Uruguayan food is similar to Argentine cuisine; both South American countries are fiercely carnivorous and share a love for dulce de leche.
Asados, the traditional process of grilling steak and meat over wood fires, are found in every town. Just look for the restaurants referred to as parillas.
Pizza and pasta are available throughout Uruguay, but I'm leaving them off the list below. The quality is OK, but nothing special. When visiting Uruguay, you're better off focusing on meat and fish.
Uruguayan Food – Typical Dishes
The chivito is as ubiquitous as hamburgers in the United States (and Uruguay, for that matter) — every restaurant serves them in one form or another. It's the traditional Uruguayan sandwich.
Most offer at least two or three different versions, with varying toppings.
It's a steak sandwich, plus any or all of the following:
- Hard-boiled egg
- Bell pepper
They're sometimes available with chicken instead of steak. You can also use delicious Uruguayan bread made with chickpea flour.
Where to Eat It: Chiviteria Marcos is a popular chain of chivito restaurants located throughout the country.
Choripan is chorizo served in a baguette with various toppings.
Reflecting the European influences on Uruguay's cuisine, this popular street food is best enjoyed with a Russian salad at one of the country's bustling street markets. It's one of the most popular Uruguayan foods.
Given that most of Uruguay's three million citizens live along the coast of either La Plata River or the Atlantic Ocean, it should come as no surprise that fresh fish is typical of Uruguayan cuisine.
Whitefish (merluza) is the less costly option. Salmon is available but pricey.
Milanesa is a thin, breaded steak, and Milanesa de Pollo is a breaded chicken breast. Both are usually served with French Fries or puree (mashed potatoes).
Pancho is the name for Uruguayan hot dogs. These are smaller than the chorizo used in choripan and less flavorful.
Related: 5 Countries for Seafood Lovers
Sausage and Sweetbreads
In addition to steaks, you'll also find a typical asado stacked with:
- Chorizo (sausage)
- Morcillas (blood sausage)
- Chinchulines (pig intestines)
- Mollejas (sweetbreads)
Where to Eat It: Mercado del Puerto in Montevideo
In Uruguay, cows outnumber people three to one, so it should be no surprise that steak is a national dish of Uruguay. And they do it well.
During my swing through Uruguay, I sprung for a petite filet mignon cooked with olive oil, and it was as good, if not better, than any steak I'd eaten in Argentina.
Where to Eat It: Mercado del Puerto in Montevideo
Like steak, another great option (and one of the most popular dishes in the cuisine of Uruguay) is asado de tira, or short ribs.
Often cooked over the hot coals of an open fire, this simple dish was brought to Uruguay by the first European immigrants. It can be enjoyed in one of Uruguay's many traditional restaurants.
Traditional Deserts in Uruguay
Alfajores are a famous sweet from Argentina. They come in a wide array of flavors, but the classic version includes dulce de leche between two pieces of soft sponge cake.
The best alfajores are made in the bakeries and pastry shops every day.
The store-bought ones range in quality. Pay more for the best quality. Otherwise, they're dry and crumbly like a cookie instead of moist like a cake.
Originally from Spain, churros are popular in Latin America too. These tubes of fried dough are sprinkled with sugar and sometimes filled with dulce de leche or chocolate.
Dulce de Leche
Dulce de Leche is a sweet derived from slowly heating sweetened milk until the sugar caramelizes.
It's used in all desserts, from alfajores and ice cream to sweet pastries, cakes, pies (like tortas fritas), and the traditional arroz con leche.
It's also used as a topping for bread in the morning, much like Nutella.
Flan is a creamy custard with a thin layer of caramel on top. The quality of flan can vary wildly.
Related: Best Things to Do in Uruguay
Traditional Drinks in Uruguay
Mate is an infused drink made by steeping dry yerba mate leaves with hot water. The infusion is sipped through a metal straw.
Mate is the national drink of Uruguay (and Argentina), and it's common to see Uruguayans carrying a thermos of hot water with them to make mates on the go.
Medio y Medio
A unique sparkling wine was created in 1886 at the Mercado del Puerto in Montevideo. It's made by combining 50% white wine and 50% champagne.
Where to Drink It: At the Mercado del Puerto in Montevideo, free samples are handed out every day starting at Noon.
Patricia is nothing special, just one of the domestic beers you'll find throughout the country.
Pilsen is another local beer you'll find throughout the country. I preferred the stout version to the regular, which tasted similar to Patricia.
Uruguay has a range of wines to choose from; some have a sweet taste, while others have a rich depth. Among my top picks are Uruguay's tannat wines, especially those from Canelones.
Last Updated on October 24, 2022 by Dave Lee