The 10 best dishes of Argentine cuisine: what a tourist should try
The national food is the pride of Argentina. Excellent steaks, delicious fish dishes, expertly cooked vegetables, interesting delicacies, delicious sweets… We will tell you what every tourist should try in Argentina. Descriptions of local dishes with photos will help you not to be confused in this gastronomic paradise.
It is amazing that Argentinians manage to prepare something incredibly delicious from the simplest ingredients. Many here eat meat daily and love its “pure” taste. Of the vegetables, they prefer root vegetables, corn, and tomatoes. Even sweets are sometimes made only on the basis of dough, marmalade and condensed milk. Perhaps the secret is in the simplicity – the locals skillfully reveal all the facets of the familiar ingredients.
Of the unusual dishes in Argentina tourists are always interesting to try:
- oxtails in red wine;
- ostrich steaks;
- grilled bovine eggs;
- braised or roasted armadillo meat;
- llama soup or roast;
- fillet of viscacha with vegetables (reminiscent of rabbit meat);
- unusual Argentine fruits (e.g., cactus fruits).
Asado | Asado.
Literally, fried meat. This may be steaks with bone, ribs, kebabs, giblets, all kinds of sausages. All this is cooked on coals to a delicious browning. There are special grills for making asados in almost every Argentine family. Don’t be surprised if you see men cooking this popular dish right on their balconies.
Roast meat in Argentina is a must try. They really know how to handle it in this country. The main secret is exclusively fresh natural product. It is not customary to freeze meat in Argentina. The locals are sure that it loses its taste. So even in the inns you can be sure that you will be served fresh asado.
Steak | Steak
You can also call it an asado, but still this dish is worthy of separate attention. Argentine steaks are considered some of the best in the world, so be sure to try them. It seems that it is just a piece of beef on the grill. As a rule, they are not even flavored with anything. However, the Argentines know how to make it fantastically juicy. The clean taste of the meat, a little sauce to taste, a glass of good beer or local wine – it’s a classic dinner in Argentina.
Write down the names of the steaks so you can get your bearings:
- Bife de lomo is the most expensive and the best. Not an ounce of fat, perfectly cooked, flawless meat.
- Bife de chorizo is one of the most popular in Argentina. An imposing piece of meat from the upper thigh with a light fatty crust around the edges, which gives the steak a special piquancy.
- Baby beef – the name is deceptive, the portion is not childish at all. It’s a huge 1,5 pound piece of beef, expertly cooked.
- Vacio is a thin steak from the lower thigh. With a small amount of fat, crispy crust, but juicy.
- Colita de cuadril – steak with fat, which makes the meat especially hearty.
- Bife de costilla – classic Argentine T-bone steak.
- Entrana – the most budget-friendly option, cooked from the extremity of the diaphragm.
Matambre | Matambre
Argentine meat dishes are incredibly simple and yet impeccably good. Matambre is essentially a roll of steak. The thinnest layer of meat is generously seasoned with peppers and then filled with stuffing. Most often it’s carrots, whole boiled eggs, peppers and cheese. They roll it all up and send it for frying over the coals or in the oven. The meat soaks the filling with its own juice. The result is a very filling dish with a delicate texture, a crispy crust and an unusual filling. Be sure to try the matambre at one of Argentina’s restaurants. It’s better to have it for two, the portions are large.
Puchero | Puchero
Literally translated from Spanish as “pot” or “cauldron”. This is the usual way to serve this popular Argentinean soup. Or rather, something in between a thick stew and a soup. The meat is always cut in large pieces. Most often it is beef, sometimes ribs or sausages. Vegetables are either put in whole or cut into 2-3 pieces. Puchero usually contains potatoes, carrots, corn, green beans and onions. Spices are added to the potpourri just before serving. It is a tradition to put the pulp of the puchero on a plate and eat the broth with a spoon straight from the pot.
Locro | Locro
This dish is almost impossible to find outside of South America, so be sure to try it in Argentina. The thick chowder is made with a special kind of potato that doesn’t grow outside of its native region. Essentially, lokro is a thick stew of stewed pork and corn. It doesn’t sound very appetizing, and it doesn’t look very good either. However, the meat is very tender, and the light sweetness of the corn and the unusual potatoes harmonize wonderfully with it. The dish is served with a spicy red chili-based sauce. If it’s not brought separately, your stew will probably be “fiery.”
Milanesa | Milanesa.
Or “Milanesa-style chop.” Perhaps one of the most popular dishes in Argentina that is definitely worth a tourist’s try. Its recipe was brought to the country by the Italians. Milanesa is mostly cooked from chicken, but beef or pork variants can also be found. The thinnest chop is dipped in beaten eggs and then breaded. That’s why milanesa has such a delicious crispy crust. The best side dish is mashed potatoes.
Ñoquis | Gnocchi
It’s not easy to be a vegetarian in Argentina, but you can always find meat-free food. However, locals use it only as a side dish. For example, gnocchi, small potato dumplings, are usually eaten with fried meat. However, you can order ñoquis as a separate dish. The most popular version is in tomato sauce with basil and cheese. If you like meat, order Argentine sausages to go with the gnocchi – the locals will love this combination.
Pescado relleno de mariscos | Fish and seafood
A must-try in Argentina is fish and seafood. Here they are used to prepare divine soups, main courses and appetizers. Most of Argentine fish cannot be tasted in Russia, so take a moment. And if you want everything at once, order pescado relleno de mariscos. It is fish stuffed with seafood. It sounds unusual, but it is definitely worth trying in Argentina. Very interesting presentation. And what a taste!
Empanadas | Empanadas
Perhaps the best street food in Argentina. Each province has its own unique recipe for this delicious pastry. The mouthwatering, puffy patties are fried in boiling oil until crispy. The empanadas are usually eaten by hand, washed down with red Argentine wine. The filling may be very different: potatoes, meat, peas, shrimp, spinach with chicken, cheese and ham, and olives. Even vegetarians in Argentina are welcome to try this dish as it is easy to find a pie to your liking.
Alfajores | Alfajores
Among the desserts in Argentina, the first thing you should try is the boiled condensed milk Dulce de leche. Locals enjoy eating it with spoons and adding it to various cakes and pastries. The most popular dessert with dulce de leche is the Alfajores cookie. Tender shortbread dough, a great creamy layer – the perfect sweetness for Argentine coffee. By the way, the cookies are easy to travel with, so feel free to take such a guesthouse from Argentina for your loved ones.
Dinner in Argentine style
In Buenos Aires, it’s easy to combine business with pleasure. Head out to enjoy a tango and a great 3-course dinner with unlimited drinks. Piazzolla Tango is an incredible performance, a mix of live music and passionate dance inspired by the work of Astor Piazzolla. All this at one of the most luxurious theaters in the Argentine capital. It’s best to book your ticket in advance – the price if you buy online is the same as if you were at the venue. Follow this link to make your reservation.
Before you travel, be sure to check out our guide to shopping in Buenos Aires and other cities in the country. Clothing, leather shoes and accessories, traditional souvenirs, delicacies, wine, fruit – we’ve gathered the best shopping ideas in Argentina in one place.
Argentine cuisine is the epitome of eclecticism. Argentine culinary traditions are an extremely diverse mixture of local customs and a huge number of foreign recipes, which were brought to the region by European settlers. And it is in Argentina that the influence of European trends in cooking is most noticeable compared to neighboring countries.
At the same time, as experts note, by combining the culinary preferences of Europeans, Argentine cuisine has almost completely lost its national flavor – the traditions of the Indians who lived on this territory before the arrival of the conquerors from Spain. Today the dishes, considered national in Argentina, resemble by their recipe and method of preparation the dishes, habitual for inhabitants of Mediterranean countries (Italy, Spain and France).
Besides, the fact that agriculture in the country is very developed has had a huge influence on the Argentine cuisine. Argentina is one of the world leaders in wheat and beef production. Therefore, meat dishes and pastries are present on Argentine menus in huge quantities.
The relationship between the traditions of Argentine cuisine and the history of the country cannot be denied. It is the peculiarities of Argentina’s historical development that explains the regional nature of local culinary traditions.
Based on gastronomic preferences, experts conventionally divide the territory of Argentina into four parts.
Thus, the northwestern region has preserved traditions that existed before the Spanish conquistadors. European influence is minimal here, so maize, potatoes, yatoba beans, and carob beans play an enormous role in the diet of the locals. In addition, dishes made of beans, tomatoes, and pumpkins are prepared here. The most common meat is beef, but llama meat, pork, and goat meat are also used. Pucheroes, empanadas, and grilled patties are made of the meat. Also popular here are corn pies, known as tamales.
The culinary preferences of northeasterners were influenced by the traditions of the Guaraní Indians. Rice, freshwater fish, and cassava root vegetables are the main dishes of the local diet. The region also bakes empanadas, using rice as a filling. Meat dishes are made of beef, and the meat of the capybar and caiman is also baked. Mate is used to quench thirst. Fruit drinks, to which honey is added, are also popular.
In the central region of the country the influence of European traditions is particularly noticeable. Today Spanish and Italian cuisines have all but superseded dishes which were once popular with the local population. It is in the central regions of Argentina where the most meat is consumed. Beef is particularly popular and is used for preparing Milano-style chops, beef stroganoff or grilled over charcoal. In addition, Italian cuisine has given residents of central Argentina pizza and pasta, which are usually seasoned with cheese and tomato sauce, as well as polenta, the Italian equivalent of grits.
Spanish dishes are also popular in the region. Mostly meat dishes (jamon, meatballs), pastries (tortillas and doughnuts) and sweets, including the dulce de leche, very popular in Argentina – boiled condensed milk. French cuisine has given central Argentina an omelet and a number of cold appetizers, and of Russian dishes the most popular is Olivier salad. European desserts are also popular: muffins, croissants, Berlin-style doughnuts, Black Forest cake, apple strudel, puddings, etc.
In the southern regions of the country, on the Atlantic coast, the oceanic fish is beloved for its pâté and char-grilled dishes. Pork, venison, and goat meat are popular here. Besides Italian and Spanish cuisines, the cuisines of Scandinavia and Great Britain have influenced the culinary tastes of the inhabitants of southern Argentina.
Analyzing the peculiarities of Argentine cuisine it is necessary to separate its most important characteristics.
- Vegetables are present on the tables here year-round in abundance – both in the “natural” form and in the composition of complex dishes. The most popular are tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkin and corn.
- Beef and veal are one of the country’s calling cards. Until the nineteenth century, beef was usually roasted on hot rocks, and later began to be baked, smoked and stewed with vegetables.
- Argentine dishes are almost entirely devoid of spices. According to local cooks, they can only spoil the taste of the dish. The only spice that they deigned to make an exception for is pepper.
- Argentina is a true paradise for vegetarians, as those who refuse to eat meat will find a great number of fruit and vegetable dishes on the menu of local restaurants.
As noted above, Argentine cuisine is regionally structured, but there are dishes that are traditionally present in the diet of locals throughout the country.
Vegetables are most often used as a side dish, and may also act as a component of complex dishes. Salads are popular, although they are quite different from what Europeans are accustomed to. In Argentina, a salad is not just chopped vegetables doused in sauce. Here salads are most often very complex, with lots of animal ingredients added, such as eggs, fish, seafood, meat or sausage.
Throughout Argentina, a vegetable stew called saltado is invariably popular, as are roasted potatoes. Cold tomato soup called gazpacho is also popular here.
The meat dishes are mostly represented by parrillado, a grilled assortment of many kinds of meat. Also popular is beef in all forms: fried, grilled, baked.
Notably, there is simply no such thing as “frozen meat” in Argentina. It is believed that exposed to low temperatures, the meat loses flavor. Therefore, the locals live by the “buy and cook” principle – in other words, they try to cook meat immediately after visiting the store.
One of Argentina’s calling cards is asado, meat cooked on the grill. It is noteworthy that beef is grilled in huge chunks, and therefore the process takes quite a long time. Along with parts of the carcass, giblets and pork sausages are also grilled.
Metambre meatloaf is also popular. In a very thin and wide piece of meat, as if in dough, it is wrapped with stuffing consisting of mozzarella cheese, carrots, peppers and boiled eggs. The meat is rolled, fastened, and grilled over charcoal.
There are also more exotic meat dishes in Argentina, such as roasted oxtail or armadillo stew.
Fish dishes and seafood
Fish is present in marinated and dried forms, also fried, boiled and smoked. Fish cakes, as well as fish stuffed with vegetables or crabmeat, are popular in Argentina. Of seafood, the Argentine diet includes shrimp, squid, and smoked eel.
Desserts and Drinks
Desserts typical of Argentine cuisine resemble those popular in other Latin American countries. There are a variety of sweet fried cakes, candied fruit, and sugar-roasted nuts. Special mention should be made of Argentine gelado ice cream, which is often prepared with mint and other spicy herbs.
The main drink in Argentina is mate, which the locals drink in huge quantities. It is made from the crushed leaves of the Paraguayan holly. Yerba mate is high in caffeine, and is an excellent tonic and thirst quencher. It is usually served in hollandaise-pumpkin containers called kalebas.
Useful properties and contraindications
Because the Argentine diet is a balanced combination of meat, vegetables, and fish, it can be considered well-balanced. Abundance of fruits and vegetables helps to provide the body with all necessary macro-and micronutrients, as well as vitamins. Meat dishes and fish are a source of essential amino acids and protein.
However, due to the popularity of fried foods in Argentina, people suffering from digestive system diseases should be careful with the local delicacies.
In addition, there are a number of contraindications for drinking the most popular drink in Argentina – yerba mate. It is categorically not recommended to drink it to hypertensive people, because it can cause a sharp increase in blood pressure. Also, this tea is prohibited for pregnant and lactating women. In addition, it should be refrained from its use by people with a very fragile nervous system, due to the fact that the drink has the properties of an energy drink.
Preparing an Argentine stew in pumpkin
To prepare a flavorful Argentinian vegetable stew, you will need the following ingredients: one kilogram pumpkin; two potatoes; one carrot; one tomato; a small onion; half a bell pepper; one cob of corn; one third of a teaspoon of cumin, the same amount of ground coriander; a couple of garlic cloves; four tablespoons of vegetable oil; half a cup of red lentils; 100 g apricots; half a bunch of coriander; salt and black pepper to taste.
Wash and dry the vegetables. Cut off the top of the pumpkin, remove the seeds and pulp. Grease the outside and inside with vegetable oil and send it to an oven preheated to 180 degrees for 40 minutes.
Chop the vegetables, pour two to three tablespoons of vegetable oil into a deep skillet. Fry the onion, carrots and potatoes. Then add the tomato, bell bell pepper and garlic. Fry for about five minutes more. In the next step, add pre-washed lentils and chopped apricots. Pour about a liter of water and cook the mixture for about twenty minutes. Salt, add black pepper, cumin and coriander, as well as corn kernels, and then simmer the dish on the fire for about 10 minutes more. After that, add the chopped coriander to the stew and stir it up.
Put the stew into the pumpkin and again send it to the oven, now for a quarter of an hour.
Serve the dish directly in the pumpkin, without distributing it on plates.
Making Argentine-style milanesa
Milanesa is an Argentine schnitzel made with chicken fillets. It has a unique flavor and aroma due to the use of spicy herbs and garlic.
To prepare the dish you will need: 400 grams of chicken fillet; a couple of eggs; a teaspoon of aromatic herbs; a couple of garlic cloves; half a teaspoon of sea salt; four tablespoons of flour; five spoons of breadcrumbs; black pepper to taste; a teaspoon of a mixture of any spicy herbs (such as rosemary, thyme and oregano) and vegetable oil for frying.
Whisk eggs, add salt, pepper, spices and squeeze garlic. Stir thoroughly.
Dip fillets in flour and batter and roll in breadcrumbs. Fry in vegetable oil until crispy.
When ready place the schnitzels on a sheet of paper towel to let the excess oil be absorbed.
Serve the Argentinian Milanesa with a vegetable salad or mashed potatoes. Alternatively, the schnitzel can be used to make sandwiches.
Making Ensalada rusa Salad
Under the beautiful name Ensalada rusa, or Russian salad, is an olivier. However, Argentina has improved this favorite Russian dish in its own way, making it more concise.
The Argentinean Olivier has only three ingredients: potatoes, carrots, and green peas. You can even find a special mixture for making “Ensalada rusa” in stores in the country.
Eggs are also used in the Argentine dish, but not as an ingredient, but for decoration – figures of whites or yolk are placed on top of the salad.
The main dressing is usually mayonnaise; there is also a vegetarian version with a dressing of vegetable oil and vinegar. Some gourmets add shrimp and olives to the salad and pepper it liberally.
To make the salad you will need: 400 g potatoes, 50 g carrots, 100 g green peas, (you can take either fresh or canned). You will also need mayonnaise and salt to taste.
Boil the potatoes until soft. Peas pour boiling water for a couple of minutes. Boil carrots for ten minutes, so that they do not have time to become soft.
Without waiting for the potatoes to cool completely, peel them and cut them into large cubes. Cut carrots and add peas. Pour mayonnaise over the vegetables and let stand for two hours.