Bolivian cuisine is a mixture of indigenous foods and Spanish dishes. It has a mix of exotic ingredients, savory spices, and an aroma of delicious flavors. This is one of the most diverse countries in the world, both in terms of culture and geography. If you visit, you will find everything from deserts to Andes Mountains. This variety makes its cuisine even more interesting, and you will find something to suit every taste.
The main ingredients in Bolivian cuisine are corn, potatoes, quinoa, beans, rice, cheese, etc. It is an amalgamation of both traditional and fusion dishes. Some of the famous dishes of this cuisine are Sopa de pollo, Tacu-Tacu, Empanadas, Pandeireta, Churrasco, Sopa de habichuelas, etc.
Bolivian food has much in common with other Andean neighbors like Peru and Ecuador. Like most South American cuisine, it's heavily reliant on rice, beans, and corn, and there's a heavy emphasis on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. And like most South American cooking, it's very carb-heavy, with lots of starchy bread, potatoes, and rice. Curries, stews, and soups are very common, as are trout and other fresh-water fish. And, of course, there's a lot of meat. Lamb, beef, and chicken are the most popular, but there's also a range of pork dishes, and a few game types of meat, like venison.
Bolivian cuisine differs by geographical location. In Western Bolivia in the Altiplano, due to the high, cold climate, cuisine tends to use spices. In the lowlands of Bolivia in the more Amazonian regions, dishes consist of products abundant in the region: fruits, vegetables, fish, and yuca.
Bolivian Cuisine History
Bolivia is a landlocked country in South America with a rich and diverse culture. The constitution of Bolivia recognizes 36 indigenous groups, which account for about 40% of the country's population. Bolivia's cuisine is a reflection of its diverse population and climate. Most people live on the highland plateau, where the climate is suitable for growing crops such as quinoa, potatoes, and beans. In the eastern lowlands, a tropical climate favors the growth of bananas, yucca, and mangoes.
Bolivia is a mix of three types of people: Spanish people, indigenous Bolivians from the Andes, and "mestizos," which are a mix of both. In the 16th century, Spain colonized Bolivia and exploited the country for all of the silver found. This raised the Spanish empire to be the most powerful in the world for a period of time and helped shape what is now known as Latin America. It wasn't until the 1820's that Bolivia started to fight for independence. Simon Bolivar led the revolution, eventually leading the country to independence in 1825. The Bolivians honored him by naming the country after him.
Bolivian cuisine has been influenced by the Inca cuisine, Aymara cuisine, Spanish cuisine, and to a lesser extent, the cuisines of other neighboring countries, like Argentina and Paraguay. European immigration to Bolivia is not as common as in Latin American countries. While German, Italian, Basque, and other cuisines have influenced the cuisine of Bolivia, Spanish cuisine remains the primary influence.
Very much built from their Spanish past, the Bolivians follow their Andean neighbors regarding food culture. One of the biggest food customs in Bolivia is called salteña. Salteña is a 15-30 minute snack break in the morning between breakfast and lunch. At this time of the day, most of the city shuts down.
Also, like in most Spanish colonized countries, lunch is the major meal of the day. In upper-middle-class households and restaurants, it is normally a four-course meal designed to carry you through the day until a smaller dinner later in the evening.
Top Bolivian Chef’s
Andean cuisine is a reflection of the diverse cultures, climates, and crops of the Andes Mountains. It is an ever-evolving, varied, and inclusive food culture, as reflected in its use of quinoa, amaranth, llama, and potatoes. While every country in the Andes has a distinct culinary tradition, they all share a love of food deeply rooted in social and cultural identity. If you want to discover the best dishes in the country, visit one of these Bolivian chef's restaurants. You will be able to taste the best food in the country, prepared by a local chef.
Juan Pablo Gumiel
Born in Bulgaria and raised in Bolivia, she started working at Gustu in La Paz in 2013. Marsia quickly rose through the ranks, going from kitchen assistant to head chef within a few years and becoming one of the few Bolivian women working in such a position. The young cook is also the founder of Sabores Silvestres, a multidisciplinary group formed of chefs, biologists, ethnobotanists, agronomists, and scientists who seek to research, understand and preserve Bolivian products and food heritage.
Juan Magni was born in the capital of Bolivia, La Paz. After school, he trained at INACAP in Chile and was influenced by French chef Yves Thuries. After graduation, he apprenticed and worked his way up the kitchen ladder at several hotels in Arica, Chile. In 1996, Chef Magni moved back to Bolivia as sous chef for the Hotel Los Tajibos in Santa Cruz and had worked his way to the top of the kitchen.
Began working in restaurants at 15, and by 21 underwent training at the Copenhagen Hospitality College. After graduating, she worked at several well-known restaurants, such as Mugaritz, until she was invited to cook for Claus Meyer as part of an interview for a Bolivian food movement. Later that year, she became head chef of the restaurant Gustu.
I Started working for Gustu after traveling Europe, learning from some of the best talents in the world. He has been head chef since 2015, when he was only 25. He sees his position not just as a job but as a true vocation. A real opportunity for him and his compatriots, using lessons in discipline, efficiency and artistry learned in Europe to reimagine Bolivian cuisine.
He studied at the Escuela Hotelera de La Paz and did his internship at Sucre Kolping. In Sucre, he started at the "Le Biscuit" restaurant, worked at the now-defunct Mooy restaurant at the Entec School, and advised various restaurants. He currently works as executive chef at El Portal, Convention Center in Cochabamba.
What are some traditional Bolivian Cuisine foods?
The traditional cuisine of Bolivia is heavily influenced by Spanish, Andean, and other cultures, as well as the country's diverse landscape. Common ingredients used in the dishes include quinoa, potatoes, corn, beans, and chilies. You can find traditional Bolivian food at many street vendors and in restaurants and markets across the country.
Empanadas de Queso
Sajta de Pollo
A recipe originated in the Andean mountain ranges in the 16th century with skewered beef or chicken hearts. Prepared similar to a Mediterranean shish kebab, you can enjoy this popular South American dish with potatoes and a peanut sauce.Anticucho Recipe
A traditional dish popular in Eastern Bolivia, especially in Santa Cruz and the country’s Northeastern Regions. This dish is made using white cheese, egg, salt, milk, and yam flour formed into bread balls and served with a cup of coffee or tea.Cuñapé Recipe
If you know about empanadas, you will easily make the Bolivian version with a cheesy ooey-gooey center. This dish is typical throughout South America, and many locals enjoy this traditional dish for breakfast or at teatime.Empanadas de Queso Recipe
This thick and creamy soup is made with corn, green beans, potatoes, milk, Altiplano cheese, and an Andean spice called wacatya.Queso Humacha Recipe
Sajta de Pollo is a traditional meal where the traditional sauce (sajta) is accompanied by chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, plain rice, and peanuts. This dish is commonly garnished with fresh celery, garlic, and parsley, which enhance the flavors of this dish.Sajita de Pollo Recipe
Salteñas are a traditional Bolivian street food filled with a juicy mix of sweet and savory sauces. The insides of the salteñas are also filled with beef, pork, or chicken. Some restaurants serve vegetarian salteñas. Additional variations of the salteñas may include those filled with peas, eggs, potatoes, and olives.Salteñas Recipe
This traditional dish from the valleys of Cochabamba consists of layers of white rice, boiled and sliced tomatoes, and thinly pounded meat. Some prepare this dish with onion, beets, parsley, and a fried egg.Silpancho Recipe
A mound of seasoned rice and beans shaped into a teardrop with a spatula and then fried. Served with sliced red onions and cilantro marinated in lime juice, a little bowl with some hot sauce, and a small glass carafe of olive oil.Tacu-Tacu Recipes
Traditional dishes using the yuca are made with baked, mashed, boiled, and fried potatoes. Yuca frita, or yuca fries, are thin slices of deep-fried root and served as a snack or with grilled meats, burgers, and barbecue.Yuca Frita Recipe>
Traditionally made by wrapping this pancake-like entrée, made with cheese and yucca, around a stick and grilling it. Currently, zonzo is available in a few ways — friend, baked, or grilled — and still uses traditional methods using a stick.Zonzo Recipe
What are some top Bolivian Cuisine desserts?
There are many different types of desserts to try in Bolivia. It is a very diverse country, so you can try many different types of desserts, depending on where you are. In La Paz, you can try chocolates and other confectionaries in the shops of the Plaza Murillo. In Santa Cruz, ice cream is trendy, especially flavors like dulce de leche or strawberry. In Cochabamba, you can try different sweets, such as alfajor, a traditional confection made with hazelnuts or peanuts. In Copacabana, try the dried fruits that are exported from this town.
Helado de Canela
Budin de Coco (Coconut Pudding)
Dulce de Membrillo (Quince Paste)
Espuma de Mango (Mango Mousse)
Queso de Coco (Coconut Flan)
Gelatin de Pata (Cow's Foot Jello)
Arroz con Leche (Rice Pudding)
The basic ingredients consist of flour, cornstarch, powdered sugar, salt, butter, vanilla and an egg yolk. They also include the manjar blanco or dulce de leche. The butter and sugar are beaten together until light and fluffy.Alfajores Recipe
The chewy treat is a Spanish version of the familiar coconut macaroon. The cookies are molded into domes, but shapes can vary from square to rectangular, or flattened into a traditional cookie. They can range from bite-size to quite large, but are always served at room temperature to best enjoy the crispy exterior and the soft, chewy center.Cocadas Recipe
This ice cream recipe is the perfect dessert for a holiday gathering. It features warm spices like cinnamon, clove, and cardamom that come together to make a sweet and creamy frozen treat. It can be served with fresh fruit or a scoop of vanilla ice cream for an even more delicious dessert.Helado de Canela Recipes
Budin de coco means coconut pudding. You can serve this pudding in a tall glass and top with whipped cream and berries if you like, as an alternative to the cinnamon.Budin de Coco Recipe
Dulce de Membrillo is a thick quince paste, like jam only thicker. You can form it into a block and slice it. The way membrillo is made is very thick and it is sold in blocks. Many people simply eat it by the slice, without smearing it onto bread.Dulce de Membrillo Recipe
Espuma de mango literally means mango foam, but this dessert is actually mango mousse. This frozen yogurt has a mango base and is topped with pomegranate seeds, fresh mango, and ginger yogurt.Espuma de Mango
Although queso de coco actually means "coconut cheese", it is actually a sort of coconut custard. You only need 4 ingredients to make this delicious dessert. What’s more, it takes only 10 minutes from start to finish.Queso de Coco
One of the most popular and most loved desserts, not just in Bolivia, but all over South America. Gelatin de pata, which is also known as beef gelatin, is a gelatin-rich food that is made by extracting gelatin from beef feet. It is considered to be a functional food due to its high nutritional value.Gelatin de Pata Recipe
This recipe is easy to make, requires only a few ingredients, and is bursting with nutrition. This Spanish rice pudding is made with water or milk and a dash of cinnamon, and then you add a can of sweetened condensed milk. This creamy and delicious rice pudding is perfect for serving during the holiday season and any time you want to indulge a bit.Arroz con Leche Recipe
What are some of the top Bolivian Cuisine Restaurants?
Most of these restaurants have affordable prices and a relaxed atmosphere where you can enjoy a nice conversation with friends or family while enjoying delicious food. You can visit these restaurants if you are looking for a casual restaurant or an upscale place to enjoy a nice night out with your significant other. These are the country's top restaurants that serve delicious traditional dishes that will leave you wanting more.
Gustu - La Paz
Carla’s Garden Pub - Coroico
Las Velas - Isla del Sol
La Cantonata, Cochabamba
Kachi Lodge - Uyuni
After opening in 2012 to rave reviews, Gustu has become the undisputed king of Bolivia’s fine dining scene. The brainchild of Claus Meyer, Gustu prides itself on serving locally-sourced ingredients, while adding a twist to traditional Bolivian fare.Vist Gustu
Carla’s is a resto-pub and tourist hangout. This delightful spot just down the stairs from the main plaza is focused around a lush garden, complete with hammocks and stunning views of the valley below. The menu offers a great selection of European and Bolivian dishes, and excellent coffee.Visit Carla's Garden Pub
Las Velas ("the candles") is run by an internationally trained Bolivian native who cooks up a superb selection of pizzas and pastas as well as the local specialty, grilled trout. There is no electricity connected to this little restaurant, so candles are used to light the room instead. This creates an intimate atmosphere for travelers to get to know each other over a game of cards and a few bottles of wine.Visit Las Velas
A longstanding Cochabamba institution, La Cantonata has been serving up the city’s best steak, seafood and pasta since 1988. The place epitomizes elegance and old-world charm, featuring white table cloths, attentive waistcoat-wearing waiters and candlelit tables.Visit La Cantonata
As of January 2020, the restaurant at Kachi Lodge has been entrusted to one of the rising stars of Bolivian cuisine, Juan Pablo Gumiel. He invented many original dishes inspired by his upbringing and the salt flat's challenging location. Despite limited electricity and an outdoorsy atmosphere, dining at Proyecto Nativa is still high-end. The menus change almost daily, and meals are served with local wines from the Tarija region.Visit Kachi Lodge