10 meals you should try in Chile

Nothing defines a country better than food: when we remember a place, we can’t help thinking about the different tastes and aromas we experienced during the trip. So if you come to Chile and don’t know where to go to try new tastes, here is a list of curious preparations you should look for.

1. Completo


Completo (Photo by domino.cl)

Yes, you can say that it’s just bread with many things inside, but for us Chileans the completo is more than that, it’s a perfect blend of flavors. The original recipe of a completo is: hot dog (sausage), chopped tomato, americana sauce, sauerkraut and mayonnaise. However, the most popular variation is the “Italian completo”, which besides the hot dog, tomato and mayonnaise, has avocado in it (thus the name, because of the green, white and red colors of the Italian flag). Chilean people love this preparation so much, that there’s even a yearly “Día del completo”: May 25th.

Where to try it?
Almost everywhere in Chile, even on the street. You can find them with infinite ingredients, prices and shapes, but the legend says that the first Chilean completo (adapted from the American hot dog), was born in 1920, in Portal Fernández Concha, a establishment you can find near Plaza de Armas in Santiago. They are not the fanciest, but they are still delicious and cheap.

2. Chorrillana


Chorrillana (Photo by viax.cl)

This kind of “bar snack” is basically a big plate of fries with lots of things over them: fried onions, chopped sausages, beef and, as if it wasn’t enough fried food… a couple of fried eggs on top. It’s simple preparation that contains all the calories of the world and usually goes perfectly with beer. Please don’t order eat by yourself, it’s very big and the idea is to share it.

Where to try it?
It’s said that the chorrillana was born in Valparaíso, so the recommendation is to have it in some “picada porteña”, like El Pimentón or J Cruz restaurants.

3. Milcao


Milcao (Photo by emiliodeik.cl)

Milcao is a typically cooked in Chiloé, in the south of Chile. It’s made with potatoes (a mix of mashed boiled potatoes and grated raw potatoes), lard, salt and chopped pork skin. Then all this is mixed in the shape of a bread and then baked or fried. Milcao is considered southern Chile’s bread, so you can have it plain or with something else on the plate.

Where to try it?
Mainly in Chiloé, preferably not in restaurants. It’s better to buy it in markets or fairs, from the ladies who make them at home. A good place is the Castro Market, where you can also find other typical dishes from Chiloé.


4. Curanto en hoyo


Curanto (Photo by Nambei)

Let’s stay in Chiloé. Curanto is a preparation of the original Mapuche people, that to face the bad weather of the sector, he thought about making a furnace underground. The traditional way of preparing it is by digging a hole, in which stones and embers are introduced, to generate a bonfire, until the stones are red hot, which is when the fire ceases and the ingredients are introduced. Below are the seafood, then the meat, then the vegetables, milcaos and chapaleles, all finally covered with nalca leaves. This complex preparation requires a lot of patience and experience from those who cook it.

Where to try it?
If you aren’t lucky enough to have a chilote family inviting you over you to witness the ritual of cooking a “buried” curanto, you can order it in some traditional Ancud cocinería, since it’s in this part of the island where it’s said to be the most typical, best made and cheapest.


5. Porotos con riendas

Porotos con Riendas

Porotos con Riendas (Photo by elpalaciodelporotoconriendas.cl)

This dish is a tradition of the Chilean countryside. It has beans, spaghetti, sausage and squash. Before it was adapted for a more city-like taste, strips of pig skin were used instead of spaghetti, hence the “reins” in the name. This dish was created in times of scarcity, when pork was used entirely and the dishes had to provide as many calories as possible. This “beans with reins” are something that can be found in almost every Chilean home, mainly in Winter.

Where to try it?
Near Santiago city center, in Estación Central district, there’s El Palacio del Poroto con Riendas (The Palace of Beans with Reins), a Chilean picada good that offers this dish throughout the year.


6. Machas a la parmesana

Machas a la Parmesana

Machas a la Parmesana (Photo by Ocean Pacific’s)

It might seem weird to mix seafood with cheese, but seriously, it’s delicious. There’s not much to say about how it’s made, as it’s very simple: several hard clams (the long ones) are opened, parmesan cheese and a dash of white wine are added on top, and then they go into the oven. The important thing is that all the products should be fresh and high quality.

Where to try it?
In Ricardo Cumming Street 221, in Santiago, you will find a restaurant called Ocean Pacific’s, which offers big and satisfying parmesan clams. It’s also an impressive space, where the decor takes you offshore or inside a submarine. And, in case you didn’t know, the owner is one of our keepairs. So whenever you leave your suitcase with them to walk through Santiago without worrying, you can take the chance of ordering this dish and a few more.


7. Mote con Huesillo

Mote con Huesillo

Mote con Huesillo (Photo by talesfronthelens.com)

Not even us Chileans know for sure if it’s a dessert or a beverage, but we do know that it’s delicious and the most refreshing thing you can find on a hot day. The mote con huesillos is based on dehydrated peaches (huesillos) boiled with sugar, cinnamon and spices. Then the mote (a kind of wheat) is cooked in that same water (or sweet juice). Should be served very cold and eaten with a spoon.

Where to try it?
It’s sold at specialized carts in the street. It’s most common to find it in Santiago, but during the Summer it’s also easy to find at the beach. But if you want excellence, El Rey del Mote Con Huesillo (The King of Mote con Huesillo), on General Rondizzoni 2420 – Santiago, deserves its name. Big portions and cheap.


8. Chumbeque


Chumbeque (Photo by saboresdechile.cl)

The chumbeque is a very sweet three-layer biscuit, filled with lemon or mango honey, typically from Iquique, in the North Chile. It was adapted from an old family recipe of Cantonese nougat (brought to Chile by the Koo family during the times of the nitrate boom), combining it with fruits found in the Tarapacá region.

Where to try it?
Chumbeque can only be bought in the north of Chile and is a trademark registered by “M. Koo Co.”. Throughout Iquique (and the rest of Chile) you can find imitations, but I recommend to eat the original, sold in the store located on Eleuterio Ramírez 949, Iquique.


9. Sopaipillas


Sopaipillas (Photo by talesfromthelens.com)

Sopaipillas are a snack that’s easily found anywhere in Chile. Simply put, they are fried dough in the form of bread, made with wheat flour, lard and boiled squash. Its most curious variation are the traditional “sopaipillas pasadas“, in which after being fried, the sopaipillas are dipped in a mixture of chancaca (unprocessed sugar cane), orange, cinnamon and cloves, ideal for cold and rainy Winter days.

Where to try it?
It’s very common to see carts selling them on the street, but those rarely have squash, an important ingredient in order to achieve the original taste (they are still yummy). If you want to try authentic sopaipillas, it’s best to ask a Chilean friend to make them at home. In Santiago there are also many new places that have added “sopaipillas pasadas” as to their dessert menu. Two examples are Cafe de la Candelaria, located on Av. Italia or Rescoldo restaurant, on Lastarria street. The key when you buy them is to ask if they were made with squash.


10. Pastel de choclo

Pastel de Choclo

Pastel de Choclo (Photo by enmicocinahoy.com)

The Pastel de Choclo (corn cake) is a savory dish that is prepared with tender corn ground into a puree, seasoned with herbs and spices, such as basil, cumin and sweet paprika. This puree is added on top of a pino, a mix of chopped beef, onion and garlic, as well as olives, boiled eggs and chicken. Then it’s taken to the oven until the upper part of the cake is golden brown. All this mixture is like an explosion of flavors.

Where to try it?
This preparation is traditionally served in individual bowls made of clay, which are typical handcrafts of the small town of Pomaire, located in the Melipilla district (50 kilometers west from Santiago). In this town, people have become experts in making this corn cake. All the versions you can find in the many restaurants of the town are delicious, but it’s said that the best are the ones from El Cototudo or Los Secretos de Anita.

Now the only thing that’s missing is you going out and trying these delicious mixtures of flavors. It’s true, almost everything is made out of fried dough, but in Chile there are many hills and beaches to visit after eating. Enjoy your trip.

Leave a Reply