While cuisine from Chile might not have the same international reputation as that of neighboring Peru, this country has a surprisingly rich and diverse range of dishes that any visitor must sample at least once. What’s more, Santiago has one of the most vibrant culinary scenes in the country, making it the ideal spot to try out these five types of Chile traditional food.
Chile traditional food: snacks
Nothing says “South American comfort food” better than the humble empanada, a savory, oven baked pastry filled with anything from beef soaked in a rich onion gravy or even deep fried and filled with oozing cheese mixed with crab meat.
Add a spoonful of pebre, the ubiquitous Chilean salsa of diced onions, chili peppers, garlic, cilantro and tomatoes to each mouthful and you’ll be transformed into a true Chilean.
Where to try empanadas in Santiago: Zunino Emporium, a short distance from the Plaza de Armas and the Central Market, is purportedly the oldest empanaderia in the country making it the ideal stop for a freshly-cooked pastry.
Another traditional Chilean classic, the completo is the nation’s take on a hot dog, just with plenty of extra trimmings. The word “completo” means “complete” or “total”, which is an excellent description of what is basically a hot dog sausage in a bread roll and weighed down with as many different toppings as possible.
The locals’ favorites include the traditional completo (chopped tomatoes, lashings of homemade mayonnaise and sauerkraut), as well as the completo italiano (tomatoes, mayonnaise and mashed avocado), the latter of which is named this way after its similarity in coloring to the Italian flag.
Where to try completos in Santiago: Dominó, a fast food joint with various locations around the center, has long been the go-to destination for Chilean completos.
Another deep-fried Chilean favorite, the sopapilla is a pastry made using pumpkin in the dough and is served up with large spoonfuls of pebre or even manjar (a sauce made from heated sweetened milk) to make them a dessert.
When rain or cold weather hits the capital, this is the traditional Chilean food you’ll most likely spy the Santiaguiños eating.
Where to try sopapillas in Santiago: As a popular street food, sopapillas are best eaten directly from a cart on the pavement, standing shoulder to shoulder with other locals devouring this tasty snack!
Chile traditional food: dishes
Ah, the asado or Chilean bbq! While there’s plenty of rivalry between Chile and their neighbors, Argentina, about who does it best, what they can agree on is how the asado is both a delicious meal and an important social occasion that is held throughout the year, regardless of the weather.
Expect the first part of this meat feast to be a choripan (a chorizo sausage served in traditional marraqueta bread and laden with pebre and plenty of mayonnaise) before the main event, cuts of meat ranging from entrañas (skirt steak) to entrecote (rib-eye steak), are served up and accompanied with rice, salads and a few bottles of local Chilean red wine.
Where to eat a traditional Chilean asado in Santiago: Although a family asado is certainly a different experience, there is a range of restaurants that can introduce you to the Chilean love of a bbq. Happening cooks up delicious cuts of meat from the parrilla (grill) for a true asado experience.
More evidence that Chileans are obsessed with meat comes in the form of the churrasco, a steak sandwich that, like the completo is spiced up with extra toppings.
Again, you can order a churrasco italiano or a churrasco con queso (churrasco with cheese), but the sky’s the limit when it comes to toppings and you’ll find the menu for these types of traditional Chilean sandwiches brimming with numerous different combinations.
Where to eat a churrasco in Santiago: The Fuente Alemana on Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins is perhaps the most famous of all the restaurants serving up this classic Chile traditional food. They also have their trademark lomito, a similar style of sandwich that is filled with pork rather than beef.