A little background on the what and why of how Chilean cuisine came to be what it is today.
A long, skinny piece of land (only 109 miles wide), located on the Southwestern coast of South America, Chile is a mountainous country with just one main fertile valley where farmers are centered to grow and raise food for the people of Chile.
And they don’t have it very easy.
Between air and water pollution from the big cities, producing acid rains, and deforestation caused by the economically-needed exotic woods export industry, which leads to soil erosion, it is increasingly rough on the agricultural industry.
Chile simply cannot produce enough good to feed its own people. They have to rely heavily on imported foods, and that is very expensive.
Still, Chile does have a rich heritage of unique and original food. In ancient times, the indigenous Amerindians relied heavily on maize (corn) as the primary staple in their diets, and maize is still a heavy influence on Chilean cuisine today. The immensely popular dishes like “Pastel de Choclo” (meat and corn pie) and “Humitas” (pureed corn, cooked in corn husks) are often found at the dinner tables in Chile.
The Spaniards came to Chile in 1541, and Chilean cuisine broadened dramatically. Now foods like wheat and rice, citrus fruits, sugar, garlic and spices, olives, walnuts and chestnuts, olives, and grapes were
introduced by the Spanish people. Also meat and dairy products became part of Chilean cuisine, because those huge Spanish sea vessels carried cattle, pigs, rabbits, sheep, and chickens. Now Chilean cuisine included meat entrees, and dishes made with milk, cheese, eggs, and sausages.
German immigrants came to Chile in 1848, and Chilean cuisine developed a sweet tooth with all the rich cakes, pastries and syrupy deserts the Germans brought with them. Soon after, Arab and Italian, and other European immigrants also settled in Chile. Each new culture brought with them their own style of cooking.
The Arabs introduced strange new and tasty spices and herbs, and the idea of combining sweet with salty flavors in dishes. Italians brought with them ice, and created delicious iced drinks using the various Chilean fruits they discovered.
Lastly, the folks from Jolly Old England arrived, and Chilean cuisine adopted the British love of “Tea Time”. Inviting friends over for tea, coffee and crumpets (sweet breads and crackers) is still a common practice in modern day Chile. Chileans like to enjoy and share “Te Con Leche” (tea with milk) during their daily Tea Times.
So there you have it, a spot of background on what comprises Chilean cuisine as we know it today. Below is a list of some of the most popular and famous, traditional and authentic recipes original to Chile. Click on the name of the recipe(s) that interest you, and start enjoying your ethnic food adventure into the incredibly diverse, interesting, and oh-so-delicious world of …
Apio Palta (Celery Avocado Salad, dressed with olive oil and fresh lemon juice)
Chirimoya Alegre (A refreshing creamy and tart dessert made with Cherimoya fruit and orange)
Escabeche de Pescado (A classic Chilean cold dish with sauteed and pickled fish and vegetables)
Drunken Chicken (Whole chicken gently simmering and basted in white wine and its own juices)
Caldillo de Congrio con Vino Blanco (Seafood stew with white wine broth)