"One thing I like about Argentina, they only cook with salt; that's it."
Influenced by Italian, Spanish, French, and other European cuisines, Argentinian cuisine is a delectable blend of Mediterranean influences. Argentina is the second-largest country in South America. Its climate and vast lowland areas make this country one of the greatest food-producing nations. Before the advent of Italian and Spanish immigrants in Argentina, the native Indians were primarily farmers by occupation, who grew melons, squash, and sweet potatoes. When immigrants from Spain and Italy arrived, they introduced many of their classic dishes, including pizza, and all kinds of pasta dishes. Of course, as in other South American countries, you do get to relish Latin American savory turnovers, such as delicious empanadas.
However, what Argentina is known for is meat, meat, and more meat. Nearly 4 percent of the world's cattle are raised in huge cattle ranches in Argentina. No wonder many of the dishes contain beef, pork, lamb, or chicken. Anyone who has been to Argentina would vouch for the distinctly delicious flavor of Argentinian beef. This is because, unlike other places, there are no factory feedlots in Argentina. Cows are raised in open pasture, eating pampas grass their whole lives. The meat is thus not only tastier, but also leaner and healthier. Apart from meat, Argentina has also an abundance of wheat, corn, milk, beans, soybeans, and various vegetables like squashes and zucchini. Here are some of the typical foods of Argentina.
Breakfasts and Appetizers
A popular street food in South America, empanadas are baked or fried crescent-shaped pastries filled with meat, seafood, or cheese. Empanadas Argentinas
are beef-filled pasties that are extremely popular as appetizers and snacks. Ground beef is cooked with onions, scallions, potatoes, and olives. It is then placed over the tapas
(empanada crusts) and sealed. Empanadas are usually baked.
refers to pancakes made with chickpea flour. It is an amazing appetizer that is often served along with pizza in Argentina. When pizza and fainá
are served together, it is known as pizza a caballo
. To make this dish, chickpea flour is mixed with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lots of Parmesan cheese. Water is added to make smooth and consistent pancake batter. The batter is added to a small cast iron pan and baked.
Yerba Mate Tea
are flaky croissant-like pastries that are typically eaten for breakfast in Argentina. These croissants usually have a honey or sugar syrup coating on them. To make this dish, flour and butter are mixed together till they form crumbs. Salt, sugar, vanilla, and almonds are added to the dough. Once the dough is workable, it is cut into small pieces and shaped into crescents. Medialunas
are baked for fifteen to twenty minutes, and then painted with sugar glaze while they are warm.
Yerba Mate Tea
Tea, also known as maté
, is a traditional South American drink that is very popular in Argentina. To make this tea, dried leaves of the yerba mate (llex paraguariensis)
tree is steeped in hot water. It is then served in a hollow calabash gourd along with a silver straw known as bombilla
, (which acts as a sieve and a straw). This drink is usually consumed in particular social settings, such as family gatherings or with friends. The same gourd and bombilla
is passed around and used by everyone drinking. The cebador
, or the server, drinks the first one or two gourd-fulls, and then assumes the responsibility of filling the gourd when one person is done with having the entire gourd. When somebody has had enough maté
, they simply say gracias
(thank you) to indicate that they are finished.
or the Argentine barbecue is one of the biggest food traditions in Argentina, especially during family celebrations and holidays. The beef is cooked alongside other meats in an open grill also known as parrilla.
Apart from typical cuts like vacio
(flank steak) and asado
(short ribs), Argentinians also use the offal or the organ meats including chinchulin
(intestine ), chorizo
(blood sausage) and molleja
(sweetbreads). The grilled meat is served with chimichurri
, salsa criolla
, olive oil, and sea salt.
A gastronomic delight and classic Argentinean dish, Milanesa
is a breaded meat filet. In Argentina, there are many variations of this dish. When it is served with ham, tomato sauce, and Mozzarella cheese it is known as Milanesa a la Napolitana
, and when it is topped with fried egg it is known as Milanesa a Caballo.
The chicken version is known as Milanesa de Pollo
, while the veal version is known as Milanesa de Ternera.
The dish is often served with French fries and lemon wedges.
A traditional food in Argentina and a number of South American countries, Humitas
are steamed corn cakes that are made with fresh ground corn, onions, cheese, eggs, and spices. The mixture of these ingredients is placed inside corn husks and steamed or boiled. In Argentina, Humitas
are also used as a filling for empanadas.
Argentinian tartas are savory pies or tarts that are filled with spinach and Swiss chard (Tarta Pascualina
), chicken (Tarta de Pollo
) and various other fillings. The combination of the flaky puff pastry dough and hearty filling makes this one of the most loved Argentinian dishes. These pies can be easily found in the menus of Argentine rotiserías
or take-out joints.
Argentinian cuisine is heavily influenced by Italian food. Pasta is a common feature in a majority of Italian cuisines. Round sombrero-shaped raviolis, that are filled with mozzarella cheese, ham, and ricotta, are known as Sorrentinos
. This popular pasta dish in Argentina is served with tomato and cream sauce. The pasta in the country tends to be softer and creamier, and is often served with cream-based sauces that may have ham, spinach, and tomato paste.
is a thick stew that is made with corn, onions, beans, potatoes, and squash. This indigenous dish originated in the Andean region of South America. Along with corn and other vegetables, meats like beef or chicken are added to the stew. This dish is often served alongside a delicious sauce made with hot chilies, chopped onions, garlic, paprika, and chives.
Dulce de Leche
Dulce de leche
Dulce de Leche
or the 'candy of milk' is a rich and decadent sauce that is made by heating sweetened condensed milk. This popular Argentinian dessert is made by simmering milk and sugar till the mixture thickens and caramelizes. This sauce is used to flavor different desserts like candies, cakes, cookies, and ice cream.
A traditional Argentinian dessert, Alfajores
are soft, delicate, and sweet shortbread-like cookies that are filled with dulce de leche
or jam. The cookies are then sprinkled with powdered sugar. Sometimes, they are dipped in dark and white chocolate. This variation is known as Alfajores Blancos y Negros
or chocolate-dipped Alfajores. Alfajor de Nieve
is a variation where the cookies are coated with a mixture of egg whites and sugar.
Other than these dishes, Argentina boasts of a number of culinary delights. It is also famous for its wineries, and is the fifth-largest wine producer in the world. If you are traveling to Argentina, then do make sure to taste the traditional delicacies with its delicious blend of Mediterranean and Latin American influences. If you are a meat lover, then a trip to Argentina is sure to transport you into culinary paradise.