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Sizzling with Latin American flair and fusing a range of Latino and European flavors, Paraguayan food is one of South America‘s undiscovered culinary delights.
Tender meats, ripe and juicy fruits, and a wide range of hearty chipas, or cakes, are just some of the many mouthwatering foods that define the country’s cuisine.
So let those taste buds tingle, as we take a closer look at 15 of Paraguay’s most popular and traditional foods, courtesy of a Paraguayan resident.
Most Popular Paraguayan Food
1 – Sopa Paraguaya (Paraguayan Soup)
Paraguayan soup, or Sopa Paraguaya, is a wholesome dish, and one of the oldest, most traditional foods in Paraguayan cuisine.
Paraguayan soup is not actually a soup, despite what the name would make you believe. It is very similar in texture and consistency to a savory cake. It is made of cornmeal, eggs, cheese, chopped onion, and milk or whey.
It is believed Sopa Paraguaya came about by accident. The country’s former president Don Carlos Antonio Lopez, from 1841-1862, loved white, milk-based soups, and one day one of his private chefs added too much cornflour.
Regardless, Lopez loved the solid soup, and through the decades, the dish became popular across the country. Today, it’s prepared for asados, family gatherings, and celebrations.
2 – Chipa Guasu (Savory Corn Cake)
Chipa Guasu is one of the country’s most popular foods. Together with Paraguayan soup, it is the preferred side dish or appetizer to accompany a range of main meals, especially meat-based dishes.
Eggs, water, fat, milk, fresh Paraguayan cheese, and tender corn on the cob, along with a pinch of salt, are used in the preparation of this wholesome, filling corn cake.
You will commonly see this dish on tables at parties, celebrations, and gatherings. It can be eaten hot or cold, depending on preference.
3 – Chipa Almidón (Cheese and Starch Bread)
Chipa Almidon are delicious bread rolls, made of dough mixed with cheese and anise seeds. You’ll find street vendors throughout Paraguay selling these fresh and hearty rolls.
Chipa Almidon are made into many different shapes and sizes. Along with the rolls, donut-shaped Chipas are very common.
There is also a variant called Chipa Asador, where the dough is placed on the end of a stick, then roasted over an open fire.
For travelers, the inexpensive cost and filling nature of Chipa Almidon make them the perfect food for a nomadic lifestyle. Paired with a hot drink, such as coffee or mate cocido, this is the perfect snack to-go.
4 – Mbeju (Starch and Cheese Flatbread)
Mbeju is a dish that has been prepared and eaten for millennia in the country, dating back to the indigenous people who lived in the region.
Today, this wholesome starch and cheese pancake is popular during the winter months, due to its warmth and filling nature.
However, lines of people queuing up for freshly made Mbeju during festivities such as San Juan, in June, are a very common sight.
5 – Pastel Mandi’o (Yuca Empanada)
Pastel Mandi’o is an empanada, made of a cassava-based dough, usually stuffed with seasoned beef.
This dish is one of the most popular foods consumed at important country-wide celebrations, such as the Fiestas de San Juan.
Due to the use of cassava (yuca) dough, making Pastel Mandi’o can be a complicated process. Hence, you’re far more likely to find it sold by street vendors. Paraguayan home cooks will often opt to make traditional empanadas, made from conventional dough.
6 – Payagua Mascada (Cassava Hamburger Patties)
Payagua Mascada is an earthy, wholesome fried dough made of a meat and cassava (yuca) base. It is shaped and served in a similar way to a hamburger, and it is very popular at celebrations and festivities, such as San Juan.
Simple to make, Payagua Mascada starts out as a mixed of cassava and minced meat, which is seasoned and flavored with herbs such as chives, then rolled out into patty shapes ready for grilling.
When cooked to perfection, cassava hamburgers have a charred, crusty exterior, and a tender, flavorful interior.
7 – Butifarra (White Sausage)
Butifarra, or white sausage, is a wholesome, tender, and smoky sausage of pork, garlic, bacon, and lemon.
Originating from the Catalonia region of Spain, this rich dish is popular throughout the country.
You’ll commonly find butifarra at weekend asados, or as part of prepared feasts for festivals and gatherings. Served with cassava, this is a Paraguayan dish with a rich, deep taste.
8 – Chipa So’o (Corn Bun Filled with Meat)
Chipa So’o is a traditional dish in Paraguayan cuisine. It is made of stuffed corn dough, very similar to that of Paraguayan soup, but more compact.
Chipa so’o can be filled with one or more of hundreds of different types of filling. However, the most common you’ll find in Paraguay are pastries filled with minced beef.
The minced beef is mixed with onion, bell pepper, fat, butter, oregano, ground chili, and salt. Once ready, it is spread upon a bun of dough, which is finally sealed and cooked in an oven until golden brown.
9 – Chicharô Trenzado (Braided Meat)
Chicharô Trenzado, or Chicharrón in Spanish, is a meat dish consisting of strips of marinated beef or pork that are braided before cooking.
Left to sit in a marinade of sour orange juice and plenty of salt, the strips of meat are commonly cold cuts with more fat.
Three strips are commonly braided together, but some Chicharo Trenzado have as many as five different strips of meat. Once braided, the meat is cooked in a pot until the fat has reduced and the flavor has intensified.
Chicharô trenzado is a dish enjoyed at many festivities and celebrations. Like many other Paraguayan meals, it is commonly served with cassava.
10 – Tereré (Refreshing Herbal Drink)
Tereré is a refreshing, nutritious beverage, and it’s the national drink of Paraguay. The dish is so popular, it even has a day named after it. Since 2011, the last Saturday of February has been known as ‘National Day of Tereré.’
Tereré is a nourishing drink made from yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis), yuyos or pohã ñana (medicinal herbs), and water, served with plenty of ice.
The yerba mate is prepared in a device known as a ‘Guampa’. Cane from native tacuara plants is a common choice to make a guampa from.
While enjoyed recreationally, the medicinal qualities of tereré make it the go-to drink for people with colds, flu, illnesses, and long-standing health conditions.
11 – Mazamorra/Kaguyjy (Sweet Locro Corn)
Mazamorra is a sweet, hearty dessert, first prepared by the indigenous Guarani people, many generations ago.
Mazamorra is a simple dish, but wholesome and filling. It shares similarities with that of a rice pudding, and is popular throughout South America, with variations in many different countries.
Paraguayan Mazamorra is made using the native locro-type of maize, in a mixture of water and lyre. It can be served warm or cold, with milk and sugar or honey.
Refreshing and sweet, this is one of the most popular and beloved desserts in Paraguay. The dish is so nutritious, in fact, it became a substitute for most meals during the Paraguayan War when there was a shortage of food.
12 – Kosereva (Bitter Orange Peel Dessert)
Kosereva is a Paraguayan dessert or snack made with bitter orange peel, sugar, and molasses.
It’s similar to marmalade, and it has sweet, sour, and bitter flavors. It’s commonly served on its own, but it can also be served alongside soft cheese.
Traditionally, this simple, strong, and citrusy dessert was prepared by grandparents for family gatherings on Sundays.
13 – Ka’i Ladrillo (Peanuts and Cane Honey)
Ka’i Ladrillo, or Dulce de Maní, is a popular typical dessert in Paraguayan cuisine. It’s prepared with peanuts and black cane honey.
Like many of the other typical Paraguayan foods, ka’i ladrillo, due to its ingredients, is rich in protein and calories.
While traditional Ka’i Ladrillo recipes use only roasted peanuts and cane honey, some modern recipes add grapefruit or bitter orange juice. This gives it a slightly bittersweet flavor and reduces its excessive sweetness.
This dish is served in squares, and it’s popular both as a snack and as a dessert.
It is known for being a dessert that gives you plenty of energy, and you can usually buy it from street vendors for less than a dollar.
14 – Kivevé (Pumpkin Cream)
Kivevé is one of the richest and popular semi-sweet desserts in Paraguay.
The dish consists of a thick cream made of andai (Paraguayan pumpkin), maize flour, and sometimes cheese, and it can be served as a side dish or as a dessert.
It is worth noting that the term Kivevé comes from Guaraní and denotes the reddish color of the dish, courtesy of the Paraguayan pumpkin. Interestingly, the word ‘kivevé,’ in popular slang, is used to refer to red-haired people.
Historically, a clay pot is used for cooking the dish, concentrating the flavor. Vibrant and indulgent, Kiveve can be eaten at all times of the day, for any occasion.
15 – Batiburrillo (Beef Offal Stew)
Batiburrillo is a beef offal stew that was introduced to Paraguay by Sebastián Sasiain Zubillaga, a Basque immigrant from Salinas de Léniz who, along with his wife, Brígida Zubia Erostarbe, settled in Misiones in 1926.
The stew through the years became a symbol of Misiones. In its honor, every year, a huge food festival is held in the municipality of San Juan Bautista, celebrating the dish.
It should be noted that Sebastián Sasiain not only created this stew recipe but also designed the appropriate drink to accompany it: Siriki.
Siriki comes from the word ‘syryku,’ meaning drink or sip in the Guaraní language. This sweet beverage is a soft drink of white cane, soda, ice, and lemon. Together, batiburrillo and siriki make the perfect combination.
Paraguayan Food Summary
So there we have it – fifteen of some of Paraguay’s most iconic foods and a deep, delicious insight into the heart of the country’s cuisine.
Being sandwiched (no pun intended) between Brazil and Argentina meant that Paraguayan food was always going to be full of heat and sizzle.
But as we’ve discovered, there’s so much more to the native foods than just tender meats and fresh fish. The native indigenous Guarani people laid the foundation for Paraguay’s diverse range of foods, over thousands of years.
Through time, Latin American and a range of European influences, such as Spanish and Italian, have evolved Paraguayan cuisine into a breathtaking, delicious fusion of flavors.
Maybe you’re thinking of traveling to Paraguay one day. Or maybe you’re keen to bring some Paraguayan magic into your own home.
Either way, be sure to make the country’s foods a top priority. There are plenty of unique and tasty dishes to enjoy, laced with the classic passion of traditional Paraguayan cuisine.
Before we leave, one final time here’s the full list of all the foods and many dishes covered in this article.
Be sure to have this list of Paraguayan food handy when you visit so that you can try one or more of these popular and traditional foods.
- Sopa Paraguaya (Paraguayan Soup)
- Chipa Guasu (Savory Corn Cake)
- Chipa Almidón (Cheese and Starch Bread)
- Mbeju (Starch and Cheese Pancake)
- Pastel Mandi’o (Cassava Empanada)
- Payagua Mascada (Cassava Hamburgers)
- Butifarra (White Sausage)
- Chipa So’o (Corn Bun Filled with Meat)
- Chicharô Trenzado (Braided Meat)
- Tereré (Refreshing Herbal Drink)
- Mazamorra or ‘Kaguyjy’ (Sweet Locro Corn)
- Kosereva (Orange Peel Dessert)
- Ka’I Ladrillo (Peanuts and Cane Honey)
- Kivevé (Pumpkin Cream)
- Batiburrillo (Beef Offal Stew)
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Contributor: Nadia Baez is an English-Spanish translator and writer, hailing from asuncion. When not translating texts, she writes on a number of topics relating to her home country, including Paraguayan food and top destinations.
Images licensed via Shutterstock