Tasty Chilean cuisine proves just as diverse and vibrant as its nation of origin. Although known equally for succulent seafood and fine wine, there’s far more to traditional Chilean food dishes than shellfish and grapes alone. From sopaipillas with pebre to quinoa salads, cazuela to alfajor, there’s a wealth of variety for your taste buds to explore. And even the pickiest eaters will find something that satisfies.
Don’t miss out on these ten savory treats and delightful sweets while visiting Chile.
1. Sopaipillas with Pebre
Sopaipillas are small, round, fried pastries formed with pumpkin and flour dough. Crisp and flaky, they make a fantastic snack whether you’re out sightseeing by day or stargazing at night in the Atacama. Sopaipillas are served with pebre, a spicy sauce made from ahi peppers. But little ones will still love munching on them even without the added spiciness of pebre.
Located in Northern Chile, San Pedro de Atacama is known for its aridity. Yet, the region still yields an abundance of fresh produce and has inspired a unique cuisine with shared influences from Peru and Bolivia. One dish found in all three nations (with local variations) is patasca, a savory stew made with white corn, onions, potatoes, beef, and pork. Simmered for hours, the white corn kernels “pop,” creating the distinctive look of this hearty dish.
As for popular food in Chile, quinoa ranks near the top. It’s been cultivated in the Andes for 5,000 years and began as a staple crop of the Incas. Today, you’ll find it in a variety of food preparations from soups and stews to salads and risottos. Chileans eat puffed quinoa for breakfast, and quinoa flour is used in certain pastries. Because of its increased popularity in the US in recent years, your kids may already be quite familiar with this versatile ingredient.
Nothing says “comfort food” quite like Chilean cazuela. Made with pumpkin, beef brisket, and corn on the cob, this satisfying stew contains plenty of veggies in a yummy combination kids will love. And for adults? It’s a fantastic way to savor the flavors of Chile when accompanied by a full-bodied red wine. Here’s a recipe inspired by Chilean cazuela to provide you with a sneak peek of this local staple.
Imagine a bed of French fries topped with fried onions, meat, sausages, and fried or scrambled eggs. Voilà! You’ve got chorrillana. Some versions also include tomatoes, chorizo, garlic, oregano, or chopped frankfurter sausages. Similar to Canadian poutine, chorrillana comes in massive portions the whole family can share. A staple of Valparaíso, one of Chile’s gastronomic gems, you’ll find variations of the dish in restaurants throughout the city. It’s a great way to taste local flavors while providing your kids with some hearty fare made from ingredients they’ll recognize.
Similar to Bolivian pique a lo macho, pichanga is a mouthwatering mishmash of ingredients including cubes of beef, chorizo, chicken, or ham cooked with any variation of cheese, olives, avocados, onions, cucumber, and salami. Pichanga’s the kind of recipe you’ll want to learn and keep in your back pocket once you get home, too. It’s an excellent way to finish up “leftovers” while crafting a tasty meal. A staple of Patagonia, it marks the perfect punctuation to a day of outdoor adventuring.
7. Cordero Al Palo
Cordero al palo (spit-roasted Patagonian lamb) is as iconic to the region as the name suggests. Also known as asado al palo, it’s a must-try dish. Even if you’re not much of a fan of lamb back home. The Patagonian method of spit-roasting on an iron cross means the meat roasts vertically over a wood fire, continually basted in its juices. The result? Lamb so tender and tasty you’ll be dreaming about it long after your family vacation scrapbook is complete.
8. Brazo de Reina
The Chilean cousin of the Swiss roll, brazo de reina, is the equivalent of a sheet cake spread with manjar (caramelized condensed milk) and then rolled into a log of ooey-gooey deliciousness. Variations include rolls filled with fruit jam, chocolate cream, and crème pâtissière. Good luck choosing a favorite!
9. Mote con Huesillo
While strolling around Santiago, you’ll come across people eating from beverage glasses with spoons. Inside the glasses, you’ll see what looks like a mixture of iced tea, peaches, and oatmeal. What is this strange concoction? Mote con huesillo, and it’s a dessert rather than a beverage. This Chilean institution is made from stewed dried peaches (huesillo) and wheat (mote) suspended in a sugary syrup base. You’ll find specialized carts selling the treat on nearly every street corner.
A traditional dessert found throughout South America, the Mediterranean, and the Philippines, alfajor’s origins date back to 8th-century Arabic governed Al-Andalus (parts of modern-day Spain, Southern France, and Portugal). Quite possibly the best cookie sandwich you and your kids will ever try, a layer of manjar sits wedged between two shortbread cookies iced with chocolate or dusted with sugar.
The Wide World of Chilean Cuisine
When it comes to Chilean cuisine, these ten dishes are just the beginning. From the nation’s unique take on baked-not-fried empanadas to ceviche, a visit to the “country of poets” comes with countless palate-pleasing possibilities. These include los pasteles de choclo (a corn casserole with meat and potatoes) and completos (the Chilean version of a loaded hot dog). And as for native delicacies? From cochayuyo (seaweed) to machas (pink razor clams), adventurous eaters will find plenty to try.
Want to know more about visiting Chile with kids? Check out our Atacama Family Adventure, an immersive exploration of Chilean culture, including a cooking class in Santiago, a graffiti workshop in Valparaíso, and a visit to Atacama’s breathtaking salt flats, active geysers, and star-studded night skies. Or, read more about our Patagonia Family Adventure that covers everything from winemaking in Valparaíso to exploring the rugged wilderness of Patagonia.
At Our Whole Village, we craft transformational trips for curious families who want to create lasting memories while making a difference. We’re here to help you and your family experience the world, its people, and its cultures. Contact us to learn more about the unforgettable journeys that we curate for adventure-seeking families just like yours.