10 Must-Try Traditional Foods In Bolivia

traditional foods in bolivia
| 4 min read

Located in the heart of South America Bolivia, a country full of vibrant culture and rich biodiversity. Home to the world’s highest lake and the world’s largest salt flat, this landlocked country has a unique geography that makes up some of the planet’s most spectacular landscapes. However, the breathtaking scenery is not the only thing in Bolivia that leads travelers to this enchanting place. Staying true to its Aymara roots and indigenous traditions coupled with the influence of European immigrants has given rise to some lip-smacking dishes and delicacies. Here is a list of 10 traditional foods in Bolivia you should not miss out on.

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1. Silpancho

Silpancho cochabambino
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ever Lecoña Hilari used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Originally from the valleys of Cochabamba, this simple dish includes a base layer of white rice topped up with boiled potatoes, meat, chopped tomatoes, onions, beet, parsley, and fried eggs. There are exclusive restaurants in Cochabamba that are dedicated to serving delicious silpanchos. This hearty meal is a staple in most Bolivian households.

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2. Salteñas

Bolivian-empanadas-saltenas-deli in united states
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user BFOR used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Salteñas are baked empanadas notable for its succulent, juicy filling and distinctive shape. This traditional Bolivian street food is filled with beef, pork or chicken along with a sweet and savory sauce and can be eaten as a snack during any time of the day. Named after a lady from Salta, Argentina who was exiled to Potosi, Bolivia where she came up with the recipe, this iconic, juicy specialty can be found all over Bolivia and is as close as it can get to its national dish.

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3. Sajta

Sajta de pollo
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Caleidoscopic used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Popular in the city of La Paz, Sajta is a traditional sauce that accompanies a meal with chicken, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, and peanuts. This traditional meal is usually served for lunch and is eaten on special occasions like All Saints’ Day and Carnivals.

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4. Yuca Frita

yuca frita a la huancaina
Source: Photo by Flickr user franzconde used under CC BY 2.0

Made from Yucas (also known as Maniocs), a tuber sweeter than potato, Yuca Frita is popular all around Latin America. Finger-sized wedges of boiled roots of the Manioc plant are deep fried till they turn crispy on the outside and later served with spicy aji sauces. Traditionally, Yuca was boiled and eaten till a deep fried version was cooked. Yuca Frita is a nutritious snack with loads of starch and fibers and is usually used as a side dish with grilled meats, burgers, and barbeques in Bolivia.

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5. Tucumanas

Tucumanas bolivianas
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Futbolcochabambarojo used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Tucumanas is a deep fried version of a Salteña with more potatoes, carrots, peas, olives and less stew-like fillings. This rugby-ball shaped Bolivian specialty is also named after a city (Tucuman) in Argentina. The pastry can be stuffed with various fillings both vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions are equally popular. They can be snacked on during any time of the day but typically fuels the locals’ days as a mid-morning snack.

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6. Empanadas de Queso

Bolivian cheese empanadas
Source: Pxfuel

Bolivian cheese empanadas are a popular pastry made by folding dough over a cheesy center. Empanadas are common all over South America and the locals in Bolivia have them for breakfast and teatime. A couple of bites into these scrumptious mini pies will make your day. With an intensely savory filling of cheese, Empanadas de Queso can be either fried or baked and is found in many food stalls lining the streets of Bolivia.

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7. Anticucho

Source: Photo by Flickr user Rosa Virginia Col... used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Anticucho which means ‘Eastern-style cuts’ in Quechua originated in the Andean mountain ranges and gained popularity during the colonial era. Anticucho is made with beef or chicken heart meat strung on sticks as skewers and served with potatoes and a peanut sauce. Similar to the Mediterranean’s shish kebab, anticucho is a popular food in South America enjoyed from the times of the Inca empire. Anticuchos can be found in street food stalls called Anticucheras in Bolivia.

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8. Cuñapé

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mascats used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Cuñapé is bread made with white cheese, starch, egg, salt and milk and quite popular in Eastern Bolivia. These starch-rich cheese bread balls are usually enjoyed by the Bolivians with a cup of coffee or tea. They are perfect sources of energy to fill you up if you are traveling around Bolivia and you can find quite a lot of vendors in bus stations selling them. They are popular all over South America and are called chipas in Argentina, pan de queso in Colombia, pan de yuca in Ecuador and pao de quiejo in Brazil.

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9. Zonzo

Zonzo De Yuca Frita or just Zonzo is a traditional food that originated from the Eastern region of Bolivia. It is made with cheese and yucca and is enjoyed by the locals as a late afternoon snack along with a cuppa. These tasty Bolivian pancakes can be fried, baked or grilled and are starch-rich to fuel up your energy levels. They are either wrapped around a stick and grilled or baked in a gas oven and both of them tickle your taste buds very much the same.

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10. Chicharrón

El chicharron de Doña Pola 1
Source: Photo by Flickr user Rocco Lucia used under CC BY 2.0

Originally from the valleys of Cochabamba, Chicharrón is a traditional Bolivian dish made of pork ribs and seasoned with garlic, oregano, and lemon. A plate of chicharron is usually served with fried plantains, potatoes, tomato sauce and Andean corn kernels called mote. Chicharron is widely popular in Bolivia and is enjoyed by the locals during fiestas and family reunions. It is usually prepared with the pork fried belly which takes almost a day’s worth of cooking or with the pork skin which just takes a few hours. This crispy, glorious meal is nutritious and tasty enough to make you keep wanting more.

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Taste the best of Bolivia

Bolivia offers amazing places to visit and places to eat in. From the cold altiplanos to the dense Amazon forests, food in different parts of Bolivia varies in the same degree as it’s climate. Pick the best foods out of the list that you can find in the region and enjoy them in restaurants or from street food vendors when you are in Bolivia. Buen Provecho!

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When Sidharth is not traveling or writing, he can be found honing his Spanish, indulging in Netflix binges, reading, swimming in the ocean, or simply daydreaming in a hammock.

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