Argentineans love a good steak. They’re famous for it. Cows here are fed grass over grain, resulting in a leaner, more tender meat that’s typically hormone free, which is a big hit with meat-lovers.
But if you’re travelling through Argentina and have hit your red meat quota (hey, sometimes you just want a salad) or you’re vegetarian, don’t despair. Here are a few menu items you definitely shouldn’t pass up:
It’s difficult to find a bad empanada in Argentina and you’ll find them everywhere, from bakeries to street-food vendors. These savoury pastries are often filled with meat but if you’re vegetarian, it’s also common to find ones filled with cheese and onion, called queso and cebolla. They’re cheap and make for a great on-the-go meal or snack. After all, you’ve got sights to see.
The word literally translates into ‘half-moon’ and these tasty little croissant-like pastries are a great way to grab a cheap breakfast or tide you over when the afternoon belly rumbles come (remember, dinner time is typically around 10pm). You’ll find these in pretty much every bakery you pass and your sweet tooth with thank you for it.
Cheese lovers, you’re welcome. This big slice of grilled cheese is a little like Saganaki; it’s typically served in restaurants as a hot starter, and devoured while still gooey and crispy.
4. Guiso de lentejas
It might not look fancy, but this hearty lentil-based stew is a favourite with Argentines, particularly in the cooler months (June to September). Made with a tomato and red wine base, you’ll typically find it with vegetables and it can be served with or without pieces of bacon (vegetarians should check this when they’re ordering).
Sometimes you’ll find these called milangas, but this one is most similar to the good old-fashioned schnitzel/parma. Made with a thin slice of chicken or eggplant, it’s grilled or fried and then topped with a napolitana sauce, sliced tomatoes, ham or cheese. You can also find soy milanesas as a meat-free alternative in more and more restaurants now too.
6. Dulce de Leche
It’s impossible to avoid this one when you travel in Argentina. It’s in almost every dessert, and grocery stores have entire aisles dedicated to the sweet stuff. It translates into ‘sweet milk’ and sometimes you’ll hear the locals refer to it as ‘jam’, because it’s so often used as a breakfast spread (you’ll also find ice cream parlours with a huge range of different flavoured dulce de leche on offer). A little bit like caramel, this delicious treat is worth the indulgence.
Argentineans love their sweets and these classic treats don’t disappoint. These little round shortbread biscuits are filled with dulce de leche (as above), and you’ll find them in bakeries and cafes everywhere, often coated in chocolate or dusted with icing sugar.
8. Pizza y faina
You’ll find a surprising amount of Italian-inspired fare all over Argentina. Pizza and pasta are on menus everywhere, and there are plenty of places to grab a vego-friendly slice. Here they eat their deep-dish style pizza standing at a counter with a knife and fork, but if you really want to eat it like a local, ask for a slice of faina to go with it. It’s a dense bread, made from chickpeas, that soaks up the pizza oils and keeps you going on a full belly until your late-night dinner.
Finding vegetarian food is much easier than you might think in the meat-eating capital of the world, particularly in Buenos Aires, where vegetarian, vegan and ‘clean eating’ restaurants are becoming more prevalent.
There’s SO much more to eat in Argentina than steak. From empanadas to lentil stew, eat your way around Argentina on a small group adventure with Intrepid now. Check out our range of trips here.
Feature photo by Ben McNamara.