One of my favorite ways to get to know a destination is by sampling its foods. Argentina is a huge country and it has remarkably good steak, stellar ice cream, mouthwatering pastas, and dozens of other savory items I’d never tried before. It’s been a delicious, belt-busting ride.
Here are the top 17 Argentine foods you have to try.
1. Steak & Parrilla
There’s much more to Argentine cuisine than steak, but Argentines eat beef like it’s their job and it’s not hard to see why. It’s high-quality, tender, delicious, and far less expensive than it is in the US. Parrillas (restaurants that specialize in steak) are everywhere. There are so many cuts of steak offered, but don’t get overwhelmed when you look at a menu. It’s all tasty. After being here for over two month now, I can say with confident that grass-fed beef definitely is better.
If you’ve traveled in the southern US, you might have tried chicken fried steak, steak that’s battered and fried. A milanesa is similar, but very thin, a bit tougher, and more lightly breaded. Milanesas often come on sandwiches and the steak can be replaced by other meats.
3. Choripan & 4. Lomito
A choripan (on the left in the photo below) is a tasty sandwich made of chorizo (sausage) and pan (bread). Add a little chimichurri sauce and you’re in for a treat. It’s simple and delicious. Lomitos are amazing steak sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, and whatever sauces you decide to add. You can also get a lomo completo (or lomito completo), which usually comes with cheese, ham, and egg on it. The best lomito I had was just outside the nature reserve in Buenos Aires.
These tasty little sandwiches are layers of ham, cheese, and very thinly sliced bread. We made the mistake of getting too many for a bus ride and got sick of them. But the once we had were good. Argentines eat them as a snack between lunch (at 1 or 2 pm) and dinner (at 9 or 10 pm).
Because of its Italian heritage, Argentina has amazing pastas. They’re always homemade, even in restaurants, and generally inexpensive. We’re tried everything from gnocchi to ravioli to tortellini in cities across the country. It’s all been delicious. If you’re ordering pasta in Argentina, look closely at the menu; often, the pasta itself has one price and the sauce costs extra.
You can definitely see the Italian influence when you walk down the street in any Argentine city — there are pizza places everywhere. And it’s not Domino’s-style, either. It’s homemade, well-seasoned, and delicious. The great thing about pizza is you can get it any time of day. So if you don’t want to wait to eat dinner until 9 pm like the locals do, order a pizza.
The quality, style, and flavor of empanadas vary from region to region. These delicious pastries can be filled with meat and olives, ham and cheese, spinach, corn, and even apples. With the exception of the subpar one I had in Iguazu Falls National Park, the empanadas I sampled were quite delicious. My favorites were the roquefort one (below) I had in Buenos Aires and the many flavors I tried in Trelew.
In the Lakes Region of Argentina, trout is a local speciality. It’s generally more expensive than we like our meals to be (though still not as much as it would be in the US), so we only tried it once. The dish we ordered came with a mushroom sauce and a side of amazing grilled veggies (a welcome alternative to french fries). It was delicious — one of the best meals we had in Argentina.
Growing up in Texas, I’ve had my fair share of quality venison. But the deer meat we ordered in San Martin de los Andes was some of the most interesting, most tender venison I’ve tasted. It was served with spaetzel, which was a nice compliment.
I’m not sure this qualifies as a national food of Argentina, but there are pancho (hot dog) restaurants all over country. Curiosity got the best of me in Mendoza and I decided I had to know what the fuss was all about. I ordered this super pancho, complete with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. The verdict? The taste was good, but I felt a bit sick afterwards.
12. Ice Cream / Helado
The helado (gelato-style ice cream) in Argentina is some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. It’s creamy, rich, and delicious. Plus there are tons of flavors and you don’t have to pay extra to get more than one on your cone.
13. Baked Goods
Argentina has some of the best baked goods — from cookies and cakes to bread and scones — I’ve ever had. The country is well-populated with panaderias (bakeries) where you can get them fresh, so it’s no wonder that Argentines eat more sweets per capita than anyone else. Restaurants serve fresh bread, which they’ve either baked themselves or bought from a nearby panaderia.
Croissant-like medialunas come in two varieties — plain and slightly sweet. When they’re fresh, they’re quite good. But since these compose the main (and usually only) course of Argentine breakfasts, I’ve had my share of mediocre medialunas in hostels and cafes.
Bariloche in Patagonia is the chocolate capital of Argentina, which you’ll know after just one walk down the chocolate shop-covered street. We sampled a lot of chocolate in Bariloche and I especially enjoyed the more exciting flavors like mint and honey. But I have to say I still like Russian and German chocolate the best.
16. Dulce de Leche
This thick, sweet, milky sauce falls somewhere between jelly and caramel. It’s hugely popular here. Argentines eat it on bread and medialunas, but you can also find it in cookies and ice cream. Personally, I think it’s a little too sweet, but Elizabeth loves it.
Argentina is know for these cookie sandwiches, which usually come filled with dulce de leche. The best ones are from a bakery, but you can also get them pre-packaged in supermarkets. The best version I had was from a bakery in Buenos Aires and was dipped in white chocolate. The weirdest thing about alfajores is they’re not just desserts; the buses in Argentina serve them with coffee as a sugar-filled breakfast.
Argentina doesn’t have a ton of variety in its cuisine; spicy food, for example, is nearly impossible to find. But it sticks to what it does best — mouthwatering steaks and sandwiches, delicious pizzas, and sensational bake goods — and will satisfy any foodie’s cravings.
Want to try your hand at Argentine cooking? Check out Argentina Cooks! Treasured Recipes from the Nine Regions of Argentina and Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way.
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