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Typical South American Recipes

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In this Lesson you will Learn

  1. What are typical ingredients in South American cuisine?
  2. What are typical South American recipes?


As with African cuisine, it is hard to describe the cuisine of an entire continent. Nonetheless, for all the regional differences arising from South America's various climates, terrains, histories, and cultures there are enough similarities to get a feeling for the types of foods enjoyed across the continent.


Some of the earliest domesticated plants in South America are still popular in the cuisine today, including squash, sweet and hot peppers, corn, cassava, yucca, potatoes, beans, quinoa, and amaranth. Fruits native to South America include passion fruit, papaya, goiaba, acerola, lucuma, and maqui berries.

When the Spanish landed in South America, it began a new culinary period where foods from the Americans were introduced to European cuisines and vice verse. Tomatoes, hot peppers, potatoes/sweet potatoes, peanuts, and corn were all brought to Europe as a result of these expeditions, while wheat, chickpeas, onions, garlic, spinach, oranges, lemons, almonds, sugar cane, and many other foods were introduced from Europe to South America. The Spanish also brought cattle, pigs, chickens, and goats. Moreover, the saffron, nuts, and olive oil the Moors brought to Spain were in turn brought by the Spaniards to South America.1

The Portuguese also brought their own foods when they settled on South America's east coast, particularly in Brazil. Today, the salt-cured meats and fish (especially salt cod) they introduced are still popular. More significantly, the African slave trade in the Portuguese-controlled regions (and to a lesser extent in Spanish-controlled regions) introduced a variety of new ingredients to Brazilian and Caribbean cuisines (LINK), including coconut, okra, banana leaves, ginger, sorghum, millet, greens, and palm oil, resulting in a number of "fusion" dishes.1

South American cuisine adds flavor to its dishes with herbs (e.g. cilantro, parsley, basil, huacatay), spices (e.g. annatto/achiote, cinnamon), and importantly, chili peppers (e.g. aji amarillo and aji panca). 2

Typical South American Dishes

Main Dish: Ceviche
Main Dish: Tamales
Main Dish: Empanadas
Main Dish: Pollo Asado
Main Dish: Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Dessert: Alfajores
Dessert: Tres Leches Cake

Recommended Read

The South American Table

This cookbook provides a brief history of South American cuisine and provides more than 450 recipes to sample typical recipes from across the continent.

check it out ยป


  1. The South American Table: The Flavor and Soul of Authentic Home Cooking from Patagonia to Rio de Janeiro
  2. Spicy: South American Style


  1. Typical South American ingredients: squash, sweet and hot peppers, corn, cassava, yucca, potatoes, beans, quinoa, amaranth, beef, chicken, fish, cilantro, parsley, and annatto.
  2. Typical South American dishes: ceviche, tamales, empanadas, pollo asado, steak, alfajores, tres leches cake
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