There are a ton of traditional Argentinian foods that are different than those of other South American countries, and we're here to share them with you.
Argentina is full of flavor, and quality. This country is home to some of the best meat in the world, and the most renown wines of the Americas. So let's dive right into the delicious food culture of Argentina. Here are 12 traditional Argentinian foods that you need to try.
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The History of the Cuisine of Argentina
First thing's first- it's important to know why the cuisine of Argentina is so different than the rest of the continent. This is due to the mix of cultures that actually make up the country, giving it its diversity across the country.
During the 20th century there was a huge immigration of Italians, Spaniards, and Germans that came to Argentina. They came to Buenos Aires by boat, and many (especially Germans) actually went down to Patagonia to set up base.
The north of the country shares borders with Bolivia, Paraguay, and Brazil, so you'll notice that the people, weather, and cuisine are quite different from the native Argentinians in the north of the country, to the ones who immigrated to the capital and the colder, more touristy areas the country.
The Cuisine of Argentina
Like anywhere, when you have a country that is so big, there can be quite a variety when it comes to how people look, the weather, language, and especially the food! The cuisine of Argentina actually varies quite a bit, and this is majorly because of two main factors: the natural resources, and the influence from immigrants into the country.
Because of the rich soil, and large masses of open land, cows are able to roam freely. This means more tender, natural meat, which gives it the high quality and taste that many other countries don't have access to. This also goes for the wine, especially in the region of Mendoza. The cuisine of Argentina is very meat and dairy heavy, so not particularly the best place for vegetarians (unless you're in Buenos Aires, where there are some great vegetarian options!).
There is also a big influence from Italy, so you will find that it is common for fresh pastas, as well as some other items that we're going to share with you.
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Cuisine of Argentina: Traditional Argentinian Foods
Traditional Argentinian Foods: Argentine Dishes
First, let's start with Argentinian dishes and meals that you should try while visiting Argentina.
Traditional Foods of Argentina #1: Asado
If you're going to Argentina, the number one thing you need to try is an asado, which is the essence of the cuisine of Argentina. More than just a barbecue, an asado is an all day event of eating several different types of meat with family or friends.
Meat is a huge part of Argentinian culture, and attending an asado is a truly special experience. If you don't have any family or friends from Argentina, have no fear. There are plenty of restaurants that also have giant parrillas (grills) and provide an asado experience for tourists.
Traditional Foods of Argentina #2: Bondiola
Bondiola is a cut of meat that is often served as a sandwich. You can find bondiola of pork, or bondiola of beef. It can be found usually at kiosks or carts with a ton of different toppings. Want a "bondiola completa"? This is a sandwich which tops the meat off with ham, cheese, and an egg. You can find this incredible sandwich on the streets from just a couple of dollars, and there is even an entire area along the river in Buenos Aires dedicated to bondiola stands!
Traditional Foods of Argentina #3: Choripan
This may just be one of my favorites from the Argentinian cuisine. There isn't any sausage quite like Argentinian Chorizo, and Choripan is a mix of Chorizo and pan (bread). AKA it's essentially an Argentinian Chorizo served on a baguette like a big juicy delicious chorizo sandwich.
Traditional Foods of Argentina #4: Mollejas al Verdeo
When Argentinians use their cows, they use almost all the parts. While this particular piece is too chewy for me, they are an extremely popular appetizer at steakhouses. Mollejas are the gizzards of the cow, and al Verdeo refers to them being grilled and cooked in a creamy scallion sauce.
Another popular way to have them is to grill them until golden brown, cut them in half, and then squeeze lemon on top.
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Traditional Foods of Argentina #5: Provoleta
This is another super popular starter at steakhouses and bars alike. Essentially Provoleta is a giant block of provolone cheese that is topped with spices and grilled.
Traditional Foods of Argentina #6: Milanesas
Milanesas are similar to what we call chicken cutlets in the US, or what they call Schnitzel in Germany. You can find Milanesas of chicken, or even more traditional with beef. The meat is pounded thin, breaded, and fried. Argentinian Milanesas are served commonly in many restaurants, and can eaten for either lunch or dinner. Portions are extremely generous, and I usually only eat half of mine and save the rest for later.
Milanesa Napolitana is similar to chicken parmesan, as it is smothered in mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. Additionally, a thin slice of ham is added on top and it is usually served with fries.
Milanesa a Caballo is a Milanesa topped with 2 eggs over easy, and served with fries on the side.
Traditional Foods of Argentina #7: Lamb
Heading down to Patagonia? Well, you can't leave without trying their incredible lamb dishes. It is actually so popular that you will find many restaurants with giants lambs hanging in the window and slowly roasting for hours. They are super tender, and in very high demand. While lamb isn't always our favorite meat, we actually found it be our favorite dish we had in Calafate. We were able to get ours with gnocchi, which we highly recommend!
Traditional Foods of Argentina #8: Guanaco
Guanaco is another very popular dish that you'll find in Patagonia, and on that we tried when we went to Calafate. The reason that this deer-like animal is served so commonly is actually because there is a huge overpopulation, and they need to get rid of them since they are destroying the Patagonian nature.
The meat of Guanaco is a little dry, but pretty tasty. We would suggest trying it at least once if you make it down to Patagonia.
Traditional Foods of Argentina #9: Locro
Locro is actually a dish that I haven't personally had yet, since I always visit Argentina in the summer. This hearty stew is made with white corn, beans, and pumpkin, and often has meat inside as well such a thick bacon, or beef. You can find Locro only in the winter, and Fede has a lot of good things to say about it, so one day I'll definitely have to try it!
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Traditional Foods of Argentina #10: Gnocchi
You may be thinking, how is Gnocchi a part of the cuisine of Argentina? Well, remember when we talked about the big influx of Italians? Well, they brought some of their best dishes to Argentina, and gnocchi has become a common dish around the country.
In Buenos Aires you can find many restaurants that serve the traditional Gnocchi Sorrento, or even made with other ingredients.
In the south (especially Calafate) it is served as a side, or an accompaniment for some of the meat dishes.
Traditional Argentinian Foods: Snacks & Quick Options
Full from reading all of those heavy dishes? Well, here are a few foods to try on the go, or for a quick and cheap bite to eat.
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Traditional Foods of Argentina #11: Argentinian Pizza
There are actually two styles of Argentinian pizza: al Molde, or a la piedra. Pizza al Molde has a thick dough and is cooked in a tray, while Pizza a la piedra is much more similar to Italian style, with a thin and crunchy crust.
Traditional Foods of Argentina #12: Empanadas
Many countries in the world have a variation of the empanada. In Asia they have dumplings, in Poland they have pirogies, and in Georgia they have khinkhali. Even throughout South America, there are many countries that have empanadas, but Argentinian empanadas are very particular.
In Argentina the dough is brushed with egg yolks, so when they are cooked in the oven they have a glaze on top. They also have various toppings, and each flavor of empanadas have a different type of fold. This is so that people known what's inside. You can find a huge variety of empanadas from ground beef or hand cut steak, to corn & cream, or sautéed mushrooms.
Empanadas are really one of the only quick "to go" traditional foods of Argentina that you can find, and are one of the cheapest foods that you can find. They are usually pretty decently sized, and I eat 2, while Fede usually has 4. They run anywhere from 100-500 Argentinian pesos (30 cents to a little over $1).
Traditional Foods of Argentina #13: Medialunas
Now we're going to talk about one of the most traditional foods of Argentina, that are very similar to one of the most beloved French pastries- medialunas.
Medialunas look very similar to croissants, but they are smaller, denser, and less flaky. The ends are curved, and it has a sweet glaze on the top. I personally love having a medialuna with my coffee, or having one with ham and cheese for breakfast.
Traditional Argentinian Foods: Sauces & Toppings
While these aren't dishes, they are certainly a great part of the cuisine of Argentina. Here are some of the top sauces and toppings to try.
Traditional Foods of Argentina #14: Chimichurri
This is a mix of onion, garlic, parsley, bell pepper, and sometimes oregano. The mix has oil, lemon juice, and vinegar, and is used on top of meats and sandwiches like bondiolla.
Traditional Foods of Argentina #15: Salsa Criolla
Just like Chimichurri, this is often served with meats and sandwiches, and is a simple mix of tomato, bell pepper, and onion.
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Traditional Foods of Argentina #16: Dulce de Leche
If it's one thing many Argentinians can't live without, it's dulce de leche. Similar to caramel, Argentinians will actually be very offended if you compare the two. Dulce de leche is much thicker and sweeter, and is made from boiling milk, sugar, and vanilla extract for several hours.
Dulce de leche is found sold in jars, and Fede and his family will actually have spoonfuls of it (way too sweet for me to do that!). You can also find dulce de leche in cakes, on cookies, or swirled into ice cream.
Traditional Argentinian Foods: Desserts
Speaking of sweets, it's no secret that many Argentinians have a huge sweet tooth, and it can be seen in the cuisine of Argentina. Here are some of the most popular sweets to try.
Traditional Foods of Argentina #17: Alfajores
Alfajores are hands down the most popular dessert in the cuisine of Argentina. Alfajores are two cookies sandwiched together with dulce de leche in the middle. There are a tons of different types of alfajores, and most of them are completely covered in chocolate. You can easily find alfajores in bakeries, cafes, or even packaged at convenience stores. Ps- they make a great souvenir!
Traditional Foods of Argentina #18: Flan
Flan is a very traditional dessert found all throughout Central and South America. It is a sweet caramel custard served in the shape of a round cake, and topped with a thin caramel sauce. In Argentina it is actually very common to add dulce de leche and whipped cream on top.
Traditional Foods of Argentina #19: Pastafrola
Pastafrola is a giant pie filled different types of sweets. It is commonly made with membrillo (a thick and jam with a jello like substance). Other common fillings for pasafrola include quince cheese, dulce de batata (sweet potato), dulce de leche, guava, or strawberry jam.
Traditional Foods of Argentina #20: Dulce y Queso
Just like pastafrolla, Dulce y Queso has membrillo. This sweet jam is cut into squares and served with a cube of cheese for the perfect sweet and salty mix.
Traditional Foods of Argentina #21: Malbec Wine
Argentina is known for their wine, and the most popular one is their Malbec. The Malbec grape is the signature grape of Argentina, and it makes a full-bodied with a unique flavor that will leave you with craving more.
This red wine is perfect to pair with your steak, and if you get a chance to go to Mendoza, don't miss out on trying the Malbecs at the many wineries where they are made.
If you're a wine lover- you're in luck. Glasses of wine in restaurants are only $2-3 a glass normally, and you can find good bottles of wine in the supermarket for around $3 as well. So make sure to save some room in your suitcase, because you're definitely going to want to bring at least a bottle or two home to your family and friends!
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Traditional Foods of Argentina #22: Mate
Mate is one of the most sacred drinks for Argentinians, and although it's totally not my thing, it's a must for anyone visiting Argentina to try. It is an infusion, like tea, but it's prepared in a very particular way. The weed, called "yerba", comes in a big bag. You need a metal straw and a container (what is what is actually called the "mate") which can be made out of wood, metal, plastic, glass or even a small pumpkin.
The Yerba is sucked through a straw, while continuing to add more hot water after every few sips. Mate is more than just a drink, but rather an Argentinian experience. It is shared in groups, and used for social gatherings.
Mate is such a huge thing amongst Argentinians, that you can literally run into an Argentinian while traveling abroad, and if they're drinking mate you can ask them for a sip and they will happily share it with you. They drink it all day, no matter what time, or even what the temperature is like. Like coffee, it gives you a lot of energy, and is also a good diuretic.
Traditional Foods of Argentina #23: Fernet
This is another one I'm personally not crazy about, but it is super popular, especially in Cordoba. Fernet is a liquor which is made out of herbs, kind of similar to Jagermeister. Originally from Italy, it is supposed to be used as an aperitivo or as a digestive. However, in Argentina, many people drink it with Coca Cola and a lot of ice, and is particularly popular with a younger crowd. While it's certainly not our favorite, we do think it's worth trying at least once.
Cuisine of Argentina: When do Argentinians Eat?
Lunches are usually around 1 or 1:30 and are actually the first "meal" of the day. Argentinians have longer lunch breaks than people from the US, so having a Milanesa, pasta dish, or another heavier meal is totally normal. Just like many other countries, Argentina has great lunch specials, and many restaurants offer an appetizer, entree, dessert, and a drink for a very reasonable price.
Dinners are similar to lunch, and are much bigger meals. However, dinners are not early in the evening like 6 or 7. In Argentina, dinner is usually around 10 pm. In between lunch and dinner is the "merienda" (snack) where people will get together for an afternoon tea, coffee, and pastries.
The Art of the "Sobremesa"
Another thing I learned about the dining experience in Argentina, is that just like Spain, meals are long. If you're grabbing dinner with someone, never expect it to be an hour. When Argentinians get together they spend hours at the table, even well after the meal is finished. This extra time chatting is called "sobremesa" and is super common in their culture.
If you are visiting as a foreigner, just be aware that servers won't just drop the check, or try to get you out of the restaurant. If you want to get out in a timely manner, you'll want to probably order the check when your food gets there.
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So are you ready to dive into the cuisine of Argentina and taste all of these great traditional Argentinian dishes?
Argentina doesn't only have great food, but they have stunning landscapes, and super fun nightlife. We have another exciting article coming up about the best restaurants to check out in Buenos Aires, so make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates, as well as exclusive discounts on our products and services!
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