If you've ever wanted to take a culinary tour of South America, why not start with some of its most traditional dishes – and there are plenty to choose from! Whether it's Peru's Ceviche, Bolivia's Silpancho or Chile's Empanadas, there’s something for everyone.
South American gastronomy is a rich blend of diverse cultures, traditions and ingredients. It has been shaped over centuries by the countries' indigenous populations, immigrant communities, and a mix of cultures from around the world. As such, South American cuisine is incredibly diverse and varied, with each country having its unique flavours and traditional dishes
Immerse yourself in South American flavours that you won't find anywhere else, and explore the rich history behind each dish.
With a variety of options ranging from tangy to spicy and meat-filled to vegetarian, it may be hard to decide which ones should top your list – but here are 15 of the most traditional South American dishes that can’t be missed!
Feijoada - Brazil
Originating in Brazil, Feijoada is the national dish of the country and has become one of the most popular traditional dishes throughout South America. It consists of black beans cooked slowly with different kinds of pork and beef until it becomes a stew-like consistency.
Feijoada is usually served with white rice, kale or collard greens, as well as orange slices. Although this traditional dish may seem simple to make at first glance, its complex flavour comes from the meats used and the low-and-slow cooking process that creates its unique flavour.
Feijoada is a delicious dish that speaks to the heart and soul of Brazilian culture and will bring a taste of tradition to any table!
Pozole - Mexico
Pozole is a traditional dish from Mexico that brings people together over their love of shared culture. This vibrant and flavorful soup synthesizes the recipes and traditions of numerous South American dishes into a memorable dining event.
Pozole usually involves pork or chicken, hominy either in canned or ground form, a variety of vegetables like peppers, radishes and even cabbage, Mexican spices such as chilli powder and cumin, and is topped with traditional garnishes like cilantro, onions and limes.
Whether you're making it to celebrate a special occasion or just because you're in the mood for something spicy and comforting, pozole is always sure to impress your taste buds.
Asado - Argentina
Asado, a traditional South American dish originating in Argentina, is not only a beloved traditional meal, but it is a joyous cultural experience. A feast centred around the open fire and the sharing of meat cooked on open flames, Asado takes on many different forms catering to the flavour preferences and location within Argentina.
With cuts of beef straight from the farms to your plate and a variety of vegetables cooked in earthy aromas of spices, every delight offers an explosion of flavour that will make you reach for more.
The bond of friends and family over this special dish is truly magical and inspiring. Make an effort to experience this unique cultural tradition with your group this season!
Ajiaco - Chile
Rich in traditional south american flavours, Ajiaco is a traditional dish from Chile that has been passed down through generations. This traditional fare is typically made with chicken, potatoes, and corn - cooked together to create an explosion of flavours and textures.
It's no wonder why Ajiaco has become popular all over the world! What began as a humble traditional dish from Chile, has now spread its unique flavour all across the world - making it one of the most beloved traditional south american dishes.
Try it today and you'll be inspired by Ajiaco's tantalising aroma, flavour, and texture. Immerse yourself into the world of traditional Chilean cuisine with this joyous traditional dish!
Ceviche - Peru
Ceviche from Peru is a delicacy from South America that will take your taste buds on an adventure.
This marinated seafood dish is made with white fish, and onions, and is typically served with South American corn and sweet potato. With the perfect blend of citrus and chillies, this delectable treat provides layers of flavour combinations that will have you coming back for seconds.
Not only is it flavorful, but Ceviche can also be prepared quickly and easily - meaning you won’t have to spend all day in the kitchen to get an incredible meal! What more could one ask for?
Bolon de Verde - Ecuador
Bolon de Verde is an amazing dish from South America that will take your tastebuds on a journey! This classic Ecuadorian dish is made of mashed plantains filled with scrumptious herbs and spices like garlic, cilantro, onion, cheese and often pork.
These delicious ingredients are blended to create a one-of-a-kind flavour that you simply can’t find anywhere else. With its blend of South American ingredients and culture, this traditional cuisine is sure to add some inspiring flavours to any menu.
The next time you’re creating a meal with friends or family, consider making Bolon de Verde for an exotic South American twist!
Bandeja Paisa - Colombia
South America boasts a delicious and varied array of cuisine, but none is more populous or beloved than Colombia's Bandeja Paisa.
This hearty dish is a sumptuous combination of grilled flank steak, sausage, chorizo, and pork belly, which are served alongside traditional South American accompaniments like white rice, beans, plantains, ripe avocado, and a sunny-side-up egg. With every bite of warming Colombian flavours, you're taken to another level of yumminess.
Even if you don't have time to travel to South America right away there's no need to miss out - gather your friends and savour all the delights that Colombia's famous Bandeja Paisa has to offer!
Ropa Vieja - Cuba
Cuba's signature dish Ropa Vieja is a culinary masterpiece that has been delighting South American palates for centuries.
The name translates to "old clothes" in Spanish and originates from a story of a poor man who had to shred his ragged clothing when he served a meal to his family. Despite its humble origins, this savoury concoction of beef simmered with vegetables has become beloved by locals and visitors alike, due to its spicy flavour profile and captivating aroma.
A taste of Ropa Vieja is sure to awaken your senses, fill your heart with warmth, and inspire you to keep exploring the remarkable culture of South America.
La Bandera Dominicana - Dominican Republic
South America is home to some of the most vibrant cultures in the world, and none more so than the Dominican Republic. The country proudly showcases its heritage through its traditional dishes, such as La Bandera Dominicana - a dish that's all about celebrating tradition, flavour, and national identity.
This beloved meal is made up of three components - shredded beef in tomato sauce, boiled white rice with red beans, and plantain or fried yuca. From the contrasting colours of the main ingredients, La Bandera Dominicana mirrors the Dominican Republic's national flag, while each bite brings a unique blend of South American spices, intense flavours and rich textures.
Even centuries later, this beloved dish remains a delicious reminder of Dominican culture and culinary heritage.
Tamale - Guatemala
The tamale, known as one of South America’s most iconic and beloved dishes, is a hearty meal originating in Guatemala that has spread across the Latin American continent.
And while it may look and sound different to those who are unfamiliar with this South American cuisine, the tamale’s history and ingredients remain the same wherever you go. Made of masa dough with various fillings such as pork, beef, chicken, cheese, or vegetables like corn and beans then steamed in plantain or husk leaves, tamales come in an infinite variety of flavours.
From sweet like pineapple-coconut to spicy like adobo pepper and habanero chilli pepper, your taste buds will be tantalised from beginning to end with every delicious bite that you take!
Sancocho - Panama
Sancocho is a delicious South American dish that originates from Panama. It is a flavorful stew featuring crisp vegetables, savoury meats and seasonings that tantalise the taste buds. It's often served in large portions with warm bread or boiled yuca on the side.
The exact ingredients vary depending on who's cooking it but typically feature plantains, chicken, beef or pork and herbs or spices like cumin. As a symbol of South American culture and hospitality, Sancocho is popular across countries in South America as well as among international tourists looking to explore new cultural cuisine.
Served piping hot in steaming bowls with love, Sancocho warms the body and soul with its hearty flavours.
Gallo Pinto - Costa Rica
Gallo Pinto is a South American delicacy known and devoured throughout Costa Rica. It's a mixture of rice and beans that is fried together in flavorful spices, making this savoury dish an absolute delight.
The awe-inspiring flavours make Gallo Pinto one of the best reasons to visit South America; it's worth experiencing! Not only is Gallo Pinto delicious and popular, but it also has many nutritional benefits like high amounts of protein and vitamins.
Whether you are looking for a delicious meal or just indulging in cultural gastronomy, Gallo Pinto should not be overlooked when visiting South America.
Chivito - Uruguay
South America is home to an incredible array of culinary delights, and one of these is the delectable chivito from Uruguay.
This meal consists of a juicy steak topped with a fried egg, mozzarella, ham, bacon and pickles all sandwiched between two crusty buns. It's a dish that packs plenty of flavour - some say it's South America's version of a burger! What makes this South American specialty stand out even further is its cultural significance - it's seen as a symbol of Uruguayan patriotism and has become part of the fabric of the nation.
Chivito has started its rise to global fame, paving the way for South American cuisine as a whole to find an even greater foothold around the world.
The chivito highlights how diverse South American cuisine can be as well as displays South America's strong sense of national identity.
Sopa paraguaya - Paraguay
South America is known for a variety of delicious dishes, and Sopa paraguaya is certainly no exception! This unique Paraguayan dish consists of a mixture of corn flour, cheese, milk, eggs and onions, resulting in a tasty savoury flavour.
While sceptics may be hesitant to try something new and different, it's comforting to know that South American dishes have remained largely the same over the centuries due to their deliciousness. Consequently, by exploring South American cuisine like Sopa paraguaya from Paraguay, you'll likely have an enjoyable experience with flavours that are both familiar and new!
As somebody who has had the pleasure of trying Sopa paraguaya firsthand, I can assure you that South America does have amazing flavours and dishes worth discovering!
Curry Crab and Dumplings - Trinidad and Tobago
Curry Crab and Dumplings from Trinidad and Tobago is a South American culinary experience like none other. Rich in flavour and rooted in centuries of cultural history, this exotic dish will leave your taste buds tingling with delight! The blend of spicy flavours combined with the succulent crab meat makes it a truly unique experience that offers a glimpse into South American cuisine you won't get anywhere else. Whether you whip up the recipe at home or go out for an authentic taste, you'll be sure to fall in love with Curry Crab and Dumplings from Trinidad and Tobago!
South American cuisine is rich in variety and flavours that make it a fulfilling gastronomic experience for any foodie. From the classic tastes of Chile's Cazuela to the exotic taste of Peru’s Lomo Saltado, South America is a place where traditional dishes abound and are ready to please even the most adventurous palate. These 15 South American dishes represent just some of the many mouth-watering options available to tantalise your tastebuds on a South American adventure.
Whether you are looking for something mild or adventurous, South American food has something for everyone from seafood stews to slow-cooked meats and veggie ceviche. Exploring South American cuisine could take weeks, but you'll be well rewarded with its exciting fare with the myriad spices, colours, and fragrances this region has to offer.
So, go out, explore South America, and make sure to try as many of these unique dishes as you can - you won't regret it!