Whether you’re visiting Santiago or Valparaíso, getting a taste of Chile’s gastronomical delights is not an experience to be missed. With strong links to Spanish cuisine and other European gastronomy, Chilean fare is varied in flavour and known for its assortment of wholesome meat dishes and colourful vegetables which benefit from the country’s diverse land and climate.
To find out which Chilean dishes should be on your radar when visiting this vibrant country, we spoke to Chilean bloggers and visitors to find out their top picks when it comes to traditional Chilean fare.
Sopaipilla con pebre
If you’re going to be ordering any starters or aperitifs while out for dinner in Chile, make sure it’s a traditional sopapilla con pebre.
Travel blogger Nina at The Expater recently moved to Santiago and recommends this dish as it is perfect for sharing with friends when you’re out for dinner.
“My favourite traditional Chilean dish has to be sopaipilla con pebre. Sopaipilla are light, savoury, fluffy pancake-like pieces of bread containing pumpkin and pebre is a mildly spicy salsa. It’s often served as part of the aperitif and there are lots of variations on pebre (for example, some Chileans are adamant it should not contain tomatoes, others add in lots of spices).
“Sopaipilla con pebre is the best part of the meal in many ways. The food has been ordered and it’s time to sit back with a glass of Carménère or a Pisco sour cocktail, chat among friends and wait for the first course to arrive.”
While it is commonly served in fine dining restaurants, it is often eaten in more casual settings says Nina, making for a very versatile dish.
“It’s a wonderful, simple dish. Add a little avocado and you’ve got yourself a healthy light lunch. Sopaipilla can be bought on the street side or in elegant fine dining restaurants; they can be enjoyed on the go or even as a lazy lunch.”
Whether you’re looking for a quick bite to eat or a having a sit-down meal, you won’t want to leave Chile without having tried a traditional chacarero sandwich. Steak sandwiches are pretty common in western culture, but have you tried one with green beans in it?
Pilar is a Chilean blogger and author living in Texas, blogging about her favourite Chilean dishes and recipes over at Chilean Food and Garden. She told us why the chacarero has been a life-long favourite of hers.
“Sandwiches in Chile are a category by themselves. I loved the unexpected inclusion of green beans in a sandwich. It works great with the juicy tomato, thinly sliced beef, and a soft bun. “Chacarero” comes from “chacra” the name of the home garden in Chile, where veggies are grown. As a kid, and I remember being impressed with the size of the sandwich. During my college years, this was one of my favourite lunches.”
Pilar also has a recommendation of where to try one of these staple Chilean sandwiches.
“If you are ever in Santiago, go to Fuente Alemana for a traditional rendition. It goes great with a cold beer.”
Image credit: Authentic Food Quest
When it comes to Chilean street food, you can’t go wrong with ordering a completo hotdog. Recommended to us by foodie bloggers Rosemary and Claire from Authentic Food Quest, this ‘complete’ hotdog is loaded with sauerkraut, diced tomatoes, mashed avocado and a big helping of mayonnaise. Heaven.
“The completo, a very typical Chilean street food is one of our favourite traditional Chilean dishes,” Rosemary and Claire told us. “We love hotdogs, and this is Chile’s version. They are bigger than American ones and very tasty. But Chile’s version also has avocados which we just love. You simply can’t beat the combination of flavours.
“The first time we tried a completo hotdog was at a popular local market. It was Saturday, around lunchtime and we were intrigued by a never-ending line waiting to buy the hotdog from a local vendor. After waiting patiently, we finally had a chance to dig into this local speciality. Wow, we were in awe. The fresh flavours crushing gently under lightly toasted bread. The meaty dog, the avocado. Everything a hotdog should be. Each bite was a trip back to our childhoods. Fun and playfulness under brilliant blue skies.”
If you’re looking to try one of these sumptuous hotdogs when you’re in Chile, they aren’t hard to find, say Rosemary and Claire.
“You’ll find the completo all over Chile. It would be a mistake to visit the country and miss out on trying this traditional Chilean dish.”
If you have a sweet tooth, then you’re certainly not going to want to pass up the opportunity to try a slice of traditional mil hojas cake. Recommended by ex-Santiago resident Leah at Gringa Journeys, this dish is similar to mille-feuille cake but with a crunchy, Chilean twist.
“I'm a huge dessert lover, so of course, my favourite Chilean dish is something sweet! It's the famous mil hojas (“thousand sheets”) cake. This cake is made with a bunch of thin layers of cake with manjar or dulce de leche (caramel) between each layer.
“Interestingly, the cake layers aren't made out of what westerners normally think of when we imagine cake. Think less fluffy and more crunchy! So when you put your fork to the cake to take your first bite, the layers crumble really easily and mix with the manjar in every bite!”
Leah also told us why this particular dessert resonates with her.
“I tried it for the first time at a friend's birthday party. The layers of cake are so thin that it creates a delicious sensation when you take your first bite! I later became quite obsessed with finding this cake again and bought a slice from a bakery the next week. Mil hojas cake always makes me think of celebrations, because Chileans don't typically break out a cake this fancy unless it's for a special event.”
If you’re interested in sampling some Chilean cuisine for yourself, check out our last minute cruise deals to Chile and Santiago guided tours. Or, get in touch with our cruise experts today to find out more about our South American cruises.