Skip to Content

21 Foods in Chile: What to Eat in Chile

21 Foods in Chile: What to Eat in Chile

Sharing is caring!

Wondering what to eat in Chile? Chilean cuisine varies based on where you are in this skinny country. 

The coast is where you’ll find an abundance of fish and seafood whereas the further you head toward the Andes the more you’ll find meat dominating the menu. Produce in Chile is phenomenal; fruits and vegetables are bursting with flavor and everything comes supersized. Meanwhile, the sheer quality of the fish and meat means that dishes require minimal fuss to taste great.

Some of the more popular food in Chile appears in other Latin countries, such as Mexico and Argentina, and there is overlap with Spanish cuisine. However, the exact recipes and cooking methods vary with ingredients tailored to suit what’s available – food in Chile is very much dictated by the seasons.

What to Eat in Chile: Chilean Street Food

Whet your appetite with these tasty morsels best enjoyed on the go.

1. Pebre

Before you get your paws on any type of Chilean street food, you need to know about pebre.

Pebre is a salsa made from chopped white onion, garlic, tomatoes, and spicy aji peppers tossed with olive oil and lemon juice. It’s rounded off with a handful of fresh herbs such as parsley or coriander. 

Recipes for pebre vary but it generally follows the above and has a spicy taste. Tangy pebre is the typical accompaniment with the following Chilean street foods but it also works with main courses and salads. Plus, it’s super easy to make your own at home. 

2. Sopaipillas

Sopaipillas (pronounced “soh-pahy-pee-uhz”) are discs of fried dough made from pumpkin. They have a crispy exterior and a softer center and can be eaten plain or with a savory or sweet topping. Pebre is king but vendors usually have bottles of tomato ketchup or mustard if you prefer.

They even work with dulce de leche, honey, syrup, or chocolate. 

While sopaipillas are sometimes sold in restaurants, they’re best-appreciated street style where vendors set up boiling pots of oil to cook the dough. After sampling my boyfriend’s homemade version of sopaipillas, I planned to eat these weekly.

However, they’re not as common on the street as I’d hoped. The golden rule of sopaipillas is to snap them up anytime you see them.

plate of empanadas which are one of the best foods to have in Chile.


3. Empanadas

Empanadas aren’t unique to Chile as these stuffed pastries appear throughout Central and South America.

However, they’re certainly one of the most popular and widespread Chilean street foods – sold in bakeries, kiosks, bus stations, and from roving street vendors.

Chilean empanadas come fried or baked. In some instances, a large empanada works as a full meal while empanaditas are more of a snack or starter. Fillings in Chile include meat, seafood, and vegetables. Typical options include:

  • Lomo or pino (a ground minced meat, not to be confused with piña – pineapple!)
  • Queso y camarones (cheese and prawns)
  • Mariscos (a mix of Chilean seafood and shellfish)
  • Neapolitana (cheese, tomato, and ham)

Vegetarian empanadas in Chile typically mix cheese with corn, spinach, tomatoes, walnuts, mushrooms, and whatever is in season. If you’re thinking about what to eat in Chile for dessert, they also come with sweet fillings.

4. Completo

Meaning “complete” a completo is a Chilean hotdog. The pork sausage is served with fresh tomato and avocado and slathered in mayonnaise and/or ketchup.

Completos are widely available from takeaway places and sold in parks and beaches. They’re also sold in diner-style casual restaurants. Chileans tend to be generous when squirting on the sauce so it’s sometimes best to do that part yourself. 

tamales wrapped in corn husks.

You might be familiar with tamales, which are similar to humitas in texture but taste very different to their Mexican-counterpart.

5. Humitas

In terms of what to eat in Chile in summer, humitas (pronounced “u-mitas”) are a winner.

These are made by beating fresh choclo (corn) into a paste with cream, onion, and garlic. This mashed mixture is then wrapped in a fresh corn husk and steamed or boiled until ready to eat. Chileans tend to eat humitas either with freshly chopped tomatoes or sugar. 

Again, humitas aren’t exclusive to Chile but the taste of the choclo differs throughout the region and cooking recipes tend to vary. 


What to Eat in Chile: Typical Food in Chile

This is a narrowed-down list of the most famous food in Chile that you can expect to sample while traveling or living in Chile. 

In addition to traditional Chilean food, you can find a decent variety of international restaurants in the main cities.

While in Santiago de Chile, you’ll find pretty much everything across meat, fish, and vegetarian dishes. Vegans are well catered for in the main cities although the offering may prove more limited in remote and mountainous areas.


6. Asado

Asado is essentially a Chilean barbecue – although a similar technique appears in other South American countries. 

Beef, pork, and chicken are grilled on a parrilla and served alongside salads, rice dishes, and potatoes. Meat in Chile is very high quality and the asador will cook the red meat so that it’s tender inside with a smoky, charcoal exterior.

The meat is usually served in steak or rib form, rather than in burger buns like in Europe and the US. Chilean chorizos are served in a crusty roll of bread – producing a choripán sandwich.

Much of the accommodations in Chile (particularly in rural areas) feature a fondo area with a parrilla. This is shared among guests and it’s unusual not to see Chilean tourists grilling their own supper. You can also experience this famous Chile food technique in restaurants. 

7. Pastel de Choclo

Pastel de Choclo is a casserole dish made from a base of ground humeros (a type of corn native to Chile) made into a kind of purée. As this specific type of corn is in season in summer, you’re more likely to find it on menus then.

Baked and served in a clay dish, the creamy corn is mixed with ground beef meat, onions, olives, hard-boiled egg, and sometimes chicken too. Vegetarian versions are occasionally available on menus with mushrooms in place of the meat. 

One of the tastiest traditional foods in Chile, Taste Atlas recently ranked pastel de choclo in their top 10 popular casseroles in the world.

bowl of soup with fried potatoes on top.

8. Cazuela

Cazuela is a kind of Chilean soup. The main ingredients are similar although they do vary subject to the region of Chile and according to what’s in season. Classic recipes include white onion, garlic, potato, pumpkin, rice, corn on the cob, and other vegetables such as carrots, butternut squash, and green beans.

It’s usually topped off with red meat on the bone or a chicken drumstick although seafood and vegetarian versions are available.

Eaten year-round, cazuela is always seasoned with fresh herbs prior to serving. It’s also really easy to make this dish at home. If you want to make it like a Chilean, you need to boil the potatoes whole – don’t cut them into smaller pieces.

Variations of cazuela appear in other South American countries. 

9. Pastel de Jaiba

Pastel de Jaiba looks a little similar to pastel de choclo at first glance. However, this casserole dish is made from a mixture of garlic, onions, milk, cream, butter, white wine, and a selection of spices and herbs as per the chef’s recipe.

Crab meat is the star of the show. This is mingled with the other ingredients before being baked and presented piping hot in the same type of clay dish used for pastel de choclo. 

10. Machas la Parmesana

Machas la Parmesana is a plate of machas (Chilean razor clams) baked in their shells. These clams are drizzled with a splash of white wine, a little cream, a squeeze of lemon, and parmesan cheese before being slipped into the oven.

Machas la Parmesana is a typical food in Chile to share as a starter. It’s far more common along the coast and you can pick up a packet of fresh clams from seafood markets and bake them yourself in a rental apartment.

fish in a market in chile.

Markets in Chile have plenty of fantastic produce, especially seafood.


11. Chilean Fish

Overall, Chilean fish is incredibly high quality and loaded with flavor. Fish is served baked, poached, or fried with a seasonal sauce, vegetables, and potatoes or rice.  

The country is known for its excellent salmon but you’ll also want to look out for the popular reineta and merluza. Reineta is a boneless fish which makes it safer for children. It has a soft flavor and needs little more than a coating of butter and lemon juice to satisfy pescatarians. Merluza (Chilean hake) is often served fried. 

Popular throughout the continent, ceviche is a staple seafood starter or main in Chile, especially near the coast. 

Given the high quality and variety of fish, sushi is actually one of the most popular foods in Chile (proven by how packed sushi places are at lunchtime). Chileans roll their norimaki with avocado and serve fried temaki stuffed with salmon and prawns. Of course, it’s not a traditional Chilean food but it’s a must-try for sushi fans. 

12. Chorrillana

Chorrillana is the quintessential comfort food in Chile. The dish consists of a mountain of chips topped with slices of meat, chopped sausages, slithers of onions, and fried eggs. 

This loaded plate is a popular food in Chile to split while dining in casual restaurants and bars. 

13. Merkén

Merkén is a powerful blend of chilies, spices, and cumin seeds. It has a smoky texture and is surprisingly spicy. The spice mix was created by the Mapuche, one of Chile’s indigenous groups of people. 

A pinch of merkén goes a long way, with the spice often added to casseroles, pebre, pino meat, asado, soups, and even micheladas. It’s used widely in home cooking and you can buy the spice mix in all supermarkets and farmer’s markets. As the Mapuche people are associated with the south of Chile, you’ll find it used more commonly the further you go towards Patagonia.

man riding his bike in front of a pink building with people sitting outside.

Look for the local restaurants around Chile for great food.

What to Eat in Chile for Dessert

The baking scene in Chile is extraordinary. If you do have a sweet tooth, you’ll be pleased to hear that pastelerías and restaurants offer a huge variety of treats.

In addition to these classic puddings, look out for include lemon pie, passionfruit cheesecake, walnut kuchen, churros, and vegan-friendly bakes of all kinds.  

14. Alfajores 

In terms of what to eat in Chile for dessert, alfajores are a classic. These are biscuit-cake hybrids crafted from a soft cornstarch dough layered with manjar (caramelized milk).

Some alfajores are coated in chocolate (white or milk) or dusted with coconut shavings. There are loads of variations with artisanal alfajores being flavored with the likes of walnut, orange, or other fruits. Out in the countryside, alfajores are more rustic with a dryer texture that works in harmony with the gooey dulce de leche.  

15. Torta de Mil Hojas

Torta de Mil Hoja is yet another example where the precise origin of the recipe is unclear. Regardless, Milhojas, or “Thousand Layers Cake” is the standard cake in Chile for celebrations and big gatherings.

The pudding is made from layers (not quite a thousand, but close enough) of a pastry not dissimilar to mille-feuille molded together with thick lashings of manjar. Fancier versions see a layer of jam slipped in alongside the manjar and a thick topping of cream.

bus going down the street in valparaiso chile.

Explore the different neighborhoods and towns in Chile to find local cuisine.

What to Drink in Chile

As well as knowing what to eat in Chile, you’ll want to know how to quench your thirst. All these traditional Chilean foods pair to perfection with Chile’s national drinks. These are the go-to tipples while dining in Chile. 

16. Wine

Chile may be better known for its wine than its food. One of the world’s greatest wine countries, Chile’s Mediterranean climate produces red, white, and sparkling varieties. Most wine hails from the Central Valley but vineyards reach as far as the Atacama region. 

Chilean cabernet sauvignon and merlot are world-class but it’s carmenère to prioritize if you’re a fan of red. Carmenère grapes produce medium-bodied, fruity wine with a mild smokiness. It pairs great with any type of Chilean cuisine – seafood included. 

If you prefer white, you’re in safe hands with any sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, or sparkling wine from Chile.  

Although the cost of living in Chile is high, you can buy decent bottles of Chilean wine for 5,000 CLP (around $6 USD).

bar in chile with pisco on the shelves.

You’ll find pisco at every bar around Chile.

17. Pisco

Pisco is a potent brandy produced in both Chile and Peru (the exact origin is hotly debated). Acquired from fermented grapes, it’s more akin to grappa than spirits. Chilean pisco is produced in the northern regions of Atacama and Coquimbo. 

Chileans drink Piscola (pisco with Coca-Cola) or the aperitif-style cocktail, Pisco Sour

Heed caution when ordering piscola at a bar in Chile as measurements of the spirit are hefty. Piscola Blanca (pisco with lemonade) is an alternative to the popular piscola. On the other hand, pisco sour is prepared with ice, sugar, and lemon juice or an acidic lime from the north. The Peruvian pisco sour mixes lime juice, syrup, egg white, and Angostura bitters.

As an aside, when planning what to eat in Chile, you might want to factor in a trip to one of the many Peruvian restaurants. Traditional Peruvian dishes are made with Chilean ingredients. This way, you can compare Peruvian pisco sour with a Chilean one (both are delicious and are made to sip alongside ceviche!) 

18. Terremoto

Invented shortly after a major earthquake shook the country in 1985, the aptly-named Terremoto cocktail will leave you feeling pretty wobbly. The cocktail contains pipeño (sweet white wine), grenadine or fernet, and pineapple ice cream. It’s quite an odd flavor and far stronger than you might think, so take care. 

Terremotos aren’t all that common in bars but they do pop up at festivals for Independence Day in Chile. Fiestas Patrias is celebrated for several days around September 18th when every inch of the country erupts with fondas. As well as tasting terremotos, these events are one of the best places to gorge on traditional foods in Chile while bopping along to enchanting cueca folk music. 

19. Cola de Mono

Cola de Mono, or “monkey’s tail,” is a Chilean cocktail served around Christmas (that’s summertime in Chile!). 

The recipe generally combines brandy, coffee, evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, and a cinnamon stick. Preparing a batch takes work as you need to heat the mixture and chill it in the fridge prior to serving. 

However, cola de mono is available in restaurants over the summer months and you can buy pre-mixed bottles in the supermarkets that aren’t half bad! 

20. Mote con Huesillo

One of the few soft drinks to make this guide to food in Chile, Mote con Huesillo (husked wheat with sun-dried peaches) is approved for children, drivers, and non-alcohol drinkers. Those two key ingredients are cooked with thick syrup, caramelized sugar, and cinnamon. Ahead of drinking, the liquid is cooled and then served with husked wheat in the glass.

Mote con huesillo is a summer drink often sold on the street. At all times of the year, the drink is available at the top of Cerro San Cristóbal in the Metropolitan Park of Santiago.

mate in a cup with a metal straw in it.

Mate is a popular drink all over this region of South America.

21. Maté

Maté (pronounced “mah-tay”) isn’t actually Chilean; this caffeinated herbal drink hails from Uruguay, Paraguay, or Argentina.

That being said, the hot drink is fairly popular in Chile, especially in coastal zones. The maté leaves are placed into a maté gourd, soaked in hot water, and sipped through bombilla straw that prevents the herbs from getting into your mouth.

As maté has a fairly bitter taste, it can take a little getting used to. Supermarkets and little shops in Chile sell packets of maté while decorative gourds and bombilla straws are sold all over the place. In addition to plain maté, you can find blends with eucalyptus, mint, citrus fruits, and beyond. 

It’s actually more energizing than coffee and most enjoyable when consumed in nature while drinking up the incredible Chilean landscapes.