The gastronomy of a country is a good opportunity to understand and learn about the local culture. In Argentina, the local cuisine has been influenced, among other things, by the various migrations of Spaniards and Italians who emigrated to Argentina in several waves of immigration.
Argentine cuisine is not just made up of THE Argentine dish par excellence, even if the Argentine steak is famous outside the country’s borders. In fact, there is a great variety of Argentine dishes that enrich the local gastronomy.
The “Milanesa” is the “Schnitzel” of Argentina. The filet of meat is dipped in beaten egg and then coated in breadcrumbs. It is usually served with fried potatoes (papas). Although this dish is said to have originated in Italy, the “Milanesa Napolitana” version – which consists of a Milanesa with tomatoes, cheese, and ham – is very Argentinian in origin, having been invented in Buenos Aires in the 1940s. According to the story, the chef in the kitchen of a restaurant called Napoli on Avenida Corrientes created the dish accidentally, trying to save a burnt Milanesa dish by adding cheese, ham, and tomatoes to it. The guest was so pleased that the restaurant adopted the newborn “Milanesa Napolitana” as a house specialty.
Empanadas are pieces of dough in the shape of triangles or crescents, served hot as a snack with various savory fillings. The name comes from the verb “empanar”, which means “to wrap with bread or dough”. Traditional empanadas are filled with spiced minced meat. Other variations are made with ham and cheese, vegetables, chicken, and other fillings such as garlic, onions, peppers, olives, and tomatoes. Empanadas can be found in many other South American countries, although each country prepares its specific empanadas differently.
The origin of the empanada is unclear, but it is believed that Spanish immigrants brought the recipe to Argentina in the 16th century.
The famous asado is probably the dish that is the most famous Argentinean dish in the world. The asado includes various meats, such as chorizos, morcillas, chinchulines, beef or pork matambre, ribs, etc., which are slow-cooked on a grill. Usually the “asado” is prepared for a social gathering of friends and family.
The asado is a national tradition that originated with the gauchos in the Pampas. Over time, the tradition of the asado has developed its own rules: when guests arrive, they must first greet the asador, the grill master, and when the last piece of meat has been served, they must toast and applaud the asador to let him know that the meal has been a success.
Attention is paid to every detail in the preparation, from the choice of meat to the preparation, cooking and serving.
Arroz con leche
As the dish” Arroz con Leche” is also eaten in many South American countries, it naturally also has its important place in Argentina.
To prepare it, the rice is slowly cooked in milk, cinnamon, and vanilla to a creamy, slightly sweet consistency and can be eaten warm or cold. The dish originated in Asia and was introduced in the 16th century, with European trade and waves of emigration from Europe to the Americas.
Dulce de leche
Like many other dishes, the dessert “dulce de leche” can also be found in many other regions of South America. It is a type of sweet, brown jam made from sugar and milk, and eaten plain or spread on pancakes.
The dispute over who invented dulce de leche has several contenders in Latin America, and there are many stories and anecdotes in the countries and regions about the origin of this dish. In Argentina and several other countries, for example, the dish is called dulce de leche, but in other South American countries the dessert is called arequipe, and in other parts of South America it is known as manjar or manjar blanco.
The alfajor is a type of biscuit consisting of several layers of sponge cake and dulce de leche, with an outer layer of chocolate or icing. Alfajores can consist of 2 or 3 biscuit layers and are considered a regional delicacy. In some regions, they are made according to a slightly different recipe, for example with fruit jam or quince jelly as a filling, or with puff pastry and dulce de leche.
The largest alfajor ever made comes from the Argentine city of Santiago del Estero and was made in July 2022 by several master confectioners in the city who worked for about ten days to make it with 50 bags of flour and 900 kilos of dulce de leche. In total, this alfajor weighed about 1,300 kilos.
Another very popular traditional dish in Argentina is the choripán. This is a fried chorizo sausage with lots of spices, which is placed halved in a baguette. It is usually accompanied by chimichurri. It is a typical “fast food” eaten on the road and sold at street stands.
The Pancho is a classic hot dog with an Argentinian twist. Like many other dishes, the hot dog originated in Europe, and was first brought to the USA by German immigrants, then later the dish came to Argentina, where it was given more ingredients and flavours.
In Argentina, the Pancho is eaten with mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup and “salsa golf”.
In many restaurants, other ingredients and dressings are also added, such as Roquefort salsa, olives, provenzal, corn, hard-boiled egg and many others.
Locro is another national dish par excellence. The substantial soup of corn, beans, potatoes, pumpkin and meat is served seasoned with cumin, bay leaf, garlic, parsley and other herbs.
Locro is of pre-Columbian origin and comes from the cuisine of the Quechua people in northern Argentina. The dish is also present in other regions of the Andes. Nowadays, locro is eaten every year on 25 May to commemorate the revolution of 1810.
The recipe for preparing locro soup can change depending on the Argentine province, but one thing remains the same in all of them: a vegetable base and cooking over a low flame for several hours.
The choice of Argentinian specialities is definitely huge, and local recipe adaptations mean there are always culinary surprises! One thing is certain, however: you will find the right speciality for every palate, and eating in Argentina is never boring!