National Dishes and Street Foods in Bolivia

Food Facts

Tastes: Dry and spicy with plenty of carbohydrates and rough quality meats
Top Dishes: Tucanos & Saltenas – meaty spicy wraps or Lomo Montado – steak with egg, rice and banana
Serving Suggestion: Delicious macaroni stew with a family and a street cafe


The national food in Bolivia is both tasty and interesting. Of course, for those who would rather stick to the familiar, there is an abundance of Chinese and deep fried chicken restaurants, but it is well worth sampling and enjoying the diversity of Bolivian food.

You will find that at higher altitude the food is spicier and lunch is the main meal; in the lowlands however, the food is drier, less spicy and is filled out with plantain and boiled maize.

A popular drink is ‘chicha‘, made from fermented maize. Although this can be non-alcoholic it is usually drunk in the form of a strongly brewed beer. Chicha is common in Bolivia; sometimes , in more rural areas, its presence is established by the white flags which hang outside chicha-selling outlets.

Street Food

In the markets it is not unusual to see large pails of escabeche and quails’ eggs being sold as snacks and accompaniments very cheaply. Escabeche is typical of a certain style of Latino cooking where the vegetables are pickled in vinegar, and eaten as a side dish.

There is an abundance of fresh and dried vegetables and fruit, notably the unusually large avocados, perfect for those wanting to stay healthy. The meat comes in such dishes as Lomo Montado, a fried tenderloin steak with 2 fried eggs, rice and fried banana; however more often than not it comes concealed within a stew or thick sauce – taking away any sense of what you are eating. For those who are not serious meat eaters at the best of times, you may find yourself becoming vegetarian while here!

The street food here is a cultural as well as food experience. There are no guarantees on hygiene, so this may not appeal to the more cautious but many travellers do eat this food and find it highly enjoyable. On street corner stalls you will find tucanos and saltenas being sold at an incredible rate; both of these are extremely popular Bolivian variations on the empanada and consist of a mixture of diced meats, chives, raisins, potatoes, hot sauce and pepper baked in dough.

To really get involved in the Bolivian culture and to eat a hearty and comforting meal visit the makeshift street cafes found in many town squares. Amid their mass of petticoats, the Bolivian women sit and cook macaroni stews with potatoes and rich juices or even a sample of fried guinea pig! Surrounded by steaming pots, ladling the stew into tin bowls, the women invite you to sit on wobbly dining benches and eat your lunch while conversing with the locals as they take their well earned lunch break.



Bolivia Web: Recipes Gallery
Fab recipes for saltenas and escabeche

Saltena in Washington
A bizarre article about the saltena and its popularity in Washington- the Bolivian community away.


By Georgia Levison