Typical Uruguay foods — chivito, asado, pamplona, chajá, alfajores, dulce de leche… We go through each one, what it is and how you say it.

Uruguayan cuisine is simple. The staple is meat with a mixed salad, simply cooked but very tasty.

Cattle are still grass-fed so if you don’t usually eat red meat, you can feel good about doing it here. You’ll find the fruit and vegetables are full of flavour.

So what should you make sure you order while you are in Uruguay?

10 foods you must try

Chivito

Ask for: chee-VEE-toe

Basically a huge steak sandwich layered with cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, olives, fried or hard-boiled egg and mayo. You can have it “al plato” i.e. without the bread. Curiously, chivito translates as baby goat, and a chivito canadiense is a chivito with ham. You can rest assured that no goats or Canadians were involved in their preparation. Check out how to make a chivito in the video at the end of the page. Where to go for a gourmet chivito in Montevideo and on your way to the beach.

10 foods you must try

Asado

Ask for: aa-SAA-do or TEE-ra de aa-SAA-do

A cut of beef, and a way of grilling food, usually using firewood in Uruguay (vs coals in Argentina). Ordering an
asado will get you a full steak meal, usually for two or more, which includes at least two cuts of beef, sausage, blood sausage – morcilla, which comes in sweet (dulce) or savoury (salada) versions – and sometimes chicken. If you want ribs, ask for tira de asado. Where’s the best tira de asado in the Port Market?

Pamplona

If you really want to look like a local, instead of ordering a tira, ask for a pamplona. Made of deboned chicken or pork, rolled and stuffed with cheese, ham, sweet pepper and sometimes olives, this originated on Uruguayan grills. 

Morrón relleno

Ask for: moh-RONE ray-ZZHEN-oh

If you find yourself in yet another parrilla, here’s a vegetarian option which is often not on the menu. Morrón relleno is a roasted pepper stuffed with melted cheese and olives and ham. To order it without the ham, ask for “Un morrón relleno sin jamón”. Ask for: moh-RON ray-ZZHEN-oh SEEN ha-MONE

10 foods you must try

Ñoquis

Ask for: nee-YOK-ees

The Spanish spelling for the Italian
gnocchi, this filling pasta meal was and is still traditionally served every 29th of the month, the day before payday, in homes and restaurants too. It’s considered good (financial) luck to put some money under your plate before you start eating. Many of our favourite restaurants serve ñoquis every 29th.

Dulce de leche

Ask for: DOOL-say day LEH-chay

A creamy caramel sauce or filling that’s popular all over Latin America. Uruguayans eat it on EVERYTHING.

10 foods you must try

Alfajor

Ask for: al-faa-WHORE

A sweet South American sandwich made from two shortbread-style cookies filled with dulce de leche and covered in white or dark chocolate or powdered sugar. My British relatives go practically orgasmic for them. 

Principe Humberto

Ask for: prEEN-see-pay oom-BARE-toe
A uniquely Uruguayan dessert made of Marie biscuits, meringue, double cream, dulce de leche (of course) and virtually nothing else. However, the taste is out of this world. Look for it in supermarket freezers and get yourself a whole tub!

Chajá

Ask for: cha-HA

Considered the most Uruguayan of all desserts, chajá was created in 1927 by a tea-shop owner in Paysandú, a city west of Montevideo. Made of sponge cake, meringue chips, cream and peaches, the original recipe remains a secret. Many restaurants stock chajá wrapped in its distinctive white wax-paper wrapping from the factory in Paysandú.

Torta Frita

On any cold, rainy or overcast afternoon, stands selling tortas fritas magically mushroom on every street corner. It’s the ultimate comfort street food. The dough, which is like donut dough, is rolled into a roughly 8-inch disc and deep-fried till it puffs up. You can buy it as it comes or ask for it to be sprinkled with sugar.

Photo credits: Ernesto Pasini, Karen A. Higgs

This article was taken from The Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo. Our guidebook on Uruguay includes dishes traditionally served in the Uruguayan countryside and at the beach

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