One of our greatest joys when traveling to a new country for the first time is the chance of seeing new places, meeting new cultures, and of course, sampling local cuisines and traditional delicacies. When talk comes to food in South America, people are likely to think of Argentinian steaks and Peruvian ceviche (sushi). You are not likely to ever hear any mention of Bolivian food.
The South American country of Bolivia is more famous for its rich biodiversity, vibrant culture, breathtaking scenery, and as home to the highest lake in the world. However, as we soon found out, those are not the only things Bolivia has to offer.
Bolivian cuisine, rich with a selection of mouth-watering preparations, is a digression from the historical influence of Spanish cuisine like the rest of Southern America. It also has a special impact from German, French, Arabian, and Aymara traditions. The rich diversity of Bolivian food will not only amaze you but leave you craving more.
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Unique and Mouthwatering Bolivian Food to Try
To say Bolivia doesn't rank very highly among world-famous culinary destination is fair. Many of her dishes are focused around the pre-colonial carb-heavy staples of rice and potatoes. But don't be deceived, the Southern American nation has numerous mouthwatering traditional delicacies worth sampling.
There is always something unique or special about every country's cuisine and Bolivian food is not any different. Because the country has such a diversity of cultures and regions geographically, its food, including fruits are also very varied.
Bolivians not only love their food but are known to be sumptuous eaters. Eating is taken very seriously in this country. Bolivians believe in setting their day off in a big way and then gradually slowing down as the day nears its conclusion. We discovered that they love taking a sumptuous breakfast, a generous lunch followed by a somewhat light dinner to conclude the day.
The country is blessed with many amazing dishes, which makes it impossible to describe them all. We have compiled some of the yummiest and unique Bolivian food that you must try on your visit to this amazing country.
Pique Macho - Special French Fries Meal
Pique macho is a traditional food from Bolivia that consists of a layer of French fries that is buried under a heap of chopped hot dogs, beef, cheese, bell peppers, chilli peppers, and onions. You will typically be served with condiments like ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. Sliced hard-boiled eggs are the typical garnish on top of the rather huge plate. If you are looking for a heavy meal, this is for you.
The origins of this hearty meal is as interesting as the ingredients themselves. It is said that late one night, a group of not so sober workers called at a closed restaurant and demanded to be served something to eat. Reluctantly, the chef threw every item of food she had left into a pan with lots of spicy locoto and dared them to eat if they were men enough, "piquen si son machos”.
She must have done an awesome job because the concocted dish has remained popular ever since.
Majadito - the Traditional Bolivian Mixed Dish
Originating from the eastern part of the country, this traditional food from Bolivia consists of dried meat, rice, tomatoes, and chopped onions. Majadito dates back to the pre-Columbian period when grains, rice, meat, cassava, and plantains were the typical food staple among the native Bolivian people.
Today, majadito is considered one of the country's national dishes, commonly served in many restaurants across the country. Beef jerky was traditionally used in making this dish, but today you can get it prepared with dry duck or chicken.
Like many traditional dishes in Bolivia, it is normally garnished and topped with a fried egg. This dish can be consumed for breakfast, lunch, or even dinner. When we ordered Majadito, we were served with fried plantains, and we loved it.
Silpancho - the Traditional Dish Originally from Cochabamba
This is a traditional food from Bolivia made of white rice and steamed or boiled potatoes. It's normally garnished with parsley, beets, and onions. Want a huge meal? The popular Silpancho is huge in size and the ingredients are filled with carbohydrates plus fats. Besides the rice and potatoes, it can also be served with fried eggs, chicken cutlets, or beef.
Although the dish is traditionally from Cochabamba, you are now likely to find it throughout Bolivia with many restaurants serving it but with different variations.
Chicharrón de Cerdo - the Delicious Dish Cooked with Corn Alcohol
We learned that this traditional food from Bolivia originated in the Cochabamba region, where it was largely cooked on weekends. If you find it on a restaurant menu, Chicharrón de cerdo may not look like the most appetizing food dish but it's worth ordering for its sheer deliciousness.
But what is Chicharrón de cerdo? The meat is typically cooked in its own fat mixed with chichi. This is an alcoholic drink prepared from corn. The dish can also be served with potatoes and corn, choclo. An interesting aspect is that Chicharrón de cerdo is prepared in front of the costumers. This is an enjoyable and delicious meal if somewhat ‘unhealthy' for the diet conscious.
Mondongo - Potatoes, Meat, and Corn Dish
If you are a meat-and-potatoes person, then this Bolivian food is for you! The freshly butchered meat, with lots of its fat still on it, gets cooked in a sauce with chilies, onions, cumin, and other herbs plus spices. A yellow colourant is sometimes added. You will be served the dish with potatoes and, yes, the ever-present Bolivian corn.
While Mondongo is the Bolivian dish typically served on All Saints Day, it's still available at marketplaces across the country all year round.
Anticucho - Late Night Snack
Throughout Bolivia, and in particular the capital, La Paz, Anticucho is a very popular late-night snack. The fact that the meat has actually been flame-grilled should not put you off. This unique Bolivian food dish of cow heart will surprise you by its sheer deliciousness.
Each serving of this uniquely prepared dish comes with a grilled potato that's been smothered in rich and spicy peanut sauce. As you move around the Bolivian towns, look out for those restaurants and watering holes with portable grills outside waiting to serve you with a mouth-watering Anticucho.
Yuca Frita - A Sweet Tuber-Like Snack
Yuca Fritas are made from Yucas, a cassava-like tuber that also known as Maniocs. The preparation method? Finger-sized slices of the boiled tubers are deep-fried until they turn crunchy on the outside. Yuca Frita is not only a handy snack for a traveller like you but also packed with loads of fibres and starch.
In this country, they are usually served with grilled meats, barbeques, and burgers accompanied by spicy sauces.
Tucumanas - Tasty Pasty with Great Ingredients
The name of this Bolivian food may not be easy on the tongue but the taste is certainly palatable. The best way of describing Tucumanas is as a tasty type of pasty filled with an assortment of fillings. And these are all tongue-friendly; meat, boiled egg, diced veggies, and a spicy sauce.
If you want a break from meat products, vegetable Tucumanas are also available. Often, these are served with veggies, eggs, sauce and colourful condiments to match your dish.
Papas Rellenas - Stuffed Potatoes Dish
Papas Rellenas is not a typical traditional food from Bolivia as it has Peruvian origins. However, Peruvians have not only adopted but adapted it throughout the country. Translated, it means stuffed potatoes as this dish is made of mashed potato balls. These have been stuffed with either cheese or boiled eggs.
Cuñapé - Tasty Cheese Bread Balls
Who doesn't love cheese? Cuñapé is a type of bread made with white cheese, milk, egg, and starch. Quite popular in the Eastern part of the country, these bread balls are best with a cup of tea or coffee just like the Bolivians do.
Need a quick lift up? Cuñapé are perfect energy sources as you travel around Bolivia. We found them being sold in bus stations by vendors. They are not just popular in Bolivia but all over South America. In Argentina, they are called chipas, in Columbia pan de queso, in Brazil pao de quiejo, and pan de yuca in Ecuador.
Sajta de Pollo - the Carnival and Holidays Special
A Bolivian food that consists of chicken, peas, tomatoes, onions, and yellow chilli pepper Santa de Pollo is sure to satisfy. Typically, this meal is flavoured and garnished with celery, parsley, garlic, cumin, and black pepper.
Although traditionally this dish is prepared for special days like Carnival and the All Saints' Day, it's also an excellent meal on any day. When we were served this sauce-drenched dish in La Paz, it was with regular potatoes accompanied by peanut sauce and in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, we had it with plain rice. We strongly recommend you try Sajta de Pollo on your Bolivian forays.
Humintas - Sweet Baked Tamales
Sure, all over Latin America there are variations of this widely eaten dish but in Bolivia, they make very sweet, never savoury. How are Bolivian Tamales prepared? Fresh sweet corn is grated and thoroughly mixed with cinnamon. In some cases, sugar or raisins plus pieces of cheese are added in the middle. This is then packed a corn husk, where either it's steamed or grilled.
How is it eaten? Join Bolivians and enjoy the tamales as part of your breakfast or as a snack.
Saltenas - A Traditional Bolivian Pastry
Bolivians have a food custom that has gained world attention. At mid-morning, they traditionally take a 15-30 minute break for tea or coffee and eat a snack. During the break, everything literally stops. Offices, stores, businesses, even government agencies typically take a short break for this national mid-morning ritual.
In Bolivia, the snack of choice is inevitably Saltena. This light sandwich is perfect with tea or coffee and is filled with meat, eggs, vegetables, olives, and yes, loaded with delicious juiciness.
We don't recommend you take a full break from your itinerary but a coffee/tea and Saltena break will certainly do you much good. Ask the Bolivians!
Picante de Pollo - A Chicken Lover's Delight
Love chicken dishes? Then Picante de pollois for you. But what is it? A savoury meal of chicken, boiled potatoes, and rice. Preparation method? The mix is boiled in thick sauce sprinkled with parsley.
What about the taste? Originating from the western region of the country, this traditional food from Bolivia is a lip-smacking spicy dish appreciated not just by the locals but also by food connoisseurs across the globe.
Salchipapa - Fried Sausage and Potato
Looking for a handy and filling snack or meal? Go for fried potatoes and sausage served with coleslaw. Salchipapa, the name of this tasty Bolivian dish is derived from two Spanish words that mean sausage and potato, "Salchicha” and "Papa”.
And the taste? Certainly, nobody needs to be introduced to french fries. Throw in a sausage and you have a handy yet filling snack that can also be a full meal.
Empanadas de Queso - Scrumptious Cheese Mini Pies
A popular pastry we tasted in Bolivian is cheese empanada. This is prepared by folding fresh dough over cheese. They are common across South America and the Bolivians love them for teatime and breakfast.
And because they have a savoury filling of cheese, you can have Empanadas de Queso either baked or fried. You will get them in the many food stalls that line the streets of Bolivian cities and towns. Several bites into these scrumptious cheese mini pies are sure to make your day.
Quinoa - the Gluten-Free High-Protein Food
A staple food item in many households, this traditional food from Bolivia is a very versatile high-protein grain crop. Besides being pleasing to the palate, this grain crop is gluten-free and contains essential amino acids. This food could be described as a super-food. Some of the well-known dishes that contain Quinoa include stews, salads, soups, and burgers.
And Lastly, Bolivian Chocolate
What is a good meal without a drink? Bolivians make one of the world's most delicious chocolate brands. Chocolates Para Ti is made using high-quality cocoa that has been sourced from the regions of Beni and Alto Beni in North-Eastern Bolivia. Chocolates Para Ti has over 20 flavours including Peach, Quinoa, and Amaranto.
So why not conclude your Bolivian food tour with this item that's also a major tourist attraction for the country?