Bolivian gastronomy is an exciting mix of aboriginal dishes, Spanish recipes and preparations arising from the marriage between native products and those brought to America by the conquerors.
These are the 30 best typical dishes of Bolivia.
1. Chola sandwich
The typical food of Bolivia has in the chola sandwich one of its main expressions, a sandwich with pork ham whose name comes from the Bolivian cholas, mestizo women who have marketed the classic dish of La Paz.
The main ingredients are a round bread (sarnita) similar to a large bolillo and slices of baked ham, with vegetable additions and crispy pork skin.
The typical dressing is llajua or yasgua, a spicy sauce based on iocoto (Bolivian name for hot pepper), tomato and other ingredients that vary according to the region of the country.
In Cochabamba they put parsley, Bolivian cilantro (quirquiña) and mint. In other regions they add wakataya (Tagetes minuta) and suyku or chincho (Tagetes elliptica). In parts of the East they do not use rocoto but rather aribibi, another hot pepper.
2. Bolivian salteñas
Salta empanadas are typical of the Argentine province of Salta, which borders Bolivia to the north.
Bolivians have their own version of salteñas with juicy fillings of beef, chicken, and other meats.
For the dough you will need 500 grams of flour, 200 grams of butter, ½ cup of water, 2 yolks, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 of yellow pepper.
The filling has ½ kilo of beef, 6 potatoes, 2 onions, 1 ½ cups of peas, 4 cups of beef broth, 3 tablespoons of parsley, ½ tablespoon of yellow pepper, salt and pepper to taste.
Sauté the onion, the half tablespoon of chili and add the broth, letting it boil. Add the minced meat, cook for 15 minutes, turn off the heat and add the cooked potatoes, peas, parsley, salt and pepper. Rest and refrigerate overnight.
For the dough, mix its ingredients in a blender or knead by hand. Roll it out and cut it into circles 10 cm in diameter and 1 cm thick. Assemble the empanadas and bake them for 10 minutes in a preheated oven at 300 °C.
3. Roasted face
Among the most unique typical things of Bolivia is preparing the lamb’s head in the oven, leaving its skin. It is one of the easy dishes to make with the star component: a fresh head.
You only require additional water, salt and optionally spices, although the head is so tasty that it is not necessary to add many seasonings.
Wash the lamb’s mouth with water using a disposable toothbrush. Then clean the entire piece inside and out with boiled water.
Put enough salt in all the parts of the head where there is meat and sprinkle the spices that you want. Place the piece with water in a baking dish and bake until the meat is well cooked, making sure that the liquid does not dry out. It’s ready when the skin comes off easily with a glove. Serve with boiled potatoes and rice.
4. Male bite
Recipe created in Cochabamba in 1974. It has ½ kilo of a soft cut of beef, 6 Vienna-type sausages, 6 potatoes, 3 tomatoes, a green hot pepper, a red onion, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, half a can of beer, oil and salt and black pepper to taste.
Cut the onion into thin julienne strips. Heat a tablespoon of oil well in a pan and put the meat cut into cubes and seasoned to taste, adding the onion. Fry until the meat releases its juices and add the soy and beer.
When the meat is cooked, cut the sausages into slices and incorporate them, keeping them on the heat for a few more minutes. Peel the potatoes, cut them into quarters and fry them. Put them on a plate, place the meat stew with sausages on top and serve with sliced tomato and chopped hot pepper.
5. The Mayor
Tasty and succulent dish from the Bolivian Altiplano that owes its name to an official (intendente) who inspected restaurants to verify compliance with established standards.
A good steward can take veal heart, fat tripe, roast loin, pork chops, chorizo, lamb rib and kidney, and chicken pieces. The main condiments are salt and garlic and some cuts can be fried and others roasted.
The garnishes are boiled potatoes, boiled rice, tomato salad, onion, lettuce and hot pepper.
Condori is one of the typical Bolivian dishes that is easy to prepare. For 3 kilos of llama back cut into pieces, you need 1 ½ kilos of fresh potatoes, one kilo of chuño, ground yellow pepper, garlic, pepper, cumin and salt to taste.
The flame is softened in water with salt and ground chili and it is finished cooking with the garlic, spices and salt. It is eaten with cooked potatoes and chuño.
The condori is typical of the city and the province of Oruro, prepared for celebrations. Llama meat is rich in protein and its cholesterol and other fat content is much lower than that of pork and beef.
7. Chambergos potosinos
Original dish from Potosí, a Bolivian city facing the hill of the same name that has been the richest source of silver in universal history.
Potosi chambergos are rosquetes made with eggs, wheat flour and chancaca, as piloncillo is known in Bolivia.
For a good amount of chambergos, mix 25 eggs in a bowl, adding flour little by little until you make a dough that is neither too light nor too thick. Take it to a table and rub it (use your hand covered with a little butter so it doesn’t stick) with half a glass of alcohol (it can be pisco).
Form the donuts and place them in a large pot of boiling water, taking care that they do not stick to each other. Cook them medium rare (neither too soft nor too hard), dry them in the sun until they harden and bake them at 180°C. Prepare a caramel with the piloncillo and bathe the chambergos.
8. Rice with Cruceño cheese
The typical rice pudding from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the departmental capital, is prepared with a cup of rice, half a cup of milk, a cup of sliced Chaco cheese, 2 ½ cups of water, a tablespoon of oil and salt. to taste.
Boil the water with the oil, the salt and cook the rice. When it is cooked and still a bit moist, add the milk and let it boil without drying it out. Add the cheese, mix well and serve immediately.
9. Chuquisaca spicy fritanga
Spicy fritanga is the most iconic dish in Chuquisaca. A typical recipe is prepared with 3 kilos of pork, 200 grams of ground red pepper, 2 teaspoons of pepper, 2 of cumin, a head of garlic, water and salt to taste, plus 200 grams of cooked chuño, half a kilo of boiled potatoes and patasca (mote broth).
Chop the pork and cook it in water with the pepper, cumin, crushed garlic cloves and salt to taste. When the meat softens, reserve 2 cups of broth, drain the pork and fry it in a pan. Mix the broth with the red pepper in a saucepan, add it to a sauce and add it to the fried pork, letting it cook until it thickens. Serve with chuño, potato and pataca.
10. Surubí sweat
The surubíes are a genus of freshwater fish used in cooking recipes and to make fishmeal.
Sudado de surubí is a typical dish from Pando, a Bolivian department in the extreme north of Bolivia, bordering Brazil and Peru.
Pando is an Amazonian department crossed by countless rivers, so the consumption of freshwater fish is common.
Season with salt and pepper 4 medallions of surubí, pass them through flour and fry them until sealed on both sides. Separate the fish and in the same pan sauté 2 cloves of garlic, an onion, a carrot and half a chopped bell pepper. Add 50 cc of white wine, salt and lemon juice to taste.
Arrange the medallions on top of the sauté and top with 2 large tomatoes cut into half moons. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Serve with boiled potatoes and rice.
11. Peta egg omelette
The department of Beni is in the center-north of Bolivia and borders Brazil. It is the second Bolivian federal entity in extension after Santa Cruz and has abundant watercourses and lagoons where many species live, including the peta turtle.
These turtles are characterized by the fact that the females are much larger than the males. When they spawn they lay between 20 and 35 eggs that are collected by the Benians to prepare a tasty tortilla, which is one of the typical dishes of Bolivia.
Beat 6 peta eggs well in a bowl and add a tablespoon of wheat flour, one of sugar, a chopped onion, a tablespoon of salt, half a teaspoon of pepper and half a teaspoon of cumin.
Integrate the ingredients, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over low heat in a pan, add the egg mixture and brown the tortilla on both sides.
Ranga is a Bolivian dish prepared with beef belly, typical of the departments of Tarija and Cochabamba.
A recipe with a kilo of belly has yellow peppers (depending on how spicy you want the dish), pepper, cumin, garlic, salt to taste, oil and 8 boiled potatoes.
Wash the belly well, removing fat and residue. Put water in the pressure cooker and cook it for 35 minutes, taking care not to overdo it to prevent it from hardening. Once cooked and rested a bit, separate a cup of broth and cut the belly into thin strips.
Grind the yellow pepper without seeds together with the garlic, cumin and pepper in the batán. Place the ground mixture in a saucepan with hot oil and stir until the chili separates. Add the belly and mix. Add the reserved broth and salt to taste and cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Accompany with boiled potatoes.
One of the most representative dishes of Tarijeña gastronomy is peas, a dish so local that you will hardly find it in other Bolivian regions. One of its secrets is that the peas used are very green.
For 3 kilos of peas, a chopped onion or a plate of green onions, half a kilo of potatoes, 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley, 3 eggs, 120 grams of grated cheese, water, oil and salt and pepper to taste are required.
Shell the peas, cook them in a saucepan with water, drain and reserve. Peel the potatoes, cut them into thin strips and fry them in a pan. Apart, fry the onion with salt and pepper to taste and add the peas and eggs. Mix and add the fries, cheese and parsley. Stir and serve hot.
14. Marbled cake
One of the most popular typical Bolivian desserts is the chocolate cake. You need 225 grams of butter, the same number of grams of white sugar and flour, 4 eggs, ½ teaspoon of baking powder, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of vanilla essence and 100 grams of bitter chocolate.
Beat the butter with the sugar in a bowl until it forms a creamy mixture. Add the eggs one by one and the flour, salt and baking powder. Finally, add the vanilla and mix the ingredients until they are well integrated.
Melt the chocolate in a water bath and mix it with half of the dough. Place the dough without chocolate in a mold covered with butter and flour and add the chocolate dough. Marble the cake with a toothpick and bake it at 180 ° C for 45 minutes.
15. Piranha soup
Another species that lives in Bolivian rivers, including those in the department of Beni, is the piranha, a fish prepared and eaten in various recipes, one of them, a soup.
For a good soup with 5 medium clean piranhas you will need 2 carrots, a stalk of celery, 3 tomatoes, 3 bay leaves, some peppercorns, 4 cloves of garlic, an onion, 2 bell peppers, 2 cans of tomato sauce small and salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the piranhas in a pressure cooker together with the carrot, celery, tomato, bay leaf and peppercorns. Separately, sauté the garlic, onion, pepper and canned tomato. Grind the bone-in piranhas in the meat grinder along with the vegetables and the stew. Strain several times, season with salt and pepper, heat for a few minutes and serve.
Los Yungas is a Bolivian ecoregion that encompasses territories of the departments of La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba.
One of the traditional dishes of Los Yungas is huarjata, prepared with a boiled pig’s head and bathed in a sauce of fried onion, yellow pepper, garlic, oregano, cumin, pepper and salt.
It is accompanied with boiled potatoes, rice and chuño (dehydrated potato in the old indigenous way).
In Los Yungas there is nothing more traditional to drink before eating huarjata than a yungueñito, one of the typical Bolivian drinks.
It is prepared by mixing a measure of singani, grape brandy which is the national drink, plus the juice of 3 oranges, a measure of sugar and frappe ice.
Jolke is a soupy dish based on beef or lamb kidney. You need 2 beef kidneys, 2 onions, a tomato, a tablespoon of ground red pepper, a teaspoon of oregano, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 6 peeled and cooked potatoes, water, oil, pepper, cumin and salt to taste.
The night before, clean, wash and chop the kidneys and let them rest in a container with water and enough salt. The next day, rinse and drain them. Heat oil in a saucepan and fry the finely chopped onion, chopped tomato and garlic, seasoning with the spices and salt.
Add the chili, a glass of boiling water to the saucepan and let it cook until it thickens. Add the kidneys, 2 glasses of boiling water and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Mash 2 cooked potatoes with a fork and stir in to thicken kidney broth. Add the other 4 quartered potatoes and the oregano and let stand 5 minutes before serving.
18. Orureña-style llama rice
Another traditional dish from Oruro is the llama rice, prepared with charque de llama.
For ½ kilo of charque, one cup of peas, another of broad beans and one of carrot, a red pepper, 2 onions, 2 cups of rice, butter, oil, water and salt and pepper to taste are required.
Put the charque in the pressure cooker, cook for 40 minutes at maximum heat and shred it in a batán or on a kitchen board.
Crumble the charque with your fingers and fry it in a mixture of butter and oil until crisp.
In a saucepan, sauté the pepper, the onions, the peas, the broad beans and the carrot; add the rice, the charque and 5 cups of boiling water, salt and pepper to taste and cook until the cereal is loose.
This dish is eaten during the “llamerada”, a traditional Bolivian dance in the Lake Titicaca region.
19. Breaded silverside
The Poopó, located in the Altiplano in the Bolivian Puna, is the largest lake in Bolivia among those located entirely in the republican territory, since the Titicaca is shared with Peru.
In 2015 its waters practically evaporated due to the drought, although they recovered with the subsequent rains.
With the calamity, the varied fish fauna of the lake became extinct, but with the recovery, some species spread, especially pejerrey, and a ban was decreed that ended in 2019 when the humble fishermen were able to fish again.
In the recipe, cleaned and washed fish is coated with a mixture of wheat flour, beaten egg, pepper, salt and fried. A sautéed onion, tomato, garlic and chili is prepared and put on the fish, eaten with boiled or fried potatoes.
More than a dish, it is a method of cooking since the food is cooked or heated with smoking stones before serving. The name comes from the Aymara phrase “qala phurk’a”, which means “stew or dish prepared with burning stones”.
The cooking is of pre-Hispanic origin and typical of indigenous peoples of Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.
In Bolivia it represents a traditional recipe from the Potosí area and is a lawa (Andean indigenous soup) prepared with charque or beef, chili, potatoes and corn flour.
The dish is served and a burning stone is placed in the center that gives the soup a unique roasted flavor.
In Chile it is prepared with beef, lamb and llama and is considered a restorative dish after the traditional festivals.
This rich typical La Paz dish of grilled beef heart is eaten at night and with your hands. It is one of the warm and cheap meals on the cold nights of the Chacra de Oro, at more than 3600 meters above sea level.
For a heart of beef, you need 6 cooked potatoes, a clove of garlic, a teaspoon of ground yellow pepper, a teaspoon of achiote, ¼ teaspoon of cumin, a cup of vinegar, a cup of water, a little oil and salt. to taste.
The day before, cut the heart into not very thick pieces and place them in a deep bowl with salt and vinegar. The next day, she drains the fillets and sets them aside.
In a little oil, prepare a sauce by frying the garlic with the chili, the cumin, the dye and the cup of water. Assemble the grill and bring the container with the sauce closer to keep it warm. Prepare wooden skewers with 5 heart pieces and 2 half potatoes, putting them on the grill. When serving, brush the skewers with the sauce.
22. Chorizos from Oruro
One of the best occasions to enjoy the typical foods and dances of Bolivia is the Oruro Carnival, the most important festive and cultural event in the country, declared Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
During the Oruro Carnival, tens of thousands of sausages are eaten, especially in the Plaza de La Ranchería.
The traditional sausages are ground meat, spices and other condiments, served with rolls and mote. Almost all tourists who visit Oruro stop by La Ranchería to enjoy the local delicacy.
23. Chicken Chhanqa
Chhanqa is a Quechua dish prepared with chicken, broad beans and potatoes. Better known as chanka, it is popular in Cochabamba and there is also a rabbit version.
Experts affirm that the best hen is the Creole that lives in family backyards and has already laid eggs.
For a chicken in pieces, you need half a tablespoon of black pepper, 2 celery sticks, 2 peeled carrots chopped into pieces, 2 whole cloves of garlic, a stem of green onion, a cup of tender and peeled broad beans, 6 large peeled potatoes , water and salt to taste.
Soften the chicken in a pressure cooker with water and reserve the meat and broth. In a large pot, heat 3 cups of water and add the chicken pieces, pepper, garlic, carrot, celery, green onion and salt. After 25 minutes of cooking, add the peeled potatoes and cook until they and the chicken are ready.
In a small saucepan, cook the beans in broth until tender. Serve a potato on each plate and add pieces of chicken, completing with hot broth and broad beans. Accompany with rice.
24. Carachi broth
The carachi is an endemic fish of Lake Titicaca used by the peoples who live on the shores for various recipes, including a succulent broth called wallake.
You need 9 clean carachis, a sprig of q’oa (sage), a teaspoon of cumin, 9 peeled potatoes, 2 finely chopped onions, 2 crushed cloves of garlic, half a kilo of soaked chuño, 2 tablespoons of ground yellow pepper, oil , water and salt to taste.
Heat a little oil in a saucepan and fry the onion, garlic and chili for 5 minutes, along with the cumin, stirring constantly. Add 2 liters of boiled water, the sprig of sage, salt to taste and cook for 15 minutes. Add the carachis and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes without letting the fish fall apart. Cook the potato and chuño, distribute them on the plates, add fish and finally, broth.
The majadito is one of the typical Bolivian dishes preferred by the people of Cruceños and Benians. It is normally prepared with charque or duck.
A majadito with half a kilo of jerky has 6 cups of jerky broth (reserved from cooking the dehydrated meat), a kilo of rice for grating, an onion and half a grated bell pepper, 2 minced garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons of oil of urucú (achiote) and cumin to taste.
Bring to a boil, mash and crumble the charque, reserving 6 cups of broth. Cook the rice with the achiote oil and when it begins to brown, add the onion, the bell pepper, the garlic and the jerky.
When the rice is well toasted, add the charque broth and a pinch of cumin and cook over low heat until the liquid dries up.
Serve accompanied by fried eggs, fried plantain slices, cooked cassava and a salad of tomato slices and feathered onions.
It is the national drink of Bolivia, a brandy made from Muscat of Alexandria grapes, also used to make Spanish fortified Muscat wines.
The singani is used to make the most popular Bolivian cocktails such as the yungueñito (mixed with orange juice) and the chuflay (with ginger ale).
There are several types of singani. The high altitude or great singani is made with grapes harvested above 1600 meters above sea level, in the areas of denomination of origin.
The first selection singani comes from the alcoholic fermentation of grape wine and the second selection is made from unpressed pomace.
Its elaboration began in Bolivia when the Spanish began the exploitation of silver in the famous hill of Potosí and the main current region with denomination of origin is the central valley of Tarija.
Other producing regions are in the departments of Chuquisaca, La Paz and Potosí.
27. Paw Jelly
It is a traditional Bolivian candy recipe whose main ingredient is beef leg, part of the cow rich in collagen.
It is a creamy-white product with a very smooth texture, which is obtained in Bolivian cities and is handcrafted by local confectioners.
Gelatin is consumed in snacks and desserts with strawberries, peaches and other fruits as accompaniments.
If you dare to do it, buy a minced beef leg. You will also need a cup of sugar, 3 cinnamon sticks, 4 cloves, an orange peel and water.
Wash the leg and leave it boiling for 3 hours, covering it with enough water, taking care that it does not dry out. Once cold, separate the superficial fat and strain.
Put the strained broth in a pot and increase with a little boiled water. Add the cloves, cinnamon and orange peel and boil for 25 minutes. Add the sugar and cook a few more minutes. Remove the rest of the ingredients, pour into molds and let cool.
28. Charque jigote
Charque is a versatile ingredient in Bolivian cuisine and this typical recipe from Santa Cruz de la Sierra is excellent for lunch or dinner.
It is a savory dish with a delicious sweet touch provided by the raisins.
For half a kilo of charque you need 3 ripe bananas, ¼ kilo of potato, 3 crushed garlic cloves, a grated onion, half a grated bell pepper, a cup of raisins, 3 hard-boiled eggs, water and a splash of oil with achiote (urucu).
Heat 4 liters of water, wash the charque, boil it and drain it, reserving a cup of broth. After resting, crumble it and chop the potatoes and bananas into cubes, boiling them separately. Put the splash of oil with achiote in a pot, brown the garlic, onion and bell pepper and when the preparation is golden, add the jerky, plantains, potatoes, chopped eggs and raisins. Add the cup of broth and let it boil for a few minutes.
It is a typical drink from the valleys and highlands of Bolivia made with willkaparu maize porridge, a Bolivian variety with a high content of calcium and other nutrients.
The grain is coarsely ground on a batán (grinding stone) and cooked for several hours, served hot.
Tojorí with milk has been incorporated into Bolivian school feeding programs due to the excellent nutritional properties of the combination.
It is a drink to accompany the popular fritters and puffed cheesecakes and is often mixed with purple api. In the tropical zones of the country it is usually drunk cold and combined with milk.
30. Bush meat
The Bolivian aborigines are excellent hunters and enjoy a wide variety of dishes with the animals they capture in savannahs, jungles and mountains. Some of the favorite species are the jochi pintao, the taitetú, the urina and the deer.
The Bolivians’ jochi pintao is the same rodent called tepezcuintle, lapa and common paca, in other Latin American countries. In Bolivia it is eaten roasted and baked, seasoned with ground garlic, vinegar, pepper, salt, tomato and onion, accompanied with rice and fried yucca.
The taitetú (collared peccary, mountain pig, chacharo, báquiro) is the basis for preparing rich and exotic pork rinds.
Due to the high demand for meat, it is raised on farms in the middle of the jungle. The urina (brown corzuela) is a highly appreciated deer in eastern Bolivia for its exquisite meat.
What is the typical Bolivian dish?
There are several, but if you had to choose one it could be silpancho, a dish from Cochabamba that has become popular throughout Bolivia and that Bolivians living abroad prepare to remember their homeland.
It is a large milanesa breaded with beef or llama meat, covered with 2 fried eggs. Common side dishes are white rice, boiled potatoes, and carrot and beet salad.
What dishes are there in La Paz?
The gastronomy of La Paz includes foods such as the La Paz dish that is normally eaten between February and April, when its main ingredients are harvested: corn, potatoes and beans.
Picana, a dish with various meats (lamb, beef, chicken) and tubers, is typical of Christmas in La Paz. The false rabbit is prepared with beef.
What to eat in Bolivia
It depends on where you are. In the department of Santa Cruz, rice with cheese is typical, which is usually prepared to accompany roasts.
Peanut soup is traditional in Cochabamba, as well as silpancho and pique macho.
In the department of Beni you should not miss trying the omelette with peta egg, a kind of turtle.
In Oruro, one of the most famous dishes is the mayor, made from various cuts and viscera of beef, lamb, pork and chicken.
Typical Bolivian dishes: additional information
Departments and their typical dishes:
Bolivia has 9 departments, each one with delicious dishes, among which the following stand out:
1. Department of La Paz: La Paz dish, false rabbit, picana, anticucho, chola sandwich.
2. Department of Santa Cruz: rice with cheese, mojadito, charque jigote, locro,pataca.
3. Department of Cochabamba: silpancho, Chhanqa de gallina, pique macho, peanut soup.
4. Department of Oruro: the mayor, sausages, llama rice, charquekan, thimpu.
5. Department of Beni: piranha soup, fried pacu, peta egg omelette, majadito.
6. Department of Potosí: calapurca, chambergos, lamb and peanut casserole, pataskha chili.
7. Department of Chuquisaca: Tripe, spicy fritanga, Chuquisaca sausages.
8. Department of Pando: rice bread, rice empanada, surubí sweat, farofa.
9. Department of Tarija: rosquetes, peas, ranga, saice chapaco.
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