A look at the traditional Chilean food that will be served on every street corner this weekend

Fiestas Patrias take place from September 17 – 20 as the whole country unites to celebrate it’s 200th year of independence. The four day holiday is a time to rest, dance, play music, sing, and most importantly eat and drink. Millions of Chileans will set up a weekend long barbecue with enough food to invite all their friends and family.


Chilean media has reported that most people put on between 2 to 3 kilos during the national holiday celebrations. Over the four day period, bakeries make the largest portion of their yearly profits selling pastries and bread. Beef and all sorts of sausages for the barbecue sell out, along with grape-based alcoholic drinks.

Over the 4 days’ celebrations the city turns into a giant barbecue, with the smell of the cooking drifting across the houses day and night. Obviously it becomes easy to get carried away with all the food and drink on offer. Food served at ‘fondas’ – closed off spaces where locals set up barbecues and sound systems for parties – is designed especially to eat while partying and does not require a plate and cutlery. But at ‘asados’ (barbeques) at home, the food can be a little more elaborate including salad, dips and deserts.

Empanadas‘ are probably the most famous and traditional Chilean food, typically consisting of an oven baked pastry filled with a mixture of minced meat, onion, raisins, some boiled egg and an olive. Another very common element of fiestas patrias and the Chilean barbecue culture is ‘choripan’. This is a combined word used to describe a barbecued chorizo sausage in a piece of marraqueta bread (pan). ‘Anticuchos’ – beef, onion, frankfurter and pepper skewers, are always found on the grill.

Chile is the second biggest consumer of bread after Germany. It is estimated that every person eats 96 kilos of bread a year and its sales increase during the bicentenary. Bread goes down well with ‘pebre’, a kind of salsa made with chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic, chili pepper, cilantro and dressing. The most popular salad is definitely ‘ensalada chilena’ (Chilean salad) which is sliced tomato and onion. Potato and mayonese salad is also common at barbecues.

A ‘dieciochera’ celebration is not one without wine and ‘chicha’, a grape based alcoholic drink similar to cider. Sometimes chilled white wine with canned peaches chopped inside called ‘ponche’ or punch is served. Pisco, the national spirit is used to make ‘piscola’ (one third pisco, 2 thirds coca cola) and ‘pisco sour’ (3 measures of pisco, 2 measures of lemon, and one measure of sugar in the blender).

For dessert, a chilled ‘mote con huesillo’, a caloric non alcoholic beverage, is always welcome. The mote is a grain which is scooped into a glass with pieces of dried peaches or sometimes plums (huesillos), covered in a caramel-like sweet juice. At home celebrations, lemon pie is also a common dessert.