no thumb

Last Updated on

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, 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!

Opt In Image
Beyond the Blog: Get updates straight to your inbox!

Keep up with me! Get updates, additional stories that don't make it on the blog, future travel plans, and travel tips. I also answer reader questions and have some pretty sweet travel giveaways exclusive to newsletter subscribers!


  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!

  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.

Leave a Response