I love South American cuisine so I was excited to try making food from Argentina this week—in particular, empanadas!
Argentina is a large country located in the southern half of South America. The land has been inhabited since the Paleolithic period, and various small, diverse cultures once made their homes there. The Inca Empire moved into the northwest of the country in the 15th century.
The first Europeans arrived in Argentina in 1502, and eventually the country was colonized by the Spanish Empire. Argentina fought for independence and gained it, but this was followed by a long civil war.
After the war, Argentina gained relative peace and stability and eventually became a very wealthy country. The increased prosperity drew many European immigrants, particularly from Spain and Italy.
Unfortunately, Argentina suffered greatly from the Great Depression in the 1930s. Political instability and economic decline caused the country to regress in development.
Argentina still maintains the second-largest economy in South America, and has the second-highest human development index in Latin America after Chile.
What do People Eat in Argentina?
Argentinian cuisine is often based on indigenous ingredients, such as squash, corn, and sweet potatoes. However, dishes bear heavy influences from European colonists and immigrants. Italians introduced pizza and pasta, while Spain brought olive oil, sausage, wheat, and many other previously unknown foods.
Beef is really popular, and grilling is the favored form of cooking, so much so that ‘asado’ (the word used for Argentinian barbecue) is considered a national dish. I don’t have a barbecue and this isn’t a specific recipe since you can grill just about anything, so I did not attempt it. I did, however, make a chimichurri sauce, which is the most common condiment for asado (see choripan).
What I Made
- Locro (Hominy and Squash Stew)
- Revuelto de Gramajo (Scrambled Eggs with Ham and Potato)
- Fugazzeta (Argentinian Stuffed Pizza)
- Choripan (Sausage Sandwich)
- Milanesas (Argentinian Schnitzel)
- Empanadas (Stuffed Pastries)
- El Submarino (Hot Chocolate)
- Alfajores (Sandwich Cookies with Dulce de Leche)
Scroll down to read about other Argentinian dishes I didn’t make!
Locro (Hominy and Squash Stew)
Locro is a stew made primarily of squash, corn, potato, beef, and sausages. It is considered one of Argentina’s national dishes, though it’s popular in neighboring countries too.
Here I tried hominy for the first time, and found it to be pretty good. I followed the recipe from The Real Argentina, but I omitted the sweet potato and just added more butternut squash and potato. That was just easier for me as I was halving the recipe. I didn’t include the optional tripe, pig feet, or lima beans either. I think the tripe is actually a pretty common addition but I’m just not ready for that, if I ever will be.
This was pretty good, especially with some bread. I used the same sausage I got for the choripan I made later in the week.
Revuelto de Gramajo (Scrambled Eggs with Ham and Potato)
This is a breakfast dish consisting of fried potatoes, ham, and eggs. The recipe I used, from Curious Cuisinière, has you make french fries out of the potatoes first, so you could probably just use store-bought fries if you want. Or if you somehow have leftover fries, I’m sure they would work really well here.
You can add whatever vegetables you want, and peas are a common addition. To finish, I sprinkled green onions over the top. I took one bite and decided it would be way more delicious with hot sauce, and so I added that and then it was amazing.
Fugazzeta (Argentinian Stuffed Pizza)
A fugazetta is an Argentinian style pizza which is topped with onions, oregano, olive oil, and Parmesan, and stuffed with mozzarella cheese (obligatory cheese shot below).
The fugazetta is a variation on a simpler dish, called fugazza, which is a pizza or focaccia with the same onion topping. I was going back and forth between the two, because although the fugazetta is clearly much more unhealthy, it also looked so good and I love cheese. So I gave in and made it, and luckily it freezes and reheats really well, since my husband does not like cheese or onion and I could not eat this whole thing in one, or even two or three sittings.
I followed the recipe from The Spruce Eats and I think that, overall, it turned out really well. I used the lower amount of mozzarella and did not include the optional provolone, which is probably why mine is less oozy. My only problem is the top crust didn’t really do much rising in the oven, particularly in the middle, and I would’ve liked more browning on the crust itself but I was worried about the onions getting burned. But ultimately, I really enjoyed this.
Choripan (Sausage Sandwich)
Choripan is a pork or beef sausage served on a roll, and it’s a popular street food in Argentina. A wide range of condiments may be added. This isn’t the kind of thing that needs a recipe, but I took inspiration from Layla’s Recipes and accompanied my choripan with chimichurri sauce and tomato and onion curtido salsa.
Chimichurri, for those who don’t know, is a very popular sauce consisting of fresh parsley and oregano, green onion, garlic, oil, vinegar or lemon juice, and chili. That is the more traditional Argentinian version, but I’ve seen many variations on the internet that use different blends of herbs. The tomato and onion curtido salsa is basically just quick-pickled red onions mixed with tomatoes and a little cilantro. I made the baguettes since I wanted them for my milanesa sandwich later in the week and I love homemade baguettes. For the sausage, I used the spicy Argentinian sausage from Wild Fork Foods. (Not an affiliate link, but I do highly recommend their products if you are in the United States).
This turned out to be really delicious, but I didn’t expect anything less.
Milanesas (Argentinian Schnitzel)
A milanesa is a thin piece of steak or veal, breaded and fried, and it’s a product of Italian influence. It is a very popular dish and I came across countless variations. They all sounded so good, and I knew I’d have leftovers, so I did my milanesas three different ways. Above is the most basic version, which is served with fries (or mashed potatoes) and salad. I loosely followed the recipe from Authentic Food Quest.
I used thinly sliced top round instead of veal, because veal costs approximately a thousand dollars a pound (alright, not really, but it may as well). I pounded the beef with the flat side of a meat mallet. Then I combined the parsley and garlic (which I grated on a microplane) with the egg mixture, and seasoned that and the breadcrumbs with salt and pepper. I dipped the pieces of beef in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs, and shallow fried for a few minutes per side. At first, I think the heat was a little high, but nothing actually got burned.
These milanesas were really good! I was surprised at how tender the meat was; it’s hard to get a proper medium rare on such thin pieces but it was still a little pink and the texture was really good for such a cheap cut.
Another popular milanesa dish is milanesa a caballo, which translates to ‘milanesa on horseback’. It’s a milanesa served with an egg (or two) on top. I had a fair bit of leftover chimichurri sauce, so I added that, and it was delicious. This would usually be served with fries, but these were big pieces of meat and I didn’t really need that much food in the morning.
Finally, I used my last leftover milanesa to make a milanesa sandwich. There’s more leftover chimichurri, and tomato and onion curtido, and lettuce. I added some kewpie mayonnaise too. I don’t care if it’s Japanese; it basically goes with everything.
Other milanesa variations include various toppings, such as ham and cheese, or salsa. I’m definitely going to be making this again and trying out new ways to enjoy milanesas.
Empanadas (Stuffed Pastries)
I’m sure most people know what an empanada is, but it’s a pastry that can be filled with pretty much anything you want. I decided to make what I feel is a fairly traditional meat-based filling, and I followed the recipe from Tastes Better From Scratch. I chose to bake rather than fry, and they turned out crisp and delicious.
The only problem I had, was that despite making 19 empanadas compared to the ‘about 20’ indicated in the recipe, I had enough filling leftover for another 6 or so after using up all the pastry. I already had various leftover things in the fridge, so I portioned the filling in the freezer. I think it will go well on a tortilla with some cheese.
The empanadas themselves went in the freezer too, but that was intended, since I figured they would freeze well. The recipe suggests freezing them before baking, but I wanted them to be something I could just take out of the freezer and eat so I baked them first. I’ve since eaten some of my freezer empanadas, and although I’m sure they would be more crisp if I heated them up in the oven, they have been really good after a short time in the microwave.
El Submarino (Hot Chocolate)
This is basically just hot chocolate, but a really good version. You warm up some milk and drop in a piece of dark chocolate, which is the ‘submarine’. The recipe I used, from The Spruce Eats, adds sugar and vanilla to the milk. Of course, technically this doesn’t really need a recipe. Just heat up however much milk you want and add chocolate until it’s as chocolatey as you want. I only needed to add one square to make it delicious.
Alfajores (Sandwich Cookies with Dulce de Leche)
Alfajores are sandwich cookies filled with dulce de leche, though nowadays you can find many variations, with different flavored cookies and fillings. You can even get alfajores coated in chocolate! However, I wanted to keep mine more simple and traditional. I used the recipe from Somewhat Simple and it worked really well, though I omitted the lemon zest because I knew it would make it more likely my husband would help me eat them. He still never tried one, so they’re in my freezer, and I can report that although they are slightly softer after freezing and defrosting, they are still really good.
I had to make my own dulce de leche because the supermarket didn’t have it. I know you can supposedly heat sweetened condensed milk in its can but it specifically says on the can not to do that, and I didn’t want to risk exploding dulce de leche, so I found another, safer-sounding method. You pour the sweetened condensed milk into a pie dish, cover tightly with foil, and bake in a water bath for a while, stirring every now and then. I think mine took close to two hours to be completely done and I was pleased with the result.
Other Popular Argentinian Dishes
- Matambre arrollado – meaning ‘hunger killer’, this is a piece of flank steak rolled around a stuffing, then grilled or roasted and sliced to serve. The stuffing can include vegetables, eggs, and herbs.
- Media luna – a pastry that is similar to a croissant, but smaller and heavier. Media lunas are popular for breakfast, either glazed with syrup or filled with ham and cheese.
- Panchuker – a popular street food, served on a stick. It’s made by coating a sausage in a waffle-like batter and cooking it; usually a special pan is used.
I loved cooking food from Argentina! My favorite food was the milanesa but I also really enjoyed the fugazzeta and choripan, and of course the alfajores. But everything was delicious, and there were even some dishes I wanted to try but couldn’t fit in, so I know I will revisit Argentinian cuisine.
Next week, I will be cooking food from Armenia.