can be eaten sweet or savory. The most typical way we saw it eaten was savory. It was usually at the end of the day topped with either pebre or mustard and ketchup.
We tried the sopapillas with pebre and immediately fell in love with them. The pumpkin flour is filling and gives them a really unique taste.
Together with the pebre, this is a perfect pair that must be experienced.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Consider a Chilean pisco sour to go with your Chilean snacks. Check our simple and easy to make Chilean pisco sour recipe.
8- Lomo a La Pobre – Poor Man’s Steak
Many Chilean dishes carry the term a la pobre which literally means “of the poor”. It is not clear where the name comes from.
Today the term a la pobre indicates a dish made with fried eggs. The lomo a la pobre consists of a cut of beef tenderloin with fries, a fried egg, and onions.
It is sometimes called bife a la pobre. There are several versions of the dish such as: lomito a la pobre (made with pork meat), pollo a la pobre (made with chicken meat) or churrasco a la pobre (made with thin slice of sirloin).
Although we tried lomo at a parilla (BBQ restaurant) in Talca, we refrained from trying the lomo a la pobre for its high calories and poor nutritious content.
It is very similar to the Chivito that we relished in Uruguay. One thing we would say though is that overall in Chile, the potatoes even fried are delicious and flavorful.
The red meat is also very tasty. All in all not a bad option if you want to try a popular Chilean dish.
9- Cazuela de Vacuno – Beef Stew or Cazuela de Mariscos – Seafood Stew
Cazuelas are typically soups or stews in Chilean cuisine. It is home-cooked nourishing, inexpensive, everyday comfort food. Cazuela or stews are part of the national Chilean spirit.
These Chilean dishes are simple and come in many variations. They start with beef, pork, lamb or chicken (preferably with bone and meat) and are simmered in water or broth with garlic, onion, oregano, paprika.
When tender, seasonal vegetables are added. This includes potatoes, corn on the cob, pumpkins, onions and other vegetables.
The mariscos or seafood cazuelas are just as simple. Made with assorted seafood; clams, shrimps, oysters and then cooked with seasonal vegetables.
We tried both the beef (vacuno) and seafood (marisco) cazuelas and really enjoyed them both.
We relished the simplicity of these traditional dishes. Just the meat, poultry or fish and fresh vegetables in rich flavors. Simple and delicious.
Be aware that you may not always find cazuelas at elegant restaurants, but they will be on every menu at corner restaurants or cafes.
The cazuelas are such traditional meals, try them out and you will not be disappointed.
10- Chorrillana – One of the Most Popular Chilean Dishes
This traditional Chilean meal consists of a large plate of sliced beef with french fries covered with either scrambled or fried eggs and fried onions.
It is a typical Chilean dish from Valparaiso, and many say “it is not to be missed”. It is not fancy or exotic and is traditionally served with beers. The servings are huge and it is meant to be shared.
To be honest, this is one of the typical Chilean dishes that did not tempt us. This huge plate of fries topped with eggs and onions is not the most inviting part of Chilean cuisine.
There was nothing particularly healthy about it and the high calories were off-putting. While we are very familiar with all of these ingredients separately – fries, onions and eggs we didn’t feel the need to try them together.
Chile has a lot to offer in terms of food and wine. If you’ve never considered Chilean food before, this is an invitation to put Chilean cuisine on your radar.
Here we have highlighted 10 popular Chilean dishes that we saw everywhere including those we tried.
Note, that this is not an exhaustive list, there are other traditional dishes that are worth exploring as well.
Regardless of which part of Chile you visit, give the local Chilean cuisine a chance.
Don’t forget to try the local Chilean drinks and amazing red wines as well.
Explore Chilean foods and drinks like a local and discover an exceptionally tasty country.
In the comments below, please tell us what Chile foods intrigued you the most.
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Curious by nature, Rosemary loves exploring new flavors and connecting with locals. She shares her insights and culinary finds from her travels to inspire people to connect local through food.