Uruguay is a country that loves beef. It is common to see barbecues and asados in various parks on weekends and holidays. However, it is undeniable the contribution to the cuisine of the wave of immigrants, Spaniards, Italians.
That mixture of recipes can be noticed in any corner of the Uruguayan geography, to the point that many of its dishes are simply replaced by some European ingredients, for some local ones, turning them later into their representative dishes.
Some of these dishes are listed below.
Capeletis a la Caruso / Pasta with Caruso Sauce
Capetelis a la Caruso is a dish invented in Uruguay in the ’50s. It is pasta in the shape of small hats, filled with a kind of sauce called Caruso that resembles béchamel sauce.
Its preparation consists of cooked ham, milk, cheese, and mushrooms. Still, the distinctive touch, which differentiates it from bechamel sauce, is a meat sauce concentrate created by the Italian Raimondo Monti in the middle of the 20th century. The dish’s name is in honor of Enrico Caruso, a renowned Italian tenor who visited Uruguay in 1917.
It is evident the strong Italian influence of Italian gastronomy. However, the Caruso sauce, over the years, became a classic of Uruguayan cuisine. Its popularity has transcended borders as it is well known in Brazil and Argentina and in most of Latin America.
Chivito / Steak Sandwich
The chivito is an exuberant sandwich, representative of Uruguayan cuisine, created in the ’40s. This dish consists of beef tenderloin, lettuce, egg, bacon, mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, and ham. It is usually served with French fries and dressed with mayonnaise.
It is precisely the meat that is the central ingredient of chivito, thanks to its quality. Uruguay is one of the most important exporters of this product worldwide. The creation of this dish is attributed to Antonio Carbonaro, owner of a renowned restaurant in Uruguay.
For Uruguayans, there is no predetermined time to eat chivito. Any time is an excellent time to enjoy this sandwich in any of its versions. The chivito al pan is the original recipe that we have already described,
The chivito al plato has all the ingredients but is served without bread, while the chivito canadiense shares the same ingredients. But is accompanied with French fries, Russian salad, sautéed onion, and other garnishes. However, all versions are very popular among the Uruguayan population.
Uruguayan Asado/ Asado uruguayo
Uruguayan beef is of world-renowned excellence. For this reason, dishes made with this product are highly recommended. The Uruguayan asado is one of them. It is the rib of the cow that is cut transversely, cooked on the grill, over the coals. The entrails are also cooked along with some sausages.
This famous roast is usually accompanied by an equally popular sauce: chimichurri sauce. It is composed of parsley, vinegar, garlic, oregano, lemon juice, salt, and ground chili, although this recipe has variations. It is ideal for spreading on the meat. Mixed salad, french fries or Russian salad are ideal for this asado.
The gauchos used to prepare the asado on the ground in the past. Then it was a rural meal with which they supplied themselves with the necessary energy to do the difficult jobs of the time. But, in the middle of the last century, it became popular all over Uruguay until it became part of the culinary customs of that country.
In Uruguay, where the number of cattle exceeds the number of people, it is a festive moment when this dish is made. It is the perfect excuse for family or friends gatherings. While the meat is cooking, chats on a wide variety of topics take place and serve to strengthen bonds with loved ones.
Some people expect their portion of asado to be juicy, others prefer it well done. But either way, it is all about that affection, that warmth that we receive from our loved ones in those moments.
Pizza Uruguay / Pizza a Caballo
Pizza a caballo is a pizza served with fainá on top. Fainá, in turn, is a thin tortilla that is prepared with chickpea flour, salt, olive oil, and pepper. It results from a fusion between Italian gastronomy and Uruguayan food, which originated in the middle of the 20th century. At first, they were offered separately, but it became popular to eat them together at some point.
In 1830, with the Uruguayan independence also came the pizzerias with the recipes of this product, which was elaborated in wood-fired ovens. Nowadays, this food has become so popular that more than 400 formal establishments throughout Uruguay.
Today, Uruguayan pizzas follow Italian recipes. They are made with sausages, mushrooms, mozzarella, or anchovies, among the most common ingredients. But, being a local invention, the pizza on horseback always stands out.
Figazza is another result of Uruguayan ingenuity. It is prepared with pizza dough, topped with onions and peppers, but without sauce. A diet version, if you will. One of the variants of the fainá is called fainá de orillo. This is a little thinner and crispier than the original version.
Tortas Fritas / Fried Cakes
Tortas fritas are one of the most traditional desserts in Uruguay. According to historians, this recipe was brought by the Spaniards and Arabs who settled in Rio de la Plata. In Germany, where it originated, it is called Kreppel.
It is a simple preparation consisting of wheat flour, fat, water, and salt. The dough must be rolled out until it is 1 cm thick. Then circular or triangular cuts are made, according to taste, and then they are fried in oil.
These cakes are sprinkled with sugar and served hot; dulce de leche can also be spread on them. It is very common to accompany this food with mate since it helps in the digestive process, being a hot drink.
The origin of these cakes dates back to when the gauchos worked for days on end and only carried some flour and salt with them. It is said that the peasant women used the water from the rains to prepare them. Later they would improvise a fire in the field where they would fry them.
That is why it is customary to eat them in times of rain to preserve the ancestral custom.
Uruguayan Cakes / Bizcochos Uruguayos
Uruguayan sponge cakes are basically buns in different shapes, made with flour, yeast, salt, fat, and sugar. About its origin, it is said that the sponge cake is the result of the fusion of Spanish and French bakeries and that they arrived in Uruguay with the wave of European immigrants from 1860 onwards.
The most popular are: the croissant (which comes from the French croissant) sweet or salty, the margarita is a version of the sweet croissant but has a circular shape with filling in the center; the sweet cookie, these can have cylindrical or cubic shapes and are covered with sprinkled sugar or caramel; and the bread with fat that are salty biscuits. All of these biscuits have miniature versions each.
Bizcochos are an Uruguayan tradition. It is the perfect snack to accompany it with a mate while chatting with some friends. They are also usually eaten during breakfast or at any time of the day. It is best to wait until one of the bakeries opens early in the morning to enjoy them warm, fresh from the oven.
Chajá Dessert / Postre Chajá
The Chajá dessert is a sponge cake with three layers that are spread with dulce de leche, one of the layers is covered with whipped cream, another with meringue with pieces of peaches. The last one is topped with another layer of whipped cream, pieces of peaches, meringue and cherries as an ornament.
Its name is due to a typical bird of the Southern Cone, which has a copious plumage similar to the cover with which the preparation is carried out. Chajá is usually eaten in considerable quantities because it is a fairly light dessert despite its appearance. It is not cloying, nor is it heavy.
Orlando Castillo, the owner of one of the most famous confectioneries in Uruguay, was the creator of this dessert in 1927. Today, his creation has some variations such as strawberries instead of peaches. Like all desserts, it is usually served after a meal, but many Uruguayans eat it at any time of the day.
Although the original recipe is a mystery, this dessert has become so popular that it can be found in almost any confectionery in Uruguay.
Milanesa a la napolitana / Uruguayan Italian-Style Milanesa a la napolitana
Milanesa a la napolitana is a very common dish in Uruguay that is also frequently consumed in Argentina. Italian gastronomic culture had a strong presence in the Southern Cone at the beginning of the last century.
Its preparation is simple: slices of veal are salted and peppered, then breaded with egg and breadcrumbs and fried in oil. Once cooked, add a slice of mozzarella cheese, a slice of ham, and on top of it. But the Neapolitan sauce is prepared with oregano, salt, and tomatoes. This is baked in the oven for a few minutes.
This dish, which is usually served for lunch, can be accompanied by Russian salad, rice, and/or vegetables. It is a very recurrent dish on the menu of Uruguayan restaurants, as well as in most homes.
It is another contribution of the Italian community, who decided to try their luck in Uruguayan lands during the colonial era.
The Olympic sandwich, crumb sandwich, or simply sandwich is prepared with slices of crumb bread, filled with mayonnaise, boiled eggs, ham slices, tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers.
Some of the sandwich ingredients may vary to enhance certain flavors, such as the toppings or the type of cheese. It is a sort of snack while waiting for lunch, it is also a great companion when watching a soccer game. The sandwich also works as a snack at parties and meetings.
It is a dish that is eaten cold, it is straightforward to prepare and, because of its ingredients, children love it. Some say that its name originated in 1950, when the Uruguayan soccer team defeated Brazil 2-1 in the Maracana stadium, in the final of the World Cup. Although the Maracanazo is a historical event, it is not entirely clear that the Olympic Sandwich was named after that event.
The pamplona is a classic of Uruguayan gastronomy. It is a rolled chicken fillet stuffed with bacon, mozzarella, bell peppers, cooked ham, and olives. To cook them, it is customary to wrap them in a maya. The steak can also be pork or beef.
It is one of the options that have a greater presence in the menus of the different Uruguayan restaurants. Experts in the matter, affirm that this dish was born in the ’60s, thanks to the creativity of a cook from the city of Florida. At that time, he used veal with the same stuffing, then he took a slice of pork to wrap it before roasting it. The result is the delicacy that Uruguayans have enjoyed for a few generations.
Pamplonas are usually cooked on the grill but can also be baked. They are then pan-fried to give them that golden brown touch. According to taste, this dish is served in slices and accompanied with green salad or pasta. During the month of March, in Punta del Este, the Pamplona and Chivito festivities take place. A culinary experience not to be missed.
Some people say that in Uruguay, there are more cows than people. Although it may be a small joke, statistically, each Uruguayan consumes about 64 kilos of meat per year. Therefore, it is not surprising that beef is present in most dishes.
The climate and the soils from which the cattle obtain their feed have contributed to this product being among the best quality on the planet.
Added to this is the important culinary contribution of Italian, French and Spanish immigrants, who decided to take permanent residence in Uruguay. The result: dishes that have become a source of national pride and are greatly enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.