Buenos Aires is known for its intensity—and that translates into its food. Here you can order the juiciest steaks, the most highly caffeinated tea, a cornucopia of a salad, and even “super” dulce de leche (God help us). Whether you have a sweet tooth or are an ardent carnivore, the city's diverse food scene will please all palates.
The most famous Argentine snack, appetizer, or meal (depending on how many you’re eating), empanadas are plump bread packets full of meat, vegetables, or cheese. Highly addictive, they wash down perfectly with an ice-cold beer. Popular flavors include beef, chicken, cheese and onion, humita (corn), or chorizo (pork). Empanadas are super versatile, and as the Buenos Aires gastronomy scene becomes more and more culinarily adventurous, new flavors have surfaced like Banco Rojo’s aloo gobi or vegan coconut curry ones. However, for old school flavors and a del barrio (neighborhood) ambiance, check out El Gauchito.
Bife de Chorizo
Argentina is known for beef and its strong asado (barbecue) culture. Bife de Chorizo is the king of meat cuts in Buenos Aires. Better known as “sirloin steak” in English, it arrives massive and juicy on your plate at parillas (the word for both grill and restaurant), with some fat around the edges for a little extra flavor. Order it from the godfather of parillas Don Julio, or try it at the young upstart of the parilla family, La Carniceria.
The great equalizer, everyone in Buenos Aires drinks mate. Loving mate is somehow woven into the DNA of Argentines, and the caffeine high it gives its drinkers is the reason why Buenos Aires is known for late-night nightlife. A loose-leaf tea, mate is generally drunk from a gourd through a metal straw with a filter on one end. People drink it on their own, but most times, it will be passed around in a group. If you don’t know Argentines you can share with, you can buy the gourd, straw, and tea at any supermarket in town. For a smoky, bold-flavored one, drink Cruz de Malta.
Dulce de Leche
Ubiquitous in Argentine desserts, dulce de leche is that gooey caramel-colored jam that tastes like mellow toffee, which overpowers your tastes buds in an avalanche of sugar. Made from slowly heating sweetened milk, dulce de leche can be eaten solo with only a spoon, or made into ice cream, hard candy, baked inside churros, found at the center of alfajores, used as a glue to hold cake layers together—really it’s everywhere and can be used in almost any kind of dessert. For a time-honored brand, buy San Ignacio Dulce de Leche in supermarkets throughout the city.
25 Vegetable Salad
The cuisine of Buenos Aires can be meat-centric, but in recent years it’s veered more and more into vegetarian terrain, with lots of creative offerings popping up in the city. This salad, both hot and cold, really has 25 vegetables in it. Raw baby beetroot leaves and purple lettuce get tossed in with steamed Brussel sprouts, and roasted nori. Babaganoush is smeared on the side and pesto drizzled atop, for a dish that will both confuse and delight your senses. Get it at Jaam in San Telmo.
Other than their meat, Argentines are most proud of their pizza. Usually more bready than other pizzas with a huge slathering of cheese, only a bit of tomato sauce, and a few whole green olives symmetrically placed atop, the best Argentine-style pizza is also the greasiest. Find it served at Güerrin on Avenida Corrientes. For less grease and a leaner pizza, opt for one of the Neopolitan-style ones at San Paolo Pizzeria in Palermo, recently chosen as the Best Pizza in Latin America by Guide 50 Top Pizza.
Essentially a savory pie, tartas have a cream and egg base with vegetables. Typical flavors include squash, cheesy broccoli, and zucchini. Soft and fluffy inside with a firm crust outside, the two textures combine for a satisfying bite. A belly full of quality tarta makes you feel nourished and perfectly full as if you’ve just eaten in your grandma’s kitchen. For traditional ones with a little extra flair, like artisanal ricotta and whole wheat sourdough crusts, head to Obrador.
An influx of gelato homesick Italian immigrants started developing the ice cream scene in Buenos Aires in the 19th century. Today, Buenos Aires is regarded as a bastion of creamy goodness and National Geographic even named Cadore one of the top 10 ice cream parlors in the world. To order quintessential Argentine flavors ask for dulce de leche, sabayon (a mix of alcohol and eggs), chocolate Suiza or Amargo (Swiss or dark chocolate), and frutos del bosque (berries and cream).
Choripan is to Buenos Aires what hot dogs are to New York. Choripan, loving called “chori” by most portenos (those born and raised in Buenos Aires) is an Argentine chorizo sausage stuffed into a bun, generally served with chimichurri sauce on the side or heaped on top for a garlic and parsley kick. If you go to an asado, this will be on the grill, and if you see a soccer game, this will be the crowd’s food of choice. These are everywhere, but for gourmet ones with vegetarian options as well, head to Chori in Palermo.
These are not croissants. They are their own thing. Usually enjoyed with café con leche (coffee with milk), Argentines eat these for breakfast or during tea time, generally while slowly drinking their coffee and reading the paper. Medialunas can be made two ways: with butter or lard. The buttery ones yield super soft and flaky bites, while the lard ones come out thinner and crunchy. For some of the city’s finest made with a sourdough-base, make your way to Salvaje Bakery.