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Uruguayan Food – Typical & Traditional Cuisine

Cuts of beef at Mercado del Puerto in Montevideo, Uruguay
Cuts of beef

Uruguayan food is very similar to Argentine cuisine; both 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 both available throughout Uruguay, but I'm leaving them off the list below. Quality is OK, but nothing special.

When visiting Uruguay, you're better off focusing on meat and fish.

Uruguayan Food – Typical Dishes

Chivito, a traditional Uruguayan steak sandwich
Chivito

Chivito

The chivito is as ubiquitous as hamburgers in the USA (and Uruguay for that matter) — every restaurant serves them in one form or another.

Most offer at least two or three different versions, with a varying degree of toppings.

It's a steak sandwich, plus any or all of the following:

  • ham
  • bacon
  • cheese
  • hard-boiled egg
  • tomato
  • lettuce
  • olives
  • mayonnaise

They're sometimes available with chicken instead of steak.

Where to Eat It: Chiviteria Marcos is a popular chain of chivito restaurants located throughout the country.

A location in Montevideo was featured on Anthony Bourdain's Uruguay episode of No Reservations.

Choripan

Choripan is chorizo served in a baguette with various toppings.

Fish in a lemon sauce at Bar Montevideo (in Pocitos)
Fish in a lemon sauce at Bar Montevideo (in Pocitos)

Fish

Given the majority 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 fresh fish is widely available.

Whitefish (merluza) is the less costly option. Salmon is available but pricey.

Where to Eat It: Fishing villages, like Cabo Polonio or Punta del Diablo.

Milanesa

Milanesa is a thin, breaded steak.  Milanesa de pollo is a breaded chicken breast. Both are usually served with French Fries or puree (mashed potatoes).

Pancho

Pancho is the name for Uruguayan hot dogs. These are smaller than the chorizo used in choripan and less flavorful.

Asado with sausages & sweetbreads at Mercado del Puerto
Asado with sausages & sweetbreads at Mercado del Puerto

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

Petite filet mignon with fries at Mercado del Puerto
Petite filet mignon with fries at Mercado del Puerto

Steak

In Uruguay, cows outnumber people three to one, so it should be no surprise that steak is a national dish. And they do it well.

During my swing through Uruguay, I sprung for a petite filet mignon, 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

Coconut alfajor
Coconut alfajor

Traditional Deserts in Uruguay

Alfajores

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 cake.

The best alfajores are the ones 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.

Churros

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

A sweet derived from slowly heating sweetened milk until the sugar caramelizes.  

Dulce de leche is used in all kinds of desserts, from alfajores and ice cream to sweet pastries, cakes, and pies.

It's also used as a topping for bread in the morning, much like Nutella.

Flan

Flan is a creamy custard with a thin layer of caramel on top. The quality of flan can vary wildly.

Mate and thermos of hot water
Mate and thermos of hot water

Traditional Drinks in Uruguay

Mate

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 mate on the go.

1-liter bottle of Patricia
1-liter bottle of Patricia

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

One of the domestic beers you'll find throughout the country.  Nothing special.

1-liter bottle of Pilsen Stout
1-liter bottle of Pilsen Stout

Pilsen (Stout)

Another local beer you'll find throughout the country. I preferred the stout version to the regular, which tasted similar to Patricia above.

Last Updated on October 11, 2021 by Dave Lee

musa

Tuesday 16th of October 2018

can you all assist me with the following matter, i will be preparing food for people from Uruguay and i want to do platters as well, what kind of platter should i do for them

Amanda Ruggles

Thursday 3rd of November 2016

That's got to be one of the worst reviews of eating in Uruguay that I've read and not what I've experienced.

rob

Tuesday 1st of May 2018

than what was your experience and was it great

Dave

Tuesday 8th of November 2016

Hi Amanda, what was your experience?

george

Monday 18th of April 2016

what about mate?