When it comes to the best foods and libations for summer, Chileans have it made in the shade.
Between December and February, summer settles over Chile, and across the country – from north to south – Chileans have plenty of tried-and-true summer treats to keep the heat of Andean summer at bay. With farmers markets stocked with seasonal bounties of fresh fruits and vegetables, there's endless possibilities for delicious snacks and meals, as well as cooling drinks to sip on while strolling the streets on a warm summer evening. So here’s some of the best foods and beverages you can enjoy while visiting Chile during the summer!
Mote con huesillo – The appearance of this part-food, part-beverage summer staple is sometimes off-putting to foreigners, but this is about as classically Chilean as you can get (there's even an expression saying that something or someone is "as Chilean as mote con huesillo.") Mote, which is cooked and husked wheat, is added to a sugary water mixture filled with rehydrated slices of peach, making a syrupy, smack-your-lips delicious drink for a hot afternoon.
Borgoña – Whoever said red wine shouldn't be chilled clearly hadn’t tasted Chile’s divine borgoña (burgundy). Mixing chopped strawberries, sugar, and ice with some of Chile’s world-class red wines, the result is a luscious and fruity libation to be savored throughout the summer, although it's especially popular at Fiestas Patrias (Independence Day) festivities, and around Christmastime.
Melon con vino – A refreshing glass of cool white wine always hits the spot on a sultry summer evening, right? Well, Chileans have raised the bar with melon con vino, or wine with melon. At the height of summer, melons are in full season, so pairing a ripe, fresh honeydew with some of Chile's crisp white wines is a match made in heaven. After cutting a hole in the top of the melon and hollowing out its insides (leaving some chunks of fruit inside), the gutted interior is filled with chilled white wine and topped with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, and then it's bottoms up! Melon con vino is especially popular on hot summer afternoons for asados, picnics, and family dinners.
Completos – There’s nothing better than a hot dog and a cool beverage on a hot afternoon. Chileans know this just as well as the next person, and throughout the summer (and the year), you’re welcome to kick back with a cold one and Chile’s delicious take on the hot dog. The completo (translates to “the complete”) has various renditions but the most popular is the Italiano. Named after its colorful resemblance to the Italian flag, a toasted marraqueta bun is stuffed with a juicy hot dog and topped with diced tomatoes, mashed avocado, and a hearty swab of mayonnaise, with the option to add additional condiments such as ketchup and mustard.
Pastel de choclo – With corn coming into season in summer, then arrives one of Chile’s most popular and beloved dishes: pastel de choclo. A seasoned blend of corn and sweetcorn is added to an earthenware pot filled with delicious filling ingredients such as chicken, ground beef with minced onions, a peeled hardboiled egg, olives, and sometimes raisins. The whole ensemble is then cooked in an oven until ready, and can be topped with anything from pebre (Chile’s version of pico de gallo) to sugar.
Humitas – This relative of the tamale can be found in abundance during the summer, and can be enjoyed as either a sweet or savory treat with accompanying vegetables such as tomatoes, or sprinkled with sugar to enhance the flavors. Prepared with fresh corn, onion, and butter, everything is ground together to make a mash that is shaped, and then baked or boiled inside corn husks.
Empanadas – A staple of Chilean street and table food, empanadas can (and should) be enjoyed year-round. Different ingredients are wrapped up in doughy pastry and then either baked or fried. Ubiquitous around the continent, the most common and popular variety in Chile are the ground beef-onion combo of empanadas de pino, followed by empanadas de queso and napolitanas.
Sopaipillas – Fried dough for days! A popular street food any time of the year, sopaipillas are a great and cheap on-the-go snack during summer, especially when splashed with a healthy serving of chilled pebre (a condiment similar to pico de gallo). Made with zapallo (a savory squash), rounded disks are fried to a cripsy on the outside, chewy on the inside perfection. Then, add the condiment of your choice, such as ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, or salsa.
Ice cream – It may not be a uniquely Chilean foodstuff, but Chile still puts its own spin on this summer classic. Chile’s insatiable sweet tooth for ice cream (helados) comes out in full force during the summer, with ice cream parlors and street carts open everywhere. Choices can range from a simple cone and favorite flavors such as chocolate or vanilla to splurging for a fancy sundae or trying local flavors such as lucuma, cherimoya, or chocolate al merken.