Food in Patagonia you absolutely must try
When thinking of Patagonia, everyone probably imagines otherworldly landscapes, blue waters, maybe glaciers. Noone, I’d say, thinks – mmmm, I must try that incredible food in Patagonia!
But nevertheless, in addition to the rugged peaks, there is some very interesting food available as well!
We’ve collected some must-try local dishes and Patagonia food tips for you right here.
Useful things to know about eating out in Patagonia
- The restaurants are open late for the dinner – between 7-8 pm and midnight-ish, so be prepared for that.
- Many of them still don’t accept credit cards, so it’s a good idea to carry cash.
- Service is usually rather slow and laid back.
- The places usually get packed.
What you should know about food in Torres del Paine National Park
Most places in Patagonia have many places where to eat – from simple cafes to fancy restaurants. It’s not the case for Torres del Paine, though. These are the main food-related things to keep in mind when visiting Torres del Paine:
- There are not too many options for food in the Torres del Paine national park. There are no restaurants or grocery stores, so you’ll be limited to meals offered by hotels and refugios.
- On the other hand, there are loads of restaurant options in the Los Glaciares National Park, including the towns of El Calafate and El Chalten, as well as inside the park with a view of the Perito Moreno glacier!
- Many of the restaurants and refugios in Torres del Paine offer takeaway lunches, so be sure to use this option when going trekking! Other than that, there’s one single cafeteria by Salto Grande waterfall that offers soups, salads, and sandwiches.
- A good option for Torres del Paine is buying snacks in Unimarc (grocery store) in Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales. The one in Punta Arenas has a bigger choice of items and is cheaper.
- There’s a restaurant that we can recommend in Estancia El Ovejero Patagonico (the hotel is recommended as well) in Cerro Castillo, which is about one hour driving from the eastern parts of the Torres del Paine national park and right by the border crossing to Argentina.
Must-try food in Patagonia
There’s quite a variety in food when it comes to Patagonia, but pretty much all of it is rather filling and, honestly, tasty.
The rich tastes of Patagonian cuisine make a lot of sense since the weather is rather unfriendly.
You can try anything there, honestly, from seafood to red meat, to mushrooms and sweets.
Spit roast lamb (Cordero al Palo)
Arguably Patagonia’s most famous dish and something of a regional speciality.
This is lamb cooked on an iron cross over an open fire. It looks fascinating!
The lamb is cooked for several hours until the outside is crispy, and the soft meat goes off the bone easily.
Definitely a must-have – even if you’re not a fan of meat.
Guanaco filet (Filete de Guanaco)
Honestly, I just couldn’t make myself try this one, because I grew fond of the cute guanacos on the side of the road.
But, just like the lamb, this is a very popular dish in Patagonia because the population of guanacos is so high. Hunting is allowed for controlling the population.
The meat is rather lean, and it is cooked just until it’s all nice and tender.
Michal had it as a part of his parillada in El Chalten, and another time when we were on our three-day tour in Salar de Uyuni and the lagoons there. Me? Well, I would have tried it in Bolivia if not for the altitude sickness.
Related: Where to stay in El Chalten
Argentinian mixed grill (Parrillada)
So, what exactly is a parillada?
Pretty much – all in one barbeque.
If you can’t decide on which kind of meat you’d like to try, this is a perfect option! Parrillada usually contains beef, pork, sausage, lamb, with guanaco, chicken, and goat thrown in for good measure. They are grilled over an open fire until
Sounds like a big meal, doesn’t it? Well, it is!
And, like so many meals from the Patagonian cuisine, it’s very filling.
So – pretty much perfect after a whole day of hiking.
Michal had a smaller version of Parillada in El Chalten after we did the Laguna de los Tres hike, and he still needed my help finishing it!
You can have an Argentinian mixed grill as part of a tour of Estancias in Los Glaciares.
Patagonian King Crab (Centolla Patagonica)
If you’re by the sea somewhere on the Chilean side of Patagonia the Patagonian King Crab, or Centolla Patagonica, is definitely one of the dishes you must try!
Don’t feel like fighting with the shell?
Try the Chupe de Centolla!
Chupe de Centolla is like a Patagonian version of a chowder. A creamy crab, breadcrumbs, some melted cheese – does it sound mouth-watering? It definitely is!
The cheese brings out the crab’s rich flavour, resulting in creamy goodness. Perfect for warming up after hiking in the Patagonian weather!
Punta Arenas is where we tried the King Crab, and it was as good as it could be. Definitely worth checking it out during your time in Patagonia!
Patagonian trout (Trucha Patagonica)
There are abundant lakes, rivers, and glaciers, so no wonder quite a lot of food in Patagonia is actually made of freshwater fish.
One of the most famous fish meals in Patagonia is the trout.
It’s best enjoyed in a simple butter sauce, with seasonal vegetables on the side. The meat of the trout, just like all the other food in Patagonia, when cooked properly, will just fall off the bone and melt in your mouth.
What to have together with the food in Patagonia
All of the meat, fish, and seafood is amazing, but you can’t just have them on their own!
So, here I’ll list some drinks, snacks, and sweets that you would be interested to try from the Patagonian cuisine.
Forest mushrooms (Hongos del Bosque)
I promised mushrooms, didn’t I?
While they do not make a whole meal by themselves, they are accompanying a lot of food in Patagonia.
You will most often find mushrooms in many local sauces or as a side dish. Their taste is so special that Patagonian mushrooms are known internationally!
Related: our 10 day Patagonia itinerary
Lamb empanadas (Empanadas de Cordero)
If you’re looking for some more typical food in Patagonia, lamb empanadas are something you could try.
Once again, the Patagonian people have added their own touch to a traditional South American dish, by using lamb instead of other meat and cheese.
If you’re looking for a hearty snack to take on your hiking trip, the delicious empanadas are definitely something to consider.
The Patagonian pesto. This perfect garlicky paste goes with pretty much everything.
You’ll probably find it with the parillada, but it’s used in different marinades as well.
A Patagonian twist on the traditional Chilean (or Peruvian – depends on who you ask) Pisco sour. It’s prepared just like Pisco sour, just some Calafate berry juice is added to it. Makes the drink quite a bit sweeter.
Be careful if you decide to try this – such a tasty cocktail usually makes for some regrets the next morning!
Other things made of Calafate berry
It’s not just the juice that’s made from Calafate berries and then added to Calafate sour.
There’s more! Things like liquors, sauces, jams, cakes, tarts, and gelato are made from Calafate berries.
Calafate is a type of berry that’s unfortunately not too known outside of Patagonia. On the other hand, I’d say it makes it so much more special!
A legend says that if you taste a Calafate berry, you’ll return to Patagonia. So don’t miss it!
Dulce de leche
Sweet, creamy milk paste. Emphasis on “sweet”!
Dulce de leche is popular all over South and Central America, but its origins are in Argentina.
Try it in pastries, spread on cakes, on ice cream, or just on its own!
A herbal tea infused with a high amount of caffeine, it’s pretty much the Patagonian version of coffee.
Yerba mate is a social drink that’s made in a special cup and is drunk through a straw.
It’s so popular in Argentina that the average Argentinian uses 18kg of mate a year!
The artisanal beer scene is blossoming in Patagonia – anywhere from Punta Arenas, to Puerto Natales, to El Calafate.
Some of the breweries have really cool restaurants attached to them, so you can enjoy a two-in-one treat!
Or even better – stop in some of the refugios while hiking, as what can be better than a cold beer during a hike?
Whiskey on ice!
Surprised about this?
Well, there are not too many places in the world where you can have whiskey with ice as fresh as it gets – straight from a glacier, no less!
So, if at all possible, be sure to go on a tour of the Perito Moreno glacier, as it definitely is an unforgettable experience.
To see the neverending snow and ice, to hear the glacier move and break under your feet. It’s incredible.
In conclusion about food in Patagonia
Patagonia is a place of incredible and immense beauty.
It’s wild, it’s strong, it fills you.
These items are not everything special that Patagonia has to offer – if I tried to list all the incredible food in Patagonia, the list would go on for days!
Chocolates, ceviche, pizza, sandwiches, wild boar, Patagonian Toothfish – there are many, many different influences on Patagonian cuisine, and they make sure to add their own touch to the food to make it special.
But hopefully, this list made your taste buds tickle and maybe even inspired you to start planning your Patagonian vacation!
Looks like you had some great dining experiences. What did the Calafate berries taste like? They resemble a blueberry. I love hearing how many ways they use the berry.
Yes, we did! Too bad we didn’t get to try all of them. But – a reason to go back, right?
The Calafate berry tastes kind of like a sweet blueberry-cherry mix, I’d say.
Yay Kristine! This post just made me sooo happy! I already wanted to visit Patagonia for the hiking, but I didn’t even know I could try lots of amazing food while we are there. My two favouite things are good food and walks, so now Patagonia sounds like my dream kind of holiday!!
I am now super keen to try the trucha patagonica, the spit roast lamb and the crab!!
Ohhh, Patagonia is definitely for you, then!
All of the things you want to try are soooo good! Hope you get to go soon!
Thanks for sharing all these important food places to try and food to taste while visiting the area. I love the empanada.
You’re welcome, April! I’m happy you found the article helpful!
Yes, the empanadas are great!
I would have never thought of food in Patagonia! But I have to say this post has got me feeling so hungry!! I’d love to try the Parrillada, the empanadas, the..ok…. everything. I want to try everything 🙂 I’m with you though, the Guanaco look a little to cute to eat.
It was so weird, as we were planning the trip, there wasn’t too much info available on food in Patagonia.
Glad that I managed to make you, emm, hungry 😀
This is fascinating! Here in Brazil, the food further south tends to feel a bit more European or American, and the northern cuisines definitely have more of a Caribbean vibe. I’ve had a bit of experience with Argentinian food in Buenos Aires but knew nothing about regional specialties, especially this far south. The lamb and guanaco sound delicious, and it’s interesting to see how other than that, it’s some Argentinian classics mixed with locally sourced seafood. I’d love to visit Patagonia someday soon!
Wow, that’s interesting about Brazil! And I hope you manage to visit Patagonia, it’s definitely a fascinating place!
What a menu, the mixed grill pulls me especially – certainly wouldn’t mind that right now!
Great to see dulce de leches inclusion, and mate, always see the South American footballers with the stuff.
Yes, yesss, mixed grill seems like a really great thing to have right now!
And yes, dulce de leche is sooo sweet, but somehow I just wanted to have more and more of it 😀
Oh my goodness, the empanadas and chimichurri sound delicious!