Have you ever wondered what South American people eat for lunch? South America is known for its rich and diverse culinary traditions, and lunchtime is no exception. The region offers a wide variety of delicious and nourishing dishes that reflect its cultural heritage and natural resources. From hearty stews and grilled meats to vibrant salads and seafood delicacies, South American lunches are as diverse as the countries themselves. So, let’s embark on a culinary journey and explore the mouthwatering lunchtime favorites of South America.

What Do South American People Eat For Lunch?

Table of Contents

Traditional South American Lunch Dishes

South America is a continent filled with diverse cultures and cuisines, and its lunch dishes showcase the unique flavors and culinary traditions of each country. From hearty stews to delicious street food, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Let’s explore some of the traditional lunch dishes you can find in South America.

Brazilian Feijoada

Feijoada is perhaps one of the most famous Brazilian dishes, often considered the national dish of Brazil. This hearty black bean stew is made with a variety of meats such as pork, beef, and sausage, cooked slowly to develop rich flavors. Served with rice, collard greens, and farofa (toasted cassava flour), feijoada provides a satisfying and flavorful meal.

Peruvian Ceviche

Ceviche is a refreshing and zesty dish that originates from Peru but is beloved across South America. It consists of raw fish or seafood, typically marinated in lime or lemon juice, which “cooks” the fish through acid rather than heat. The ceviche is then seasoned with onions, cilantro, and chili peppers for a burst of flavor. It is often served with crispy corn kernels or sweet potatoes.

Argentinian Asado

Asado, or Argentine barbecue, is a culinary tradition deeply ingrained in Argentine culture. This outdoor cooking method involves slowly grilling various cuts of beef, including ribs, steaks, and sausages, over an open flame. The result is tender and succulent meat with a smoky flavor. Asado is often enjoyed with chimichurri sauce, grilled vegetables, and, of course, a glass of Argentine Malbec.

Colombian Bandeja Paisa

Bandeja Paisa is a substantial and satisfying dish that represents the rich and diverse cuisine of Colombia. This platter consists of several components: beans, rice, ground beef, chicharrón (crispy pork rinds), plantains, avocado, arepas, and a fried egg on top. It’s a true feast of flavors and textures, showcasing the country’s culinary heritage.

Ecuadorian Cuy

Cuy, or guinea pig, may be an unusual protein for some, but it holds a special place in Ecuadorian cuisine. Guinea pig is traditionally roasted or fried until crispy and served whole, often with potatoes and llapingachos (cheese-stuffed potato patties). Cuy has a unique flavor and is cherished as a delicacy in Ecuador.

Bolivian Salteñas

Salteñas are the Bolivian take on empanadas, but with a slight twist. These savory pastries are usually filled with a mixture of meat, potatoes, peas, and spices, which give them a distinct flavor. Salteñas are typically baked until golden and are enjoyed as a quick and delicious lunch snack or on-the-go meal.

Chilean Empanadas

Empanadas are popular throughout South America, and Chilean empanadas have their own distinctive flair. These hand-sized pastries are filled with a variety of ingredients, including meat, cheese, onions, and olives. The Chilean version often features a mixture of ground beef, onions, and raisins, providing a perfect balance of savory and sweet flavors.

Venezuelan Arepas

Arepas are a staple in Venezuelan cuisine and have gained popularity worldwide. These cornmeal patties are filled with a range of ingredients, such as shredded meat, cheese, beans, or avocado. Arepas can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and they are an integral part of Venezuelan culture and culinary tradition.

Uruguayan Chivito

The chivito is a classic Uruguayan sandwich that is sure to satisfy any hungry appetite. It typically consists of thinly sliced grilled beef, bacon, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, all packed between two slices of bread. With its layers of flavors and textures, the chivito exemplifies the cross-cultural influences in Uruguayan cuisine.

Paraguayan Chipa Guasú

Chipa Guasú is a traditional Paraguayan cornbread casserole that is both comforting and delicious. It is made with cornmeal, eggs, cheese, milk, and sometimes onions. Baked until golden and crispy on the edges, this dish is often served as a side dish or a main course, complementing any South American meal.

Typical Ingredients Used in South American Lunches

South American cuisine is characterized by the vibrant and diverse flavors of its local ingredients. From the abundance of meats to the staple crops, here are some typical ingredients you’ll often find in South American lunches.


Meat is a prominent feature in South American cuisine, with beef being particularly popular. From succulent steaks to juicy sausages, meat takes center stage in dishes like asado, feijoada, and bandeja paisa. Other meats such as chicken, pork, and lamb are also commonly used in a variety of recipes.


Rice is a staple in many South American countries and accompanies numerous lunch dishes. It is often served as a side dish or as a base for stews, such as the Peruvian arroz con pollo or the Colombian sancocho. Rice provides a neutral and filling element to many South American meals.


Beans, particularly black beans, are a fundamental ingredient in South American cuisine. They are a key component of dishes like feijoada and bandeja paisa, adding a rich and hearty flavor. Beans are a great source of protein and are often cooked with spices, meat, and vegetables to create delicious and nutritious meals.


Potatoes have been a significant part of South American cuisine for centuries, and the continent is home to a wide variety of potato cultivars. They are used in countless dishes, such as Ecuadorian locro de papas and Bolivian salteñas. Potatoes can be boiled, mashed, roasted, or fried, showcasing their versatility.


Corn, or maize, is a staple crop in South America, providing both sustenance and flavor. It can be used in various forms, such as ground cornmeal for arepas and tamales, or boiled and served as a side dish. Corn is also a primary ingredient in iconic dishes like Ecuadorian cuy and Peruvian ceviche.


Plantains are a type of banana that are often cooked before being consumed. They can be boiled, fried, or baked, depending on the dish. Plantains are a common side dish and are frequently served alongside meat, such as Colombian bandeja paisa. They add a distinct sweetness and texture to South American meals.


Quinoa has gained popularity worldwide for its nutritional value, but it has been a part of South American cuisine for thousands of years. This ancient grain is highly versatile and can be used in salads, stews, or even as a stuffing for vegetables. Quinoa adds a nutty flavor and texture to dishes, making it an excellent addition to many South American lunch options.


Cheese plays a significant role in South American cuisine, adding richness and flavor to many dishes. From the creamy cheese-filled arepas of Venezuela to the gooey provoleta of Argentina, cheese is a common ingredient that brings indulgence to South American lunches.


South America’s diverse coastline makes seafood a prominent feature in many coastal cuisines. Ceviche, a popular dish across the continent, showcases the freshness and delicate flavors of fish and shellfish. From shrimp to octopus, seafood is utilized in various regional specialties, highlighting the bounty of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are essential in South American cuisine, adding depth and complexity to dishes. Ingredients such as garlic, onions, cilantro, cumin, and chili peppers are commonly used. They infuse South American lunches with distinct flavors and aromas that vary from region to region.

Regional Variations in South American Lunches

South America is a vast continent with diverse landscapes and climates, and its culinary traditions reflect this rich tapestry of cultures and influences. While there are overarching similarities in South American cuisine, regional variations result in unique and distinct lunch dishes. Let’s explore some of the key regional variations in South American lunches.

Andean Cuisine

The Andean region, which includes countries like Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and parts of Colombia, is renowned for its indigenous culinary heritage. The high altitude and mountainous landscapes have shaped the region’s cuisine, with ingredients like quinoa, potatoes, and corn being staples. Dishes like Peruvian ceviche, Bolivian salteñas, and Ecuadorian cuy are representative of the Andean culinary tradition.

Amazonian Cuisine

The Amazon rainforest spans across several South American countries, including Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. The region’s cuisine draws heavily from its rich biodiversity, utilizing ingredients like fish, exotic fruits, and medicinal herbs. Dishes like Brazilian feijoada and fish-based stews highlight the influence of the Amazon rainforest on South American cuisine.

Southern Cone Cuisine

The Southern Cone refers to the countries at the southernmost tip of South America, including Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. These countries have a significant European influence, particularly from Italy and Spain. Lunch dishes in the Southern Cone often center around grilled meats, such as Argentine asado and Uruguayan chivito. Empanadas and hearty stews are also prevalent in this region.

Caribbean Cuisine

The Caribbean region, which includes countries like Venezuela, Colombia (Caribbean coast), and the Guianas, has a vibrant and tropical culinary tradition. Lunch dishes in the Caribbean often feature seafood, plantains, and spicy flavors. Venezuelan arepas and Colombian empanadas are examples of the rich and diverse Caribbean cuisine.

Pacific Coast Cuisine

The countries along the Pacific coast of South America, such as Peru, Ecuador, and Chile, have a maritime influence on their cuisine. Seafood, particularly ceviche, plays a prominent role in lunch dishes along the coast. Peruvian ceviche, Ecuadorian encebollado (fish soup), and Chilean empanadas de mariscos (seafood empanadas) are a few examples of the delicious and fresh Pacific coast cuisine.

Influences on South American Lunches

South American cuisine has been shaped by various influences over the centuries. From indigenous traditions to the arrival of European colonizers, the African slave trade, and even the migration of Asian communities, these diverse influences have left an indelible mark on the lunch dishes enjoyed across the continent.

Indigenous Influence

Indigenous cultures have profoundly influenced South American cuisine, both in terms of ingredients and cooking techniques. Staples like corn, potatoes, quinoa, and beans are native to the region and continue to be integral to many South American lunches. Indigenous cooking methods such as the use of clay pots and traditional preparations, like the Andean dish cuy, showcase the deep-rooted culinary practices of indigenous communities.

European Influence

European colonization brought new ingredients and culinary techniques to South America. Spanish and Portuguese influences are particularly evident in countries like Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia. The introduction of beef cattle and the tradition of grilling meats influenced dishes like the Argentine asado, while Portuguese exploration and trade led to the introduction of ingredients like rice and wheat flour, which are commonly used in South American cooking today.

African Influence

The transatlantic slave trade brought millions of Africans to South America, primarily to work on sugar and coffee plantations. African culinary traditions and ingredients became intertwined with South American cuisine, particularly in countries like Brazil and Colombia. Dishes like feijoada in Brazil and sancocho in Colombia showcase African contributions to South American lunch culture.

Asian Influence

Asian migration, particularly from countries like China and Japan, has had a profound impact on South American cuisine. Chinese immigrants brought their culinary traditions, resulting in the fusion cuisine known as chifa in countries like Peru and Ecuador. Japanese immigrants introduced sushi and other Japanese dishes to countries like Brazil, where they have become an integral part of the South American culinary landscape.

Colonial Influence

The arrival of European colonizers and their subsequent dominance in South America left a lasting impact on the continent’s cuisine. The fusion of European ingredients and cooking techniques with indigenous traditions created unique dishes and flavor profiles. For example, the Spanish brought ingredients like olive oil and garlic, which are now fundamental in many South American dishes.

What Do South American People Eat For Lunch?

Brazilian Lunch Culture

Brazilian cuisine is a vibrant fusion of indigenous, European, African, and Asian influences, resulting in a rich and diverse culinary tradition. Brazilians take their lunchtime seriously and enjoy a variety of delicious dishes from different regions of the country. Let’s explore some of the highlights of Brazilian lunch culture.

Feijoada – A Famous Dish

Feijoada is synonymous with Brazilian cuisine, often considered the soul food of the nation. This hearty black bean stew is traditionally made with a variety of meats, including pork, beef, and sausage. Slow-cooked to perfection, feijoada is served with rice, collard greens, and farofa (toasted cassava flour). It’s a dish meant to be savored and enjoyed with friends and family.

Rice and Beans – Staple Food

Rice and beans are the backbone of Brazilian lunch culture, forming the basis of countless meals. This humble combination provides a complete source of protein and is often enjoyed alongside meat, vegetables, and salads. Brazilians take pride in their rice and beans, which are perfectly seasoned and cooked until tender.

Farofa – Popular Side Dish

Farofa is a beloved Brazilian side dish made from toasted cassava flour mixed with various ingredients like butter, onions, bacon, or herbs. It adds a crunchy texture and a flavorful element to meals. Farofa is often sprinkled on top of feijoada or served alongside grilled meats, providing a delicious contrast of textures.

Coxinha – Popular Street Food

Coxinha is a popular street food snack in Brazil that combines crispy and savory elements. It is a deep-fried dough filled with shredded chicken, cream cheese, and spices. Coxinhas are shaped like teardrops or small drumsticks, which gives them their unique name (coxinha means “little thigh” in Portuguese). They are a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

Acarajé – Traditional Snack

Acarajé is a traditional snack that originated in the northeastern region of Brazil. It consists of a deep-fried ball of black-eyed pea dough filled with a mixture of spicy shrimp, vatapá (a rich sauce made from shrimp, coconut milk, and spices), and various toppings. Acarajé is a flavorful and satisfying treat that showcases the African influence on Brazilian cuisine.

Peruvian Lunch Culture

Peruvian cuisine has gained international acclaim for its diverse flavors, innovative techniques, and fusion of culinary traditions. Peruvian lunch culture is a vibrant tapestry of traditional dishes that highlight the country’s rich culinary heritage. Let’s explore some of the highlights of Peruvian lunch culture.

Ceviche – National Dish

Ceviche is the pride and joy of Peruvian cuisine, often considered the national dish. This refreshing and zesty dish showcases the freshest seafood, typically raw fish or shellfish, marinated in lime or lemon juice. The acidity “cooks” the fish, resulting in a delightful texture and flavor. Ceviche is typically seasoned with onions, cilantro, and chili peppers, providing a burst of citrusy and tangy flavors.

Lomo Saltado – Fusion Cuisine

Lomo Saltado is a popular Peruvian dish that exemplifies the fusion of culinary traditions in the country. Influenced by the Chinese diaspora, Lomo Saltado combines stir-fried beef, onions, tomatoes, and peppers with soy sauce and vinegar. It is often served with rice and french fries, showcasing the mixture of Chinese and Peruvian flavors.

Causa Rellena – Traditional Appetizer

Causa Rellena is a unique and colorful Peruvian dish that makes for an excellent lunch appetizer. It consists of layers of seasoned mashed potatoes filled with various ingredients like chicken, tuna, or avocado. The layers are then garnished with olives, hard-boiled eggs, and lettuce. Causa Rellena is a harmonious blend of textures and flavors, showcasing the versatility of potatoes in Peruvian cuisine.

Aji de Gallina – Creamy Chicken Dish

Aji de Gallina is a popular Peruvian chicken dish that offers a creamy and savory experience. It is made with shredded chicken cooked in a rich sauce made from aji amarillo (a yellow chili pepper), bread, walnuts, and Parmesan cheese. Aji de Gallina is typically served with rice, potatoes, and boiled eggs. The dish is creamy, mildly spicy, and loaded with flavor.

Anticuchos – Grilled Skewers

Anticuchos are a favorite street food in Peru, showcasing the country’s love for grilled meats. These skewers are typically made with marinated beef hearts, although other meats like chicken or beef are also used. The skewers are grilled to perfection and often served with grilled potatoes and a side of spicy rocoto sauce. Anticuchos are flavorful and tender, offering a unique taste of Peruvian cuisine.

What Do South American People Eat For Lunch?

Argentinian Lunch Culture

Argentinian cuisine is a meat lover’s paradise, with a strong emphasis on grilled meats and hearty flavors. Lunchtime in Argentina is a leisurely affair, often involving a generous serving of delicious meat-filled pastries and other traditional dishes. Let’s take a closer look at the highlights of Argentinian lunch culture.

Asado – Traditional Barbecue

Asado is an iconic Argentinian tradition that involves grilling various cuts of beef over an open flame. The meat is slow-cooked and imbued with smoky flavors, resulting in tender and succulent grilled meats. Asado is not just a meal; it is an experience that brings friends and family together. It is often accompanied by chimichurri sauce, grilled vegetables, and, of course, a glass of Argentinian Malbec.

Empanadas – Delicious Meat-filled Pastries

Empanadas are a beloved Argentinian street food that is enjoyed as a quick lunchtime snack or a complete meal. These handheld pastries are filled with a variety of ingredients, including seasoned ground beef, onions, olives, and hard-boiled eggs. Empanadas can be baked or fried until golden and crispy, offering a delightful combination of savory flavors and flaky pastry.

Milanesa – Breaded Meat Cutlets

Milanesa is a traditional Argentinian dish that draws inspiration from Italian cuisine. It consists of thinly pounded meat, typically beef or chicken, coated in breadcrumbs and fried until golden and crispy. Milanesa is often served with mashed potatoes or a salad, offering a satisfying and hearty lunch option for meat lovers.

Provoleta – Grilled Cheese

Provoleta is a simple yet delectable dish that highlights the excellence of Argentinian cheese. It consists of a thick slice of provolone cheese that is grilled until melted and bubbly. Provoleta is typically seasoned with oregano and chili flakes for added flavor. It is often enjoyed as a starter or a side dish during an Argentinian asado.

Carbonada – Hearty Stew

Carbonada is a traditional Argentinian stew that is ideal for a hearty and comforting lunch. This rich and flavorful dish features a variety of ingredients, including beef, potatoes, corn, pumpkin, and peaches. The combination of sweet and savory flavors creates a unique balance that is characteristic of Argentinian cuisine.

Colombian Lunch Culture

Colombian cuisine is as diverse as the country itself, with each region offering its own culinary specialties. Lunch, known as almuerzo, holds great significance in Colombian culture, often consisting of a large and hearty meal. Let’s take a closer look at the highlights of Colombian lunch culture.

Bandeja Paisa – Huge Platter

Bandeja Paisa is a dish that represents the abundance and richness of Colombian cuisine. This massive platter typically consists of red beans, white rice, ground beef, chicharrón (crispy pork rinds), plantains, avocado, arepas, and a fried egg on top. It is a truly indulgent feast that showcases the country’s culinary heritage and regional specialties.

Ajiaco – Chicken and Potato Soup

Ajiaco is a hearty Colombian soup that is often enjoyed for lunch, particularly in the capital city of Bogotá. This comforting dish features chicken, various types of potatoes, corn, and herbs like guascas. Ajiaco is typically served with avocado, capers, and sour cream, providing a satisfying and flavorful meal that warms the body and soul.

Empanadas Colombianas – Popular Snack

Empanadas are a staple snack in Colombian cuisine, offering a quick and delicious lunch option. Colombian empanadas are typically made with a corn-based dough filled with a savory mixture of meat, potatoes, onions, and spices. They are deep-fried until golden and crispy, offering a delightful combination of textures and flavors.

Arepa – Versatile Cornmeal Cake

Arepa is a versatile and beloved dish that holds great significance in Colombian cuisine. These cornmeal cakes are a staple in Colombian households and can be enjoyed throughout the day, including lunchtime. Arepas can be either grilled or fried and served with a variety of fillings, such as cheese, meat, or eggs. They are a blank canvas for flavors and can be customized to suit individual preferences.

Sancocho – Hearty Soup

Sancocho is a traditional Colombian soup that is enjoyed for lunch across the country. This hearty dish is made with a variety of meats, such as chicken, beef, or fish, combined with various vegetables like potatoes, plantains, corn, and cassava. The result is a flavorful and nourishing soup that highlights the diversity of Colombian ingredients.

Ecuadorian Lunch Culture

Ecuadorian cuisine incorporates a wide range of ingredients, from the abundance of seafood on the coast to the traditional dishes of the highlands. Lunch, known as almuerzo, is an important meal in Ecuadorian culture and showcases the country’s culinary diversity. Let’s delve into the highlights of Ecuadorian lunch culture.

Cuy – Traditional Dish

Cuy, or guinea pig, holds a special place in Ecuadorian cuisine and cultural traditions. Often considered a delicacy, cuy is typically roasted or fried until crispy and served whole. It is accompanied by potatoes and llapingachos, cheese-stuffed potato patties. The unique and distinct flavor of cuy is cherished by locals and visitors alike.

Seco de Pollo – Chicken Stew

Seco de Pollo is a comforting Ecuadorian stew that is often enjoyed for lunch. This flavorful dish features chicken marinated in a combination of beer, cilantro, garlic, and spices. The stew is slow-cooked until the chicken is tender and served with rice, potatoes, and avocado slices. Seco de Pollo is a favorite among Ecuadorians for its robust flavors and nourishing qualities.

Encebollado – Fish Soup

Encebollado is a traditional Ecuadorian fish soup that is particularly popular on the coast. It is made with tuna, onions, tomatoes, yuca (cassava), and various spices. Encebollado is typically seasoned with lime juice, cilantro, and served with chifles (plantain chips) or patacones (fried green plantains). This hearty and satisfying soup is a perfect lunch option for seafood lovers.

Bolon de Verde – Green Plantain Dumpling

Bolon de Verde is a traditional Ecuadorian dish that takes advantage of the country’s abundant green plantains. These dumplings are made by mashing boiled green plantains and mixing them with cheese, pork, or shrimp. The mixture is shaped into balls and often fried until golden and crispy. Bolon de Verde is served as a side dish or a light meal, showcasing the versatility of green plantains.

Locro de Papas – Potato and Cheese Soup

Locro de Papas is a hearty potato and cheese soup that is comforting and flavorful. This traditional Ecuadorian dish features potatoes, cheese, onions, and spices, cooked until the potatoes are tender and the flavors are well blended. Locro de Papas is often served with avocado slices, corn, and a side of toasted corn kernels, providing a satisfying and warming lunch experience.

Bolivian Lunch Culture

Bolivian cuisine is as diverse as its landscapes and shares influences from its indigenous heritage and neighboring countries. Lunch, known as almuerzo in Bolivia, is a time to savor traditional dishes that reflect the country’s rich culinary tapestry. Let’s discover the highlights of Bolivian lunch culture.

Salteñas – Savory Meat-filled Pastries

Salteñas are Bolivian pastries that showcase the country’s love for savory flavors. These handheld pastries are typically filled with a mixture of seasoned meat, usually beef or chicken, along with vegetables, potatoes, and spices. Salteñas are baked until golden and have a slightly sweet and spicy flavor profile. They are often enjoyed as a quick and satisfying lunchtime snack.

Silpancho – Breaded Beef Cutlet

Silpancho is a traditional Bolivian dish that consists of a breaded beef cutlet served on a bed of rice and topped with a fried egg. It is typically accompanied by boiled potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and a side of llajwa, a spicy salsa made with tomatoes, chilies, and herbs. Silpancho is a hearty and flavorful lunch option, showcasing the influence of European culinary traditions in Bolivian cuisine.

Sopa de Mani – Peanut Soup

Sopa de Mani is a comforting Bolivian soup that highlights the unique flavors of peanuts. It is made with a combination of ground peanuts, meat (usually beef or chicken), potatoes, vegetables, and spices. Sopa de Mani is rich and creamy, with a distinct nuttiness that makes it a comforting and satisfying lunch option.

Chairo – Andean Corn and Vegetable Soup

Chairo is a traditional Andean soup that is particularly popular in Bolivia. It features a hearty combination of corn, potatoes, vegetables, and meat, such as beef or lamb. Chairo is slow-cooked to allow the flavors to meld together, resulting in a nourishing and flavorful soup that showcases the agricultural abundance of the Andean region.

Pique Macho – Spicy Beef and Sausage Dish

Pique Macho is a dish that reflects Bolivia’s love for bold and flavorful food. It typically consists of sliced beef, sausage, onions, tomatoes, and peppers, all stir-fried together. Pique Macho is often served over a bed of french fries and garnished with hard-boiled eggs and olives. This hearty and spicy dish showcases the fusion of European and local flavors that is characteristic of Bolivian cuisine.

In conclusion, South American lunch culture is a reflection of the continent’s diverse history, influences, and rich culinary traditions. From the hearty stews of Brazil and Colombia to the grilled meats of Argentina and the flavorful ceviche of Peru, South American lunch dishes offer a wide range of flavors and textures. The use of indigenous ingredients, European techniques, and influences from various cultures result in a vibrant and dynamic culinary landscape. Whether you’re exploring the intricate flavors of an asado or savoring the refreshing taste of ceviche, South American lunch dishes are sure to leave you satisfied and craving for more.


I'm Cooking Master, your culinary guide on Cooking Planet! With a passion for cooking and a deep appreciation for the diverse flavors and techniques scattered across the globe, this website is where I share my knowledge and experiences. From baking delectable treats to grilling mouthwatering dishes, I aim to inspire your cooking endeavors. Join me as we embark on a gastronomic expedition, exploring the realms of roasting, boiling, frying, and more. From Asian delicacies to European classics, African delights to American favorites, let's unlock the secrets of cooking around the world together. Discover the vast and appetizing world of Cooking Planet!