Dulce de leche, known in Chile as manjar
Mote con huesillo

Chilean cuisine[1] stems mainly from the combination of traditional Spanish cuisine, Chilean Mapuche culture and local ingredients, with later important influences from other European cuisines, particularly from Germany, the United Kingdom and France. The food tradition and recipes in Chile are notable for the variety of flavours and ingredients, with the country's diverse geography and climate hosting a wide range of agricultural produce, fruits and vegetables. The long coastline and the peoples' relationship with the Pacific Ocean add an immense array of seafood to Chilean cuisine, with the country's waters home to unique species of fish, molluscs, crustaceans and algae, thanks to the oxygen-rich water carried in by the Humboldt Current. Chile is also one of the world's largest producers of wine and many Chilean recipes are enhanced and accompanied by local wines. The confection dulce de leche was invented in Chile and is one of the country's most notable contributions to world cuisine.[2]

Chilean cuisine shares some similarities with Mediterranean cuisine, as the Matorral region, stretching from 32° to 37° south, is one of the world's five Mediterranean climate zones.


Main article: History of Chile

With the arrival of the Spanish conquerors led by Pedro de Valdivia in 1540 came some of the products that would become staples of Chilean cuisine—wheat, pigs, sheep, cattle, chickens and wine—while the native peoples contributed potatoes, maize, beans, and seafood. Various combinations of these basic ingredients form the basis of most characteristic Chilean dishes. After the establishment of the colony, products and dishes like chuchoca (coarsely ground dry corn), humitas, locro, and seaweeds like cochayuyo and luche served with boiled eggs became popular. Meals in colonial times tended to be heavy and rich. Lunch was always bigger than dinner, starting with a dish called de residencia of fish, meat, or poultry, followed by a guiso stew with choclo (fresh sweet corn) and potatoes. There were three kinds of bread accompanying the meals: tortilla de rescoldo, Spanish bread (made of fatty dough), and Chilean bread (flat and crunchy). Lunch and dinner ended with herbal infusions, generally paico to help digestion, and finally fruit for dessert, mainly strawberries and lucumas.

In the seventeenth century, pastry was popularized by the nuns who baked it in convents. A popular Chilean saying, “tiene mano de monja” (“s/he has the hands of a nun”), comes from this period and refers to someone who is skilled at baking or cooking in general. The nuns’ pastry recipes quickly become popular among the rest of the Chilean population. During the same period, geese and turkeys arrived in Chile from Mexico and melons and watermelons came from Jamaica. During the eighteenth century, Chilean cuisine started to become more sophisticated, particularly among the aristocracy. Tea and coffee began to replace mate, Chilean wine became popular and people started to drink chicha, a sweet, undistilled wine made from fermented grapes or apples.

During the early years of Chilean independence, the so-called Patria Vieja, Chileans celebrated with empanadas, chicha and red wine, which is still traditional today at the annual celebrations of independence.

Immigration to Chile

Main article: Immigration to Chile

During the nineteenth century, Chile began to form its own identity and food became a part of this. Immigration, which had been limited and incidental at the beginning of the young republic, was now actively encouraged by the Chilean government between late nineteenth century and early 20th century. The variety of produce increased with the arrival of German immigrants in the south of the country, who had a strong influence on Chilean cuisine, even until today. They brought with them pork dishes, sausages and pastries. Today, Berliners and kuchens are common in bakeries throughout Chile. Italian immigrants contributed pasta and meat products, and in towns like Capitán Pastene in the south of Chile, they still prepare prosciutto in the same way as the first Italian immigrants.[3]

In the twentieth century, French culture had a strong influence on Chile, including its cuisine. French gastronomy and techniques influenced the preparation of the food, and even replaced some dishes, for example the Spanish tortilla, which was replaced by the omelette. Along with the Italians, Germans, and French came Croatians, Greeks, Palestinians, Belgians and Basques. In the 21st century, Chile is a modern and prosperous country with strong economic growth bringing greater disposable income and the consequent development of a rich gastronomic industry.[4]

To some extent food consumption is related to blanqueamiento or whitening. For example, in Osorno, a Chilean city with a strong German heritage, consumption of desserts, marmalades and kuchens whitens the inhabitants of the city.[5] While indigenous and raw dishes such a ñachi are associated with masculinity, European cuisine and specially desserts are considered feminine.[5]

Major crops and products

Main article: Agriculture in Chile

Agriculture in Chile encompasses a wide range of different activities and products, due to the unique geography, climate and geology. Historically, agriculture was one of the bases of Chile's economy; now, however, agriculture and related sectors like forestry, logging and fishing accounts for only about 4.9% of the GDP. Major agricultural products of Chile include grapes, apples, pears, onions, wheat, maize, oats, peaches, garlic, asparagus, beans, beef, poultry, wool, fish and timber.[6]

American crops

Old-world crops

Fish and seafood

A characteristic of Chilean cuisine is the variety and quality of fish and seafood, due to the geographic location and extensive coastline. The Humboldt current brings a supply of seafood that gathers along the Pacific coast perpendicular to Chilean waters. These include:



Cuisine of the north

Northern cuisine is strongly influenced by the Andean Aymara, Diaguita and Atacameño cultures, and also by the coastal Chango people. The northern diet is traditionally high in protein. The use of tubers like the apilla or oca and the ulluco is common, though these are practically unknown in central and southern Chilean cuisine. Traditional northern Chilean cuisine also includes the use of camelid meats like llama and alpaca. The herb rica-rica, which is endemic to the region, is used as a seasoning.[8] Dishes like chairo have been prepared for centuries by the Andean cultures, although they are not as common nowadays among the northern Chilean population and are almost unknown in the rest of Chile.

Recipes from the northern regions of Chile

Cuisine of the central valley and coast

The cuisine of the central valley and coast has been influenced by the traditions of the native people and European immigrants, particularly those who arrived during the second half of the nineteenth century, with farm life and agriculture the most important influence. In the past, agriculture was a very important aspect of the economy and the Fundo (ranch, farm) was the centre of everyday life. Country traditions still survive and food is a good example of this.

Dishes from the central regions of Chile

Cuisine from southern Chile

Southern Chilean cuisine has been greatly influenced by Mapuche cuisine and Chilote cuisine. There are two products that have attracted particular attention: the Merkén condiment and the “Kollongka”, Araucana or Mapuche chicken, known by their unusual blue-green eggs. Another great influence on southern Chilean cuisine was immigration from Europe, particularly the German migration of the nineteenth century. Traditional German cakes and desserts have been adopted in much of Chile. As in the rest of Chile, seafood has a very important place in the diet, but due to the thousands of islands that make up the southern region, the ocean has a particular relevance here.

Dishes from southern Chile

Baked goods, desserts and breads

Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages

Other typical Chilean dishes

Easter Island or Rapa Nui cuisine

Easter Island cuisine includes dishes of both Chilean and Polynesian extraction. It includes a much wider array of fish than the mainland cuisine, and some fruits and tubers that are not possible to find in continental Chile.[10]

Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages

Main articles: Chilean wine and Beer in Chile

Chile's unique combination of geography and climate make it ideal for wine growing. This tradition goes back to the sixteenth century and the arrival Spanish conquistadors, and has grown as an industry in recent decades, making Chile one of the world's biggest wine producers. Wine is not the only traditionally produced and consumed beverage, however: the northern regions produce aguardiente a distill of grape, the favourite liquor of many Chileans, and the southern regions are known for their high quality beers.

Non-alcoholic beverages

Sandwiches and Chilean fast food

Beside the big fast food chains present in almost every country in the world, Chile has its own traditional “fast food”. The traditional empanada can be eaten at September independence day celebrations or as a quick lunch. The Chilean version of the hot dog is more complex than standard North American hotdogs: as well as mustard and ketchup, it can be topped with mashed avocado, chopped tomatoes, sauerkraut and home-made mayonnaise. During the cold winter, sopaipillas are also a popular snack served on the streets.

Starters and salads

Cereals and legumes

Legumes have been important in Chilean cuisine since pre-colonial times, with beans, lentils and chickpeas as part of a traditional diet and generally cooked with rice, fresh sweet corn or even pasta (Porotos con rienda)


Pasta is very common in everyday Chilean meals, but is not prepared very differently from in other countries, except for some changes in the name and forms of the pasta itself. Bolognese, white sauce (béchamel), and cream-based sauces are the most common.



Empanadas are common in many cultures with different names. In Chile, empanadas can have distinctive fillings and can also be cooked in unusual ways to give them a very distinctive flavour and shape. For this reason, empanada sellers in Chile (whether a restaurant, street stand, market, etc.) always specify if their empanadas are fried or baked.

The most popular fillings are


Chileans are one of the biggest bread eaters in the world; second after the Germans, in fact.[12][13][14][15] Chileans eat bread at breakfast, lunch (as a side or appetiser), Las onces or dinner. Bread for “onces” should be as fresh as possible, ideally bought still hot from the local bakery.

Chilean breads Hallulla and Marraqueta

Salsas (sauces)

Meat dishes

Meat is very important in Chilean cuisine and for many Chileans it is essential ingredient in every dinner or lunch. According to studies, Chilean per capita meat consumption (including poultry, beef and pork) has doubled in the last two decades[17] while seafood consumption has decreased.

Poultry dishes

Chicken is the most common of the poultry meats and is an ingredient in traditional dishes like Asado, Pastel de choclo and Cazuela. Although in recent years turkey has become popular, it is not quite a tradition. Duck is rarely consumed in the centre and northern regions, but can be popular in southern countryside.

Beef dishes

Although imported beef is available from other Latin American countries, Chileans prefer locally produced beef. Chilean cattle is fed with mineral-rich prairie grass and produced generally in small herds in small farms instead of being mass-produced and fattened on corn, as in some other countries. This produces leaner beef, but since it is the fat within the muscle tissue that makes beef tender, it also makes it tougher beef.[19] Along with the previously mentioned asado, cazuela and empanadas, other Chilean beef dishes include:

Pork dishes

Lamb and goat dishes

This rich meat is not commonly eaten in much of Chile but it is very popular in Patagonia among both local people and tourists.

Rabbit dishes

Rabbit can also be prepared as:

Intestinos (offal) dishes

Various stews

Fish and shellfish

Chileans enjoy all kinds of seafood, sometimes prepared raw with lemon, coriander and onions, or just simply in the shell with lemon juice and a glass of white wine. Seafood markets are commonly found in fishing villages.


Sweets, cakes, and desserts

Two cuchuflíes.

There are many different kinds of cakes in Chile and home baking is a popular alternative to the bakery. These are the most common varieties:

In Chile, most desserts and sweets include dulce de leche, which is referred to as manjar

See also


  1. ^ Gastronomy, Chile’s top traditional foods: a visitor’s guide Archived 11 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine 29 July 2009 retrieved 6 August 2013
  2. ^ "Origen mítico del dulce de leche" [Mythical origin of dulce de leche]. Clarín (in Spanish). 6 April 2003. Archived from the original on 1 July 2010. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  3. ^ El prosciutto de Capitan Pastene (Spanish) www.atlasvivodechile.com 11 June 2012
  4. ^ "Diversidad de colores y sabores - Icarito". 12 August 2010. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  5. ^ a b Montecino, Sonia (2009). "Conjunciones y disyunciones del gusto en el sur de Chile" (PDF). Historia, Antropología y Fuentes Orales (in Spanish): 169–176. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  6. ^ The World Factbook -CIA, 27 February 2008
  7. ^ Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov ForMemRS was a prominent Russian and Soviet botanist and geneticist best known for having identified the centres of origin of cultivated plants
  8. ^ "Gourmet Tourism: Spices and unique flavors of Chile". Chile Travel. 28 August 2021. Retrieved 9 March 2024.
  9. ^ Philpott, D. (2016). The World of Wine and Food: A Guide to Varieties, Tastes, History, and Pairings. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 420. ISBN 978-1-4422-6804-3. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  10. ^ GASTRONOMÍA RAPA NUI Archived 21 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine Pauline Pérez Pinto, www.chile.com Retrieved 27 July 2013
  11. ^ "La receta de la semana: Ponche a la romana". Concierto 88.5. Archived from the original on 4 January 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  12. ^ "Bread, which is loved, by our neighbors". grazione.ru. 6 July 2012. Archived from the original on 2 May 2013.
  13. ^ "El Tamiz: Bread, cheesecake and a bit of variety". foodychile.com. 14 February 2012. Archived from the original on 6 July 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  14. ^ "Bread Makes the World Go Round". sixservings.org. 15 October 2010. Archived from the original on 20 October 2010.
  15. ^ "Chilean Bread". fundi2.com. 6 July 2011. Archived from the original on 28 August 2015. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  16. ^ Chilean Bread Archived 13 December 2019 at the Wayback Machine fundi2.com 6 July 2011 retrieved 24 July 2013
  17. ^ hilean per capita meat consumption has doubled crudosain the last two decades www.en.mercopress.com January 10, 2012, retrieved July 23, 2013
  18. ^ Romey, Jared (2010). Speaking Chileno: a Guide to Chilean Slang. RIL Editores. p. 68. ISBN 978-956-284-730-8.
  19. ^ Eating Chilean Beef 28 December 2009, retrieved 24 July 2013