Buenos Aires is recognized worldwide for its great gastronomic offer. It is the result of the various migratory flows that arrived in our city mainly between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Each one of the immigrants who arrived made their contribution to finally transform Buenos Aires into a cosmopolitan city with one of the most varied and exquisite cuisines in the world.
In this list I have chosen the 10 most popular dishes, which no visitor should fail to try. Obviously choosing only 10 dishes has been very complicated given the multiple options that exist, but I have based on my personal experience and the opinion of thousands of travelers that I have met throughout these years.
1 – Asado: I could not begin this list without mentioning the dish that has made Argentina famous throughout the world, the “asado” (name given in Argentina to the barbecue). For Argentines, the asado is not only the ideal occasion to taste the delicious argentine meat, but the perfect excuse to enjoy a pleasant moment with family and friends. The person in charge of preparing the asado is known as the “asador”, and he is the one who starts this ritual that takes no less than three hours. Beef cattle were introduced to Argentina by the Spanish at the time of the conquest, in the 16th century, and since then it has become the main dish of our country. The asado consists, as its name indicates, in roasting meat; but generally in our country, when we speak of asado we refer not only to the meat, but to a large and varied banquet. In which beef is still the star, but it is accompanied on the grill by chorizo (sausage), morcilla (blood sausage), provoleta (cheese), achuras (guts), chicken and vegetables among other things. In addition to the different options that will come from the grill, the table will be completed with a varied tasting of salads and sauces (where the “chimichurri” undoubtedly stands out).
2 – Achuras: Continuing with the “asado”, I must make a special mention of this item named in the previous point, since not everyone knows what we mean when we say “achuras” in Argentina. It is called “achuras” to the set of guts and viscera of the animal, which are highly valued at the time of asado. This is a dish not very popular in some countries, but remember that it is of great importance in our Country and one of the Argentine classics. Among the most popular “achuras” are chinchulines (chitterlings), tripa gorda (tripe), mollejas (sweetbread), riñón (kidney), ubre (udder) and criadillas (testicles), among others. This custom dates back to Spanish colonial times; at that time, there was regrettably in our country an African slave trade. While the masters enjoyed the roast meats and threw the giblets away, the slaves had to use their creativity to feed themselves and that is how they often resorted to those leftovers to do so. I understand that for some, trying the “achuras” will be an extreme challenge, but I attest that they are worth it, go for it!
3 – Empanadas: The obligatory meal on your visit to Argentina. Introduced by the Spanish in most of their American colonies since the 16th century. The empanada consists of a stuffed dough, and then baked or fried. In Argentina the consumption of empanadas is so widespread, that there are places that only dedicate themselves to their production and marketing, that’s right, only empanadas. Accepted in all social spheres, from the most humble homes to the most luxurious restaurants in the City. They are usually eaten as a starter before the main course. When visiting a Pampas ranch you will surely be greeted with wine and empanadas as a welcome. If you want to feel like an Argentine, you will eat it without cutlery, just using your hands. The variety of empanadas that you can find in our country is infinite, each province is represented by a traditional empanada, the most popular obviously being those stuffed with beef. But, apart from the meat empanadas, there are many other popular options such as: chicken, ham and cheese, vegetables, caprese, humita (corn and cheese), tuna or cheese and onion just to give a few examples.
4 – Provoleta: It is a traditional Argentine cheese, derived from Italian provolone cheese but with its own local characteristics. We owe it to the Italian immigrant Don Natalio Alba, who once settled in our Country decided to unite the italian and the argentine cuisines by creating a cheese that could be grilled and thus be able to accompany the Argentine “asado”. To achieve this he devised the “Argentine Spun Provolone Cheese” in a cylindrical shape to be sliced. Cooking takes between 10 and 15 minutes until the exterior browning is achieved and is accompanied with olive oil and oregano. So remember that every time you taste this Argentine delicacy, you will feel the union of these two countries (Italy and Argentina).
5 – Choripán: You can’t leave Argentina without first having tried a delicious “choripán”. It is often abbreviated “chori”, it consists of a chorizo sandwich grilled and accompanied by our national sauce, the “chimichurri”. Choripán is a classic Argentine street food, eaten standing up and taking it with your hands. It is a must in the asados, and is deeply linked to our traditions and passions such as football. There is no football game if you don’t enjoy a tasty “choripán” prepared on the stadium grill itself or in its surroundings. The type of bread used is French bread, and the chorizos can be made from beef, pork, or a mixture of both; seasoned with sweet paprika, garlic powder, nutmeg, fennel, black pepper, salt and oregano. The origin of the choripán dates back to the mid-nineteenth century when in our country the gauchos began to eat sausages in bread. Here deserves a prominent mention the dressing most used in meats and chorizos in Argentina: the “chimichurri”; it is a sauce with a liquid consistency based on oil, vinegar, parsley, oregano, ground chili, garlic and salt, but its recipe may vary in each region of our country.
6 – Picada: The “picada” is the ritual that precedes the big meal, for example, the moment before the “barbecue” with family or friends. Remember that the preparation of the “asado” takes a long time, hours, and the aroma that emanates from the grill whets the appetite long before we sit down at the table to eat. To entertain our stomach is that we prepare certain small foods before the main feast. And here you may wonder what type of food do we include in the “picada”? The list would be endless, just to name a few examples: different varieties of cheeses, olives, salami, raw and cooked hams, bell peppers, pickles, salted peanuts, French fries, meatballs, potato croquettes, sausages, blood sausage among many others. The origin of this tradition dates back to the many immigrants from Spain and Italy, countries where very similar traditions are maintained known as “Spanish tapas” or “Italian antipasto”. In Argentina it is called “picada” and each person uses a toothpick or something similar to pick the food. The different components of the “picada” are served either on small plates or on a large tray that is located in the center of the table so that everyone can share it. So, when you visit Buenos Aires, don’t forget to enjoy a tasty “picada” accompanied by a delicious local beer.
7 – Milanesa: Like most of Argentine cuisine, its roots must be found in the preparations incorporated with the arrival of European immigrants. The origin of the Argentine “milanesa” is due to the dish known as “cotoletta alla milanese” popularized in our lands by Italian immigrants at the end of the 19th century; and the “cotoletta”, in turn, has its origin in a traditional dish of Austrian cuisine, the “wiener schnitzel”, which was introduced in Lombardy during the Austrian rule. The Argentine “milanesa” is a breaded meat fillet. As in our country beef reigns, most people prefer the “milanesas” of that type of meat; but the chicken and pork “milanesas” are also very popular. Breadcrumbs flavored with spices or aromatic herbs are used for breading. Finally, you can choose to cook them in the oven or fry them, and they are served on a plate or in a sandwich. In the 1940s, one of the most famous dishes in Argentine cuisine was created: the “Milanesa a la Napolitana”, uniting in its name the northern and southern parts of Italy (Milan and Naples). It was created in a restaurant in the City of Buenos Aires. It is a fried “milanesa” covered with tomato sauce, cooked ham, soft cheese such as mozzarella and spices such as pepper, oregano and ground chili. Apart from the “Milanesa a la Napolitana”, there are many other varieties such as the “Milanesa a Caballo” (milanesa on horseback) covered with two fried eggs and the “Milanesa a la Provenzal” to which garlic and parsley are added to the breadcrumb.
8 – Locro: If what you prefer is to taste a typical dish of pre-Columbian cuisine, created by the natives of the Andean region, you should not miss trying the “locro”. It is a stew based on squash, corn and potatoes that is cooked over low heat for several hours. In Argentina its consumption has spread from the Andes Mountains to the rest of the country. Although the “locro” in our territory has pre-Hispanic roots, after the Spanish Conquest, ingredients introduced by the conquerors such as pork, chorizo (sausage) and tripe were added. It is a food with many calories and nutrients so it is very suitable to consume in winter or in cold areas, usually accompanied by a delicious wine of national production. According to some Argentine historians, the popularity of the “locro” is due to the gauchos who had fought in the northwest of our country during the wars of Argentine Independence. They got to know the locro that was traditionally prepared in the Andean region, and at the end of the war and returned to their homes they spread the tradition throughout the national territory. And since those times it has been consecrated as the typical dish consumed in the celebrations of our main national dates.
9: Toast: In the event that you do not have much time to eat, but need to recharge, I recommend sitting down to rest in a cafe in the City and savoring a tasty “toast” of ham and cheese. It is a typical sandwich of Argentine cuisine, it is a sandwich whose covers or walls are made up of two thin sections of sliced bread, with the crust cut off (known in spanish as “pan de miga”). The lids are spread with butter or mayonnaise on the inside; and it is filled with cooked ham, also known as York ham, and with cuartirolo cheese, or failing that, mozzarella cheese. The sandwich is then toasted until its crumb tops are golden and crispy.
10: Pizza and faina: And we close this top ten of unmissable dishes on your visit to Buenos Aires with the most popular food in Argentina: pizza. We, once again, thank the large Italian community settled in our City for this mouthwatering dish. Buenos Aires is the city with the largest number of pizzerias per inhabitant in the world. Argentine pizza is characterized by its thicker dough (known as “media masa”), and by the abundance of mozzarella cheese made from cow’s milk, originated in the Italian city of Aversa. There is a great variety of pizzas, just to name a few of them: the most consumed pizza is the classic “mozzarella” (with tomato sauce and cheese), followed by the “napolitana” (with tomato slices and cheese) , the “calabresa” (with sausage), the “jamón y morrón” (ham and bell peppers), and two varieties created in Argentina: the “fugazza con queso” (focaccia covered with cheese and onion) and the “fugazzetta” (equal to the fugazza but stuffed with more cheese). Special mention to the “pizza de cancha” (dough covered with tomato sauce without cheese and strongly seasoned) created by street vendors to offer at the exit of football matches. On occasions, pizza is usually accompanied with faina: a Genoa dish made with chickpea flour, water, olive oil, salt and pepper. If you decide to taste pizza in Buenos Aires, nothing better than going to one of the historic pizzerias located on the famous Corrientes Avenue; as is the case of “Banchero”, founded by the Genoese immigrant Agustín Banchero; or “Güerrín”, where you can find one of the best pizzas in the world.
These are just some of the most popular dishes in Buenos Aires that you shouldn’t miss trying, but the list could go on and on. The range of options in the city is very wide and generous thanks to the contributions made by the different immigrant communities settled here throughout our history. I can assure that you will never be hungry in Buenos Aires. Bon Appétit!, or as we say in Argentina… Buen provecho!
Diego – Buenos Aires 4U
January 29, 2021