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National Food of Argentina: Top 18 Dishes

Welcome to our exploration of the lively culinary landscape of Argentina! If you’ve ever wondered about the flavorful delights that define this South American nation’s gastronomic identity, you’re in for a treat. From roasting barbecues to mouthwatering street snacks, Argentina’s food culture is as diverse as it is delicious. Join us on a culinary trip as we explore the heart and soul of Argentina’s top 18 dishes, uncovering the stories behind each delectable bite.

In this article, we’ll be uncovering Argentina’s culinary heritage through its most iconic dishes. From the legendary asado, a symbol of community and tradition, to the indulgent dulce de leche that sweetens every meal, we’ll explore the rich flavors and cultural significance of each culinary masterpiece.

So, let’s start this delicious adventure together and uncover the tempting flavors of Argentina’s culinary textiles!

Top 8 National Foods of Argentina

1. Asado

photo by Rldca

Asado is the ideal Argentine barbecue that captures the heart of the nation’s culinary tradition. Originating from the gauchos, Argentina’s cowboys, this dish involves leisurely afternoons spent by a grill or open fire, engaging in a feast of various grilled meats. The asado features beef, pork, ribs, sausages, blood sausages, and sweetbreads, all cooked to perfection. In the Patagonia region, it’s common to find whole lamb or pig roasting over an open flame. Lightly salted and often topped with chimichurri, these meats are best enjoyed with a glass of Malbec, making asado a true Argentine experience.

2. Provoleta

photo by Laurel F

Provoleta transforms the concept of grilled cheese into a uniquely Argentine delight. This dish uses sharp, pungent provolone cheese cut into thick slices and sprinkled with chili flakes and oregano. The cheese is then grilled until it develops a crispy, caramelized exterior while remaining gooey and smoky inside. Typically served with a drizzle of olive oil or a spoonful of chimichurri, provoleta is proof of Argentina’s ability to fuse Italian culinary traditions with local flavors.

3. Matambre Arrollado

Matambre arrollado is a must-try Argentinean dish that stands out among the country’s thick, juicy cuts of meat. This super-thin cut of beef, similar to flank steak, is precisely sliced and stuffed with a mix of vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, herbs, and olives. The meat is then rolled around the filling and cooked by boiling, baking, or grilling. Translating to ‘hunger killer,‘ this dish is often the first to be ready at an asado, offering a delicious appetizer while the main meats finish cooking.

4. Choripán

photo by stu_spivack

Choripán is the ultimate food in Argentina, a staple before football matches, and a favorite among taxi drivers and market-goers. This sandwich features a pork and beef chorizo sausage, grilled over charcoal or wood flames, then butterflied and topped with chimichurri. It’s served between slices of crusty bread and can include various toppings like caramelized onions, pickled aubergines, and green peppers depending on the region. A tradition that originated with the gauchos, choripán has made its way from rural areas to become a beloved urban snack.

5. Carbonada

photo by avlxyz

Carbonada is a hearty and tasty stew, perfect for Argentina’s cooler months. This stick-to-your-ribs dish combines meat, potatoes (both sweet and white), corn on the cob, carrots, peppers, and bacon, all soaked together. The unique twist comes from the addition of fruits like dried apricots, raisins, peaches, pears, and green grapes. Traditionally, the stew is served in a hollowed-out pumpkin, which is placed on the barbecue to cook. Variants of carbonada can be found across the country, and it sometimes even fills empanadas, creating a portable version of this comforting stew.

6. Locro

Locro is a national stew enjoyed on May 25th to commemorate Argentina’s May Revolution. This hearty dish is made with white corn, beef or pork, tripe, red chorizo, and a variety of vegetables such as white beans, squash, and pumpkin. Seasoned with cumin and bay leaf, locro is a warming winter meal. It can be enhanced with quiquirimichi, a spicy salsa made from paprika, spring onions, and chili. Similar to carbonada, this dish also incorporates sweetcorn and is often served inside a seasoned, baked pumpkin.

7. Milanesa

photo by Ben Tavener

Milanesa, influenced by Italian cuisine, is Argentina’s take on the breaded escalope. Typically made from silverside beef or chicken breast, the meat is pounded thin, coated in breadcrumbs, and then fried or baked. Various toppings raise the dish: a Caballo adds a fried egg, a la napolitana includes cheese and tomato sauce, and a la suiza uses gruyere cheese. For a hearty meal, the completa version includes ham, cheese, and tomato sauce, and it’s best served with French fries and a simple salad.

8. Dulce de Leche

photo by Kai Hendry

Dulce de leche is a beloved Argentine caramel spread made by slowly cooking milk and sugar until it thickens and turns brown. This sweet, creamy mixture is a staple in Argentine desserts, appearing in cakes, pies, cookies, ice cream, pancakes, and more. It’s also enjoyed on its own, spread on bread or toast, often accompanied by a mate. Dulce de leche is so integral to Argentine culture that it even has its national day, celebrated on October 11th.

Traditional 6 Dishes to Eat

9. Chimichurri

photo by Dominic Lockyer

Chimichurri is a lively, herbaceous green salsa made from finely chopped parsley, oregano, onion, garlic, chili pepper flakes, olive oil, and a touch of lemon or vinegar. This flavorful condiment is a staple in Argentine cuisine, traditionally paired with grilled meats, especially beef. It also serves as a versatile marinade, enhancing the taste of meats before they hit the grill.

10. Empanadas

photo by jules

Empanadas are versatile stuffed dough pockets, which can be either deep-fried or baked. The fillings vary by region and can be sweet or tasty. Flavorful options often include chicken, goat, cheese, ham, blue cheese, or spiced ground beef, while sweet versions might contain quince jam, sweet potato paste, or dulce de leche, often with a sprinkle of cinnamon or sugar. Each empanada’s distinct pastry fold helps identify its filling.

11. Humitas

Humitas are a traditional Andean dish that predates the Hispanic period, resembling fresh corn tamales. Made with fresh corn, sautéed onions, and spices, the dough is wrapped in corn husks and then boiled or steamed. This ancient food is typically served with fresh bread or tortillas, providing a unique and flavorful experience of Argentine culinary heritage.

12. Steak

photo by Chris Rault

Argentine steak is world-renowned for its exceptional quality and flavor. Cooked on a parrilla, a traditional grill that allows precise control over the cooking process, the steak is delicate, juicy, and full of flavor. An asado, the Argentine method of grilling, is not just about the food but also a social event that brings friends and family together, showing the nation’s pride in their grilling expertise.

13. Cazuela

photo by Marieloreto

Cazuela is a hearty soup made with meat, vegetables, and potatoes, resembling a stew but with a thinner broth. This comforting dish, ideal for winter, derives its name from the Spanish word for the earthenware pot in which it is traditionally cooked. Cazuela offers a warming and nutritious meal, perfect for colder days.

14. Guiso de Lentejas

photo by Jorge Gobbi

Guiso de lentejas is a nourishing lentil stew that combines meat, vegetables, and spices into a hearty dish perfect for cold weather. This versatile stew can also be made without meat, making it a great option for vegetarians. Served in a terracotta bowl, guiso de lentejas is a comforting and delicious meal that highlights the rich culinary traditions of Argentina.

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Spices: The Heart of Argentinian Cooking

photo by spurekar

The distinctive flavor of dishes from Northwestern Argentina is heavily influenced by a range of spices. Notable among these are cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, cumin, juniper, ginger, saffron, turmeric, and particularly paprika, whose production is considered an art form in this region. These spices, combined with local ingredients like humita, potatoes, cassava, peppers, tomatoes, beans, and yerba mate, reflect a rich culinary heritage that blends original traditions with Mediterranean influences brought by Spanish colonists.

Argentinian cuisine, renowned for its bold and dynamic flavors, relies on a mix of spices and herbs to enhance its dishes. While Argentine cuisine typically does not employ heavy spicing, staples like paprika, cumin, and various herbs such as parsley, thyme, oregano, basil, and rosemary are used extensively. Garlic, though not a spice, plays a crucial role in flavoring meats, sauces, and marinades. Chimichurri sauce, made with parsley, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil, represents the country’s approach to seasoning, providing a fresh and robust complement to the beloved grilled meats.

Argentinian Family Dining

photo by Julieta suarez

In Argentina, gatherings with friends and family naturally revolve around shared meals, displaying the heart of connection and togetherness. This tradition, deeply influenced by the country’s Italian heritage, highlights the importance of real ingredients and the joy of leisurely dining. Many Argentinians grew up learning the value of homemade meals and the communal pleasure of eating from their nonnas (grandmothers). These gatherings serve not only to nourish the body but also to strengthen relationships through conversation and laughter.

Argentinian cuisine, shaped by a rich textile of cultural influences and historical migration, offers a variety of traditional dishes that reflect its diverse heritage. While beef has long been a central diet component, other proteins, and meatless options have gained popularity due to cost and health considerations. Iconic dishes such as empanadas, milanesas, and the celebrated asado (barbecued beef) are staples, often accompanied by chimichurri sauce.

Despite evolving dietary trends, the tradition of home cooking with simple, authentic ingredients remains a cherished aspect of Argentinean life, honoring the legacy of their ancestors.

Street Food

15. Sandwich de Lomo

photo by Conyann2009

Sandwich de lomo, or lomito, is a robust and hearty version of a steak sandwich, renowned in both Argentina and Uruguay. This substantial sandwich is packed with thinly sliced lomo steak, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, mayonnaise, chimichurri sauce, ham, cheese, and a fried egg, creating a rich and satisfying meal. Variations often include substituting the steak with pork or adding ingredients like aubergine. Easily found at street carts across metropolitan areas, this versatile sandwich adapts to numerous innovations, making it a favorite among locals and tourists alike.

16. Bondipan

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Bondipan, also known as bondiola, is a staple Argentinian street food that features roasted or grilled pork shoulder served on crusty French bread. This delicious sandwich is typically dropped with lemon juice and topped with chimichurri, with an optional dash of chili sauce for added spice. Bondipan is a popular choice at street food vendors, often enjoyed by patrons standing by the bar, enjoying the flavorful and salty flavors of the perfectly cooked pork.

17. Garrapiñada

photo by Glane23

Garrapiñada is a beloved street food treat in Uruguay and Argentina, consisting of peanuts roasted with sugar, water, and vanilla core. Once the peanuts are thoroughly coated and the syrup hardens, they are ready to be enjoyed. Sold by street vendors known as garrapiñeros, these sweet, crunchy peanuts are typically served in small, long bags, making them a convenient snack for eating on the go. Variations of garrapiñada include using almonds or walnuts for a different twist on this traditional treat.

18. Panchuker

photo by Jodimichelle

Panchuker is a popular Argentinian street snack that resembles a corn dog but with a unique twist. It features a sausage covered in a waffle-like coating and served on a stick for easy consumption. There are various versions of panchuker, some including cheese or accompanied by different sauces, making each bite customizable to one’s taste. While panchuker can be found in other South American countries, it is especially popular in the Argentine province of Tucumán, where it is a street food favorite.

Farm-to-Table Movement

photo by PABLO GONZALEZ

Argentina, a leading global producer of diverse agricultural products, is experiencing a growing farm-to-table movement, emphasizing locally sourced, organic ingredients. This movement, which originated as a response to the dominance of processed foods, is gaining momentum as more restaurants and communities welcome sustainable, ethical food systems.

In Argentina, the focus is on leveraging the country’s vast agricultural capacity to support local economies and enhance food security, aligning with the global shift towards environmental sustainability and health consciousness.

The principles driving the farm-to-table movement; food security, proximity, self-reliance, and sustainability are particularly relevant in Argentina. By promoting local food systems, the movement aims to reduce environmental impact, strengthen community ties, and ensure future generations can meet their food needs.

The integration of local farms into urban and rural food networks reflects a broader cultural shift towards healthier, more environmentally responsible eating practices. As the movement continues to grow, it promises to reshape Argentina’s food landscape, making locally sourced, fresh ingredients a cornerstone of the nation’s culinary identity.

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Dining Etiquette

phoot by Miguel

Dos

1. Use Utensils Properly: They keep the knife in their right hand and the fork in their left hand while eating. They do not switch utensils between hands. When finished, they place the knife and fork across their plate with the prongs facing down and the handles to the right.

2. Wait for the Host: They begin eating only after the host has said, “¡Buen provecho!” This is a sign that the meal can start.

3. Participate in Toasts: They join in the common toast by saying “salud” (to your health) before taking the first sip of any beverage.

4. Pass Food to the Left: When passing dishes at the table, they always pass them to their left.

5. Show Respect at the Table: They keep their hands visible above the table by resting their wrists on top of it, not in their lap.

6. Drink Mate Respectfully: When offered mate, they sip from the gourd and pass it to their neighbor without wiping the bombilla (straw).

7. Follow the Formal Dress Code: Men should wear a jacket and tie, and women should wear a dress or blouse and skirt to maintain a formal appearance.

Don’ts

1. Avoid Public Displays of Poor Manners: They do not use a toothpick, blow their nose, or clear their throat at the table, as these actions are considered impolite.

2. Do Not Eat on Public Transport: Eating while using public transport is seen as poor etiquette in Argentina.

3. Incorrectly Pour Wine: They never pour wine backward into a glass or use their left hand to pour, as it signifies dislike for the person they are serving.

4. Cut Lettuce in Salad: Instead of cutting lettuce, they fold it with their knife and fork into a bundle that can be picked up with their fork.

5. Leave the Table Prematurely: It is bad form to leave the dinner party or table at any time during the meal. They wait for more senior members to enter rooms ahead of them.

6. Initiate Business Discussions: They avoid bringing up business unless their Argentine associates do so, typically over coffee and brandy at the end of the meal.

Global Influence and Popularity

Argentinian cuisine is renowned for its rich culinary heritage and deep-rooted traditions, particularly the country’s passion for beef. Cattle ranching has a long history in Argentina, and this is reflected in the nation’s culinary culture where the tradition of grilling and consuming beef, especially through asados (barbecues), is a central element.

The country’s love for meat is evident in its high per capita consumption of beef, which remains a staple in the Argentinian diet. The cuisine of Argentina is a lively blend of various cultural influences, from the natural ingredients like humita, potatoes, and yerba mate, to the Mediterranean flavors introduced by the Spanish during the colonial period. Social gatherings in Argentina often revolve around shared meals, with Sunday family lunches and homemade dishes being significant cultural practices that highlight the country’s strong emphasis on food as a means of developing community and expressing affection.

Key Takings about National Food of Argentina

1. Top 8 National Foods of Argentina: From the smoky attraction of the Asado to the appeal sweetness of Dulce de Leche, these dishes are the symbol of Argentine culinary excellence.

2. 7 Traditional Dishes to Eat: Chimichurri, Empanadas, and more; these eternal favorites offer a glimpse into Argentina’s gastronomic heritage.

3. Spices: The Heart of Argentinian Cooking: Explore the lively flavors of Argentina, where spices like paprika and cumin play a central role in culinary expression.

4. Argentinian Family Dining: Sharing meals with loved ones is a cherished tradition in Argentina, developing connections and creating cherished memories.

5. Street Food: From the hearty Sandwich de Lomo to the sweet indulgence of Garrapiñada, Argentina’s street food scene is proof of its culinary creativity.

6. Farm-to-Table Movement: Welcoming sustainability and local produce, Argentina’s farm-to-table movement is reshaping the nation’s food landscape.

7. Dining Etiquette: Learn the dos and don’ts of dining in Argentina, where respect for tradition and hospitality are common.

8. Global Influence and Popularity: From cattle ranching to cultural gatherings, Argentina’s culinary heritage resonates worldwide, drawing admirers to its lively flavors and rich traditions.