July 14, 2017 · Written by Foodtolive Team

8 Popular Vegetarian Meals to Try When Vacationing in South America

Every nation has its share of popular vegetarian recipes. Even the renowned carnivores of South America can boast some delightful meat-free treats. If you are planning to spend your vacation touring the exotic tropical countries, be sure to try them.

Popular Vegetarian Meals from South American Cultures

1. Empanadas (Argentina, Chile, Brazil)

Empanadas are small and incredibly delicious pastries you can find all over the South America. They come with a great variety of stuffings, many of them vegetarian. Empanadas are popular as street food but you can find them served almost anywhere. Argentina boasts a huge collection of empanadas flavors ranging from creamy corn to spinach and ricotta. Note that empanadas can be both baked and deep-fried.


2. Papa a la Huancaina (Peru)

Papa a la huancaina is a must-try Peruvian dish for those vegetarians who eat cheese. It’s a traditional dish in Peru that contains Aji Amarillo, a native yellow chili pepper with a unique flavor. The dish is potatoes served in the deliciously spicy cheese sauce.

3. Arepas (Colombia, Venezuela)

Arepas are small corn flatbreads that can be served with avocados, cheese, or jam. They are popular vegetarian meals for breakfast in several countries. Corn (maize) flour, in general, is extremely common all over South America.


4. Tamales (Peru)

Tamales are another dish that uses corn flour. In essence, they are corn pastries filled with vegetables, fruits, or cheese. However, instead of baking/frying, they are steamed while wrapped in a banana leaf or corn husk. Archeologists claim that this dish has existed for over 8000 years. Today every region of Peru has its special tamale recipe. You can even find some filled with chili and cooked using seasoned liquids to enhance the flavor. 

5. Feijoada (Brazil)

Feijoada is a traditional Brazilian stew made with pork or beef and black beans. However, vegetarians can try a meat-free variation of it by ordering ‘feijao com arroz’. Their dish would have a combination of rice and black beans with a spicy sauce that is unique to Brazil.


6. Picarones (Peru)

Picarones might not be the healthiest of foods as they are basically doughnuts, but they are incredible. They are one of the most popular vegetarian meals to try in South America if you have a sweet tooth. These ‘doughnuts’ are bright-orange because they contain either pumpkin or sweet potatoes. The sweets are rolled in sugar and cinnamon for extra flavor.



7. Tomatican (Chile)

Tomatican is a perfect vegetarian’s dinner option in Chile. It’s a hearty tomato stew with onions and corn, seasoned with a variety of local spices. This dish is a variation of charquican, but without the beef. Different regions of the country have their own special recipes that vary in vegetable mixes, but tomatoes are always a must.

8. Acarajé (Brazil)

Originating from West Africa, today acaraje is one of the most common types of street food in Brazil. Most variations of it won’t make the list of popular vegetarian meals because they contain shrimp paste. The dish is a ball of mashed black-eyed peas with onions and salt. These balls are deep-fried in palm oil, cut, and stuffed. Vegetarian options usually have green tomatoes and hot pepper as stuffings.

How to Enjoy Popular Vegetarian Meals in South America

Traditional South American cuisines aren’t designed for vegetarians and especially vegans. Be sure to ask about ingredients before ordering and remember that sans carne means ‘without red meat’. This order will most likely result in being served chicken.