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Chile is the world’s longest and narrowest country with its borders defined by the Andes Mountain and Pacific Ocean.
The coast line runs from the tropics to the wintery southern tip which means there is a staggering amount of Chilean seafood.
Not just fish, but a huge variety of seafood. While exploring the authentic and traditional food specialties in Chile, we were impressed by the variety and unique seafood dishes.
For a taste of Chile, here are 12 of some of the most popular Chilean seafood dishes to try.
Why Chile Seafood Is So Popular?
Fishing is a major industry in Chile, one of the most important exporters of seafood in the world.
With access to the Pacific Ocean, seafood is popular in Chile and eaten quite frequently. At the local fish markets and restaurants you’ll find a large abundance of Chilean seafood.
Chileans are passionate about their seafood, and they know how to cook it well. In restaurants across the country, you’ll find delicious traditional dishes like ceviche, fish stews, and a variety of firm white fish to savor.
And of course, no Chilean seafood meal is complete without a glass of Chilean wine or Chilean beer.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Chile is one of South America’s most important wine producers. The country makes a variety of red and white wines. Along the coastal region, you’ll find exceptional white wines. If you haven’t had Chilean wines before, we invite you to discover Chilean wines to pair with your food and particularly Chilean seafood.
Top Popular Seafood From Chile
1. Locos Chilenos – Chilean Abalone
Locos or Chilean Abalone are a species of large edible sea snails. They are scientifically known as concholepas native to the coasts of Chile and Southern Peru.
The name “locos” in Chilean Spanish comes from the native Mapuche language and it means “crazy.”
We learned that when preparing locos, they must be tenderized first. This involves pounding them against a hard surface to soften the muscle.
And, this pounding motion has something to do with the name.
How To Eat Locos
The most common way to find locos prepared in Chile is in the dish known as Locos con Mayo. As the name implies, the locos are prepared with mayonnaise.
In Santiago, Chile’s capital, we had this Chilean seafood served with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and potatoes. The locos were covered with mayonnaise for flavor.
In terms of taste, we found the locos to have a mild flavor similar to calamari or scallops. The texture is firm and they are typically served at room temperature.
Locos are strictly controlled in Chile and are only available in certain times of the year. December through April, during the Summer months in Chile, is the best time to eat fresh locos.
While the locos might look a little strange, what they lack in looks, they make up in taste. After one bite you understand why they are a “Chilean seafood delicacy”.
2. Pastel de Jaiba – Chilean King Crab Casserole
Pastel de Jaiba is surprising crab dish in many ways. When we first had it at Santiago fish market, we were expecting something close to baked crab cakes.
What we got instead was a thick creamy soup served in a soup bowl. Swimming in the bowl were pieces of red crab meat in the midst of a white, thick soupy liquid.
“Wow” were the first words that came out of Claire’s mouth after her first bite.
It’s rich, creamy and flavorful. And, we learned that’s made with four simple ingredients – cheese, milk, bread and crab.
Pastel de Jaiba is enjoyed as a main dish, but it can be a little heavy. It pairs well with a green salad and a crisp Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.
3. Machas a la Parmesana – Chilean Razor Clams
Machas a la parmesana is a traditional appetizer or starter in Chile. It consists of machas or Chilean razor clams baked with wine, cheese and seasoning.
There are several variations of this dish. Parmesan cheese is traditionally used in this seafood dish, and it is often substituted with queso Mantecoso, a Chilean cheese.
The meat of the macha can be either removed from the shell or left in. And, they are also available as Empanadas de Machas or razor clam empanadas which we loved.
The combination of the salty clam meat and cheesy goodness makes this Chile seafood dish irresistible.
The origin of this dish are attributed to Edoardo Melotti Ferrari, an Italian immigrant in the Viña del Mar coastal region. It is said to have been invented in the 1950s at his restaurant.
As one of the most local Chilean seafood dishes, savoring Machas la parmesana and all variations of clams is not to be missed.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Learn to make empanadas with this delicious empanadas recipe Mendocino style
4. Cazuela de Mariscos – Chilean Seafood Stew
Cazuela de Mariscos, or Chilean seafood stew, is a tasty dish with Spanish influence.
It is made with a combination of seafood that has been boiled in a mixture of water, white wine, and onions.
The stew is then mixed with a variety of other tastes and flavors, including cilantro, lime juice, garlic, chili peppers, and tomatoes.
This Chilean seafood stew, or cazuelas de mariscos, is a delicious way to enjoy the bounty of the sea.
In South America, you’ll find similar seafood stews in countries like Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru.
In addition to Chile, these countries border the Pacific coastline and have access to a variety of fresh seafood.
While the recipes in each country differ, they all share a few similar ingredients. Expect to find delicious fish and seafood, white wine, spices and some with coconut milk.
Chilean cazuelas are usually made with shellfish, shrimp, crab, and other seafood, all simmered in a creamy broth perfumed with traditional aromatic herbs.
The finished stew is thickened with flour and served in a terracotta pot or cazuelas.
This delicious dish is typically served with rice or bread, making it the perfect meal for any seafood lover.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you want to try any of these Chilean seafood dishes at home, we recommend using sustainable seafood. Sizzlefish offers a wide variety of fish and seafood that you can buy online have delivered to your home. It’s all sustainably raised fish and seafood so you can eat better and deliciously.
5. Reineta – Chilean Fish Pomfret
We first fell in love with the reineta fish when visiting Valparaiso by the Pacific Ocean in Chile.
This white fish is also known as pomfret, southern ray bream or brama australis. It is one of the most popular Chilean fish enjoyed by locals.
The reineta fish is a mild, white, firm fish typically used for grilling. We first had it grilled and served with a slice af lemon and a side of french fries. And, it was simply delicious.
In Chile, this is one of the most affordable fish and it is prepared in a variety of ways. Grilling is the most popular where the fish is grilled with the main ingredients of lemon and olive oil.
Other preparations you’ll commonly find include Reineta al Perejil or pan-fried filets with parsley. Another popular options is Reineta al Horno, which is baked reineta covered in a tomato-based
And finally, Cancato de Reineta, where reinata filets are chopped up to make a stew mixed with potatoes, onions, and tomatoes.
Regardless of how you first try the reineta fish, you’ll quickly fall in love as we did, with this popular Chilean seafood.
6. Ceviche – Chilean Ceviche
Ceviche is a dish that originates from Peru, Chile, and Ecuador, and it is made from raw fish that has been cured in citrus juices.
There are many different variations of ceviche in South America. Peru claims ceviche as its national dish as well as Ecuador.
But all versions of ceviche share some common main ingredients. This includes fresh raw fish, citrus juice, chili peppers or other seasonings, and julienned red onions.
Salt and cilantro are also commonly added to ceviche. The name of the dish originates from the Quechuan word siwichi, which means fresh or tender fish.
Chilean ceviche is made with filets of halibut or Patagonian toothfish. However, salmon can also be used for richer flavors.
Reineta is also a popular fish in making ceviche because its mild flavor. This integrates well with lemon juice, garlic, spices, fresh mint and cilantro used.
If you’re traveling to Chile, be sure to try some of the country’s famous ceviche. It can be found at most restaurants, and it’s perfect for a light appetizer or lunch.
7. Corvina – Mistakenly Referred to as Chilean Sea Bass
Corvina is a white fish that is a firm, sweet-tasting delicacy that is similar to sea bass. This fish is found along the South American coast and is also called drum fish because of the drumming sound it makes.
In Chile, corvina is a popular fish and relatively inexpensive at the fish markets all around the country.
Corvina is used commonly to make ceviche, though it’s also available grilled or baked. It is a firm fish with a mild and tasty flavor. It’s pink in color when raw, but turns white after cooking.
Corvina is sometimes referred to as Chilean sea bass, but this is not accurate. Chilean sea bass is actually known as Patagonian toothfish, and is part of the cod family.
Many restaurants in Chile, particularly those in tourist areas, serve the corvina fish but call it Chilean sea bass.
Know that what they refer as Chilean sea bass is most often corvina, as Chilean sea bass is overfished.
Enjoy this prime table fish cooked in the typical and traditional Chilean style.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: For a sustainable recipe made with Chilean sea bass check our recipe Pan Seared Sea Bass With the Best Chilean Sauce
8. Caldillo de Congrio – Chilean Conger Eel Fish Soup
Considered a Chile national dish, or at least the most famous Chilean soup, caldillo de congrio is a delicious conger eel broth.
This is a simple fisherman stew with red conger eel being the main ingredient. Potatoes, onions, and seasonings are added and everything is boiled to a simmer to become a light broth.
A very popular soup in the winter cooler months, this dish is typically served in clay dishes to keep it warm longer.
This Chilean dish is popular among locals and has even been mentioned in Chile’s literature. Pablo Neruda, a Chilean Literature Nobel Laureate, once wrote an ode to the dish Caldillo de congrio.
This first extract from the Ode to Conger Chowder, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden, signals its cultural significance.
“In the storm-tossed Chilean sea lives the rosy conger, giant eel of snowy flesh.
And in Chilean stewpots, along the coast, was born the chowder thick, and succulent, a boon to man.
You bring the Conger, skinned, to the kitchen (its mottled skin slips off like a glove, leaving the grape of the sea exposed to the world), naked, the tender eel glistens, prepared to serve our appetites.”
This soup has a long history in Chile and remains a popular dish to this day. Be sure to seek it out at local restaurants along the coast.
9. Merluza – Hake Fish
Hake fish or Merluza is another one of Chile’s most popular fish. It’s a slender fish, silver in color and part of the cod family.
Part of what makes Chilean merluza so popular is the fact that it is one of the most inexpensive fish in the country.
It’s a mild-tasting, moist fish is cooked in a variety of ways. You’ll have it fried, baked or mixed in stews with a combination of vegetables.
Unfortunately, due to overfishing the Chilean hake fish population has decreased dramatically.
Today, it is important to make ensure you’re buying sustainable hake if you want to enjoy this dish while visiting Chile.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: The Casablanca Valley is a wine growing region in Chile known for exceptional white wines. If your travels take you to Chile, we recommend taking a wine tour from Santiago to 3 to 4 vineyards for wine tasting. You’ll savor a variety of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc varieties and find delicious wines to pair with your Chile seafood.
10. Paila Marina – Chilean Fish Soup
Paila Marina is a Chilean seafood soup, fish broth popular in Viña del Mar and Valparaiso. It is usually prepared for family gatherings and holidays.
It typically includes a variety of seafood, such as clams, giant barnacles, shrimp, and machas or Chilean clams as well as fish stock.
Chilean mussels are also often added, and some recipes also call for the addition of congrio or eel.
The broth is made from a fish stock and is then flavored with white wine and paprika. This makes for a rich and flavorsome soup that is perfect for a hearty meal.
Traditionally, this soup is served in a paila, which is an earthenware bowl which helps to keep it warm.
In Chilean culture and tradition, many believe that paila marina has healing properties, especially when it comes to recovering from a hangover.
That’s why it’s always served in any Chilean home during fiestas and celebrations. It’s a beautiful clear broth and one of the most delicious Chilean dishes to savor.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Make this delicious Chilean seafood stew with our simple Paila Marina Recipe: How To Make The Most Popular Chilean Fish Stew
11. Choritos – Chilean Mussels
Chilean mussels or choritos are a beloved Chilean seafood delicacy. The word “chorito” refers to mytilus chilensis, or a type of blue mussel native to the coast of Chile
These small and long mussels in a dark shell are extremely tasty and are cooked in a variety of ways.
Some recipes call for simply steaming the mussels in white wine to create a dish known as choritos al vapor.
Another popular way to prepare Chilean mussels is to bake them in their shells. This dish, known as choritos al horno, is made with a mixture of white wine, onions, and oregano.
The mussels are baked in their shells until they are cooked through, then served with the white wine sauce.
There is a wide variety of mussels in Chile and are affordably priced at fish markets. You cannot miss eating mussels as you’ll find them in several seafood dishes.
Generally, they have a high nutritional value and are raised in a sustainable manner
In Chile, you want to enjoy all the amazing food that have mussels as one of their main ingredients.
12. Empanadas de Mariscos – Chilean Seafood Empanadas
We love empanadas having discovered them in Argentina where we learned to make them.
In Chile, we were surprised and delighted to discover seafood empanadas known as empanadas de mariscos.
These Chilean seafood empanadas are little pockets of heaven. A crunchy dough based pocket is filled with mixture of seafood and traditionally fried to golden perfection.
The mixed seafood filling along with the crunchy pastry is incredibly delicious.
Shrimp, oysters, clams, scallops are some of the main ingredients, but recipes vary depending on the cook.
You can enjoy them on the go as quick snack or order a couple to make a more filling plate. Be sure to get them when they are fresh and watch that the hot oil does not drip on you.
As a popular snack food, these Chilean seafood empanadas should not be missed.
Chile is a seafood lover’s paradise and we were surprised by the diversity of fish and shellfish.
The Pacific ocean bordering the country is home to a rich and incredible variety of Chilean seafood.
Many were unknown to us prior to our visit and they are a rich part of the local culinary traditions.
Allow yourself to discover Chilean clams, eel, abalone, and much more.
Chileans have had access to fish and shellfish for centuries and they know how to cook it right!.
Do you love fish and seafood? Have you had any of these Chilean seafood dishes 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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