Between the potent culinary scenes of Argentina and Brazil lies a hidden gem: Uruguayan food.
This small nation also knows how to offer a mouth-watering gastronomy which reflects the blend of influences that have shaped its history.
Here, we’d like to share with you the best of Uruguayan food in order for you to know new delectable dishes from South America. ¡Buen provecho!
Discover the Rich Culinary Heritage of Uruguay
Uruguayan cuisine is a diverse blend of influences from its European and indigenous heritage.
At the core of the traditional Uruguay food is asado, a type of barbecue typically made with grilled beef, but it can also include other meats such as chicken and pork. It’s often accompanied by sausages like chorizo and morcilla (blood sausage), and chimichurri, a tangy green sauce.
Another icon of the gastronomy of Uruguay is chivito, a sandwich made with sliced beef, ham, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, fried or hard-boiled eggs, and mayonnaise, often served with French fries.
Uruguayan dishes are also known for their use of fresh ingredients, and as the country has a long coastline, seafood is a staple of the diet. Good examples of these seafood dishes are pescado al horno (baked fish), cazuela de mariscos (seafood stew), and chipirones (stuffed squid).
But it’s not all about meat and seafood; Uruguayan culinary traditions also feature hearty stews like puchero, guiso de lentejas, and carbonada criolla, as well as exquisite desserts such as chaja cake and flan con dulce de leche.
Other popular dishes in Uruguay include empanadas (savory pastries filled with seasoned minced meat, cheese, vegetables, etc.), milanesa (breaded and fried steak), and pasta.
In the following sections, we’ll have a deeper look at these traditional dishes. So, let’s begin with the absolute number one: Asado.
The Mouthwatering Delights of Uruguayan Asado
The tradition of the Uruguayan barbecue, locally known as “asado”, is a cultural and social event that brings friends and family together.
The process of preparing and enjoying an asado is almost ritualistic, tending to be held at weekends and special celebrations such as birthdays.
It begins with a selection of cuts of beef that are seasoned with salt, pepper, and sometimes chimichurri sauce. Then, the meat is cooked slowly over smoldering wood or charcoal. The result is tender, flavorful meat with a smoky, charred exterior.
But asado culture involves more than just the meat. Various appetizers are served first, including chorizo and morcilla, as well as side dishes such as lettuce and tomato salads.
Another favorite accompaniment is “provoleta cheese,” an Argentine variant of provolone that involves grilling the cheese until it’s melted and slightly crispy on the outside. It’s often seasoned with oregano and crushed red pepper. As a curious fact, provoleta was introduced in Argentina by Don Natalio Alba, a Calabrian who created this cheese inspired by Calabrian cheeses.
One of the most iconic and traditional asado recipes of Uruguay is the “chivito sandwich.” But as this is their national dish, it deserves an in-depth exploration in the upcoming section.
Savoring the Unique Taste of Chivito: Uruguay’s National Dish
Chivito, which can be translated as “little goat”, is Uruguay’s national dish.
It’s a sandwich that consists of a sliced “churrasco” (grilled beef), melted mozzarella cheese, ham, bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, fried or hard-boiled eggs, and black or green olives.
The chivito sandwich is often accompanied by French-fried potatoes, but it can be served with no accompaniments as well.
Beyond the typical ingredients in a chivito sandwich, there are also numerous variations of the chivito recipe to cater to different tastes.
Some variations include pickles, and even sautéed mushrooms.
The “chivito al plato” is a lighter option as the chivito is served as a platter rather than a sandwich, without the bread.
There’s also the “chivito vegetarian”, an option for non-meat eaters which replaces the meat with grilled vegetables and cheese.
Best places to try chivito in Uruguay
- Bar Arocena
Bar Arocena is a classic bar located in Montevideo, the capital city, since 1929.
Considered one of the best chivitos of Montevideo, Bar Arocena’s exquisite chivitos are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
- Chivitería La Josefina
If you’re visiting the beautiful Colonia del Sacramento, Chivitería La Josefina is definitely a great place to enjoy delicious chivitos.
Besides, La Josefina is cherished for its exceptional customer service.
- Chill Out Puerto
In Punta del Este, “The Pearl of the Atlantic”, you can savor the astonishing bar Chill Out’s gourmet chivitos in ciabatta bread while enjoying the exceptional view of the coastline.
Taste the Sea: Fresh Seafood Specialties from Uruguay’s Coastline
While Uruguay is renowned for its meats and iconic chivito sandwiches, its extensive coastline also offers a bounty of seafood dishes.
In our opinion, the greatest Uruguayan seafood dishes are:
Pescado al horno (baked fish): A simple dish of whole fish such as cod, sea bass, and salmon seasoned with salt, herbs and spices such as cumin, onion powder, ground garlic, oregano, and rosemary. It may be accompanied by vegetables.
Cazuela de mariscos (seafood stew): A classic hearty stew made with fresh seafood such as shrimp, clams, scallops, squid, mussels, and crab, with tomatoes, onions, and a blend of aromatic herbs and spices such as saffron and garlic.
Chipirones (stuffed squid): Chipirones are a type of small squid, and this dish consists of filling the chipirones with a mixture of ingredients like olive oil, onions, and tomatoes. The squid is either grilled or fried.
The Comforting Warmth of Traditional Uruguayan Soups and Stews
Uruguayan food boasts some traditional soups and stews that offer a taste of home-cooked goodness, for example:
Puchero Uruguayo (Uruguayan stew): A traditional dish that includes beef, chicken, chorizo sausages, corn, carrots, onions, and spices like garlic, cumin, paprika, and oregano. Puchero is a comforting, hearty, and filling soup often enjoyed during the winter months.
Guiso de lentejas (lentil stew): A favorite among locals. This is a hearty lentil stew perfect for cold days, which is made with lentils, vegetables, meat (such as beef, pork, chorizo, or sausage), and some spices. It can be served with a slice of crusty bread or tortillas.
Carbonada criolla (meat and vegetable stew): Another hearty and flavorful dish. It consists of a blend of beef, tomatoes, onions, corn, sweet and white potatoes, green peppers, squash, dried fruits (such as apricots), and spices (such as garlic). The dish is infused with a touch of sweetness and complexity from the dried fruits, adding a twist to the traditional stew.
Mate cocido (yerba mate tea): Although it’s not a soup or stew, Mate cocido is a traditional boiled beverage that cannot be excluded from this article. A variant of the well-known yerba mate tea, mate cocido is an infusion made from the leaves of the yerba mate plant, typical of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. It’s prepared by boiling yerba mate in water, then strained, and served hot in cups. Its taste is bitter but it can be sweetened with sugar. It’s a beloved comfort drink that offers a caffeine-rich alternative to coffee or traditional tea.
A Sweet Finale: Indulge in Delicious Uruguayan Desserts
Uruguayan desserts are as rich and diverse as their savory counterparts, and the beloved dulce de leche is one of the most used ingredients.
Dulce de leche, very popular in many Latin American countries, is a caramel-like spread made from sweetened condensed milk. It literally means “sweet of milk” in Spanish and has a sweet, creamy flavor.
Dulce de leche can be eaten on its own or used in desserts. One of the most iconic Uruguayan dulce de leche desserts is the postre chaja, also known as “chajá cake,” a layered sponge cake soaked in syrup, filled with dulce de leche and whipped cream, and topped with meringue and peaches.
Flan con dulce de leche is another classic dessert in Uruguay and Argentina. It’s a custard flan accompanied with a generous amount of dulce de leche, which can be poured at the side of the flan or it can be spread on top of each slice. It’s often served as a post-dinner dessert.
Alfajores cookies, a type of cookie that’s very popular in Argentina and Uruguay, are a bite-sized treat generally filled with dulce de leche. These cookies consist of two shortbread-like cookies sandwiching a generous layer of dulce de leche and often coated in chocolate.
As you can see, Uruguay has plenty of delectable desserts, and we’ve only discussed a few of them. So be sure to leave room for a sweet finale!
Conclusion: Explore the Flavors of Uruguay and Delight Your Taste Buds
Although Uruguay is often overshadowed by its larger South American neighbors, this country has proven itself to be a true gem in the world of gastronomy.
It offers us the opportunity to enjoy the asado culture, taste the sea through seafood specialties, and the sweetness of dulce de leche in its exquisite desserts.
So, if you are planning your next culinary adventure, consider Uruguayan gastronomy without any doubt.
And if you’re in the Atlanta area, visit us at Sabores del Plata to experience the flavors of South America! We are waiting for you at 6200 Buford Highway, Norcross, Georgia, 30071.