Chilean cuisine, which is a unique fusion of Indian and Spanish traditions, is becoming more and more popular around the world every year. Thanks to its simplicity, fresh ingredients and a huge variety of dishes, from seafood to meat delicacies, it attracts the attention of gourmets.
A characteristic feature of Chilean cuisine is the use of a variety of local products. Seafood, fresh vegetables, meats, fruits and condiments are gathered from the vast expanse of Chile, which stretches from the Atacama Desert in the north to the Andes and Patagonian glaciers in the south.
One of the most famous dishes of Chile is the empanada, a patty with meat or cheese and various vegetables or seafood. Like many other Chilean dishes, empanadas can easily be customized to your liking by adding your favorite ingredients.
Also worth noting is Pebre, a green sauce that is an important component of many dishes and is served with just about everything from steaks to bread.
But Chilean cuisine isn’t just about food; it’s also about drinks. From wine grown in the world’s Chilean wineries to pisco, a traditional grape brandy, these drinks make a Chilean dinner truly complete and unforgettable.
Here it is, Chilean cuisine – earthy, authentic and full of flavors waiting to be discovered.
Main Chilean Cuisine Ingredients
Merken is a traditional Mapuche spice blend made from dried and smoked red chillies (cacho de cabra), toasted coriander seeds, salt, and sometimes other ingredients. It gives dishes a spicy, smoky flavor and is often used in meat marinades or to season sopaipillas, a popular fried pastry in Chile.
Cilantro, also known as coriander, is a herb that is used extensively in Chilean cuisine. It has a fresh, slightly citrusy flavor and is used to season a wide variety of dishes, including pebre (a traditional Chilean salsa) and many soups.
Pebre is a Chilean condiment made of cilantro, chopped onion, olive oil, garlic and ground or pureed spicy aji peppers. It is typically used to accompany bread, meats, and empanadas, offering a fresh and spicy flavor.
Sea Bass is a popular fish in Chile, thanks to its long coastline. It’s often grilled or baked and served with a variety of sauces, or it can be used in traditional dishes like caldillo de congrio, a hearty fish soup.
Corn, or choclo as it’s called in Chile, is a staple ingredient used in a variety of dishes. One of the most famous is pastel de choclo, a sort of corn casserole with a meat filling.
Chilean cuisine uses a lot of beef in its dishes. One popular dish is the classic asado, or barbecue, where large cuts of beef are grilled to perfection. Another is charquican, a stew made with dried beef or horse meat and vegetables.
Given the diverse climates across Chile, potatoes grow very well in this country and are a major part of the cuisine. They’re used in stews, salads, and main dishes like cazuela, a traditional Chilean soup made with beef, chicken, or turkey along with potatoes and other vegetables.
Quinoa, although more associated with Peruvian and Bolivian cuisine, is also a staple in certain parts of Chile. It is often used as a base for salads or served alongside stews.
Pumpkin, or zapallo, is commonly used in traditional Chilean dishes, including soups, stews, and casseroles. A popular dish is sopa de zapallo, a creamy pumpkin soup.
Chilean wine, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, and Sauvignon Blanc, are key in both drinking and cooking. Wine might be used in preparing dishes like estofado, a wine-braised beef stew.
Aji Verde (Green Chili)
Aji Verde is a type of green chili commonly used in Chilean cuisine for its bright, somewhat spicy flavor. It’s often used in stews, sauces, or as a garnish in dishes like empanadas or ensalada chilena, a simple salad made from tomatoes, onions, and coriander.
Traditional Chilean Food
Empanadas de Pino
Empanadas de Pino are a traditional Chilean dish that are particularly popular during the country’s national holidays. They are pastries filled with a mixture of diced beef, onions, olives, raisins, and hard-boiled eggs. While empanadas are found throughout Latin America, the “Pino” variant is distinct to Chile and the recipe has been passed down through generations since the colonial period.
Pastel de Choclo
Pastel de Choclo is a corn and meat pie, considered a classic dish in Chile. The base layer is typically filled with ground beef, chicken, olives, and boiled eggs, then topped with a sweet corn mixture and baked in a clay oven. This dish is an example of the fusion between indigenous and Spanish ingredients that occurred during the colonial period.
Cazuela is a slow-cooked, comforting stew made with meat (usually beef or chicken), potatoes, corn, pumpkin, and rice. Its origins date back to the colonial times and it reflects the amalgamation of the diverse products available in the country.
Asado refers to a range of barbecue techniques and the social event of having or attending a barbecue. Chileans often cook beef ribs, sausages, and other types of meats. It’s a cultural tradition often enjoyed during holidays and family gatherings, with roots in the country’s strong cattle-raising traditions.
Curanto is a traditional food from the Chiloé Archipelago in southern Chile, although it’s now enjoyed all over the country. The dish is a mixture of seafood, meat, potatoes, and bread all cooked in a pit, lined with heated stones. The origins of Curanto are believed to go back about 6,000 years, making it one of the oldest continually prepared foods in the world.
Congrio Frito is a simple, classic dish of deep-fried Conger, a type of eel widely available in the abundant coastal waters of Chile. The dish pays homage to Chile’s long coastline and the importance of seafood in the Chilean diet.
Charquican is a hearty Chilean stew made with beef and various vegetables. Its name comes from the Mapudungun language and means “to dry out” since the dish originally was made with charqui, a form of dried meat.
Porotos Granados is a traditional summer dish, made with fresh cranberry beans, corn, and pumpkin. The dish has indigenous origins, and its recipe has been passed down for centuries.
Sopaipillas are a type of fried pastry made from zapallo (a type of squash) and flour. They can be served sweet—with powdered sugar or chancaca, a molasses-like syrup—or savory, with pebre or mustard. Sopaipillas are often eaten when it rains and the tradition dates back to colonial times.
Mote con Huesillo
Mote con Huesillo is a traditional Chilean summer-time non-alcoholic drink. It’s made with rehydrated dried peaches (huesillo) and cooked husked wheat (mote). The drink dates back to the colonial era and is often sold in street stands or vendor carts during summer.
11 Chilean Recipes
1. Salmon Сeviche
I am fascinated by ceviche in all its varieties and by far my favorite is this salmon ceviche. The key to making it really delicious is, as with all ceviche, preparing it with very fresh fish.
2. Air Fryer Sea Bass Recipe
Get your air fryer ready because this sea bass recipe is not only a big deal to Chileans, but it takes half the time to get dinner on the table!
3. Chilean pebre
Chilean pebre is the most popular sauce in the country, in all typical Chilean food restaurant they serve a pebre dish and in each place the recipe has different touches, so here I leave what I consider to be the base recipe.
4. Conger broth
Caldillo de congrio or conger broth is, in my opinion, one of the tastiest dishes in Chilean cuisine.
5. Chilean vaina
The vaina is a Chilean cocktail so traditional that it is almost consumed more than the pisco sour (or when I was a waitress in a bar it was)
It is made from some old sweet wine, cognac, white or malt vermouth, egg white (to make the foam) and sprinkled with cinnamon powder.
This cocktail is very different from the typical cocktails that are acidic and light, the vaina is sweet and dense (almost as much as the cola de mono, a chilean eggnog) and is usually consumed as an aperitif before meals, especially on weekends.
6. Pisco sour recipe
The pisco sour is a typical cocktail from Chile and Peru. Its name is a fusion of the word pisco, which is an alcoholic beverage similar to agua ardiente, from grapes, and the concept of “sour”, which are drinks made with lemon. Sugar or syrup is added to this mixture to add sweetness. The pisco sour is one of the most drinked cocktails with the vaina in Chile.
7. Chilean Air Fryer Sea Bass
This Chilean Sea Bass recipe is so quick and easy to make! Comes ready to eat in just about 15 minutes!
8. Quick shrimp ceviche with avocado
This shrimp ceviche with avocado is fresh, light and delicious, perfect as an main dish or appetizer on summer days.
9. Tigres Rabiosos Recipe
Tigres Rabiosos are a Chilean seafood dish consisting of mussels in a spiced tomato and wine sauce. Serve as either an appetizer or as a main course.
10. Pastel de Choclo
It’s a Corn Pie stuffed with a meaty filling you would never imagine. They call this stuffing “pino” and it varies greatly from family to family. The most common pino is ground beef with some spices and onion. Atop the pino is layered a variety of ingredients, then everything is topped with a thick layer of creamed corn seasoned with a hint of basil.
11. Grilled Flank Steak With Pebre
Grilled Flank Steak with Pebre combines ease of preparation with exquisite flavor. The flank steak, which is usually grilled to the desired degree of doneness, pairs perfectly with Pebre, a traditional Chilean sauce made with fresh ingredients.