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Sorry, Chile, but it’s true. For as much as we loved our time traveling thousands of miles up and down your country, our palates were left entirely under-stimulated.

First, let it be known that there is nothing spicy to eat in Chile. Do not let the name fool you. There is a deceiving red powder, called ají, on the table with salt and pepper, but even if you cover your pizza in a blanket of it, there’d be about as much kick as from a legless man.

vegetarian food la serenaI mention pizza, and if you read this website often, you will know we are always on the hunt for excellent pizza. Unfortunately the Chilean version pales desperately in comparison to its Argentine neighbor. It is dry, basic, unimaginative and does nothing more than to satisfy large groups, teenage boys and two vegetarian GlobetrotterGirls when nothing else is even remotely interesting on the menu.

Ugh, and the empanada certainly didn’t make it over the Andes very well either. In Argentina the thick, buttery dough filled with creamy mozzarella, tangy blue cheese or meat (if that’s your thing) became an addiction. Here, the shape and concept is the same, but the dough is like cardboard, the cheese like rubber.

pizza valparaisoChile is by far the most sophisticated country in South America, yet its food reflects none of this sophistication. Take the ‘famous’ Chorillana – a Chilean national dish that we would simply call Stoner Food. Meat, large chunks of lazily chopped broiled vegetables, ham, cheese and a fried egg or two are thrown on top of a huge bed of French fries. That’s it. Just pull the fries out, dip them in some off the yolk and/or ketchup and/or mayo, and eat the rest with a mix of your hands and a fork.

Next up, the ‘completo’ is a hot dog. It’s not very ‘complete’ either. It’s got a few things on it, but it’s just a hot dog with none of the creativity of a Belgian, Chicago or New York style dog let alone bratwurst.

Once, we ordered a sandwich that, on a neighboring table, looked remarkably similar to a Mexican Torta. But rather than being fresh, thick, warm bread piled high with so many delicious ingredients it puts Subway to shame, this was just cold, boiled green beans, queso fresco (the worst white cheese in.the.world), lettuce, tomato and onion. Green beans on a sandwich? Really?

ancud lomito veggieYou’ll notice that much of these are some sort of sandwich or bread dish, and not one would be classified as healthy. Even salads are not done right. How often did we get a plate with four ingredients lined up in a row – a strip of lettuce next to a row of sliced tomatoes next to sliced cucumbers next to, say, shaved carrots. The ingredients were not even mixed together, vegetable oil and white vinegar on top, for the price of that Chorillana those stoners, sorry locals, are chewing down on at the next table over.

saladPossibly the worst offender is the sopaipilla – fried dough bought from a street vendor and then slathered in mayo. That’s right, just fried dough in mayonnaise (we didn’t say it wasn’t good, but again with the stoner food!).

The lack of healthy options never ceased to amaze, nor did watching coffee drinkers pour one, two, sometimes three oversized sugar packets into an espresso. If it even was an espresso. Most likely it was a Nescafé, since instant coffee is preferred in Chile, a fact which makes us sad and teary-eyed every morning.

nescafe chileContinuing on the subject of sugar, ordering a smoothie and forgetting to ask for no sugar meant resigning ourselves to the presence of a new cavity by days end.

And salt? I once watched a mother salt her pre-teen daughter’s dinner so heavily, had she also lit and handed her a cigarette it wouldn’t have surprised me.

There are some healthier dishes, like the curanto, a meat dish cooked underground in a pot over hot rocks, similar to a hangi in New Zealand. Fish, meat, bread and potatoes are heated wrapped in large leaves for hours and then taken out to be eaten together. But this is 1. only in the south of the country and 2. too time-consuming dish to order with any regularity.

You’ll note that most dishes are for meat-eaters. Traditional vegetarian dishes include humitas, which are like Mexican tamales, with corn meal masa, with only sprinkles of corn inside and no other flavor to speak of. There is always the Paila option, which is just scrambled eggs, often with avocado. Oddly, this is not considered a breakfast dish, but an once, meaning afternoon snack).

And now we come to the Mote con Huesillo, a popular summer drink that, while not bad, is just plain weird.

Served in a plastic cup, first the vendors add two or three big scoops of cooked husked wheat. Yup, wheat. That’s the ‘mote’ part. Then, one or two stewed peaches in a syrupy liquid are poured on top. This is not blended together. You chew the drink using a straw and a spoon to consume it.

mote con huesilloWhat was so disappointing about the basic, unimaginative and unflavorful foods is that unlike most places in Latin America, in Chile you can drink the water. So in theory you could eat street food freely and happily without worry, just like in Thailand. But this comparison feels absurd, considering the delicious, spicy Pad Thai for a dollar versus fried dough and a cup of wheat and peach juice.

This brings me to our biggest frustration of all – the lack of international food. In Cambodia we had fairly authentic Mexican food, in Malaysia we had spot on British tea and scones. In Chile, any attempt at international cuisine is like eating a bowl of plastic fruits. It always looks so realistic, but once you bite down, there is no flavor at all. Look, the Brits, the Americans, the Germans, we all have boring traditional foods – that’s why we steal international cuisine and mix them all together and call it fusion. All Chile has to do is look north to Peru for fine examples of Japanese-Peruvian and Nouveau-Andean cuisines.

The only international food that Chile really seems to have gotten right was the Kuchen. That’s right, German cake. The Germans arrived to the Lake District en masse in the 19th century and their delicious cake recipes remain perfectly in tact today. Other than that, the dessert leaves much to be desired, with manjar-filled flaky pastries, alfajores and leche asada, which pretty much tastes like flan made of boogers.

cakeLook, Chileans do wine very well, and pisco sours, too (though Peruvians would say they stole it from them). They grow delicious avocados and we ate at least one a day every day for over three months.

pisco soursAnd of course there are some excellent chefs making magic throughout the country. We ate extremely well in San Pedro de Atacama, loved the pizza at Tiramisu in Santiago along with Le Fournil, the chain Cassis made great food and one of our top meals was a seriously delicious three course meal at La Marmita in Punta Arenas, as far south as you can get on the Chilean mainland.

Chile, your glaciers and geysers, penguins and sea lions, volcanoes, lakes and massive mountains mesmerized us. Just glance through these posts, and you’ll see how much we love you. We felt right at home in your cities and warmed ourselves on your beaches, vowing to spend a month here or there, or even to plan a GlobetrotterGirls Getaway here someday. And you can be sure that our feelings are genuine, since we stayed over 100 days with you in spite of, most definitely not because of, your food.

Have you been to Chile? What did you think of Chilean cuisine? Share in the comments below!

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909 Comments

  1. We’re on our way to Chile after having soent 5 months in Peru. We truly hope the food experience will be much better than you’ve described in your blog. If it turns out true, at least we’re prepared.Thanks for heads up and happy travels :)!

  2. Most Chilean food is terrible. If you love tons of mayonnaise and overly salted bland food, you will be fine. If you want flavor in Chile find traditional Mapuche cuisine.

  3. Uff.

    It is one thing that Chilean food does not satisfy your unique taste- and another one is to be an ignorant traveler eating food and comparing it to the rest of the world, without taking into consideration the in-countries gastronomic traditions and food resources.

    Sorry to say- but you ain’t shit.

    1. Vegetarians should not give food reviews for countries whose main staples are meat and fish. I am from Chile and know that they are not top level cuisine, but it does not mean that you would be miserable there. Also, anyone looking for pizza in Chile should try to find it in Italy. They may find what they are looking for.

  4. if you go to chile to eat healthy food you might as well go back to america and eat your bland kale salad. oh and don’t forget to season your chicken too

  5. I live in Chile for work, and never has my palate been more bored. I miss international food so much, and after five years, have zero desire to go out to eat: it’s just a waste of time and money for overcooked, boring food, which is exactly in line with what the Globetrotter Girls have said. The beef here is cheap and high quality, but otherwise, any attempts to get anything spicy or flavoursome will be met with complete failure.

    I love living here… except for that.

  6. Mayonaise, Avocado and hot dogs are basically the food from Chile.
    If you go to Santiago… You should go to a Peruvian restaurant and you’ll be fine. LMAO!
    CHILEAN FOOD SUCKS!

  7. Chilean vegetables are fantastic and one of the best in the world, if you don’t now how to cook your own food if sorry for you.

  8. I’ve lived in Chile for about 5 months and I mostly agree, but there were some foods that were left out of here.

    Sopaipillas are garbage. They remind me mostly of fried dough that I’d get at carnivals back in the states so the idea of putting mayo or ketchup on them seemed sacrilegious. The empanadas could use some work. Their most famous one, the pino, is minced meat, onion, with an olive and hard boiled egg. They should take the seed out and mash it, along with the egg, but they usually don’t. Mechada con queso is a little better, but the bread is like cardboard and cheese like rubber. Mote con huesillo is not bad but weird, as you said.

    I’ve enjoyed several Chilean foods though. Churrasco is a decent sandwich (albeit a little messy) made of meat slices, tomato, mayo, avocado. It’s probably my staple food here. Pastel de choclo is very good, it’s meat and ham in something of a corn cake. I’ve found Chilean sea bass, but oddly enough they seem to prefer frying it as opposed to baking it, which defeats the purpose of eating high quality fish. Completos are pretty good, but better if you make them yourself. And curanto is incredible.

  9. Totally agree!
    I am a Chilean who lived in the US for 30 years and when I returned,
    I was disappointed at how bland our food is. I left when i was 21 and living in the US
    I was exposed to so many different varieties of food and I fell in love
    with Mexican Food. I have found very few restaurants )mostly in Santiago)
    that offer some TASTE/SABOR. Here are some of my favourites.
    Le fournil, RIshtedar and a few of the french restaurants.
    Also most of the Peruvian restaurants are contributing with a nice
    culinary experience.
    What I see the problem is Chile is the isolation that we have experienced for many years
    only when you are exposed to the rest of the world , you discover that different flavours
    and please my Chilean brothers, SALT is not the answer, neither is SUGAR.

  10. As a Chilean, I fully support and stand by this opinion.

    There a few dishes worth trying over here, but as a whole, chilean everyday food is bland, tasteless, uninspired and generally sad.

    There is good food to be had but it comes at a price and it’s hard to find.

  11. One of your pictures shows an envelop of “nescafe” (instant coffee o powder coffee) plus crackers and a tsp of marmalade. This is free food that the government deliver to Chilean homeless or immigrants!! Do you get this in Germany It’s called comfort food. I hope your trip was not traumatizing

  12. Agree. Chilean food is lazy and bland – what’s worst is they talk about it like it’s great. It’s embarrassing. I’m married to a Chilean – it’s just a fact.

  13. Sis, you actually ate pure shit. You next time do an actuall job and go get the food that knows our identity. Also please, “Chile” and “no spicy food” shows HOW MUCH ignorant you average Unitedstatians are. I travel every year to the U.S and let me tell you, even the air smells like fat. In Chile most of our food are made with natural ingredients, you guys have it all processed. So, in good Chilean, lavate la boca antes de hablar de la comida chilena. It has WAY more identity than whatever inmigrant spices things up in the States.

  14. I laughed quite a bit reading your post. I also laughed ready some of the comments from butthurt Chileans offended by your comments. Ultimately, I agree with everything you said except for one thing: There is a decent amount of international food in Santiago. It’s not cheap, but it’s there. There are so many Peruvians in Santiago that actually know how to cook… There is Peruvian food everywhere. I also had some pretty good Venezuelan and Vietnamese food.

    Traditional Chilean good on the other hand? Absolutely dreadful. I tried going to some of the famous Chilean restaurants and the reality is that “bland* is just part of how they like their food. It’s baffling. I’ve never experienced anything like this in Latin America. Then on top of bland, they double-down on the mayo to a disgusting extent. In my opinion, it’s just because the food is so bland that they overcompensate with the mayo.

    1. Pulento – the comments keep coming, even all these years later 😉 Luckily I have a thick skin 😀 I remember finding a couple of (excellent!) international restaurant when we were there – like you said, not cheap, but there were some options. I would assume that there have been quite a few restaurant additions in the last few years. I still love Chile and would love to go back!

  15. I agree 100%. I’m a foreigner and have lived in Chile for over a year now, and I’m getting tired. I’m leaving in May, and I can’t wait to have real food again. The butthurt comments come from Chileans who are too proud to admit that their food is seriously underwhelming.

    1. I would’ve expected the food scene in Chile had evolved over the past few years but it looks like not much has happened 😉 May is not far away!!

  16. Every one has an opinion and personal taste
    Your opinion on Chilean food are yours
    I come from a Chilean family have lived in Panama and a few diferente states in the U.S.
    And have travel quite a lot.
    I have had my own experiences with food from all over and not all Chilean dishes are my Gaby it there are a few that I love, maybe my famijust knew how to cook.
    Merken by the way is a very nice Smokey addition to almost any Chilean dish in my opinion and if you put enough of it it can deliver nice heat. Chileans are not Mexican (I personally don’t really like Mexican food and even though I can take the heat havin been married to a Vietnamese for 24 years I really don’t enjoy numbing my taste buds with it.
    Sopaipillas are best eaten “pasadas” wich means with a syrup made with brown sugar or with palm honey; I had never seen them eaten with Mayo or ketchup ( gasp, the horror I loath ketchup) but have with pebre
    BTW and FYI sopaipillas are made with flour and pumpkin
    If I want good food I would never resort to judging a cultures cuisine by its street food
    That’s like judging all American food by eating boiled hotdogs with plenty of ketchup and mustard ( ugh) or McDonald’s
    Chile has delicious stews and seafood to rival any from Europe
    I am not crazy about every dish but there’s definitely very good ones.
    As a culture Chileans don’t tend to eat in the street for the most part we like to sit and enjoy our meals
    Street food are just snacks.
    So, I am sad you had such a bad experience with our food but if you ever find your way back I’d suggest trying charquican ( it can be found with no meat ) and make sure to ask for Merken but as a vegetarian in Chile unfortunately you won’t find much since it’s a country with harsh winters and heavy European influences so meat and potatoes kind of people ( or sea food)
    Enjoy your snacks around the world

  17. That’s why we have colors, not everyone Like the same.
    Also it depends where you go and how much you are willing to spend.

  18. I left Chile in 74 a year after the military take over that the CIA orchestrated! Well I remember food being so much tastier back then and healthier, diabetes was nearly non existent. There was no McDonalds , KFC or other disgusting American take away food or ideas. My brother back there for a holiday Xmas 2017 for the first time, he said, Chile was very westernized now, very sad that the American went in and changed it all, even the people have changed, they’re not as friendly or hospitable as they use to be. I’ve never heard of mayonnaise on sopaipillas, that sounds disgusting! And so much sugar on food, we never had that, we never had ketchup either! The change of food is due to the military take over, with refugees living all over the world and then people coming back to Chile with different habits and food ideas from other countries, even our fruit and veggies were without pesticides and they were full of flavour. Our food was full of flavour, garlic, herbs and spices.
    Thanks America!

  19. Dani, I just stumbled across your blog and I have to say how much I appreciate your candid review! I am a Chilean-American, raised in CA and I have so much love for Chilean food, but it’s partly because of nostalgia and partly because I come from a family of good cooks! (*who do rely on way too much salt at times) It’s hard for me to convey to people in my life what I love about it, or even what in particular makes it unique. I aspire to have a little cafe/bakery or something in the future and find a way to celebrate the traditions and fresh ingredients that I associate with the food! I agree that most of the time, it really needs to be done better and as a former vegetarian, I would agree that options are limited when they really don’t have to be! Thanks for your review, hope you get back to traveling soon & stay safe!

  20. now yall are professional cooks? lol yall don’t even talk without spreading hate. Its different to politely say I dont like chilean food bc blah blah to say oMG I had go to Chile and they really suck skskslsk THEIR FOOD TASTES LIKE CARDBOARD diD I say that THEir Food suCKs???. Like I get it dude pero deja de estar tan ardido lmao. And why do you compare???? like???? son cosas diferentes.
    Also you ate too much chilean “fast food” and not really traditional chilean food.
    Y a todos los comentarios de gringos enojados que al parecer comieron comida tradicional que derecho tienes tu de hablar de comida de la cual no es acostumbrado y decir que apesta??? parecen cabros chicos tbh. Also, whats the name of the chilean who broke their hearts? Los chilenos no cocinan para satisfacerlos.

  21. I am Chilean/American and I am not offended by your article at all. I think *some* Chilean food can be bland, overcooked and terrible. It all depends on who is cooking. In my family we are generous with the herbs, spices and garlic. In my fiend’s family, the same is not true. He grew up hating Chilean food but he only knew his mother’s cooking. Finding good food in Chile is hit or miss. When I took my boyfriend (now husband) to Chile in 2004 he was vegetarian and had a hard time finding vegetarian food but nowadays there are vegan/vegetarian and many healthy choices (hello mushroom empanadas). If you’re vegetarian, you miss out on the pino empanadas, churrascos, lomitos, choripans and completos. The next time you go to Chile, try to eat at people’s homes instead of restaurants and you might be surprised. Porotos Granados, a white bean soup made with tomatoes, squash and corn is quite delicious but only if made with fresh basil. Humitas are sweet and can be somewhat bland but not if smothered with ‘chancho en piedra’ a tomato salsa made with minced garlic and yellow peppers or smothered in pebre (similar to chimichurri). I think the more Mapuche-influenced the dishes are, the better (for instance, charquican). Remember, Chile was colonized by British, German and Spanish people, all of which are known for their bland food. However, I have to say, the thing that Chileans get right is bread. Marraquetas (similar to a baguette but differently shaped) are heaven! I think the problem with Chile is that many of the restaurants are low quality because they’re meant for the lower classes–people who have never left Chile and don’t know better. I was lucky to have grown up with excellent cooks on both sides of my family so all of the Chilean foods I know are flavorful and delicious. These are just some of the herbs and spices used widely in my family: oregano, parsley, cilantro, onions, garlic (loads), paprika, smoked merken, black pepper, cumin, lemon juice, wine vinegar, fresh basil and yellow peppers. My dad makes a veggie pastel de choclo for my husband that is so tasty! Sadly, for many years Chile had problems with Peru and they were very closed-minded about allowing Peruvians to open restaurants, etc. I think this attitude has changed and there are many Peruvian restaurants popping up all over Santiago. I’m sad that you didn’t get to try any good food in Chile because there is good food there, you just won’t find it easily by traveling around and eating at restaurants. I hope you make some friends and get to eat at peoples’ homes where spices and flavors are embraced.

  22. You were CLEARLY never invited to a local BBQ. Mix with the locals a bit and eat the good stuff. Seems to me you tried tourist stuff. Also, dogging on a culture’s cuisine is tasteless and reeks of someone who doesn’t understand travel.

  23. I realize I am coming in very late, but I find it interesting that your references to the foods that you say are not spicy are references to foods from other countries. Of course, pizza in Chile is not going to be spicy or, for that matter, very good. You’re reference to the pizza and using it as your yardstick seems bizarre to me. That’s like saying I went to Rome and the fried chicken wasn’t very good (Get the idea I may be from Kentucky?… and I’m not a fan of KFC)

    You are right in that the general flavor is not hot. But what does that have to do with quality? I have had some of the highest quality meat and vegetables while there. The flavor was full and the seasoning distinct without being overwhelming.

    The odd thing is I stumbled upon your post while trying to find a smoked chili paste that I got while in Santiago and have not found a supplier in the US. Capi ahi ahumado. It had some of the most distinct and pleasant smoke flavor that I have ever experienced. The flavor is worth me scouring the internet to see if I can source it commercially or I will have an acquaintance go purchase it and ship it to me. I brought four jars home from my last trip. It’s that good.

    To say the food sucked is unfair. It may not have been what you wanted, but it was of very good quality every place I went. Perhaps you are accustomed to the flavorless, mass produced tomatoes in the US that are grown fast, pumped full of nitrogen so they turn red and you have to drown them with sauces to give flavor.

    Don’t get me wrong… I love spicy food. I am from Nashville and we are the epicenter of hot, spicy chicken. I am a member of a hot chicken club and we go to a new establishment every month. We find that some places have no idea of what flavor is and simply make it super-hot “dare food” that no one should eat to the holes in the wall that understand how to meld heat with flavor.

    Maybe you should expand our palette and have an open mind as opposed to trying to tell an entire country that they don’t prepare food the way you expected and, therefore, are bad.

    Perhaps you fit the mold of the people who go to a foreign country and go to an Americanized resort. They like the familiarity of America but pretend they experienced the foreign country…but then, you probably don’t realize that.

  24. I wish it weren’t true but it is. I’m American but my family is from Chile. I travelled there in 2018 with my wife and best friend. The food sucked! The best thing we ate was my aunt’s chicken. We were getting desperate and tried Chinese cuisine there and OMG it was disgusting. Oh and Chileans have no clue what black pepper is lol.
    What else?? Wish they had real micheladas! All they add is lemon to their beer. Look, we enjoyed family time and a couple nice wineries but food does suck! The end lol

  25. Have you gone to any “picadas”? Have you tried the large seafood plates? Have you tried Charquican? Have you tried Pastel de Choclo? Have you tried the barbecues? Have you tried any food with the locals or any of the real food that is not in touristic places? It seems like not. I am Chilean and that is not all the food that we have. I’m surprised of your travel to a country at the end of the world and not even trying the most traditional foods. 👍😊

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