Top 10 foods to try in Argentina

A trip to Argentina is the perfect opportunity to indulge in some serious feasting, including sampling some of the country's legendary steak. Make sure to seek out these traditional dishes.

Mountains and lakes panorama

Argentina is surging up the travel bucket lists for young and old alike. Whether you’re lured by the romance of cosmopolitan city life or in search of legendary steak, the country has platefuls of charm to suit every taste.

Discover even more foodie getaways, top 10 guides and essential travel info in our travel hub. Plus, check out our top 10 travel destinations for 2019


Don’t leave Argentina without trying…

1. Asado

Sausages and vegetables on barbecue grill
The way to Argentina’s heart is through its asado, or barbecue, also known as parrillada. Don't leave the country without spending a leisurely afternoon beside the warmth of a grill or open fire, feasting on copious grilled meats. This is the national dish, originating from the country’s gauchos, or cowboys, who would subsist on the abundant cows dotting the country’s plains. Expect to find beef, pork, ribs, sausages, blood sausages and sweetbreads hot off the fire. In Patagonia, look out for a whole lamb or pig roasting over an open flame. Lightly salted, topped with chimichurri and paired with malbec – this is Argentina. 

Sample it yourself with our barbecued lamb with sweet mint dressing


2. Chimichurri 

Steak with chimichurri sauce, sweet potato and corn on plate
A green salsa made of finely chopped parsley, oregano, onion, garlic, chilli pepper flakes, olive oil and a touch of acid, such as lemon or vinegar, chimichurri is the country’s go-to condiment.. This tangy, garlickly salsa is sometimes used as a marinade, though most often it’s found blanketing grilled meats and heaps of other savoury foods throughout the country. 

Sample it yourself – try our steak with chimichurri sauce or bavette with chimichurri sauce, or go veggie with black bean chimichurri salad

3. Provoleta 

Provoleta cheese in pan
Argentineans give whole new meaning to grilled cheese with their trademark dish of provoleta. A consequence of the significant Italian immigration to Argentina, provoleta is the country’s variant on provolone. Pungent, sharp, sliced discs of the cheese are topped with chilli flakes and herbs, like oregano, then grilled. The nearly melted cheese is served crisp and slightly caramelised on the outside, gooey and smokey on the interior. Top it off with a drizzle of olive oil or a spoonful of chimichurri. 


4. Dulce de leche

Dulce de leech filled truffles
Cows roaming Argentina’s expansive grasslands have not only provided the country with phenomenal beef, but also dairy. And it's from condensed milk that Argentina gets one of its culinary treasures, dulce de leche. Loosely translated as 'milk jam', this thick caramel is the result of condensed milk being slowly reduced until sweetened and sticky. Look for it in everything from alfajores and dessert empanadas to another national favourite, helado (ice cream) over which it is liberally drizzled and downed by the kilo. 

Sample it yourself, with our salted caramel choc potsbanoffee trifles and melting middle truffles


5. Alfajores

Aflajores with coconut
Argentina is said to be the world’s largest consumer of alfajores, crumbly shortbread-like biscuits sandwiching jams, mousses or dulce de leche. Alfajores’ roots lie in the Arab world, brought to southern Spain by the Moors. Spaniards later carried the sweets to Argentina – and no one has looked back since. Akin to their national cookie, Argentines indulge in these cylindrical biscuits throughout the day and across the country. 

Make these moreish biscuits at home, with our alfajores recipe.


6. Empanadas

Empanadas on tray
Another gift from the Moors to the Spanish and, finally, to the Argentineans, where this hot, cheap and portable meal became popular among the working classes. A sort of South American pasty, empanadas are deep-fried or baked, then filled with a sweet or savoury stuffing, depending on the province. Dessert empanadas are commonly packed with quince jam, sweet potato paste or dulce de leche and sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar or sweet raisins, as is typical in Córdoba. Savoury empanadas are filled with stewed and spiced ground beef, chicken, goat, cheese and/or vegetables, with the markings on the pastry fold identifying the treasures hidden inside. 

Sample them yourself... Corn, cheese & chilli empanadas, beef & chorizo empanadas or cabbage & pork empanadas 


7. Matambre arrollado

While the thick, slabs of Argentinean meat aren't to be missed, you should opt for a matambre arrollado at least once. This super-slim cut of beef, like a flank steak, is thinly sliced then stuffed with vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, herbs and olives. The meat is rolled around the filling, then boiled, baked or grilled. Matambre translates literally to 'hunger killer' and arrollado as 'to roll-up'. The story goes that these are often the first meats ready on the grill, staving off hunger while waiting for the rest of the asado to catch up.


8. Yerba mate

Yerba mate with teapot
It was indigenous populations in South America that first used and cultivated yerba mate, prior to European colonisation. A herbal- and caffeine-infused drink, you’ll find it filling everything from to-go cups to shallowed-out squash gourds across the country. Leaves from the yerba mate plant are dried, chopped and ground into a powder, or steeped as whole leaves into hot water. Drinking yerba mate is a social practice and the gourd, fitted with a metal straw that doubles as a sieve, is often passed around a group, each person sipping before passing. 

9. Choripán

Sausage in bun with sauce and salad
A pre-requisite before any football match, a go-to among taxi drivers and a mainstay at markets and street stalls, choripán is the ultimate Argentinean street food. Made with pork and beef chorizo cooked over charcoal or wood flames, the sausage is grilled, then butterflied down the centre, topped with chimichurri and served between slices of crusty bread. Depending on the province, caramelised onions, pickled aubergines, green peppers and a host of other condiments are also added. Another gaucho tradition, the choripán has experienced a rural-to-urban shift that has placed it firmly on the country’s culinary map. 

Want to sample something similar? Try our Chicken liver & chorizo open sandwich or chorizo rolls

10. Carbonada

During the cooler months, carbonada is a staple, stick-to-your-ribs dish. A savoury, meaty, brothy stew, carbonada is made of meat, potatoes (sweet and white), corn on the cob, carrots, peppers, bacon and topped with fruits (ranging from dried apricots and raisins to peaches, pears and green grapes). The stew is spooned into a hollowed-out pumpkin that's placed on the barbecue to cook. Different variants on the carbonada can be found throughout the country and it can even make its way into empanadas, where it takes the form of the ultimate, portable stew. 

Caitlin Zaino is the founder of The Urban Grocer. She's scouring the globe in search of the world's most cutting-edge food discoveries.

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Are you a fan of Argentinian cuisine? Do you agree with our selection or have we missed your favourite? Share your must-try dishes below…

 

Comments, questions and tips

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atrue5643
21st Dec, 2016
What's the difference from an emponata and like a dumpling we have in America?
peterjho
7th Oct, 2016
Our son married an Argentinian and lives happily in BA and we have visited several times. The food is sensational and they have sent some suggestions. Matambre a la pizza as above but leave the meat flat and load up with tomatoes, cheese etc. Puchero a soup made of lots of vegetables and meat. You have the soup as a starter and the meat and veg as the main course. Delicious.. Also no mention of milanesas, pastelitos (pastry filled with membrillo). In fact I think Argentinian food is one of the greatest and varied cuisines in the world.
kierhawkins
19th Feb, 2014
How could you miss out seafood? In Ushuaia just about every restaurant has fine King Crab, even the fast pizza place has it in empanadas. Waitrose sells Queenie Scallops too from Argentina; wish they brought in the King Crab too!!! On my first visit in 1971 I eat kid from a parillada in a BA steakhouse, Estancia which was still there a couple of years ago. Kids were split and roasted around an open fire in the restaurant window in the centre of the City. Wine has come on a lot since 1971 when only jug wine seemed to be available in the restaurants. I had a litre of beer then too served in an oversize wine glass. On a different note look out for the menwear shop 'Birmingham'. Looks different on a shopping bag!
samimac
29th Jan, 2014
Perfect choices! Exactly what we consider as most traditional, though I would also add pizza, much more popular than carbonada and you just cannot walk two blocks in any neighbourhood without passing by a pizzeria. Just a tiny type error: barbecue is parrillada (parrilla is the grill itself) and the cheese is provoleta...mmmmm....so so delicious! Thanks for such a nice article.
cocina
19th Feb, 2014
Your article has whetted my appetite. I'd love some more recipes from Argentina - pan de navidad, puchero, alfajores, locro and more empanadas. Crossing the River Plate, I fell in love with budin de coco in Montevideo in 1982. It was a delicious coconut confection, caramelised on top which they served in large trays, but I've never found out how to make it. Can anyone help?
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