12 Traditional Chilean Foods to Write Home About
Chilean traditional foods are colorful, enticing, and unforgettable. If you want to find the best Chilean food out there, you should ask a Chilean who knows the best foods and places to enjoy their national food. I asked my Chilean professor, Liselott, to give me tips on Chilean street food and homemade recipes. Some of their foods are similar to ours here in Guatemala, such as arroz con leche. We also share a love for bread and BBQ.
Even though traditional Latin American foods may be similar, the nuanced flavors and different cooking methods make each dish a unique experience worth sharing. We’ll take a look at some of the best and most popular Chilean traditional foods to get your mouth watering before your next visit to this awesome country.
Some of Chile’s land is closest to the southern hemisphere, which means their seasons are much colder and warmer than Guatemala’s and other Latin American countries’. This is why Chilean food is seasonal! Chileans prefer some foods during the summertime, while they consider some others perfect for a cold winter dinner party. Chileans share seasonal food all year round, which means that foodies have good reason to visit Chile more than once!
1. Empanadas de pino
Let’s begin with one of Chile’s finest, las empanadas de pino. Empanadas are exquisite bread pouches with all sorts of delicious fillings. You can eat empanadas stuffed with a sweet cream filling, beef, chicken—you name it! Chileans prepare their special empanadas de pino with a special blend of beef and spices that will have you eating more than a couple at a time! Chile’s special recipe usually includes olives, hard-boiled eggs, and raisins.
2. Asados de carne
Los asados de carne are traditional in many Latin American countries, and Chile is no exception. If there’s a fútbol match, a family gathering, a birthday celebration, or any other special occasion, los asados de carne are a great way to share a good time with your family and friends. This scrumptious dish will not only fill your stomach but will also give you a happy heart.
To prepare it, you need to cook several kinds of meat—vacuno, chorizo, longaniza, salchichas, pollo, cerdo—over a charcoal grill. Los asados happen whenever Chileans find a good excuse to get together and have fun, but the tradition is to always eat asado on September 18th, which is the national holiday to commemorate Chile’s Independence.
A famous Chilean sauce, el Pebre is a must-try Chilean food, especially if you’re at an asado. It goes great with meat, tortillas, and bread. This is one of the recipes that exist in many different places around Latin America.
In Guatemala, we have a variation of pebre we call chirmol. However, if you ever hear a Guatemalan saying that their head is un chirmol, they are using the word as slang to mean “disorganized thoughts.” That’s because chirmol and pebre are a combination of many different chopped fruits, vegetables, and spices.
Choripán is a food as delicious as its name is witty. Choripán is a combination of the words chorizo—a sausage that is a traditional food in the Iberian Peninsula and many Latin American countries— and pan, which is simply bread. It’s the best kind of street meat you’ll get if you’re after the authentic Chilean food experience.
Just make sure to ask a local where the best places to eat street food are if you want to reduce the risk of this delicious meal disagreeing with your tummy.
5. Porotos granados
Beans are a staple of Latin American cuisine. Most if not all Latin Americans will tell you that their country has the best bean recipes in the world. Of course, they don’t know that Guatemala has the very best beans there are. All jokes aside, I can’t tell you in good faith which beans are the best since we all have different tastes and preferences.
What I can tell you is that traveling around the continent and trying all the bean recipes from different regions sounds like a great way to expand your knowledge and your palate. If you ever go to Chile, porotos granados are a must try! Cranberry beans, maize kernels, and squash make up for this delectable meal. Chileans usually eat it in the countryside in the central-south part of the country.
6. Mote con huesillos
Mote con huesillos sounds a bit strange when you translate it, since huesillos means little bones. Am I telling you this traditional Chilean drink has bones in it?! Don’t worry, huesillos is the name they use to call dried peaches. Chileans mix them with husked wheat to make this traditional summer-time sweet drink.
It sounds so peculiar and enticing—you might just want to make this recipe yourself to discover what it tastes like!
7. Cazuela de pollo o vacuno
La cazuela de pollo o vacuno is another recipe that Chile shares with my country of Guatemala!
The combination of chicken or beef with vegetables, rice, and broth—my mouth waters just by thinking about dipping a slice of bread or tortilla in this delicious Chilean food. This food is great for your health and your heart too. It’s even more pleasurable when served in a wooden or clay bowl.
There’s something about these materials that give la cazuela de pollo a different feel when you eat them.
Charquicán is mashed squash and potatoes with a slew of spices, which you can top with a fancy sunny side-up egg. People believe this dish is of Mapuche origin, meaning the native Chileans who settled in Chile before the Spanish colonization were already cooking a version of this succulent food in the old days.
9. Pan amasado
El pan amasado is in the hall of fame of traditional Chilean foods. The best way to eat this local bread recipe is right out of the oven—and you may want to add a dab of butter, or some pebre.
There is something magical about traditional and local bread recipes. The ingredients are always similar but for some reason the flavors are tremendously different depending on where you eat them. Among the ingredients to make this particular bread are sugar and salt, making it a perfect starch side dish to most Chilean foods.
10. Pastel de papas
Potatoes: you can mash them, boil them, put them in a stew, or bake them into a cake!
Pastel de papas is a savory cake you can make with potatoes, beef, and spices. You can also add a twist to the recipe by replacing the beef with mushrooms and lentils if you prefer vegetarian food! This is another of those meals that will keep you coming back for more.
I could eat potatoes three times a day and never get tired of them. Yum!
11. Arroz con leche
Arroz con leche is a famous Chilean dessert. This delicious treat is great to take with you on a hike, to the park, or to have at home. You can prepare it by mixing cooked white rice with cinnamon, milk, and sugar.
It’s so easy to prepare that even a total novice like myself can manage to make it taste delicious! This is a year-round dessert, but it’s the most enjoyable to eat arroz con leche during a cold winter night.
12. So Many Sandwiches
Sandwiches are probably my favorite kind of food ever. Many Chileans might agree with me, since eating sandwiches is part of Chilean culture. You already know about choripán, but there are many more Chilean sanguches that will delight your taste buds. Two distinct sandwiches are named barros-luco and barros-jarpa, named after former Chilean presidents.
Eat Your Heart Out—and Speak Spanish!
Latin American cuisine is unique, varied, and shared amongst all of us regardless of where we come from. Each country has its own variations and unique dishes, meaning that those who travel from one region to another (like my professor Liselott) can have a taste of home even when they are away from it.
However, nothing beats eating your favorite food in the company of your loved ones, and friends you shared your childhood with. So if you have any Chilean friends around, cooking some of these dishes will bring a smile to their faces and hopefully will transport them back to a cherished time.
If you’re planning a trip to Chile, do yourself a favor and sign up for a free Spanish class with one of our certified teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy to improve your comprehension skills! With over 10,000 weekly classes taught, our teachers are devoted to tailor the curriculum to fit your personal needs!
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