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Beef consumption in Uruguay is part of the country’s national identity. The country has the highest per capita meat consumption in the world.
Uruguay Parrillas, asados, and Uruguay beef were high on our list while exploring the country’s local specialties.
If your travels take you to the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, this is your guide to Uruguay meats, parrillas, and the best places to eat.
Savor the juicy and tender meat culture as you explore Uruguayuan parrillas like a local.
What Is a Parrilla?
A Parrilla is a traditional barbecue style found in South American countries and popular in Uruguay and Argentina.
The word parrilla refers to two concepts. For one, it describes a traditional steakhouse where you can enjoy barbecued meats.
Secondly, parrilla also refers to a metal grill grate put over a firebox with charcoal and used in cooking meat.
READ MORE: To learn more about grills check our review The Best Argentine Grills For Sale
While exploring Uruguay’s local food specialties, parrillas was commonly used to describe steakhouses.
In an Uruguay Parrilla, the shape of the grill, cuts of meat, and firewood used for cooking define the experience.
The Uruguay grill or parrilla has round iron rods, which makes it easy to degrease the meat.
Firewood is used in an Uruguay Parrilla instead of charcoal, allowing the meat to cook longer and is arguably tastier.
When it comes to the cuts of meat, a traditional Uruguayan Parrilla always has Pamplona, Chotos, and potatoes and sweet potatoes wrapped in foil.
Pamplonas are rolled cuts of meat or chicken wrapped in pork or lamb enclosed around olives, cheese, and red peppers.
Chotos, on the other hand, are a popular starter made of grilled small intestine of a calf or cow.
No Uruguay Parrilla experience would be complete without copious glasses of Tannat wine, the signature grape of Uruguay
What is An Asado?
An Asado, a meal associated with grilled meats is revered in Uruguay and in neighboring Argentina.
More than just a meal, it is a vital part of the tradition and is woven into the local culinary scene.
An asado which means roasted, barbecued, or grilled, is a way of enjoying time together over grilled meats.
In Argentinian and Uruguayan culture, friends and families gather around the grill fire, where an asador or designated cook prepares a variety of meat cuts.
Traditional cuts range from blood sausages, offals, ribs, beef, chicken, and more.
The Asado, part of the identity of Uruguayuans, is enjoyed at home and restaurants in the country.
Tradition and friendship come together with fire as a symbol of cultural identity.
In Uruguay, the grilling of the meat is a slow process. The meats are cooked over firewood while keeping the smoke to a minimum.
Uruguay meat cuts are also different. For example, asado de tira refers to beef ribs cut perpendicularly, which is representative of Uruguay.
The origins of asado in Uruguay are linked to the gauchos or cowboys found in several South American countries.
Uruguay is one of the top 5 beef-producing countries in the world and rivals Argentina in beef exportation.
The two main breeds are Angus and Hereford cows raised in the open air year-round.
It is a country where the number of cattle outnumbers the number of people by almost 4 to 1.
A population of slightly more than 3 million compared to about 12 million cattle.
Uruguay’s flat landscapes with rolling hills, fertile coastlands, and access to the Uruguay Rio Negro Rivers provide unmatched quality meats.
The cows can roam freely, and the resulting meat is both high quality and delicious.
Uruguay is the only country in the world with a completely computerized traceability system.
This means that customers know exactly where their Uruguayan meat comes from and how it was raised.
In Uruguay, knowing where your meat actually comes from is a right.
Uruguay Beef Cuts
Before venturing into your next culinary adventure in Uruguay, you must first know what to expect.
With a strong beef culture, the country is a headliner of beef dishes, with over 50 beef cuts.
Whether bone-in or boneless, the art of cutting meat is a cherished skill amongst Uruguayan asadors.
One of the secrets of Uruguay asador is never to cut into the meat directly to check if it’s ready. The best way is to use a fork to gently pierce the meat and check without losing juices in the process.
Some of the most popular cuts are short ribs, asado de tira, bife ancho, boneless prime rib, colita de cuadril, or rump roast.
Other traditional cuts include pulpon or rump steak, bife de chorizo or sirloin, lomo or tenderloin, vacio or flank steak, and more.
Our most memorable cuts were the asado de tira and pulpon.
Both were deliciously tender, with the asado melting in the mouth and the pulpon thick and juicy.
Is Beef from Uruguay Safe?
Many people asked if the beef from Uruguay is safe to consume. Throughout our visits here, we had the chance to talk with asadors and beef experts, and this is what they told us.
“In Uruguay, the cows are raised naturally in the fields; they do not receive hormones and are free to eat naturally.”
“The cows here are raised on natural pastures and not in corrals. Cows graze on open lands and do not eat processed food”.
“The meat in Uruguay is pretty good, natural, and tasty. That’s because the cows are fed naturally and with no chemicals.”
Originating from Japan, Wagyu is considered the world’s most expensive meat. High-grade quality wagyu from Japan can run up to $200 per pound.
This makes it twice more expensive as the price of Angus meat.It was first exported to the United States and Australia, after which it became famous worldwide.
Today, Uruguay is the leading exporter of Wagyu meat in Europe. We were intrigued to learn the production consists of crossing Angus and Wagyu embryos.
The more this process continues, the purer the resulting blood is. As far as taste is concerned, it is a different kind of delicious.
Marbling or fat content in wagyu gives it exquisite tastes and buttery rich textures.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you’ve never tried wagyu beef before, you can have American wagyu beef delivered to your home from Snake River Farms. They are the pioneers of American wagyu beef and their beef comes from sustainably raised cows from family farms in Idaho and Washington. Check out the delicious range of wagyu cuts, from filet mignon to ground beef.
Other Uruguay Meat
Aside from the massive production of beef, Uruguay is also known for sheep, pork, and poultry meats.
Sheep production is important in Uruguay with twice as many sheep as people. Wool from the sheep is exported, and some of it also makes its way to the parrilla.
A typical Uruguay parrilla will have dozens of cuts of meat, including beef, chicken, and pork.
Uruguay Pork Meat
Uruguay’s pork production has doubled in the past ten years and is oriented toward the domestic market.
Like all Uruguayan meat produced, pork is free from antibiotics and hormones, thus making it a healthy option.
It is no secret that Uruguayans prefer beef over pork meat. Even so, their cuisine is plentiful in various dishes made with pork.
For example, Pamplona, a delicious and well-loved starter is made with beef or pork, ham, bacon, cheese, olives, and peppers.
While the much-loved Choripán street food sandwich is made with pork-based sausages, chimichurri sauce stuffed into a baguette.
The chorizo is a typical sausage in Uruguay made of pork. It’s short and stout, full of flavor, and not spicy.
This type of pork sausage is also found in Argentina and many other countries worldwide.
Chorizo is said to have originated in the Iberian Peninsula and is popular in Spain and Portugal.
In Mexican cooking, chorizo is a prized ingredient though the spices and seasonings differ from what you’ll find in Uruguay.
Chorizo sausages cooked on the parrilla were among our favorite meats in Uruguay.
Morcilla or Blood Sausage
Morcilla or blood sausages are popular on the parrilla in Uruguay. The discovery of two different kinds surprised us the most about the blood sausages.
Already familiar with savory blood sausages, we were most surprised by the sweet version.
Known as Morcilla Dulce or sweet morcilla, these sausages have raisins, walnuts, and citrus mixed with pork.
The savory morcilla sausages are delicious and make for a great starter. On the menus, morcillas are sometimes translated to black pudding in English.
Seek it out and especially the unusual experience of sweet morcilla in Uruguay.
Cheese and Vegetables
Vegetables and cheeses are also cooked on fire, thus satisfying every palate.
Provoleta Cheese is a special kind of gooey cheese found on the parrilla in Uruguay and Argentina. It is an essential part of the asado ritual and is typically cooked on the grill and served as an appetizer.
Peppers are the primary vegetables grilled on a parrilla. Sweet peppers are very popular as a side dish, alongside other grilled vegetables like onions and tomatoes. When cooked on the parrilla, their flavors are enhanced and perfectly charred.
Potatoes are another popular item roasting on an Uruguay parrilla. The potatoes are wrapped in tin foil and are either regular potatoes or sweet potatoes.
Best Parrilladas Montevideo Uruguay To Taste Uruguay Steak And More
We were delighted to discover that most restaurants in the capital have their own parrilla. Aside from the popular barbecue, here you’ll find traditional Uruguayan foods and beverages which you can enjoy during your trip.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: While in Montevideo, don’t miss the opportunity to soak in the local culture at a traditional dinner and dance show. Enjoy dance performances of the celebrated tango, candombe, and milonga dance styles. And, enjoy a traditional Parrilla dinner accompanied with Uruguayan wine.
1. Uruguay Natural Parrilla Gourmet
Opened in 2013, Uruguay Natural Parrilla Gourmet is one of the top gourmet Parrilla restaurants in Montevideo.
The restaurant bears Uruguay’s “Natural” seal which means it only promotes natural meats from Uruguay.
It’s a sophisticated steakhouse with a modern and sleek interior, and all meats are prepared according to tradition.
Go for the Premium Brasero tasting, which comes with a selection of the three best cuts of the parrilla.
Savor succulent rib eye, rack of lamb, and exquisite beef ribs. The more than generous dish comes with salad, rustic fries, and chimichurri sauce.
Pair your dishes with some of the best wines from Uruguay. The wine list is extensive and features an exclusive selection from Uruguay wineries.
Also, the bread here is homemade and extremely tasty.
Address: Punta Carretas, Montevideo, Uruguay
Hours: Tues -Sat, 12:00 pm – 11:45 pm; Sunday, 12:00 pm-4:00 pm; Closed Monday
Pro Tips: Advanced reservations are recommended.
2. La Pulperia
La Pulperia is described as one of the best parrillas, if not the best in Montevideo.
It is not a fancy place but a simple restaurant with a simple menu, excellent service, and unrivaled quality meat.
With a front and center view of the parrilla, we ordered the popular Pulpon or rump steak and Asado short ribs.
We also savored salty and sweet blood or morcilla sausages. Everything was accompanied with a side of home-cut fries and a salad.
We paired our dinner with a lovely bottle of local Uruguayan Tannat wine.
The food was amazing. Both the Asado and Pulpon were tender and delicious. Just simple excellent-quality beef cooked to perfection.
The same was also true for the delicious fries and salad.
It’s a laid-back restaurant with excellent Uruguay beef and attentive service.
Address: Lagunillas 448 11300 Montevideo
Hours: Tues- Sat, 7:00 pm -12:00 pm; Sun 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm; Closed Mon and Tues
Pro Tips: The restaurant gets busy, plan to go early to avoid a long wait
3. Don Garcia – Mercado del Puerto
Initially built as a train station, Mercado del Puerto, or Old Port Market, houses about 13 bustling parrillas.
The place holds the largest concentration of parrillas or steak houses in Montevideo, along with many authentic eateries within its wrought iron facade.
When we got to the Mercado, it was lunchtime and busy as ever. The energy was vibrant as every asado had its fire lit up.
Don Garcia is one of the outdoor-seating restaurants you will find in Mercado del Puerto. It’s an unpretentious eatery but friendly and welcoming to locals and tourists alike.
An open-fire parrilla in the center of the restaurant allows you to watch the food being prepared.
The meat dishes are of excellent quality and priced reasonably. You want to get the asado steaks, Vacio steak cuts, or flank steaks.
If you want something other than beef, try the restaurant’s chicken specialty.
Order the Chicken Don Garcia, a boneless dish rolled with ham, olives, mild peppers, and cheese.
Within Mercado del Puerto, Don Garcia is one of the best places to taste Uruguayan culture.
Address: Mercado del Puerto, Rambla 25 de Agosto de 1825 228, Montevideo, Uruguay
Hours: Open every day from 12:30 pm to 5:30 pm
Pro Tips: Make sure you have cash, as card payments are not accepted
Tradition is one of the defining characteristics of Uruguay’s parrillas. Natural, antibiotic, and hormone-free meats are cooked on the grill.
To cook a barbecue or sit down at a Parrilla is to appreciate an art and skill while spending quality time with friends and family.
Enjoying an asado in Uruguay is a way to engage in the local culture. We relished the connections we made over some of the best-tasting, tender, and flavorful beef.
And we invite you to delight in unforgettable gastronomic experiences in Uruguay.
Have you eaten at an Uruguay parrilla or tried Uruguay beef before? Please let us know in the comments below.
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Rosemary is the editor-in-chief and strategist at Authentic Food Quest.
Traveling slow since 2015 with her partner, Claire, she has explored the cuisine in 45 countries and more than 240+ culinary cities.
Her writing about local food specialties has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post.
As a food and travel writer, Rosemary has co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
Rosemary is an avid runner when she’s not eating and exploring new destinations. She has run ten marathons and counting.
Before Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary held senior-level strategy positions in advertising.
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