The most important tip I can give you on Uruguay  local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting Uruguay, there is awesome local food to try. Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.

What to Eat in Uruguay

Uruguay Food photo

Photo by morrissey

Prices: Uruguayan cuisine is typical for temperate countries, high on butter, fat, and grains, low on spice. It is primarily Spanish with a very strong Italian influence (pizza and pasta) due to Uruguay’s long history of Italian immigration. If you are from the Merranean, you will find it bland, but if you come from the Northern Europe, Russia or the US, you won’t have trouble getting used to it. Breakfast for 4 people can cost as little as $58 pesos (US$3) in a supermarket 1 box (1 litro) of Tropical Fruit Juice – $35 pesos 2 packages (5 ounce each) of coconut biscuits – $28 pesos There are many public markets where you can get a hundred varieties of meat.

Vegetarians can order ravioli just about anywhere. Empanadas (hand-sized meat or cheese pies) make an excellent portable, inexpensive, and delicious snack or lunch. You can find them easily at many corner bakeries. At bars the local specialty is gramajo, a dish made of fried potatoes, eggs, and ham. If you ask they can make it without the ham. Uruguay has traditionally been a ranching country, with cattle outnumbering people more than two-to-one, and therefore features excellent (and affordable) steaks.

One dish that should not be missed is chivito, a heart-attack-on-a-platter sandwich (some guidebooks call it a “cholesterol bomb”) that is made of a combination of skirt steak (not goat as Argentines often mistake it for), tomato, lettuce, onion, eggs (hard-boiled and then sliced), ham, bacon, mozzarella cheese and mayonnaise and fries. “Asado” is a typical Uruguay dish, almost all the Uruguayans know how to make it (try it at the “del Puerto” market, in Montevideo). Uruguay, with its long shoreline, also enjoys an excellent variety of seafood and fish. The flavor of the most commonly offered fish, brotola, may be familiar to people from North America, where it is called hake. For desserts, dulce de leche, a kind of caramel, is found in all manner of confections, from ice cream to alfajores (dulce de leche-filled cookie sandwiches), or Ricardito, a famous uruguayan dessert (available in all supermarkets).

What to Drink in Uruguay

Yerba Mate is widely drunk on the streets, but can hardly be ordered in restaurants. You may have to buy a package at a super mercado and make your own. The drinking gourds are widely available and range from economical to super-luxe silver and horn. Yerba Mate is a social drink. If you are with a group of Uruguayans they will probably not offer you any because they assume that foreigners do not like the bitter taste. If you try some it will make everybody happy. Uruguay is also acquiring a reputation for its fine wines, especially those made from the Tannat grape.

Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend? Please add and comment.