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The 10 Yummiest Chilean Foods. Las 10 comidas Chilenas mas ricas! (Intuitive Eating Version)

Chilean summer beans (porotos granados)

As I get back into blogging this 2024, I began going through my older posts, including this one. I really enjoyed writing and sharing this blog post back in 2021. I wanted to re-share it but it was titled "The 10 Healthiest Chilean Foods...". And as an Intuitive Eating counselor now the term "healthy" is one I avoid using to describe foods. I'll use it for other things like "healthy relationship to food and body", "healthy social interactions", "healthy boundaries", etc. So I decided to tweak it (quite a bit) and turn it into an Intuitive Eating version of some of my favourite Chilean dishes. I left a lot of the nutrition info in there (like vitamin and mineral content and such) which I felt was a nice detail to leave, though certainly not the reasons to enjoy a meal.

Let's get right into the 10 yummiest Chilean foods to try!

1. Porotos Granados Summer Beans

porotos granados en Chile
Porotos granados & Ensalada Chilena

This summer bean soup is among the most popular and yummiest Chilean dishes. Made with pinto beans, corn, squash, garlic, onion and basil, this fibre-rich dish will leave your tummy and heart satisfied.

Porotos granados are also vegetarian and gluten-free, so a good option for those meeting these dietary restrictions in a country where bread and meat are staples. If you want to make your own Porotos Granados, check out this Youtube video by one of the most popular Chilean chefs, Alvaro Barrientos (the video is in Spanish).

Also, did you know that fibre found in foods, including in beans, feed our gut microbiome? This is one of the reasons it's important to include plenty of fibre in your diet. If you suffer from IBS or uncomfortable bloating from beans, try having smaller portions for starters, eat slowly, and consider taking a digestive enzyme with these fibre-rich meals.

2. Cazuela Beef Soup

Mother in law's cazuela

Many countries in Latin America have their own cazuela version. In Chile, cazuela consists of a piece of beef, pumpkin, potato, small piece of corn, green beans, cilantro, and sometimes carrots- and of course onion, garlic, as well as cumin and oil.

The reason cazuela made my list is because it’s a delicious comfort food . The cut of beef traditionally used tends to be on the fattier side; however, you can prepare it with a leaner cut like roast beef or sirloin if fatty meats bother your digestion. Like for those without a gallbladder. Otherwise, fat is an essential macronutrient involved in many functions in the body, including the synthesis of some hormones. So it's important to consume enough fat from a variety of sources.

Fat content aside, beef is rich in vitamin B12 and heme iron. Heme iron is found in meat and is better absorbed by the body compared to non-heme iron, the vegetarian version.

Squash at the market in Chile

The potatoes, squash and corn add complex carbs and fibre to cazuela. Carbs are the most important source of fuel for the cells in your body, especially your brain and heart. If you're watching your blood sugars because you have pre-diabetes or diabetes, accompanying your carbs with a protein source like beef can help lower the glycemic load of the meal.

Most importantly, enjoying a nice hot plate of cazuela with your friends and family is the best way to get the most health benefits from this meal.

Photo: The cazuela featured in the photo was made by my mother-in-law (who left this earth) in Chile some years ago. The second photo is Chilean squash.

3. Palta Reina Stuffed Avocado

Palta Reina - avocado with tuna
palta reina

Palta Reina is a meal-like appetizer or starter consisting of half an avocado topped with tuna or chicken salad. In Chilean Spanish- as well as Peruvian, Argentinean and Uruguayan- palta is avocado. Reina means queen, so “avocado queen”. Sometimes it goes by the name Palta Rellena, “stuffed avocado”. And no, this is not a food trend. It’s been around for ages.

Avocado is a Chilean staple.

How they water those thirsty avocado trees in a country constantly threated by drought is beyond me.

But anyway, avocados are mashed with a fork and eaten on bread at breakfast, in sandwiches and salads at lunch, even on hot dogs (pictured below), and on bread in the evening for once (evening tea).

Avocados, like olive oil, are high in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs). It is well-documented that these fats help lower cholesterol, as well as increase HDL “good” cholesterol. The chicken/tuna salad has added mayo. In my original post from 2021, I suggest using plain Greek yogurt for a lower fat version as an alternative. Please DON'T ruin this dish by adding Greek yogurt! Save the yogurt for your morning granola.

Hot dogs and beer in Santiago
El Kika

Finally, in my original post again, I end this section talking about the calorie content of this appetizer dish. Lucky for you, this is the Intuitive Eating version so I've taken that section right out. But as a quick reminder, calories keep us alive. So if you have a gratitude journal be sure to add "calories" to your gratitude list. Or better yet "access to calories".

One last thing about Palta Reina, even though it's an appetizer, it can be pretty filling. You might want to share it or order it as a main dish. My father loves Palta Reina and usually orders it as his main meal when he's visiting Chile. But you certainly don't have to.

4. Paila Marina Seafood Soup

Paila Marina - chilean seafood soup

If you know anything about Chile’s geography you probably know it has a very long coast line. Along with all that ocean is some very nice seafood. Like, delicious! One of those dishes is Paila Marina, a seafood and fish soup. The specific shellfish and fish used depend on their availability but typically include mussels, clams (several types), and white fish or congrio (a type of eel which is commonly eaten deep or pan fried and is absolutely delicious, but not on my list here because I can't find any photos to share with you).

Fresh seafood at the market

This seafood soup is nutritious because it’s rich in vitamins and minerals. Clams and mussels are loaded with vitamin B12 (more so than beef), iron, and zinc. They’re also a great source of protein and contain very little fat, so a little easier to digest for the poor fat absorbers out there (i.e. from poor digestion or absence of a gallbladder).

Paila Marina is truly delicious and often consumed with family, friends, laughs, and white wine at a coastal restaurant. Nostalgic yet?

Photos: Pretty sure I borrowed the top one from my sister. The bottom I took somewhere in the central coast of Chile.

5. Humitas Little Corn Cakes that look like presents

Humitas - Chilean corn cakes that look like little presents
Ready to eat humita

Humitas are summer staples in Chile. They're basically just pureed corn with garlic, onion, basil, and a few spices, including paprika. You can't go to Chile in the summer and not have one of these babies. They're usually accompanied with ensalada chilena (see below). You may have one before a meal, or it may be served as a meal on its own. While having it as a meal on its own means that you won't be having much protein, who cares! You absolutely don't need to balance all of your meals. No seriously, it's perfectly OKAY to exclude an entire food group in a meal, and that includes vegetables.

In fact, having a good laugh with your family while eating a (low protein) meal like humitas is WAY better for your health than eating, say, an organic chicken salad while arguing with your family or spouse (eek!).

Humitas aren't exactly a culinary delicacy but they really are delicious, and so much more enjoyable when eating them along with your nostalgia.

6. Ensalada Chilena Chilean Tomato Salad

Chilean tomato salad

Ensalada Chilena is a tomato salad made with thinly sliced onion (typically thinner than pictured here), a bit of oil and salt. This is a very typical, and simple, summer salad.

One medium tomato contains around 25% of our daily requirements of vitamins A and C. The vitamin A in tomatoes is a type of carotene called lycopene. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant which has been shown to be protective against breast, colon, lung, skin and prostate cancers. The concentration of lycopene varies among tomatoes; however, redder tomatoes appear to have the highest. Lycopene’s absorption is enhanced with fat. So don't skip the olive oil!

Ensalada Chilena is eaten everywhere and typically accompanies dishes like Porotos Granados and Humitas.

And if you haven't tried Chilean summer tomatoes, I can't wait till you do!

7. Pebre Chilean Hot/Not-so-hot Salsa

Pebre - Chilean salsa

I love pebre! L-O-V-E. If you haven’t yet tried it you’ll love it too! Pebre is a condiment typically served at a table with fresh bread before and during a meal. You can make it by hand if you’re good at chopping finely (not me!) or you can use a food processor.

Pebre has tomato, cilantro, parsley, banana pepper, onion, garlic, oil and salt, though ingredients can vary.

I love pebre SO much that I deleted all the nutrition content I wrote up on it in this section originally, even though all its ingredients are nutritionally dense.

holding fresh cilantro

Like, who cares that it has antioxidants, or that garlic has mild antibacterial

properties (not nearly enough to replace antibiotics, however, so please take your antibiotics if you have an infection). Who cares that parsley is loaded with vitamins and minerals.

Okay, so I'm kidding here with the "who cares" comments but like... just gimme the pan amasado, the pebre, a glass of red wine and I'm as happy as can be.

You can literally put pebre on everything, on bread, in your cazuela, in your sandwich, on your hot dog, empanada, on your meat, so on and so forth.

Photo: This photo is a pebre photo shoot from home. The lower photo is a cilantro photo shoot on a trip to Chile in which I decided to feature a food daily.

8. Mote con huesillo Summer Peach & Wheat Drink

My son sipping his first mote con huesillos in Chile
Trying More con Huesillos for the first time

Where is that Mote con huesillo stand when you’ve been walking around the streets of downtown Santiago for hours, drenched in sweat in January?

Mote con huesillo is a refreshing half drink, half snack. The huesillo portion of it is dried peach and the mote is wheat kernels (you can also use barley). So a high-fibre snack.

It can also have quite a bit of sugar, depending on how it's prepared, so if added sugar is a concern for you, then well, maybe skip this one, share it, or just have the sugar this once...or just chillax and enjoy the sugar!

Sugar isn't as evil as it's made out to be and, besides, diet on its own makes up a fairly small percentage of overall health.

If you’re a visitor to Chile, definitely try a good, traditional Mote con huesillo. It hits the spot when you've been walking around sweaty for hours.

Dried peaches
Dried peaches

Photos: My son in 2009 drinking Mote con huesillos. Photo borrowed from my mother. The other is a photo of dried peaches I had them in my fridge for a year. Can't remember if I ever got around to making Mote con Huesillos, but I sure hope so.

9. Pan con Palta Avocado Toast

Chilean avocado toast
marraqueta - Chilean bread
Marraqueta (Chilean bread)

Pan con palta, or avocado toast, is a staple in Chile and a typical breakfast. It's Chile's bacon and eggs or peanut butter and jam. Again, NOT a food trend.

Central Chile's Mediterranean climate produces an abundance of amazing produce, including avocados (and wine of course!).

With rising food prices, however, avocados are not accessible to everyone and may no longer be a staple food in many households. They've gotten quite expensive in Chile, financially and environmentally.

Regardless (not to be dismissive to the above point), having avocado on toast in the morning is a great way to start the day. Why so great? Because it's super yummy and avocado's fat and fibre content makes it satisfying and satiating!

And if you visit Chile, you'll be having your avocado toast on freshly baked bread (like the marraqueta pictured on the right), and hopefully not the sliced bread pictured above.

10. Empanada

Chilean empanada
Beef empanada (empanada de pino)

What do you call a Chilean national independence celebration without empanadas? Non-existent!

I wrote this blog a few years ago originally for el dieciocho, Chilean Independence day. I'm posting my updated, Intuitive Eating version in January. But while I'm here I'll keep the original content on el dieciocho.

El dieciocho is all about having fun, seeing friends, dancing cueca, drinking wine excessively (but hopefully you try applying some of your Intuitive Drinking skills next time) and eating empanadas.

As long as you don’t turn your celebration into a month-long one, your liver can handle a little fun! While beef empanadas are classic, cheese empanadas are also very popular. You can also find seafood empanadas, especially on the coast. Seafood empanadas are my absolute fave!

Home made beef empanadas
I made these!

And there you have it! The 10 yummiest Chilean foods, Intuitive Eating version. So these are not necessarily the 10 yummiest. Like I said, I excluded congrio a la plancha only because I don't have a photo. And I don't steal photos off the internet, only from my family. Of course this list is highly subjective, and also remember that they were originally on here for being some of the "healthiest" Chilean foods. Nutritionally dense, in other words. Empanadas were an honourable mention. But now that you know that diet only makes up a small percentage of overall health, and that having healthy social connections and positive interactions is good for health, you can stop focusing on the sugar, fat, carb content of your meals, drop the guilt and just ENJOY!


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