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Traditional Chilean food is shaped by the terrain and climate of the country. All along the Pacific Ocean coastline, fish and seafood dominate.
As you approach the Andes mountain range and the Atacama desert, you’ll find Chilean cuisine unique to those areas.
In addition to the diverse Chile food, the country is also the largest producer of Cabernet Sauvignon wines in South America.
During our stay in Chile, we crisscrossed the country from the sea to the desert exploring local food specialties.
To guide you on your culinary travels, we highlight a few traditional Chilean foods you’ll see everywhere in Chile.
While not exhaustive, here are 15 Chilean dishes every visitor to Chile should try.
What is Chilean Food
“What’s tyical Chilean food depends on where you are in the country.” That’s how Chile’s top chef, Rodolfo Guzman, described Chile food to us.
This long country sandwiched between the Andes and Pacific Ocean covers an impressive range of geography and climate.
To the north is the Atacama desert, the oldest in the world, and southern Chile is marked by lakes, forests and glaciers.
As a result, each of the regions have their own unique specialities.
In addition to geography, Chile food is influenced by the Mapuche or indigeneous population, along with influences from European cultures.
Drawing from the bounties of the land and sea, fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, seafood and Chilean wine make up Chilean food.
Here we highlight some of the most emblematic and traditional Chilean food and dishes.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Exploring the food in Chile with a local guide is a delicious way to learn about the local food culture. In addition to sampling popular Chilean foods, you’ll explore Chile’s exceptional red, white and sparkling wines. To taste the flavors of Chilean culture, choose from any of these popular food and wine tours in Chile.
Chilean Starters and Sides
1. 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 Chilean 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 sauce 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. This combination was one of our favorite foods in Chile and highly recommended on your visit to the country.
2. Pebre – Chilean Salsa
In Chile, you’ll 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.
Thisis a seasoning made with tomatoes at the base and topped off with chopped onions, chili, chives, garlic, coriander, oil and vinegar.
This typical Chilean salsa is traditionally served in a little clay dish. It has a nice spicy bite and is normally served with warm Chilean bread.
During our travels through the country exploring authentic Chilean cuisine, we tried several versions of Pebre.
While generally very similar, we did find the recipes and ingredients to change based on the chef and regional Chile foods.
As a part of local Chilean gastronomy, Pebre is not to be missed and should be savored over and over again.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Chilean Pebre sauce is delicious and easily goes on almost everything. Make it at home with our simple recipe How To Make Pebre – A Delicious Chilean Sauce with video.
3. Empanadas de Pino – 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.” The filling is a mixture of minced meat, onions, raisins, black olives and hard boiled eggs.
Having discovered empanadas in Argentina we were quite eager to experience the Chilean version.
The empanadas in the two Latin American countries are completely different. The most obvious difference is the size.
In Chilean cuisine, the empanada de pino is 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.
A traditional dish we savored several empanada de pino as a street food in different cities in the country.
We particularly enjoyed the traditional empanada de pino which we had baked or “al horno.”
Along the coast, seafood or mariscos empanadas are absolutely delicious. These are typically fried. And, finally, you’ll also find vegetarian or verdura options filled with the seasonal vegetables.
While unlike empanadas in Argentina, Chilean empanadas are delightful and deserving in their own right.
4. Humitas – Mashed Corn in the Husk
Humitas is another one of the popular corn-based Chilean dishes you’ll find during your travels.
This traditional food is found throughout Latin America. You might know them as tamales, as they are called in Mexico.
Humitas are made with mashed corn and seasonings wrapped in fresh corn husks and steamed.
Each country has their own version. In Ecuador, they add cheese to the filling and eat them for breakfast. In Chile, onions, basil, and paprika are added to the hot corn filling, and they are eaten as an appetizer or main dish.
A traditional Native American dish, humitas date back to the indigenous cultures of the Americas before the Spanish conquest.
Chilean humitas are made with humero corn, which is widespread in Chile but difficult to find in other countries.
Humitas are easily found in the markets. Get them as a mid-morning snack before they sell out!
5. Pastel de Choclo – Steamed Corn and Beef Casserole
Pastel de Choclo is a corn-based Chilean dish. We saw these Chilean meals all over in Santiago and especially at the farmers markets.
Choclo is the quechua word for “tender corn” or the new corn of the season, and Pastel de Choclo is like a corn pie made with sweet corn.
The corn pie filling is called pino, like the one used in empanadas. It has garlic, onion, ground beef, hard boiled egg and olives.
One pastel de choclo pie we tasted at a local market also had boiled chicken in it. We’re not huge fans of corn and we didn’t particularly enjoy the dish.
However, corn lovers can expect a combination of sweet and savory flavors, from the corn and meat and poultry.
This is a popular food in Chile and pastel de choclo cannot be missed on an exploration of traditional Chilean gastronomy.
6. Completo – Chilean Hot Dog
The Completo (Spanish for “complete” or “total”) is a Chilean hotdog. After seeing it at practically every street corner, we knew we had to try it.
It’s huge much bigger than American hot dogs. The Chilean version comes 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 Chilean hotdog but with fewer trimmings – mashed avocado, tomatoes and mayonnaise. We were tempted by this option and especially the avocado flavors.
We tried it at a local farmers market and were blown way. While it was surprising to have a hotdog with mayonnaise, it was actually quite delicious.
The hot dog was tasty, the warm bread was lightly toasted and the tomatoes and avocado extremely fresh.
So good, its not surprising that it is such a popular common Chilean dish.
7. Churrasco and Chacarero – Chilean Steak Sandwiches
Churrasco and Chacarero are traditional Chilean steak sandwiches. They both come with the same base ingredients.
A thin slice of sirloin steak called churrasco cooked a la plancha (pan fried) and two slices of flat bread called pan amasado.
The Churrasco sandwich comes with either mashed avocado (con palta), tomatoes (con tomates), or completo which means with all the ingredients, tomatoes, avocado, and mayonnaise.
The Chacarero, on the other hand, comes with green beans, tomatoes, and aji verde or green pepper.
These traditional Chilean steak sandwiches are served all day long. We had the churrasco as a sandwich and as a meal a few different times on the road and at corner restaurants.
We really enjoyed the churrasco sandwich for its freshness and its flavorful ingredients.
The thin slice of steak is delicious and the bread is tasty and not too doughy. The avocado is fresh and works really well with the steak.
Traditional Chilean Soups
8. Porotos Granados – Beans Stew: A Surprising Chilean Food For Summer
Porotos Granados is a traditional Summer dish made when the ingredients are fresh and in season.
The main ingredients are Chilean beans, corn, onions, pumpkin, garlic, fresh tomatoes and basil.
It is a time consuming meal to make as beans are soaked overnight. This traditional dish is not commonly available and may not be easy to find at restaurants.
We had the opportunity to have it with our Airbnb host in Talca, South of Santiago, who made it especially for us.
Rich and deeply flavorful, we enjoyed this thick, delicious stew. Everything was fresh and the Chilean beans quite tasty, though it’s counterintuitive to eat this hot stew on a hot summer day.
Nevertheless, if you find yourself in Chile in the summer months, go for the bean-based traditional Chilean soup, you will not regret it.
9. Patasca – Chilean Soup From the Desert
This dish is native to the Atacama people. These are the indigenous people of the Atacama desert and altiplano or high plain region.
This traditional Chilean food is a hot soup or stew that is made of corn, potatoes, pork, beef and onions. The most interesting part about this meal is the type of corn used.
This dish is made with the white capia varietyor corn that is unique to this region. We had patasca at Las Delicias de Carmen restaurant which specializes in authentic Chilean cuisine.
The ingredients in the Patasca really stand out. The word patasca refers to “broken corn” which is a reference to bloated kernels of corn which swell and burst open while stewing.
Together with the corn, this delicious soup is slow cooked allowing the beef and pork to fall off their bones.
This is one of those simple Chilean recipes that is not fussy and the perfect remedy for the cold desert nights.
You will not see this dish everywhere in Chile’s Atacama desert, so head out to Las Delicias de Carmen to try it.
Chile Seafood Dishes
10. Cazuela de Mariscos – Seafood Stew
Another traditional Chilean soup is seafood stew or cazuelas de mariscos. This is a thick, seafood soup made with shellfish and other seafood, vegetables, and coconut milk.
Comforting and flavorful, it can be made with clams, shrimps, oysters, prawns, squid, or any local seafood and then cooked with seasonal vegetables.
Some versions add in Chile white wine and Parmesan cheese.
What’s delightful about this seafood stew is its simplicity and rich flavors. Simple, delicious and healthy it consits of just seafood and vegetables.
This dish is very popular in southern Chile which is full of rivers and lakes. You’ll also find it on the menus of traditional restaurants throughout the country.
Beyond Chile, seafood stew is also popular in many Latin American countries. It is said to have originated in Columbia, and in Spain before that.
11. Reineta – Chilean Fish Pomfret
Chile, the world’s longest and narrowest country, is defined by the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
The coast line runs from the tropics in the north to the wintery southern tip, which means there is a staggering amount of seafood.
Reineta is the second most popular fish in Chile and one of our favorites. Also known as Pomfret or Southern Rays Bream, it is among the least expensive fish.
This mild fish is firm and white and perfect for grilling, frying, broiling, or sautéing. Grilling is the most popular with a simple preparation of lemon juice and olive oil.
Other preparations you’ll commonly find include Reineta al Perejil or pan-fried filets with parsley.
Baked reineta in a tomato-based sauce or Reineta al Horno is another popular Chilean version. As is, Cancato de Reineta or reineta filets chopped up to make a stew mixed with potatoes, onions, and tomatoes.
The Reineta fish is also to make excellent Chilean ceviche.
We enjoyed Reineta several times in Chile, especially along the coast of Valparaiso where seafood is plentiful.
One bite and you too will quickly fall in love with this popular Chilean seafood.
Typical Chilean Meat Dishes
12. Cazuela de Vacuno – Beef Stew
Cazuelas are typically soups or stews in Chilean cuisine. It is home-cooked, nourishing, inexpensive, everyday comfort food. Cazuelas are part of the national Chilean culinary spirit.
These Chilean foods are simple and come in many variations. They start with beef, pork, lamb or chicken, preferably with bone and meat.
The meats are simmered in water or broth with garlic, onion, oregano, and paprika.
Then tender, seasonal vegetables are added. This includes potatoes, corn on the cob, pumpkins, onions and other vegetables.
The beef cazuela is flavorful and we relished the simplicity of the stew.Just the meat, poultry or fish and fresh vegetables in rich flavors. Simple and delicious!
As one of the most traditional Chilean dishes, you’ll typically not find cazuela on the menu of elegant Chilean restaurants.
To try it, visit any local restaurant or eatery for a flavorful taste of traditional Chilean soup.
13. Lomo a La Pobre – Poor Man’s Steak
Many Chilean recipes carry the term a la pobre which literally means “of the poor.” There are several theories though it is not clear where the name originated 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 french fries, a fried egg, and onions. It is sometimes also called bife a la pobre.
There are several versions of this Chilean dish. You’ll find lomito a la pobre or made with pork meat, pollo a la pobre, made with chicken, or churrasco a la pobre made with a thin slice of sirloin.
Of all the Chilean versions, we were most drawn to the lomo or beef dish. At a parilla or Chilean barbeque restaurant, we relished the traditional flavors.
We found this traditional dish to be very similar to the Chivito, the national sandwich of Uruguay.
One thing we would say though is that in general, Chilean potatoes, even when deep fried, are delicious and flavorful.
The red meat, perfectly grilled and very tasty added to the experience.
All in all, lomo a la pobre is not a bad option when you want to try popular Chilean foods.
14. Chorrillana – One of the Most Popular Chilean Dishes
A massive dish and one of the most popular foods in Chile, order it on a empty stomach.
This traditional Chilean meal consists of a large plate of sliced beef with french fries. The entire plate is 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.
Due to it’s huge size, it typically meant to be shared. It is not a “pretty dish” to look at, but more of a substantive Chile food to help absorb the alcohol.
It’s mouthwatering, greasy and overwhelmingly loved. This is one of those typical Chilean dishes that you’ll find everywhere from small street stalls, to bars and restaurants.
Traditional Chilean Desserts
15. Mote Con Huesillos – Chilean Peach Dessert-Like Drink
One of the most typical Chile drinks you will find throughout the country is Mote con Huesillo.
This non-alcoholic beverage is made with dried peaches cooked in sugar, water and cinnamon, and mixed with cooked, husked wheat berries.
Mote con huesillo is a traditional Chilean summer-time drink often sold by street food vendors, but you will also find it just about everywhere.
It has a long history dating back to the colonial time period.
This beverage is so popular, that there’s even a saying for it, “Más chileno que el mote con huesillo,” which translates to mean “More Chilean than a mote con huesillo.”
We found it refreshing, though a bit odd with the chewy wheat berries floating in it. The sweetened, syrupy juice from the dried peaches gave it a delicious flavor that we both enjoyed.
It’s delicious and can be considered a drink that you can eat as a dessert as well.
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.
These 15 popular Chilean dishes that we have highlighted, are foods we saw everywhere. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list, as there are other traditional dishes that are worth exploring as well.
Regardless of which part of Chile you visit, give the local cuisine a chance. Don’t forget to try the local 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 Chilean food 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.