If planning a visit to Chile, don’t worry about going hungry: this country has a wide selection of traditional dishes to give you a flavor of a nation that likes nothing more than to eat and drink well. Although some of the dishes mentioned here are more traditionally associated with certain regions of the country, when in Santiago, you can expect to encounter a wide selection of Chile food from all across the nation.
Sopaipilla – deep-fried flat ‘breads’ made from a combination of pumpkin and flour and eaten with a spoonful of pebre. You can normally find sopapillas being sold by street vendors throughout the day.
Pebre – a traditional sauce or seasoning made from chopped tomatoes, chili, onion and coriander. It is available as an accompaniment to most dishes.
Completo – a favorite Chilean snack or meal, the completo is an American style hot dog in a bread roll with trimmings, such as mashed avocado, mayonnaise, onions and tomatoes.
Empanadas – available throughout most South American countries, the empanada takes a slightly different form in Chile. The traditional Chilean type is the empanada de pino, which is a pastry casing filled with minced meat, chopped onions, raisins, an olive and a hard-boiled egg. It is normally oven baked, although it’s not usual to see empanadas fritas (fried empanadas), which can contain fillings ranging from cheese to seafood.
Both types of Chilean empanada are sold in restaurants and at street food stalls across the country and are one of the dishes of choice during the Chilean Independence Day celebrations held annually on September 18.
Humitas – another type of Chile food that is available in other parts of South America, humitas are mashed corn with onion, garlic and seasoning (including the favored Chilean spice, merkén). They are wrapped in corn husks and boiled in water. Humitas are normally served as a snack or eaten with other small dishes for a main meal.
Traditional Chile food and main courses
Pastel de Choclo – typically cooked during the summer months and originally hailing from the central regions of Chile, pastel de choclo contains minced meat with chopped onions, sliced chicken breast, olives and hard-boiled eggs. The pie is topped with a puréed corn crust and baked in the oven.
Porotos granados – another summertime meal also originally from the central regions of the country, porotos granados is a stew comprising white beans, corn, onion, garlic and pumpkin, the latter of which is often mashed to thicken the dish.
Caldillo de congrio – originally hailing from the northern coastal region of Chile, caldillo de congrio is a soup containing conger eel and vegetables and sometimes other seafood such as mussels and clams. It is such a traditional dish that Pablo Neruda, Chile’s most famous poet, once wrote an ode to it!
Pastel de jaiba – another dish fulling exploiting Chile’s access to fresh fish and seafood, pastel de jaiba is a pie containing the white meat from crabs, bread soaked in milk, as well as a few spoons of cheese and cream to give it a mouthwateringly rich sauce.
Curanto – cooked mainly in Chiloé, the archipelago just south of Puerto Montt in the Los Lagos Region, curanto is a seafood stew containing shellfish, meat, chapaleles (potato dumplings) and vegetables. The ingredients are lowered into a hole in the ground which has already been lined with hot stones and is then covered with nalca leaves (Chilean rhubarb) and left to cook for an hour.