The Top 10 Foods to Try in Paraguay

Traditional Paraguayan food descends from a fusion of Guaraní and Spanish recipes. Beef, casava, cheese, and corn figure predominantly in many dishes, and plates high in calories and nutrients developed during and after the Paraguayan War still comprise much of the modern diet. Stews and soups like bife koygua, bori-bori, and pira caldo are entrées rather than sides, while chipa, sopa paraguaya, and pastel mandi’ó make for simple, lightly-filling street food. Try local sweets like dulce de mamón or veggie classics like kivevé. Should you need to cleanse your palate or want respite from the heat, juicy tereré can be found throughout the country.

01 of 10

Chipa

Traditional food. Paraguayan food. Paraguayan Chipa. Close up of cheese chipas
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Chipa, the favorite snack of Paraguay, is a chewy bread made from cassava flour. Crunchy on the outside, soft and cheesy on the inside, it’s usually prepared in a ball or circle shape. Flavored with anise and cooked with lard, chipa has a nearly sweet flavor. Originally a food of South America’s Indigenous Guaraní people, Jesuit missionaries played a role in the current recipe’s development when they introduced dairy to the Guaraní. It's sold from baskets by the roadside or from inside buses. For something different, head to the farmers market for chipa asador, a grilled, cheesier version of the bread.

02 of 10

Sopa Paraguaya

Paraguayan dish called sopa paraguaya at a street food market
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Though its name literally translates to “Paraguayan soup,” this dish is not soup. Full of cheese and onions, it's a cross between a cheese soufflé and cornbread, typically paired with actual soup. It’s the official national dish, served to ambassadors visiting the country, as well as hungry backpackers on long-distance bus rides. One account claims that sopa paraguaya came to be when the chef of Paraguayan President Don Carlos Antonio López poured too much cornmeal in her soup mix, then decided to bake the concoction and serve it anyway. The president, enamored with the creation, began giving it to visiting dignitaries. If not invited to the Presidential Palace, you can easily try it at the local restaurant Bolsi in Asunción.

03 of 10

Kivevé

soup-puree of pumpkin in the plate - Quibebe.
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If you hear the word “kivevé” in Paraguay, the speaker’s either talking about a light red squash soup made with slightly acidic Paraguayan cheese, or referring to a redhead. Made from andaí squash, onion, salt, sugar, corn flour, and cream, the dish is high in calories with a semi-sweet taste. Also known as quibebé, try it as a vegetarian main, asado (barbecue) side, or dessert in many traditional restaurants throughout the country. One of several Spanish-Guaraní fusion dishes popularized during the Paraguayan War, it helped to feed the country when food was scarce and the demand for calorie-dense and protein-rich foods was high.

04 of 10

Mbejú

Mbeju - Tapioca - Latin American Food
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Made from tapioca flour or starch, this pancake crops up in Guaraní mythology and is one of the most ancient Paraguayan foods. A gluten-free snack, it was one of the first foods the Guaraní shared with the Spanish colonizers when they arrived. Consisting of salt, water, eggs, milk, shredded cheese, and sometimes pork fat, it’s served for breakfast with coffee, milk, or mate cocido (a highly caffeinated tea). Especially popular in winter months and during the festival of San Juan, it’s dry on the outside and slightly sticky, lightly cheesy on the inside. Order one at Café de Acá or at La Herencia, both located in Asunción.

Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

Pira Caldo

Traditional fish soup
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Another dish born during the Paraguayan War era, pira caldo is a high-calorie fish soup made with varieties of catfish like mandi’y, tare’y, or meaty surubí. To prepare it, vegetables such as bell peppers, onions, carrots, celery, or leeks get fried in beef or pork fat, after which water and catfish get added along with spices to round out the entrée. Usually garnished with chili peppers and parsley, different variations also contain milk or Paraguayan cheese to thicken it and make it even more filling. Have a bowl in Asunción’s Mercado Cuatro at stall number 33, where Anthony Bourdain dined and Paraguayan food historian Graciela Martínez takes visiting food critics.

06 of 10

Bori-Bori

Bori Bori

Courtesy of Restaurante Bar San Roque Facebook

A thick chicken soup full of cheesy cornballs and served in the winter months, bori-bori’s broth swirls saffron, carrots, celery, and onions with cloves and bay leaves for a flavor profile both sweet and savory. Said to stave off sickness, it developed from the mix of cultures between the Spanish and the Guaraní (the word "bori" comes from a Guaraní translation of the Spanish word "bolita" [little ball], referring to the soup’s mini dumplings). Sometimes spelled "vorí vorí," it can also be prepared with beef and is generally served alongside meat. Slurp down a bowl at the traditional Lido Bar in Asunción.

07 of 10

Tereré

Tereré or Tererê, is a South American drink, consumed in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, made with the infusion of yerba mate in cold water. Drink prepared with yerba mate and lemon.
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This chilled, refreshing drink combines mate (a highly caffeinated tea) with herbs like peppermint or lemongrass in a guampa (a cup made from a horn). It can also be made as an infusion drink with lime, lemon, or peach juice. Drunk through a bombilla (filtered metal straw), tereré is enjoyed by every social class and is generally shared in small groups. Hailed for its cooling and medicinal properties, you can find it being drunk most everywhere. To sample it, ask a group you see drinking it if you can taste it, but drink the whole guampa when you do, as just taking a sip is bad form.

08 of 10

Pastel Mandi’ó

Yuca Empanadas

Courtesy of Pakuri Facebook

Essentially empanadas made of cassava and corn flour, this Paraguayan street food comes stuffed with minced beef, boiled eggs, onion, and peppers. A dish passed down by the Guaraní, they are slightly spongier and sweeter than empanadas due to the cassava. Available in bars and fine dining establishments, Paraguayans consume them en mass at the Festival of San Juan during the summer solstice. Buy them on most street corners or dress up and order a plate of them with hot sauce at Pakuri in Asunción.

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Dulce de Mamón

Dulce de Mamon

Courtesy of Bolsi

A syrupy dessert made from papaya, sugar, and water, dulce de mamón generally comes served with a piece of creamy cheese to refresh the palate while consuming it. A recipe of the Guaraní people, it’s prepared by using cut up green or ripe papaya. Simmered for hours, the papaya eventually releases its water before turning an amber color. Some Paraguayans prepare dulce de mamón with cloves, lemon zest or juice, orange peels, or grapefruit to tone down its sometimes overly sweet taste. Order it at the Asuncion restaurant Bolsi for an intensive sugar rush.

10 of 10

Bife Koygua

Bife Koygua

Courtesy of Bar San Miguel

Bife koygua, which means “hidden beef” in Guaraní, refers to the way the beef steaks get covered with tomatoes and onions during the preparation of this hearty stew. The steaks, seasoned with oregano, salt, and pepper, are added to cooked onions with water to create a meaty broth. Once finished, it's topped with a runny egg and fresh parsley. Order a bowl at Bar San Miguel along with a side of cassava and a glass of red wine.

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