Chile is a fascinating and enchanting country, famous for being the longest country in the world. It spans over half of South America’s western coastline and is home to the driest desert in the world, a huge portion of the Andean mountains, and the magical southern ice lands of Patagonia.
Chilean cuisine draws from its vast and varied geography and its rich and proud culture, offering a wonderful selection of stews, seafood, snacks, desserts, and comfort food.
While we often associate Latin cultures with spicy foods, Chilean food is mild yet flavorful.
While Chilean gastronomy may be overshadowed by its uncanny geographical characteristics, it’s certainly a worthy cultural avenue to explore. Read on to discover the most popular Chilean food.
A popular national holiday dish in Chile, Empanadas are a staple hand-held across Latin America and Spain. They are either baked or fried stuffed pastries using thick wheat or corn flour dough.
In Chile, empanadas are baked and fried using wheat flour and savory stuffing. You’ll find small, snack-sized empanadas in bakeries and coffee shops. However, the most beloved form of Chilean Empanada is a large entrée known as Empanada de Pino.
In my opinion, the combination of olive and raisin is the perfect balance of sweet and salty to infuse a savory ground beef and onion mixture.
In Spanish, Cazuela is the term for a deep cooking pot. In South American cuisine cazuelas encompass a wide variety of hearty stews cooked in said pots. Chilean cazuelas vary from region to region but are all some form of meat and vegetable stew.
While you might associate stews with one-pot meals, Chilean cazuelas are different. Every ingredient stews separately, and the stock from the vegetable and starch pots combine with the beef broth for an unparalleled flavor profile. I’d cook this stew if someone else did the dishes!
Choclo means corn in South America, which was news to me as I’d always heard the Mexican and Spanish word “maiz” or “elote.” Pastel de Choclo means, “corn cake,” and is the Chilean version of corn pudding.
It’s unlike any corn pudding I’ve ever had! Pastel de choclo is more like a corn pie, with layers of mashed sweet corn paste forming a pie shell around a savory meat filling. The filling is the same as the Empanada de Pino, containing: Hardboiled eggs, Ground beef or chicken, Onions, Raisins, olives.
Pastel de Choclo is then baked to golden perfection. It kind of reminds me of shepherd’s pie with corn instead of mashed potatoes.
If you’ve ever eaten at a Mexican restaurant in New Mexico, you’re likely familiar with sopaipillas. Chilean sopaipillas are essentially a cross between beignets and frybread. However, the main difference is that Chilean sopaipillas use a starchy pumpkin-like squash called zapallo to add heft and density to the dough.
A popular mid-afternoon snack to pair with a hot cup of tea or coffee, Sopaipillas are decadent, subtly sweet, and utterly comforting. They consist of: Flour, Zapallo puree, Butter, Salt, Baking powder, Vegetable oil for frying.
As zapallo is not readily available in the states, I use canned pumpkin puree in my recipe. You throw all the ingredients in a bowl to form a dense dough that you then roll out and stamp into rounds. Throw the rounds in hot oil, and voila, you have sopaipillas!
Hot dogs may be an American invention, but their popularity as a staple street food has reached far corners of the world. Every country adds its proprietary culinary twist to the classic hot dog, usually in the form of native garnishes and condiments.
In Chile, their delectable variation on the hot dog is called Completo. The Chilean Completo is twice the size of an American hot dog, piled high with the following toppings and condiments: Chopped tomatoes, Avocado, Mayonnaise, Salsa Americana, Aji pepper, Green sauce, Mayonnaise, sauerkraut.
I dare you to fit a Completo in your mouth! Maybe it’s called Completo because it covers the complete range of toppings and condiments.
With 2650 miles of coastline, you better believe that seafood is an integral part of the Chilean diet. While you might associate ceviche with Peru or Mexico, Chilean ceviche is just as note-worthy.
It's less spicy and lets the fish play the main role. While Peru uses peppers and potatoes, Chilean ceviche is mainly just different fish and shellfish varieties chopped into small pieces along with: Chopped yellow onion, Chopped bell pepper or aji, Chopped cilantro, Lemon juice.
The most common ceviche is white fish Ceviche, using Chilean seabass. Considering how expensive and fancy Chilean seabass is in the states, Chilean Ceviche sounds like the crème-de-la-crème.
Chorrillana is the Chilean take on loaded fries in the States or Canadian Poutine. It’s the ultimate junk food to be shared with a group of friends at a pub or a late-night treat to soak up a night of drinking.
Chorillana starts with thick-cut French fries and layers them with: Sliced meat (beef chicken, pork), sausage, fried onion, fried egg.
As with any extravagant fried junk food variety, variations exist, usually including adding even more ingredients to those listed above. Some take inspiration from the complete, adding sauerkraut, chopped tomato, and mayo. I recommend adding a sprinkle of garlic and parmesan cheese.
A traditional dish from Chile’s Chiloe archipelago, Curanto is one of the oldest cooking traditions in Chile, dating to around 11,000 years BP. It is an all-in-one meat, fish, potato, and vegetable dish cooked in an underground hole.
Traditionally, cooks dig a four to a five-foot hole in the ground, lining the bottom with fiery-hot stones. Each ingredient is covered with Chilean rhubarb leaves and set onto the hot stones, then covered with wet stacks, dirt, and grass chunks.
The wet sacks soak through to the hot stones, creating steam, while the dirt and grass trap the steam, simulating a pressure cooker.
This is a unique experience that you should definitely try if you make it to Chiloe or Southern Chile.
Locos refer to a type of mollusk native to the Chilean and Peruvian coasts. We know it in English as abalone. In Chile, Locos con mayonesa is a common seafood dish in restaurants that consists of fresh, shelled, and cleaned abalone mixed with mayonnaise and served with lettuce and potato salad.
Locos also come canned or sold in the frozen food section at the grocery store or local seafood counter. Chileans will use locos in seafood stews or Cazuela Marina. They also use them as a filling for a seafood empanada.
The sky is the limit, but the key is to buy them shelled and cleaned because that’s a painstakingly tedious process.
Chile may be a world-famous wine producer, but it also has a wealth of other delicious beverages. One of the most famous summer-time drinks in Chile is Mote con Huesillo, a fruity yet hearty concoction of: Dried peaches, Sugar or honey, Water, Cinnamon, Husked wheat.
I’m at a loss for words on how to describe this unique drink. The nectar-like liquid with whole dried fruit is boiled with the cinnamon, then cooled or refrigerated. Once cool, husked wheat is thrown in, floating to the bottom like pearls in an Asian bubble tea.
It is a cross between non-alcoholic sangria, mulled cider, and bubble tea. It’s a common drink sold by street vendors that are totting mobile drink carts.
Humitas are to South America as tamales are to Mexico. They are essentially the same, steamed corn masa dumplings. The main difference is that Chilean humitas use yellow corn paste and don’t have fillings.
Humitas consist of corn masa and lard or some fat, rolled into long dumplings, wrapped in a corn husk, and steamed. Yellow corn is much sweeter than the white hominy typical in Mexico and Peru. Humitas are common snacks or “peasant meals.”
To me, they’re sweet enough to be a dessert. They also taste good with a savory stew.
Charquican and Tomatican are two variations of a popular Andean stew, using dried meat and an assortment of vegetables. Andean peoples used the dry mountainous climate to their advantage, preserving large amounts of meat by drying them into jerky.
These stews would essentially rehydrate jerky, using its intense flavor to season the broth and other ingredients. Charquican in Chile consists of: Jerky or minced beef, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Hominy, Onion, Peas, corn.
Tomatican, as the name implies, is Charquican with the addition of stewed tomatoes. Both versions are comforting, hearty soul food for the windy, wintery dry Andean regions of Chile.
Chile is famous for its geographical peculiarities and natural phenomena. Patagonia, the Andes mountains, and the seemingly endless coastline all play a huge role in Chilean culture.
However, Chile is also known for its culinary diversity. Ranging from Pre-Hispanic winter stews and millennia-old underground cooking techniques to national variations on hot dogs, there are plenty of delicious dishes to enjoy in Chilean cuisine.
Did we leave some great Chilean food out of this list? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll make sure to check it out!
Top 13 Chilean Foods
These are some of the best traditional Chilean food dishes and recipes you should try.
Brian has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.