In many parts of the world, the very mention of street food would have us breaking out in a cold sweat and rummaging through our bags for the hand sanitizing gel. Fortunately, in Chile street food is generally okay on the hygiene front, although personally we’d warn visitors away from buying sushi from the guy with a cooler outside the Metro station, but surely that’s just common sense! Aside from that, Chile has a wide range of savoury and sweet street treat options for when you’re too busy exploring to sit down for a meal.
Fresh fruit juice
Chile is famous for its fruit, which flourishes in the fertile central valleys. It supplies over 2.168 million tonnes of fruit to the world market and produces everything from the familiar apples and oranges to the exotic chirimoya, pepino fruit and papaya. All of this adds up to a wide range of heavenly fresh juices and an abundance of streetside juice shops. Chileans do tend to take their juice on the syrupy side however, so our insider tip if you don’t have a sweet tooth yourself is to remember to ask for your juice without added sugar – “sin azúcar” (sin-a-soo-car) – and choose a refreshing option such as melon or orange.
The best translation for the ‘Completo’ in English is probably something like ‘The Full Monty’, since Chile has taken the basic hot dog concept and added more or less everything on top! The traditional Completo is topped with chopped tomatoes, sauerkraut and an obscene amount of mayonnaise. However you might find you also have the option of adding guacamole, melted cheese, mustard, ketchup and spicy chili sauce. It might not win any awards for gourmet cuisine, but the Completo is a truly beloved national snack food and a 100% authentic Chilean experience.
Our friends in North America may well be familiar with churros, which have become something of a favourite festival food over the years thanks to their moreishness and the ease of eating them when on the go. These crunchy, chewy, deep-fried dough sticks originated in Spain where they’re usually served bare and dipped in thick chocolate. In Chile, on the other hand, you’re more likely to find them already dusted with confectioners sugar or filled with smooth manjar caramel. We suggest you try as many incarnations as you can get your hands on!
Ah the empanada! We’d challenge you to visit South America without eating a single empanada, but you’d be missing out. Chile’s most popular varieties are pino (a mix of ground beef, onions, black olives, boiled eggs and raisins), seafood and cheese, but you’ll find some vendors with over thirty varieties of empanada on offer. With their steaming fillings wrapped inside a robust pastry crust, empanadas are the ideal finger food for refueling on the run. Try both baked and fried varieties if your gut can keep up!
Anticuchos, skewers of grilled meat, are originally an Andean speciality but can now be found throughout Chile from north to south. Beef is the most widespread (and some might argue, the safest) choice but you might also come across pork or chicken kebabs. If you visit Chile’s northern Atacama and Altiplano regions you might also treat yourself to a llama kebab, which is surprisingly tender and dripping with rich juices when cooked well. The anticucho kebab in Chile is often topped off with a chunk of crunchy fresh bread at the tip to help the grilled meat on its way.
The sopaipilla is probably the simplest and cheapest of all Chilean street food, but it’s no less tasty for it. Sopaipillas are essentially a kind of quick and easy fried bread and in Chile, unlike in some South and Central American countries, the dough is typically made from a mixture of pumpkin and flour. In restaurants, you’ll find mini sopaipillas served with pebre salsa as an appetizer or soaked in syrup for dessert. In the street, however, sopaipillas tend to be larger and may be complemented with mustard or ketchup.