Food in Paraguay is diverse and carries much of its tradition from Paraguay’s strong spanish roots. Much of the Paraguayan gastronomy comes from their climate too, and the strong cattle base the country espouses. Travelers in Paraguay will find that no matter what your palate, there will be something for you to enjoy in this eclectic and flavorful country!
Paraguay’s climate is notorious for not growing traditional European style crops. This was most evident when the first Mennonite settlers immigrated to Paraguay and tried to grow beets, corn and potatoes. While some of these crops do okay, they don’t thrive in Paraguay and soon the new settlers took up native Paraguayan crops.
Yucca is one of the most prevalent crops found in Paraguay, and it’s the crop that saved the first settlers. In Paraguay this staple is called “mandioca”, and tourists will find that every meal has some form of Yucca included. Yucca grows prolifically in South America, and Paraguayans take full advantage of this delicious crop. Yucca is South America’s potato- it’s pure starch, can be made into flour and even fried.
Yucca flour provides the basis for another very popular Paraguayan food- Chipa. Chipa is a bread-like staple that’s cooked with egg, cheese and butter. Chipa is first heated, and then other food is stuff inside (like a burrito), and then the dish is cooked together as one piece. Chipa is especially popular at religious celebrations, and can be bought from everyday street vendors. Popular Chipa stuffing is chicken (similar to a chicken pot pie) and beef, pepper and cheese.
Paraguayans also love corn bread, and in Paraguay they’ve created a special version of it: Sopa Paraguay. Sopa Paraguay is made from corn meal, salt, eggs and butter. It is traditionally topped with cheese, peppers and onions. A variation of this dish is called Chipa guazu, which is mushier and uses milled corn meal.
Aside from traditional yucca and corn meal dishes, meat is eaten with almost every meal in Paraguay. Stews of beef, rich, onions and tomatoes are very popular and they are called “guiso”. After beef, pork is the second most popular meat. Barbeque in Paraguay is quite popular. Paraguayan style barbeque is called “asado”. Asado is seasoned with only salt and lemon juice and cooked for hours on a grill. Ribs, like in most countries, are always very popular. As with most dishes, a side of mandioca is served along with mild hot sauce.
For a snack, small servings called “empanadas” are prepared as thin tortillas stuffed with fried meat and cheese. Empanadas always remind tourists of Mexican quesadilla dishes and are quite similar. For drinks, Paraguayan cuisine is often accompanied by a Coca-Cola mixed with red wine or Brazilian Brahma beer. Water is always available but caution should be given to travelers not accustomed to South American water and the gastrointestinal disturbances it can cause!
The best part of traveling is exploring the culinary arts and culture of a country. Paraguay is no exception and has adapted many of their traditions to suit the tough climate. At any meal, there’s certain to be a friendly atmosphere no matter what the cuisine in Paraguay!