Last Updated on June 25, 2020 by Audrey Scott
Argentine steak, empanadas and pizza play a big role in the country’s cuisine, but there’s much more to food in Argentina. From asado (barbecue) to the stew-like national dish of locro, our Argentina food guide offers an extensive list of traditional dishes, European-influenced Argentine food favorites, desserts and wine. And it’s drawn from our travels across Argentina for four months, including meals in family homes, cafes, wineries and restaurants.
When I think about my first contact with the concept of Argentine cuisine, I recall a discussion twelve years ago with an unassuming foodie friend in San Francisco.
“I bet the food in Argentina is great!” I offered with blind optimism as visions of gauchos stepping to a tango beat danced in my head. Argentina seemed so damn far away; therefore the food must be exotic and varied.
My food-wise friend brushed off my enthusiasm without skipping a beat, “Yeah, if the only thing you like is steak and wine.”
Twelve years later Audrey and I arrive in Argentina to find out for ourselves about its food.
Four months traveling in Argentina, we have some experience. We have some answers about Argentine food, but a few questions linger:
Did the spice trade ever make it to Argentina?
What happened to the vegetables?
Can man live on steak alone?
Let's dig in.
Note: This post was originally published on August 18, 2010 and updated on November 4, 2018.
Argentine Steak: How to Choose and Order
Man cannot live on steak alone, no. But a steak a week is an easy pull in Argentina. And since steak is such an important part of the cuisine in Argentina, it garners its own section.
Argentine cattle are grass fed (in contrast to more common grain-fed beef typical in the U.S.). As a result, Argentine beef is not only a better taste experience, but also an easier digestive experience. To boot, Argentine steaks are charcoal grilled on a parrilla (i.e. a giant grill; parrilla is also the word used to denote grill-style restaurants).
Although Argentine steak is rich and flavorful enough on its own, that doesn't prevent most restaurants from offering chimichurri, an olive oil and spice rub sauce to pick things up even more. In our opinion, when the meat tastes this good on its own, there's no need to dress it up with any sauce.
Steak servings in Argentina are typically large, tipping the scales at 400 grams or almost one pound a portion. So it's not a faux pas to share one steak between two people at a restaurant.
To balance out the meal, we typically ordered a salad to go with our steak. We always left satiated, but not overly full. If you are ravenous or eating in a larger group, consider ordering a provoleta (a small round of herbed, grilled cheese) as an appetizer to kick things off.
A few tips to navigate an Argentine steak restaurant and menu:
Typical cuts of meat in Argentina:
- bife de lomo (sirloin) – a very lean cut and usually the most expensive. Our favorite choice.
- bife de chorizo (strip loin steak) – fattier than the bife de lomo, but some prefer it because it's juicier.
- matambre (flank steak) – more fat and less expensive, still.
- vacio (London broil)
How to order your meat cooked in Argentina:
- jugoso – rare (literally translated as juicy). This is what we would recommend. Actually muy jugoso, or very rare, is what we usually asked for.
- a punto – medium rare
- bien cocido – well done
Traditional Argentine Food
Mixed Asado (Traditional Argentine barbecue)
Argentine asado, the sacred weekend barbecue ritual of Argentine families, goes well beyond steak. The grill and cooking style used is similar, but an asado selection might include other cuts of beef, sausages, mollejas (thymus glands) and other offal, pork, and chicken.
If you are not fortunate enough to have Argentine family to hang out with like we did, you can find asado plates offered at most parrilla restaurants.
Many hostels also offer an asado dinner option once or twice a week. Another approach: crash a village cowboy/gaucho festival like we did.
Locro (Traditional Argentine Stew)
A dish hailing from Argentina's Andean northwest, locro is like a stew or soup filled with grains, meat, vegetables and corn. What some might consider the traditional national dish of Argentina, it’s a hearty, heavy comfort food.
Milanesa (Argentinian Schnitzel)
Milanesa sits atop many “typical Argentine food” lists. A milanesa is a pounded piece of chicken or beef breaded and fried or baked. Milanesa can be considered an Argentinian version of schnitzel, the traditional dish you'll find across Central Europe.
Milanesa is a common lunch menu item and is usually served with fries or potatoes, or slapped between bread to make a sandwich. Considering we had eaten milanesas for months during our travels throughout Latin America — from Guatemala on south — we admittedly didn't often seek it out while snacking in Argentina.
Empanadas, the ubiquitous Latin American savory turnover. Flaky or doughy, empanadas come stuffed with just about anything: spinach, cheese, acelga (Swiss chard), mushrooms, ground beef, chicken, even seafood.
On balance, Argentine empanadas are usually baked. You'll occasionally find them fried, especially in the north. Empanadas are the perfect traveler food — they are cheap, quick, high comfort and often oozing with cheesiness.
Argentina's Salta region claims the best empanadas. We agree.
Salteña empanadas are smaller and tastier; there's something special about the dough. Salta also gets extra points for serving their empanadas with a hot sauce. Outside of Salta, we recommend packing your own bottle of hot sauce heat. The flavor of a homemade hot sauce can often transform a mediocre empanada eating experience into something bordering delicious.
Keep your eye out for empanadas arabes (literally, Arabian empanadas) stuffed with cumin-herbed ground meat and lemon rind. When done well, they offer a new set of flavors to wake up tired taste buds in Argentina.
When you think Argentine tarta, think quiche with less egg and more filling. Our favorite Argentinian tartas included tomato/mozeralla/ham/basil, mushroom, pumpkin/squash, and zucchini. Tartas can also offer a safe bet for vegetarians traveling in Argentina.
One small tarta (typically 4-5 inches across) was usually rich and filling enough to feed the two of us for lunch. Have the deli where you purchase your tarta heat it up for you, find a park bench nearby and enjoy a picnic lunch.
Italian Specialties in Argentina
Pizza in Argentina typically falls into one of two categories: thick crust “pizza de molde” and thin crust “a la piedra (stone-cooked).”
No matter its classification, we found most pizzas in Argentina erring on the side of thick crusts, scant tomato sauce (one example featured an after-thought teaspoon of sauce in the middle of the pie) and and loads of cheese.
Pizza aficionados, manage your expectations.
We offer two recommendations when ordering pizza in Argentina:
1) Ask for extra sauce on your pizza. Yes, you will look the crazy tourist for this one but who really cares if it improves your eating experience.
2) Order the Napolitana pizza which features sliced tomatoes on top. This way, if the sauce is non-existent, the tang from the tomatoes will help to balance the rich, fatty mounds of cheese.
Other things to try at an Argentine pizzeria:
– Fugazetta: Pizza crust covered (or sometimes stuffed) with sweet onions. Depending on the version, fugazetta resembles focaccia or stuffed white pizza. No tomato sauce involved.
– Fainá Argentina (Farinata): A thin flatbread made from chickpea flour. It’s often served in addition to (or on top of) a slice of pizza, but we preferred to eat it separately.
Argentine Pasta, Ravioli, and Sorrentinos
Thanks to a profound ethnic Italian influence, Argentina features fresh pasta shops offering ravioli and their oversized brother, sorrentinos, on almost every city corner. Although there's no shortage of Italian restaurants in Argentina, we often opted to buy fresh ravioli from the grocery store or deli (shockingly inexpensive) and cook it ourselves at home.
Argentine Desserts and Sweets
Medialunas (Argentinian Croissants)
Although usually eaten in the morning, medialunas (small croissants) are often sided with coffee throughout the day. Medialunas (literally “half moons”) come in two broad categories – grasas (salty) and manteca (slightly sweet). When you find a good medialuna, you'll know it instantly: it melts in your mouth.
Perhaps the best medialunas in all of Argentina were made known to us thanks to a distant relative baker (Audrey's mother's cousin's daughter's husband…if you figure out the term, let us know) in La Falda. Unfortunately, we can't remember the name of the place, so just ask someone in La Falda which medialuna is so good it will bring tears to your eyes.
Dulce de Leche
Dulce de leche (literally “sweet of milk”), is a caramelized liquid made from thickened, sweetened, boiled cream. While many find it overly sweet, we enjoyed it. If you don't enjoy the stuff, you may have a difficult time navigating desserts in Argentina and the roster of Argentine sweets.
Alfajores in Argentina
When it comes to alfajores, we prefer simple and traditional: two shortbread style cookies stuffed with dulce de leche and maybe rolled in a bit of shaved coconut.
Alfajores come in oodles of varieties, including chocolate-dipped. Although the Havanna cafe chain is well-known for its alfajores, we found their cookies a bit dry and airy, a little off in the way of density.
Our favorite alfajores: Cachafaz. These cookies are sold at corner kiosks for a little more than $1. They may not look like much from their packaging, but looks can be deceiving. The cookie crumbles just right and the dulce de leche filling is adequate. It is so rich, you can share it by cutting it into tiny pie-like wedges.
Rumors are that Cachafaz was founded by the original owners of Havanna so they could maintain the tradition of their original alfajores after selling the original business. We have no proof of the validity of this tale, but it strikes us as a good story.
Gelato (Argentinian Ice Cream)
Argentina fortunately takes its ice cream cues from Italy. Heladerias (ice cream shops) hail on every other corner, making it far too easy to pick up a hand-packed three flavor half-kilo container of gelato on your way home from dinner.
Argentina Wine and Drinks
Wine Tasting in Argentina
We won't cover Argentine wines in depth here because we address wine tasting at wineries in the major Argentine wine-producing areas in the following articles: wine in Mendoza, wine in Cafayate and Patagonian wine.
However, a solid, locally-fit red wine varietal like Malbec is just about as perfect a pairing as you can get with a nicely grilled Argentine steak. It's as if they were made for each other.
If wine is of interest to you, it's worth seeking out wine bars in Buenos Aires, Mendoza and other cities where you can undertake a series of Argentine wine tastings and learn about the different varietals and characteristics of each of the country's wine-producing regions. In addition, you can find very drinkable Argentine wine at grocery stores or wine shops throughout the country for $5-$10. This approach provides an excellent and cost-effective method to taste and explore wines in Argentina.
Mate (Argentina Yerba Mate)
Mate is the general name for the strong tea made from infusing yerba mate (dried tea leaves) in a water-filled gourd (technically called a mate) and drinking the result through a bombilla (like a metal straw with a sieve at the end). Audrey remembers taking swigs of mate from her Argentina-born grandmother's bombilla when she was young and thinking, “Wow, this is bitter.”
While we enjoyed the social element of mate — passing around the gourd and methodically refilling the water inside — we didn't particularly enjoy the taste of mate itself. This is just a personal preference. Millions of people adore mate, so try it for yourself and come to your own conclusion.
Argentina Restaurant Recommendations
The following are a collection of our recommended restaurants and eating experiences from the four months we spent traveling around Argentina. So as to not overwhelm this article, we published a separate article devoted entirely to our Buenos Aires restaurant recommendations.
Restaurants in Puerto Iguazu (near Iguazu Falls)
Colors Restaurant on Av. Córdoba 135 looks touristy at first glance, but it served up our most memorable bife de lomo in Argentina. The owner took us back into the kitchen and allowed us to choose our cut of meat. The price for a 400 gram steak, bottle of Reserve Malbec, substantial arugula salad and sparkling water: around $20.
Restaurants in Salta
Casona de Molina on the corner of Luis Burela and Caseros Streets. A “2-person” asado — with its variety of meats and sausages — is truly enough for four hungry people, runs $15. Empanadas are also top notch.
Note: Thanks goes to Leigh and her family for introducing us to these Salta restaurants.
Restaurants in Cachi (Salta region)
The Cachi wine bar and cafe stands about 10 meters down the hill from the church. Their empanadas combine a blended cornmeal crust with goat cheese filling to put them at the top of our list. The accompanying homemade salsa is pretty fantastic, too.
Restaurants in Cafayate (Salta region)
Casa de Empanadas: 12 kinds of empanadas, from four-cheese to chicken, made fresh to order. Vegetarians will love the wide variety of veggie options. We paid a daily visit during our stay in the town of Cafayate.
Alfajores Calchaquitos: Near the main square on Catamarca 253. For some reason, this alfajoreria (we're aware this is probably not a word) does not sell traditional alfajores. Despite this, the chocolate alfajores are pretty exceptional.
Restaurants in Bariloche
Almazen: A delightful little restaurant (20 de Febrero #40) specializing in daily specials like chicken curry or ravioli with cherry tomatoes and forest mushrooms. Some of the most unique and fresh food we found in Argentina. The lunch menu features about 8-10 specialties while the evening menu is focused on tapas dishes. Highly recommended.
Mamushka Chocolates in Bariloche: Much of the chocolate we found sold in stores throughout Argentina was waxy and not very good. But, Bariloche makes up for that with a main street dotted with chocolate shops. Though each chocolateria has its specialty, our overall favorite: Mamushka.
Gluten Free Eating in Argentina
If you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance there's good and bad news about Argentine food. On the positive side, one of the main specialties of Argentine cuisine — steak — is naturally gluten free. On the negative side, all those empanadas, pizzas, and pastas are not.
Jodi has celiac disease herself so she understands first-hand the importance of being able to communicate gluten-free needs in detail and educate waiters and restaurants on what this means in practice. She created her series of Gluten Free Restaurant Cards in different languages to help celiac and gluten-free travelers eat local with confidence, and without communication problems or getting sick.
Note: These gluten free restaurant cards are not part of an affiliate plan or a way for us to make money. We are extremely fortunate that we can eat everything, but we've seen the challenges of others who are celiac or have food intolerances where every meal can potentially make them sick or cause pain. These detailed gluten free cards were created to help prevent that from happening and make eating out when traveling fun, enjoyable, and safe.
Variety in Argentine Cuisine
By this point, you are probably wondering, where's all the bad food?
There isn't anything bad about food in Argentina, but there just isn't a lot of variety (e.g., compared with Peruvian food). Let's just say that after a couple of weeks, eating Argentine food can feel like hanging out at a piano bar with One-note Charlie.
And what about those vegetables? They are there, but someone seems to be hiding them, for Argentina certainly has the capability to grow just about anything.
And the spices? They are there too. But the European-dominated palate seems to have flattened any of the highlights carried down the cone from the Andes.
That said, if you do believe man can live on steak alone then it's time to book your tickets to Argentina.
89 thoughts on “Argentina Food: A Culinary Travel Guide to What to Eat and Drink”
@Joan: Glad this listing was useful for your upcoming trip to Argentina! As we mentioned above in the white box, Buenos Aires restaurant recommendations are coming in their own article. Stay tuned!
Fabulous read for someone planning a trip to Argentina (me!), but no Buenos Aires recommendations?
Hi guys, great article! You got it just right — there are great examples of all of these foods and more, but you stay here long enough and the lack of variety can get to you (and your waistline!). When I complained about the food, friends of mine said, “But when we came to visit we didn’t have a single bad meal!” I explained that that was because I’d already had plenty of bad meals, and only steered them toward great places. 🙂 Sometimes you’ll find a great place randomly, but it takes a lot of trial and error.
Another reason to buy fresh pasta and cook it yourself is that I found that restaurants tend to overcook it (just like they tend to overcook vegetables and steak).
Looking forward to seeing your restaurant recs! Saludos desde BsAs.
@Amy: Thanks! As we wrote and edited this piece, we wondered what longer-term Argentina residents would think. In other words, was it honest and fair.
Your “we didn’t have a single bad meal” dialogue is a familiar one. What many people don’t understand is that you’ve essentially acted as a food sampling filter. That is hard work.
Funny you mention pasta. I was tempted to describe further why we cook our own pasta: the tendency to overcook pasta to the point of drowning, and the sauce, either heavy-handed and greasy or just not that interesting. When you can do it by your own hand — cheaper, tastier and healthier, why go out?
@Lori: Glad you liked it. One of these days, we’ll look forward to a similar visit and deep-dive on Brazilian cuisine.
“Respect the beefâ€¦” — I like that line.
@Erin: Wow, Argentine food vs. the vegetarian. That’s a tough one, although not nearly as tough as some other regions we’ve been to.
For me, I suppose the issue is that many of the dishes (particularly vegetarian dishes) served in Argentina aren’t distinctive or unique to Argentina. I’m thinking the pizza, pasta, turnover brigade. Even more of an issue is that the overall variety of offerings and tastes is limited.
As for spices, they’ve gotta be fresh. I’m thinking that those batches of cinnamon in Salta have been sitting around too long.
@Rudolf: Nice to see you in the neighborhood. Do you sense any differences between the Argentine food we describe here and what you experienced in your travels in the 70s and 80s?
Regarding foodie temptation, it’s timeless.
Love this food recap. We had the same exact feeling about southern Brazilian cuisine. Plus rice and beans, minus wine, but still red meat. However, even most of our Brazilian friends admit the steak is better in Argentina. The one benefit of Argentina for me is the chimichurri. I tried so hard to respect the beef in Brazil, but I was dying for some kind of sauce our whole time there. 🙂
After some digging we found more variety, but I still feel it is limited. The good thing about Brazil is that if you go to the north vs the south you discover things that even locals from the opposite area aren’t familiar with. The cuisine uses many of the same ingredients, but in completely different ways and with different names. More pork in the north as well.
Looks like we are in sync, as we just did our write up of veggie options in Argentina!
The fresh ravioli is fantastic (especially in Buenos Aires) and like you said you will have good meals but it just gets a bit repetitive. The lack of spices is the hardest thing (loved the spicy dip with empanadas in the north) and even when you buy them they are quite tasteless. We have tried using garam masala instead of cinnamon (a tip from our host Leigh) when making cookies but it still doesn’t taste of much!
Thanks for this absolutely fantastic contribution! It only reminded me too much of my travels to Argentina as well as Chile and Brazil (also very good cuisine there!) back in the 70’s and 80’s. Good to see that the temptations for foodies remained the same 🙂
Great article! You’re making me very hungry…I miss Argentina’s steak & gelato so much!
I’m seriously drooling, ahhhhh, I can’t wait to be in Argentina in 2 months so I can have all of my favorites!!!!!
@Tracy, @Andi: Thank you. Wait until we cover Buenos Aires…coming soon.
This pretty much sums it up. We were in Buenos Aires in January and that is what we had to eat….since then I have gone vegan and my vegan friend happens to be visiting AR in December. How on earth can a vegetarian, let alone a vegan, survive???
Well, not to complain, tango is great! :)!
@Farnoosh: Welcome to the neighborhood and thanks for your comment. To be thorough, honest, fair to Argentine cuisine and still be tempting. That was our goal with this piece. And we haven’t even gotten to our Buenos Aires food roundup and suggestions yet. That’s coming soon.
As for vegetarians and vegans in Argentina, that’s a tough one. Doable, but tough. By tough, I mean it might be difficult to actually taste anything distinctly Argentine. Except maybe for empanadas. However, with empanadas, most people probably don’t realize that even though the filling maybe be “vegetarian” (even that is questionable), there’s usually some sort of lard or animal fat that goes into making the dough.
So tell your vegan friend that if she’s strict, she may want to be especially careful while noshing around Argentina.
@Lara: Glad you enjoyed this piece on Argentine food. As we mentioned above, we’ll be covering Buenos Aires food and restaurants in another article. This piece was getting too long as it was with restaurants from other cities and Buenos Aires really deserves it’s own piece for restaurants.
Big cities always offer much diversity and fusion food. I am surprised to hear your comment about good Japanese restaurants in Buenos Aires – we ate great Japanese food in Lima, but found Buenos Aires to pale in comparison. We spent two months in Buenos Aires earlier this year but are currently in Central Europe, so we won’t be around during your visit next month. Have a good visit.
@Lara: Definitely – there is a lot of bad fusion and ethnic food around the world!
I’ll be curious to hear whether you feel the BA restaurants are of the same quality during your next visit. We did find some great restaurants, but we were overall a bit disappointed by what we found in BA’s restaurant scene. Perhaps our expectations were too high. Although, a food writer friend who lived in BA for years had warned us that places turn over and quality can change quickly.
Whatever you find, I do hope you will share some of your favorite places – like the Japan Association in San Telmo – to the BA restaurant piece so other travelers going to the city can benefit.
Nice guide, Daniel and Audrey. Argentine food is wonderful – a lot more complex and involving a lot more than meat and empanadas. Not that there is anything wrong with that, as you point out.
But there is so much more to the dining scene in Buenos Aires. It must be one the continent’s best with an enormous amount of variety. Buenos Aires is home to some of the best Peruvian restaurants outside of Peru, some of the best Japanese outside of Japan, some of the most authentic Italian outside Italy (you *can* find authentic pizza that is closer to the Italian version (s) of pizza than the Italian-American pizzas/’pies’ in the US) all due to the rich immigrant history from those nations. There are plenty of excellent Asian restaurants – anything from traditional Thai and Chinese to innovative Asian fusion restaurants – Scandinavian, French, Brazilian, you name it Buenos Aires has it…
It’s definitely a city that takes time to get to know. The first time I went was 15 years ago, and spent a lot of time there then, and I find every time I return there are new places popping up all the time, it’s hard to keep up, though there are many that have been around forever that are as brilliant now as they were 15 years ago. I stayed with a family in the sprawling suburbs (a 30-minute ride outside of Centro!) and they made traditional home-cooked Argentine food – lots of different stews and soups – and put spices in everything! Very tasty.
If you’re still there, do try to get a hold of a copy of my Lonely Planet Buenos Aires Encounter guide. It has probably been updated since our first edition, so look for ours if you can (all the restos are still there) but we have eaten (many times) at the restaurants in that edition and I can vouch that they’re some of BA’s best. Can’t wait to return next month! Will you still be there?
“Big cities always offer much diversity and fusion food.” Absolutely true, though it’s not always *good* fusion food, whereas BA’s restos do it brilliantly.
There are many fantastic Japanese places in BA, mainly to cater to Japanese business people. There are the ubiquitous hipster sushi places too of course, though the sushi is more akin to North American sushi (too much mayo) than anything you’d find in Japan. The best Japanese in BA is at the restaurant at the Japan Association in San Telmo which is mostly frequented by the Japanese, and is sublime and super-cheap.
I’ll look forward to your resto reviews.
I don’t know how long your friend has lived in BA, but places don’t turn over that quickly there. Some of our favourites from 15, 10 and 5 years ago remain some of the best. These are top-notch chefs with strong credentials who are producing superb food for a regular discerning customer base. Would love to meet your friend. We probably know each other.
100s of restaurants simply don’t deteriorate in quality within the space of 6 months. Simple as that. So while I’m sure there are *some* (there are always *some* restaurants that don’t survive in all cities) that are not as good as they were on our last stay, I’m quite confident they haven’t *all* declined in quality.
Obviously I don’t know what you’re judging your expectations on, but BA’s restos are definitely up there with the best of the world. Such a shame you didn’t come away with that impression, but totally understand how it happens. We recently came away from a stay in New York thinking it one of the worst eating cities in the world because we based our eating choices on the NYT/NYer etc as we used to do when we wrote guidebooks and I just don’t think you can triangulate data when it comes to NY dining anymore because things do change ridiculously fast there.
We have stupidly high expectations of cuisines, which is why we’re so consistently disappointed in the London/Paris/New Yorks of the world -in our mind, probably the only cities that surpass BA in terms of consistent overall quality are Barcelona, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Rome, Zurich, Munich, Milan, Madrid, Singapore, Shanghai, Sydney, Dubai, San Francisco… I can think of loads of other great food cities… Mexico City, Moscow, Melbourne… but they’re not as consistently good as they should be over a long term period with places closing all too frequently, but BA has not been like that for as long as we’ve been travelling/living there. Can’t wait to compare notes! And see where you’re eating in Central Europe. Do let us know if you need tips or intros to chefs. Happy eating! 🙂
@Lara: Expectations can be dangerous, I agree. Perhaps our differing opinion on BA’s restaurant scene has to do with the type of restaurants we seek out. We look for places where regular folks frequent instead of high end restaurants. This approach helps us evaluate what the food scene looks like on all levels of society, as well helping out our wallets. We did find some great restaurants in BA (and usually they weren’t the more expensive ones), but we didn’t find the food scene as dynamic as in Lima, for example.
If you’ve been going to the same places for fifteen years, those restaurants probably still have the same chefs and are still serving excellent food. This is why I do hope that you will contribute your suggestions to our post on Buenos Aires restaurant so that others will benefit by having your experience and have a good time eating during their visits.
We look for *exactly* the same kind of restaurants too actually, restaurants where locals eat – especially this year with GRANTOURISMO http://grantourismotravels.com/ – that’s *exactly* what we’re doing, staying out of the tourist zone 100%.
But even when we write guidebooks we eat at every single level, from street food and cafeterias through to mid-range and top-end – you’re right, you can’t evaluate the cuisine of a place and how people eat, how locals eat, without doing that.
But ‘regular’ local people, who appreciate food and who are foodies, and who can afford it, also occasionally eat in ‘high end’ restaurants, if by that you mean gastronomic restaurants, and one of our interests is in how food evolves, and that’s usually where you find the greatest experimentation. So in Mexico, while we’re mainly eating street food, we’ve also eaten at a couple of the more innovative (and most expensive) restaurants, Pujol and Izote, but we’ve enjoyed the street food just as much, and more often.
Lima’s food scene is brilliant too, totally agree – adore Peruvian cuisine – but the city doesn’t have the diversity of cuisines or the number of incredible restaurants, as say, Sao Paolo, BA or Mexico City, for a whole lot of reasons.
The restaurants in BA that I mention that have been around for 15 years and are still outstanding tend to be the more traditional ‘regular’ places, and while they don’t always have the same chefs they have the same owners who ensure that consistency – many have their own ranches where the produce is coming from so that helps.
Yep, I’ll definitely check back with you once we’re there again in a month and we can compare notes. A couple more destinations first, Costa Rica and Rio. Enjoy!
As we share some similar approaches to restaurants, I think we’re at the point where we agree to disagree and continue the conversation (we love food talk) over a glass of wine somewhere. We adore Bangkok as a food city, but I know people who are disappointed by it. Some people would probably disagree with your view that New York City is not a top food city while there are many people on both sides of the argument on whether Buenos Aires is at the top of the list for food capitals. We had similar conversations about this (BA & Argentine food) with expats, travelers and locals (my mother has family in BA).
I’d be curious to hear your thoughts when you do return to BA next month. I’m sure the quality of the beef from the ranches is the same – it was excellent everywhere and still relatively inexpensive. Enjoy your other destinations first!
I, of course, love this.
We just got back from the US where we were introduced to Buford Highway with it’s extensive choice of authentic Mexican and Asian (all kinds) food. Spicy, pungent foods that you just don’t find here in Argentina.
I was a bit bitter to come back here. I agree, it’s almost always worth it to cook your own food. It’s what most of the locals (at least here in Salta), and what we’ve been doing as well. We only go out when people visit.
But I do find it to be true that the food here, while repetitive, is almost always excellent quality, particularly if you find a place that isn’t as touristy. La Lenita that you mentioned — and thank you for the shout out — is still as good as ever, but some of the other restaurants on Balcarce Street (a popular tourist and nightlife area) seem to have gone down in quality while going up in price and cover charge fees.
This made me laugh, because it’s so true. One other staple food (at least for my Argentine host family) was tomato & avocado salad, with generous amounts of olive oil. But you really hit the high points of Argentine cuisine!
Here are a few more restaurant recommendations for different cities (none of them are expensive; expect to pay US $10-15 per person for dinner, maybe less now that 1 dollar is almost 4 pesos)
– 390 Pastas: Aristides 463, near the cross-street Paso de los Andes. A nice, fun pasta restaurant, with 390 different pasta & sauce combinations.
– De La Ostia: on the corner of Granaderos and Rufino Ortega (1 block north of Av. Aristides). A nice atmosphere, & they’re known for their pizza, which look just like what Audrey & Dan posted.
– Terra Cotta: corner of Colon and Peru. Smaller & more local than De La Ostia. Mostly a bar/pizza place.
– Aldo: a nice, quiet, local place with very good traditional Argentine food (meat, pastas, etc). Located about a mile northeast of the center in a residential neighborhood (actually about a block from where I lived), on the corner of Suipacha and Paso de los Andes.
– Avenida Mexico: if you’re looking for some good Mexican food in Mendoza, this is it! Juan B. Justo 836 (a block or 2 east of Av. Bolougne Sur Mer)
– there are lots of good but fairly touristy restaurants on the Peatonal (aka Paseo Sarmiento, the pedestrian walkway just E. of Plaza Independencia), especially the block between 9 de Julio and Avenida San Martin.
– ice cream: try the place on the corner of Av. San Martin and Av. Las Heras. You won’t be disappointed!
– bars/nightlife: all along Avenida Aristides
La Cumbre (small town outside of Cordoba):
– wonderful alfajores factory – ask anyone in town & they’ll tell you how to get there
– Kasbah: close to the center of town, on the corner of Alberdi & Sarmiento. A really neat, small corner restaurant with a very good, very eclectic menu: Thai food, Mexican, Chinese, etc.
Oh, and one more place in Mendoza: the Central Market (mercado central). Located on Avenida Las Heras, between Patricias Mendocinas and Avenida EspaÃ±a. Fascinating place, like any mercado in Latin America – a great place to buy fresh fruits or veggies, meat, spices, and cheap local food & desserts.
Great article, very informative. Love your site.
You said: “Audreyâ€™s motherâ€™s cousinâ€™s daughterâ€™s husbandâ€¦if you figure out the term, let us know.”
Second cousin. Maybe.
I guess there is still BA missing as is Rosario. Here (BA) you could find any kind of food. There isn’t an authentic Argentinean cuisine, all dishes have influence of immigration: empanadas are Arabic descendants, carbonada (which you seem to have missed in your trip) also, milanesas could be discussed as Italian/Austrian, and the patent of dulce de leche is still argued as Argentinean or Peruvian, or Chilean (dulce de cajeta) or Mexican (manjar). BUT the best one is Argentinean (no doubt).
I totally agree about Cachafaz alfajores (an Arab word BTW) with the original recipie (from the former Havanna owners which lost their quality and size during the last years) which litteraly melt in your mouth with an exellent chocolate and dulce de leche quality.
The only and one original porte~o dish is Revuelto Gramajo, which are paille potatoes, ham and egg served in a huge mountain. The rest is eclectic and full of foreign influences. There are still excellent restaurants in BA, expensive for us though. We locals have to take advantages of local promotions given by credit card bank issuers and you can have a 2×1 meal (that is one for free) during week days. And that allows us to experiment some nice meals sometime in our crazy Buenos Aires lives!
Not only meat is around. You have to walk and seek!
@Leigh: I’m glad to get your take on this. I wondered for a few fleeting moments whether we were being fair to food in general in Argentina.
To hear that you were bitter to return, that’s sounds strong. But I understand. It’s frustrating because while all the makings of great food are there, they just aren’t always harnessed in interesting ways. Having said that, I agree that the food quality is generally pretty high. You are also fortunate to live where you do, because Salta seemed to feature some of the tastiest regional cuisine in the country.
Disappointing to hear that Balcarce St. has taken the tourist turn for the worse. Not surprising, I suppose.
Oh man, it just occurred to me — how could we have managed to exclude the Argentine pancho from this list?
@Elisa: Terrific suggestions. Thank you! And the suggestion for the Mendoza central market: right on.
@Garry: Glad you are enjoying the site and thank you for the compliment.
Technically, I suppose it’s “second cousin’s husband.” Second cousin-in-law, if that term were to exist.
@David: Thanks for a thorough, thoughtful comment. Glad to get more perspective on Argentine food and the scene in Buenos Aires.
We tried to indicate at the top and bottom of this article that we’ll be covering Buenos Aires (BA) cuisine in a separate article. Please stay tunedâ€¦it’s coming soon.
Your point about Argentine dishes being the influence of immigration is well taken. I suppose every country is like that to some degree. The question is how far they take the influence and evolve it into something distinct, their own.
We did have various stews (that were not called other familiar names), so it’s possible that we had carbonada. Next time, we’ll be on the lookout.
That Cachafaz is an Arab word reminds me that Spain was once conquered by the Moors. It’s interesting to think of bits of that influence being traceable through to Spanish colonies in Latin America. (This conversation feels like a walk through the pages of Guns, Germs, Steel).
It’s interesting to get your perspective that while there are excellent restaurants in Buenos Aires, many qualified as such are expensive for PorteÃ±os. While other travelers from the U.S. and U.K. thought eating out in BA inexpensive, we found it could get expensive, particularly since we had been traveling in Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay where prices were often lower for similar quality.
Local restaurant promotions given by credit card bank issuers — sounds interesting. But only locals can partake?
Well, I guess the local empanada is an evolution of the Arab ones, which are called sfihas or lach majin.
About CACHAFAZ being an Arabic word, you missunderstood me. This is a LUNFARDO word that means scoundrel. Alfajor (all Spanish words begun in AL have Arab origins as almacÃ©n, alcancÃa, alfajor, alacena, alcohol etc.
Carbonada is a stew made of meat, corn, fresh peaches or apricots, bell peppers, onions and spring onions (a constant ingredient in “criolla” cuisine.
The kind of meat used for this cooking is the cheapest you could find as this will take at least 4hs to be cooked. This has undoubtfuly and middle eastern/andalucian origin. Just try to mention sweet-sour food to a pure criollo and his/her face would be like…ok! better not to go on with this!
About promotions, nope! are good for local clients.
Nowadays lots of Peruvian restaurants are opening. I suggest you to take a look to them when here.
All the best, David
@David: Ah, now I understand. Thanks for the clarification, alfajores vs. Cachafaz. I am fascinated by word origins. Thanks also for the carbonada description — we are also fascinated by food origins.
I’m truly jealous of that little feast you’ve got there. I don’t know how I haven’t spotted anything like that yet, but living so tight doesn’t allow many many luxuries like that. Hope all is going well in Prague!
@Jon: Thanks! Of course, some of the restaurants and steak places run some money. But other quality items are actually rather inexpensive even by local standards. As inexpensive as: empanadas (1-2.5 pesos), tartas (8-10 pesos), fresh ravioli (6-10 pesos a tray), locro (6 pesos), medialunas (1-2 pesos), alfajores (3-4 pesos), and even some gelato (at 24 pesos per 1/2 kilo). The trick is to sniff out the inexpensive yet high quality stuff.
We found that older establishments that didn’t have to worry about recouping their recent investment in reconstructing their restaurants often featured some of the best value.
Some of you were interested in Buenos Aires restaurant recommendations. We just published that piece: https://uncorneredmarket.com/buenos-aires-food-restaurants-argentina/
hi, I enjoyed reading the Patagonian wine tour and the Arg. food description. I’ll read the rest of your travel tales later on. I’m a Patagonian Argentinian living in Canada and I agree with you about the lack of variety and spiciness, although I still miss empanadas and pizza (I prefer the “a la piedra” Arg. pizzas). There’s a couple of things I wonder if you could correct. You write “bien CONDIDO â€“ well done” (referring to how steaks are cooked) – in fact it’s “bien COCIDO”.
And, in one of the posts above, I think Daniel mentions “dulce de leche” in other countries. I’d like to clarify that in Chile it’s Manjar, and in Mexico, Cajeta. Thanks!
@Elena: We’re glad to see you here.
As for pizza, I agree with you: a la piedra is my preference.
Thank you for the typo correction. Well-done. Really appreciate that.
My over-simplification of “dulce de leche” was deliberate, but I probably should have clarified as I did when we wrote about Peruvian food:
And as the “dulce de leche” in Argentina becomes “manjar blanco” in Chile and Peru, “cajeta” in Mexico (did not know that), and even blancmange in places like France.
Happy eating and thanks for your comment!
Woah! Great delicacies from Argentina. Tradition plus food equals to great food. Even though I haven’t been in Argentina, you let us make a tour through your post. Thanks!
You totally missed the masterpiece of argentine food: Bagna Cauda.
@Eninah: That was the idea…glad you enjoyed it.
@me: Thanks for your comments and for stopping by. I have to admit that while I’ve heard of bagna cauda, I never associated it with Argentina.
@David: Thanks for clarifying and providing some background. Another one of those dishes that seems to have been hand-carried to Argentina, but — provided you can actually find it — would not be adapted, but instead served much as it would have been served in its native Piedmont. Makes sense that it would come from the northern reaches of Italy…sounds a bit like fondue.
Tsk Tsk Tks! Bagna cauda is not an Argie dish at all.
Is a typical piiedmontese one, very difficult to find outside that Italian region.
Bagna cÃ uda, (from the Piedmontese “hot sauce”, alternatively written bagna caÃ´da or bagnacauda, etymologically related to Italian root bagn-, meaning “wet”) is a warm dip typical of Piedmont, Italy, but with numerous local variations. The dish, which is served and consumed in a manner similar to fondue, is made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil, butter, and in some parts of the region cream. (In the past walnut or hazelnut oil would have been used.) Sometimes, truffles are used in versions around Alba. The dish is eaten by dipping raw, boiled or roasted vegetables, especially cardoon, carrot, peppers, fennel celery, cauliflower, artichokes, and onions. It is traditionally eaten during the autumn and winter months and must be served hot, as the name suggests.
Originally, in Piedmont, the Bagna cÃ uda was placed in a big pan (peila) in the center of the table for communal sharing. Now, it is usually served in individual pots (the fojÃ²t, a type of fondue pot traditionally made of terra cotta) -Info extracted from wikipedia.
Now, as many other dishes, this one was brought by piedmontese immigrants.
With the same criteria, guefilte fish, could be considered a typical Argentinean dish because was also brought by Jewish eastern European immigration. This were not adapted to local tastes. They remain as they originally were.
I really enjoyed this article. As someone who’s lived just about half her life in B.A. and half in Chicago, I really appreciated the perspective of the American palette regarding Argie food.
Still, I think the traveler looking to truly experience the local flavor of a country can suspend disbelief for a few minutes and consume pizza without missing the heaps of excessively seasoned tomato sauce.
I think it’s key to treat food abroad as a singular and isolated experience and avoid the egocentric tendency to compare apples to oranges. Don’t think of it as pizza, just close your eyes and eat it.
Same goes for spices. I completely agree that Argentinians use little to no spices. But again, if you can isolate your experience and not wonder why you didn’t receive a side of ranch with your broiled chicken wings nor stare suspiciously at your lemon-caper-aoli-less SeaBass, you’ll find that the freshness of the proteins, coupled with non-genetically altered local, organic produce doesn’t need dressing up and that the flavors are in fact, strong enough to stand alone. I dare anyone to eat a fresh tomato salad in Argentina and tell me Argentinians don’t know how to eat vegetables.
@Sabrina: Thanks for your comment. It seems like I may have offended you a bit by offering my opinion on Argentine food.
Food writing, even those bits penned by interlopers like us, is about capturing an experience through the lens of informed preferences and tastes. Â We observe, we eat, we compare, we process it all. I gather there are many things about “American” food and eating practices (e.g., ranch dressing with chicken wings) and attitudes that you dislike; your opinions and preferences, I suspect, are formed in part based on your experiences.
Many of the observations we’ve made about Argentine food were informed by (and also voiced by) Audrey’s Argentine family in Buenos Aires and Cordoba, Argentina. Â So in addition to our own experiences and those of other travelers and expats we spoke to, we spoke to multiple groups of Argentine people throughout our four months in Argentina. Many also joked and chuckled about the role of vegetables and spices (or the lack thereof) in their country’s cuisine.
I’m not sure if you’ve read our thoughts on food in Buenos Aires, but here they are:
I appreciate refined food, but in your comment about needing ranch dressing and aioli you are ascribing to me a set of stereotypical American behavioral preferences. Yes, I am American but my food preferences (and attitude) are a bit different from what you’ve have described. Read through the food articles across our site and hopefully you’ll get a better sense of that: https://uncorneredmarket.com/category/food/
I haven’t lived in the U.S. for 10 years and my opinions on food are more a function of living in Europe for five years and traveling throughout Asia and Latin America for the last four years.
I’ll take my sea bass, plain and simple, at the mercado central in Quito, Ecuador:
And I’ll take my chicken at any number of rosterias in Sucre, Bolivia:
Regarding comparison being egocentric, I respectfully disagree. Let’s take pizza, for example. Â Perhaps if I maintained that my hometown pizza was forever the best (or only) pizza in the world, then maybe I’d accept that I’m being egocentric. Â But I do not.
I’m not into suspending disbelief when I eat, either.Â I take in the experience for what it is. Â Then I say whether I have enjoyed it or not. Â Sometimes it’s great, sometimes not so. Â And when I eat something called “pizza”, I’m going to judge it on its own, but I’m also going to compare it to other things that it looks and tastes like, including other stuff I’ve eaten called “pizza.”
Likewise, when someone from Italy tells me how great their beef is and I take a bite, I’m going to compare it the bife de lomo we had in Puerto Iguazu and Buenos Aires.
I think that’s only fair — to all the world’s grill-masters and pizza makers.
Hola! I’d like to say to all those that complain that Argentinean food is limited to a few dishes, have you tried vegetarian “comida criolla” dishes? Hmm, probably not.
I’m living in Dallas TX now and my constant complaint is that food tastes the same everywhere (with a few exceptions): sweet, bland and boring. What I’m trying to say is that maybe it’s not the food itself but our expectations, taste and preferences. If you go to, say, Argentina, expecting to find the same food you eat at home, you’ll be disappointed and bitter.
Sometimes it amazes me that seasoned travellers can complain so much about other cultures when they’re supposed to be the ones that appreciate and celebrate the differences (and please no one take offense, it’s not addressed to anyone in particular, it’s my little rant of the day)
@Ana: Thank you for your comment. You raise some similar issues to @Sabrina above, so perhaps my response to her comment might be relevant:
By comida criolla, I assume you mean the generic term (applied to the segments of cuisine in various Latin American countries) referring to cuisine that is home grown and usually fused from indigenous and Spanish influences. Â My understanding is that locro, empanadas, humitas, offal dishes would all fall under that classification and most of these are covered in this review.
Please let us know of other “typically Argentine” dishes that we missed as we and our readers would be happy to know what they are. This is especially true of vegetarian dishes since many vegetarian travelers have said these can be hard to find. And, if there are specific kinds of restaurants that should be targeted. Our goal with this website is to provide people with specific information so they can seek it out themselves.
My expectations of Argentine cuisine had nothing to do with anything I’d eaten in the United States. Â In fact, for better or for worse, they probably had more to do with what I’d eaten in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Â I didn’t have many expectations when we crossed the border into Argentina from Paraguay, except maybe of steak and meat in general — and those were exceeded. So, this review instead reflects what we found after eating in Argentine restaurants and in homes for four months.
Critical observations – like the ones I make regarding cuisines throughout the world – are that, observations. Â And I take care to make them relative to 1000s of points of reference, rather than one that’s fixed in the geocenter of the U.S. Â At this point, my palate is about as un-“typically American” as it gets. Â I’ve been living outside of the U.S. for 10 years and have tried 1000s of dishes from Tajikistan to Guatemala.
Regarding Dallas, I lived and worked there — moons ago — for almost one year. Â And while there were moments, I would not suggest anyone use that city as a culinary yardstick 🙂
@Ana: Glad the Dallas quip made you smile. Good little town, Big D.
OK, good to know the “you” in the crosshairs of your last comment wasn’t “me” per se. I couldn’t help but think that it might be.
Thanks for sharing. The dishes you mention sound really delicious. I wish they had been more common, easier to find. In which region(s) of Argentina are these dishes common?
Oh Daniel, your last comment made me smile 🙂
When I used “you” I didn’t mean you Daniel but a general “you people”
My favourite veg dish (since I’m not vegetarian or vegan, I don;t know if it complies with all the requirements) is “calabaza con choclo y miel” Half a butternut squash filled with cream of corn, cheese and some honey and baked until golden. Humita en chala is delicious too (a thick creamy sweet corn sauce with tomatoes, bell peppers, onion and spices wrapped in leaves like a tamal), Broad bean casserole (Guiso de habas tilcareÃ±o).
Spanish influenced dishes are very tasty too. These are served in the less trendy restaurants 🙂 Arroz con calamares (rice with squid), arroz con mariscos (rice with seafood), paella, and so on.
I forgot to add that I did like your article.
There are a couple of organic and/or vegetarian restaurants. The ones that come to mind are La Esquina de las Flores, Bio Bio, Artemisia.
Phew! glad we cleared the air 😉
Those dishes are probably more common in the North, although there are a precious few restaurants in BA that serve the butternut squash, like Parrilla Miranda (in Palermo)
@Ana: Thanks for hanging with me here on all my questions. These Argentine dishes can be found in the north? — as in Salta/Jujuy or Corrientes/Misiones or Chaco? (I cannot believe the Chaco would be the place to get these vegetable dishes, but what do I know?).
The reason I ask is that we’ve had so many back-channel discussions with other travelers about where to find vegetarian dishes in Argentina (usually they say something like “and please don’t tell me empanadas or pizza”), that I’d love to give some specific direction like “If you are in or around Iguazu, look for ….in and around Salta, look for …, or in and around Cordoba, look for …)
The ultimate goal, outside of the back and forth, is to guide people (vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike) about where to find representative, authentic cuisine, especially when they are traveling outside of Buenos Aires.
Here’s a link to a series of Argentine recipes compiled by an American blogger. I know you’re not interested in cooking but they’ll give you an idea of what dishes you can recommend
I think I need to do a bit of research 🙂 Hopefully on-site!
Sorry, by north I meant Salta, Jujuy, Tucuman. Corrientes, Misiones and Entre Rios are the Litoral (and they have more fish-based dishes than other areas, I think). I don’t even think that places like Chaco or Formosa have a cuisine 🙂
I ate quiche (tarta) and salad when I didn’t feel like eating meat 🙂 and you can find them everywhere.
Do you speak Spanish? If you do, the search will be easier 🙂
@Ana: “I don’t even think that places like Chaco or Formosa have a cuisine.” — Very funny. Perhaps true, but I’m sure there are some folks in those parts that would take issue with your assessment.
This reminds me of a conversation with a man working at a winery outside of Neuquen (I think he was originally from somewhere in the north.) He spoke generally of regional specialties around the country and as we cycled through the regions, his answer for each one: “Asado.” He — and we — had a good laugh about it.
Thanks for the link. Somewhere at the top of her recipe list was chipa…that brings back memories.
We do speak Spanish. Not our strongest suit, but we manage.
Which brings me to “I know you’re not interested in cooking…” I have to assume you are joking. To give you a taste of how important food and cooking are to us, we highjacked our Spanish class in the 2nd week and asked our Spanish teachers take us to the market and teach us how to cook their favorite dish:
This is making me so hungry!!
I cannot believe you guys didnt like mate!! Crazy…
And as for the pizza… My experience with argentine pizza has always been excellent.
What about choripan? Panchos? Sandwhiches de miga? Dulce de batata y queso?
The tomato salad?! Cafe con leche!! Facturas!!!!? Vitel tone? Canelonnes or spinach empanadas with the mind blowingly delectable salsa blanca!!!
C’mon guys… There is so much missing! Argentine cusine is among the best in the world… Unfortunately you did not have the same experience…
@Zoey: If you are hungry or otherwise inspired to eat, then we’ve done our job!
@Mariella: I’m sorry if any of this is offensive. It’s not meant to be.
Mate is most definitely an acquired taste (just like peanut butter is for non-Americans). Audrey’s grandmother, who was born in and grew up in Argentina, would be the first to admit that.
Regarding pizza (or any food for that matter), it’s about taste, preference and often what one has become accustomed to eating, particularly while growing up. Am glad to hear that you’ve only had excellent pizza experiences in Argentina. I’ve had some beautiful ones in my life (for which I’m quite fortunate), but that also means I carry the memory of those experiences to the critique of my next pizza pie. And I’m afraid that the style of Argentine pizza was not a favorite of ours.
Thanks for the tip on vitel tone. From other descriptions, it sounds like a holiday dish. Something for our next visit. I don’t remember having sweet potato jam/paste and cheese either. Definitely something to look into for an appetizer plate.
We had panchos (perhaps I shouldn’t post a link to this loosely-related piece on completos, but I will):
Regarding choripan, sandwiches de migas, tomato salads, cafe con leche, facturas, cannelones, spinach empanadas, and salsa blanca (or bechamel) – we tried them all (on the street, in restaurants, or with family) in the four months we spent in Argentina. But we either found these items all over South America (and thus consider them not specifically Argentine) or we didn’t find them particularly notable. Not bad, just not particularly representative or worth going out of one’s way to eat.
I like the article. I’m an argentinean living in Asia. It’s hard to find Argentinean food here. I miss it so much. It’s true about he spices, we don’t use them that much. When I cook beef here I have to use all kind of spices and marinates to make it tasty. In Argentina we just put the meat in the parrilla with some salt and tastes delicious!
I miss the pizza also with tons if mozzarella and fauna. I love the argentinean pizza, I think it’s the best. Its funny you guys order extra sauce and I order extra cheese.
You didn’t mention the facturas (pastries) apart if the medialunas. There you have lot of variety.
@chrissy: We are happy to hear this!
@Romina: I’m glad to see Argentineans that like this article. I bet finding Argentine food in Asia is a challenge, particularly since dough, cheese, steak are not quite plentiful in a rice and pork culture. Agreed, there’s nothing quite like a parrilla steak in Argentina.
Good point: we are definitely particular about sauce-cheese balance in our pizza, but I do appreciate that others love the piles of cheese in Argentinean pizza.
We don’t mention the facturas in this post, however, we touch on it in more detail in the cafes section of our Buenos Aires Food article.
Thanks for your comment!
I have been living in Buenos Aires for over three months now, and must say that besides the food served in restaurants, which in my opinion comes down to just (very good) meat, dough and (tasty) cheese.. supermarkets aren’t that varied either.
Even a larger supermarket with a whole lot of stock still lacks in variety.
e.g. They would have two isles of crisps or sausages or cheese, but all with more or less the same flavour!
I guess I’m kind of spoiled living in a country (Netherlands) where you have all ingredients of the world (Dutch, French, German, English, American, Mexican, Indonesian, Surinamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, and so on and so on..) just around the corner.
I just read comment nr. 40, of Ana O’reilly, and I couldn’t agree more.
Well said 🙂
By the way, thanks for the article and enjoy your travels!
@Paul: Thanks for validating some of our impressions of Argentine food, even in Buenos Aires. By the way, I’d be curious to get your feedback on our Buenos Aires Food article. You are indeed lucky to have so many ethnic cuisines just around the corner.
Thanks for your comment and well wishes. Safe travels and happy eating to you!
I read this article before I go to in Argentina and now I just returned and I wanted to say thanks. The article it was very helpful. I also want to recommend one restaurant from Mendoza:Las Tinahas on Av. La Valle,16. It’s a restaurant :” all you can eat “and they have several cuisines: chinese, japonese, italian, argentine. There are several chefs who cook for you. The prices are ok and the food is very good. 🙂
@Oana: You are welcome. I’m glad the article could help navigate the food options for your visit to Argentina. Thank you very much for the restaurant recommendation in Mendoza!
it all looks delicious! I would love to go to Argentina someday (and yes, I happen to love steak AND wine)!!
@Heather: If you love steak & wine, then Argentina is definitely the right place for you!! Each time we go into a wine shop now we gravitate towards the Argentine section – so good!!
Yellow is the main color of Argentina cuisine, take a look at the pics again!
@Sarah G: So true! A quick scroll confirms. (Well, yellow with a tilt to the brown-ish). Brilliant.
My respect to Pietro Sobra, and all our Italian friends and family who truly know how to enjoy Argentina. The rest is just an attempt. Mere one.
Learn to know the history of the country, go deeper in their culture before making these comments. Anywhere, not just Argentina.
Travelling isnt enough.
@Ana: Thanks for the Argentina food recommendations. As I said before, this article isn’t about casting aspersions, but looking at Argentine cuisine with a fair comparative eye, one that’s not only informed by travel through Argentina, but living in it and spending time with family (my wife’s family in Argentina) in it, and assessing it from the standpoint of having eaten throughout the rest of South America and throughout a good bit of the rest of the world.
I found this SO resourceful! You guys did awesome, unlike the last website I went to, where they only had like two paragraphs?!I was like, what tha heck?! Anyway, thanks!;)
Thanks, John! We are known for being thorough when it comes to our food posts – glad you found this Argentine food guide useful!
@Lilia: In telling the story, I write about what my visions *were* of Argentina all those years ago. I was trying to make fun of myself with the line about the gauchos doing the tango. These days, especially after visiting Argentina and BA, I know better. Thanks for the comment!
PLEASE!!!! Take note (re: your “images of gauchos doing the tango”) Gauchos do NOT do the tango; they do folkloric dances. The tango is danced by “city sclickers.”
I found this to be a very accurate description of the food in Argentina, especially since I’ve been here for four months now studying abroad. The food is terrific, just not much of a variety.
@Brittany: I’m grateful to hear that our description of the food matches your experience. I appreciate the challenge in terms of limitation, but am also glad to hear that what you’ve been experiencing has been very good. All I can say is: keep searching, let us know what you find (especially if you find something different) and if spice is your thing, keep a bottle of hot sauce handy!
Eat and be well!
As an Argie myself, I couldn’t agree more with Sabrina. The fact of the matter is that Argie food doesn’t need to be spiced up because the natural ingredients have taste on their own. They are generally fresh (just turn around the corner and you will find the greengrocers for you) from the Mercado Central de Buenos Aires. Veggies, meet and grains, fish have their own way to be produced. Now, I offer another vision for comparisson: I have been living in America since 1999 and I have never been able to like the food here, except when I have the chance to go to family restaurants or very expensive ones where the food is mostly ….well, fresh! The complaints some here find about the lack of variety in Argentina you also find it in America: I find food here too spicy, too sweet and too salty. I mean, the amount of sodium to me is litterally disgusting. Restaurants don’t accommodate if you want to take out something from the menu (like salt, for example) . The reason? Because restaurants in America buy everything artificial and prepared. No wonder why obesity, high blood pressure and heart problems are top killers in the US. So, really, I am not surprised Americans in general find everything is not too spicy, too salty or too sweet “tasteless.” Just my opinion…
@Cristina: I can definitely understand your sentiments about American food and things being overly processed and too sweet/salty. We haven’t lived there for 12 years and just came from a visit with family – we noticed the same thing, especially when eating out.
As for Argentine food we completely agree that the ingredients themselves are fresh and flavorful, especially the meats. But, we’ve traveled in many other places in Latin America, Asia and Europe with natural, fresh ingredients that use spice and different flavors to compliment the natural taste. So I don’t think that what is written above is because we are Americans and used to overly salty, fatty and sugary foods. But, due to our travels in so many countries we do enjoy spice and fresh flavors to compliment the food.
…just came across this page searching for “argentine food boring”! I’m Argentinian born and raised – when I turned 30, I moved to a large city in Canada. At first, during the 70s I thought Argentina food was the best and Canadian food was boring. Couldn’t wait to be back in Argentina to “eat real food”. I ended staying 38 years in Canada and came to LOVE the food diversity so many immigrant communities brought. I stopped missing Argentinian food since “mate” and “dulce de leche” and “tapas para empanadas” became available. Now, I’m back in Argentina and I really find it BORING!! Yes, tasty asados and bifes (when you can buy them he he… expensive!!!), empanadas, pizzas and pasta BUT, where are the spices, the flavours, the vegetables and fruit I came to love? Where is the real bread (meaning rye, other whole grain vs. “bran” added to white flour to make “brown bread”-turning into a throat-scratching experience) – I could go on 😉 I guess I was really spoiled living in Vancouver where it’s possible to sample and cook meals from so many countries!
@Elena: Thank you for your comment! I’m sorry that you found our article and site under such circumstances. However, I’m grateful to hear your experience as someone originally from Argentina and to get your perspective on Argentine food.
Do I understand from your comment that the Argentine food that grew up with featured more spice than it did on your latest visit? Or is it more or less then same?
Good article about Argentine food, although you say you don’t see much variety but, I think you missed a few thingsâ€¦ likeâ€¦
Fish: we have lots of trout and salmon on the south that is delicious, or some seafood and ocean fish on the coast, and dorado and other river fish which are really nice.
Bread, Pastries, Cakes, etc.: you only talk about medialunas, which are the plain ones, what about all the other yummy things you can find in the “Panaderias”.
Lamb, Pork, Llama, Chicken, etc.: you spoke very well of our beef, but only mentioned some of the other meats, which we cook very well and in many different ways.
And regarding the vegetables, we a lot of them, but more at home than in restaurants. Although there is always the option on the menu, specially when you go to Parrillas where you have the Salad Bar full of salads to choose from.
Anyway, I still think you put up a good representation of “some” Argentine food. And I agree that our European influence in food is very strong, so we don’t tend to use spices, like for example Asian, that muchPersonally, I don’t like spicy food that much, I just like to taste things as they areâ€¦ but that is just me.
@Josefina: Thank you for your comment. I’m grateful that you constructively added to the discussion, didn’t accuse me of having an inexperienced palate, and included the suggestions that you did about food in Argentina. Fair point about the variety of pastries, array of meats, availability of fish (I recall this from Bariloche, particularly the trout) and also salads and greens which were truly essential to balancing the meal after a fabulous bife.
Caramel and dulce de leche are NOT the same thing. Caramel does not have a dairy base. Caramel is basically melted sugar.
Also, I don’t know where you were buying pizza, but I’ve lived in Argentina twice and never had a problem with lack of sauce. Lack of toppings, sure, but never lack of sauce.
Thanks for pointing this out regarding dulce de leche. Caramelized liquid is perhaps more precise or appropriate. I’ve updated the piece accordingly.
As for pizza, this is where we ate pizza in Buenos Aires:
As for the remainder of Argentina, sauce concentration varied. However, pizza across the country struck us as strikingly cheese-focused. In that regard, Argentina is not alone.
I live in the province of Mendoza. For me one of the true taste sensations in Argentina is dulce de membrillo which is a solid quince jam. I am a vegetarian (vegan most of the time, and yes we exist here) and I think quince jam is one of the most delightful combination of taste and flavor in this country, dulce de leche is boring by comparison. I recommend trying Pasta Frola, not a pasta at all but rather a latticed tart filled with quince paste.
Hi Irene, thanks so much for the additions and suggestions. We tried dulce de membrillo while traveling in Argentina. Lovely and a different, refined taste experience when compared to dulce de leche (which is more like candy). Pasta frola sounds terrific. I bet it looks beautiful, too.
Thanks again for sharing with us and our readers so they can keep an eye out for it when searching for interesting things to eat in Argentina!
Enjoyed the article, enjoyed the comments and the disagreements, all civilly presented. I drove from Arizona to Southern Chile with a couple pals in 1969. We crossed over the Andes near Osorno, Chile. (we’d been driving in and out of the cordillera for several weeks, getting our mind’s blown, being awestruck at the vastness, ruggedness) We then tooled across the pampa, through Rio Negro, where the ocean tide goes miles up the river, We enjoyed great hospitality at Viedma, then tooled on up to Buenos Aires. We were well outfitted, traveling on a shoestring, mooching wherever we could, but almost cooking all of our own meals. We’d given a guy a lift down at the Peru/Chile border and he wrote us a letter of introduction to his brother in BA, so we were stumbling around one of the world’s largest cities trying to find his address. We stopped a middle-aged gent who desperately tried to explain things to us, finally getting in the truck with us and joining the search. After an hour or so in vain, he directed us to Don Pipon, a large, average restaurant with a brisk mid-evening crowd. He was treating us to dinner(which we NEVER refused!) We sat, He ordered; all I could make out was Bife de Chorizo completo, which sounded to me like something made with Chorizo, and I was apprehensive. But hungry. Right quick comes nice simple tossed salad vinaigrette, soon followed by beautiful New York Sirloin steaks, about 12 to 13 oz. each, with generous french fries, sliced baguettes, a Pepsi and nice scoop of ice cream for dessert. We wuz in Hog Heaven! We went looking for the same meal the next day, not knowing how much our benefactor had forked over for the feast. We found another place, had the same meal and it cost about $1.15 apiece. We ate that everyday(except the day we were surprised to learn sale of beef was prohibited twice weekly, to allow for more export opportunity) Needless to say, our regimen of doing our own cooking was blown all to hell for the rest of the trip! After leaving BA, we did our own cooking when we couldn’t wangle an invite out of someone, but it was never the same- it just didn’t taste like steak!
Mike, this is a great story! Thanks for sharing. I’m also smiling at the price of a steak, salad, french fries, drink and ice cream only costing $1.15. While steak in Argentina is still very reasonably priced, especially for its quality, it’s certainly not that cheap!
Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. I must say, that was the cheapest we got it; in other places it ran almost $1.50, and the price of naptha (gasoline) was higher than many other cities -about 20 cents per litre.
I’m thinking now about the wonderful, greasy 6 cent empanadas we found in Cali, and the matinee
in the afternoon for 12 cents, and we only had to change seats once when the afternoon rains came.
Different times; that was just before Man walked on the moon.
To all my fellow Argentines: oh, come on, don’t feel offended by what the American writer said! It seems that we accept when foreign experts express their opinions regarding the way we (mis)handle our economy, politics and our resources, but the moment they say that eating asado everyday is tiresome we act as if they were disrespectful with our fatherland, our culture and our traditions! When in fact, this is just one opinion in the big, big, VERY BIG ocean that is internet!
I agree with all of you that the charm of Argentine food is the high quality of its raw material. I agree with you, too, that unlike what the American writer did in one of the photos he posted above, I wouldn’t put pepper or spices in my ravioles either–not my cup of tea, I prefer my ravioles with just a well prepared sauce like tuco, bolognesa or scarparo. But, come on, It’s just his tastes, it’s just the way he likes to eat his food!
I tell you, Argentine food is perfect just the way it is, with its asado, its dairy products, its cereals, fruits, potatoes, tomatoes, meats, pastas, pizzas, locros, empanadas, pastelitos, dulce de leche, tortas, facturas, ice creams, mates, beers, wines, and all the other elements of our cuisine that are a quintessential part of our identity. And so is American food with its hamburgers, Mexican food with its tacos, French food with its creme brulee, Japanese food with its sushi, *insert any country and a typical food*, AND THAT’S THE BEAUTY OF THIS WORLD, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! That any country in this world can have its own culture, and that we can talk about different foods and traditions! That citizens from everywhere can show all the beauties and wonders on the face of the earth!
I still remember the first time I ate a Chinese food, I was still a teenager, so the experience was even more revolutionary to me. I was trying to order something not much different to what I ate before–noodles with meat–and yet, the experience was a completely different thing than what I knew until then. The noodles, they weren’t covered with tomato sauces like tuco, instead they had lots of different vegetables like soy, carrot, squash and green onion! The cow meat wasn’t cooked in a casserole or a grill and served in a big portion on one side of the dish, like I was accustomed with Argentine food, instead the cow meat was stir-fried as it’s typical in Asian cuisines, and teared in thin, narrow portions all over the noodles–suffice to say, this little experience in one Chinese New Year festival was the start of my appetite (literally) for knowing cuisines from other countries!
After that, I started going to immigrant festivals like the “Buenos Aires Celebra” fairs, which are always a good opportunity to know more about other places and peoples, also I started to seek ingredients that previously I seldom used, like nuts, honey, olive oil, fish and green onion (yes, this little Asian ingredient opened a whole different world to me!)
So, in conclusion, to all my fellow Argentines I say: don’t feel offended, it’s a very big world we’re a living in, and there’s a place for everyone’s tastes and opinions. And maybe, they’re right in that eating asado everyday becomes tiresome, who knows, maybe if you start looking for new foods, or the same foods but with a twist (like those Chinese noodles with meat) you will find a new point of view and enrich yourselves with more knowledge of this world.
Like having never listened to country music, and suddenly finding *that song* that gets caught in your head and makes you want to listen to more country songs! 😉 😉 😉
Thank you for your perspective, Daniel. When it comes to Argentine cuisine, may cooler heads prevail in the surprisingly heated world of food opinion.
I LOVED this article. I am doing a project on Argentina and this was a HUGE help in the food section. Thanks! 🙂
Thanks, Mia. Glad to hear it!