chickpeas merquén

A Vegetarian in Chile: Part 4 Chilean-style Chickpeas

It’s been a while since my last post. To make up for it, I’m planing to share 2 recipes with you guys this weekend as part of my “Vegetarian in Chile” series.

The first one is Chilean-style chickpeas. This actually has a sister dish, Chilean-style lentils, which is essentially the same thing, just swap out one legume for the other. Usually, the lentil version is served with a fried egg on top, and the chickpea version comes with longaniza, a type of chorizo from the south of Chile. For the purpose of this series, I’ll keep it vegan and leave out the longaniza.

ingredients raw

This dish is basically a staple in my house. It’s quick, easy, you can make tonnes at a time to store the leftovers, and you only need one pot, which in theory, should minimize the amount of washing up (this doesn’t work in practice in my house. For some reason washing up increases exponentially from when I cook for one person to when I cook for two. To me, this seems to defy the laws of physics; shouldn’t the overall increase in dishes only amount to an extra bowl and a spoon? Does this phenomenon affect anyone else? Or is it just me? Explanation would be greatly appreciated).

flavour chilean chickpeas

I buy all my legumes dry and in bulk at the local feria from a lovely caballero (in Chile, this is the term for a gentleman or an alternative to señor). He sells the beans of the season, which are so soft, you barely have to soak them before hand, and when you cook them they are as smooth and creamy as mash potato. I usually soak a HUGE amount of chickpeas the night before I make this dish. If you don’t like to plan that far in advance, go ahead and use the tinned kind, works just as well.

This is a simple dish, traditionally just made with carrot and pumpkin. However you can get creative and add a little silverbeet for a bit of green or anything else you think will go well.

So without further ado, here you have the base recipe to play with:


  • Half a kilo of dried chickpeas, rinsed, soaked over night and drained. Remember you can use lentils as well
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, pressed or chopped*
  • 100g each of carrot and pumpkin chopped into small pieces
  • 3 or so small handfuls of rice, I used medium grain white, but you can use brown too
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Olive oil

chickpeas on stove


Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Sautee the garlic and onion over medium heat until the onion becomes translucent. Add the carrot, pumpkin, chickpeas, rice, stock and spices and stir through. Add enough boiling water to cover the mixture by about a 1cm. Cook on low heat with the lid on until the rice is cooked and the chickpeas are soft. If all the water has been absorbed before the rice and chickpeas are done, you can add a little more, just keep in mind not to let it get soupy.

chickpeas merquén

Served with as sprinkle of merquén on top for an extra kick

*I read a really interesting article called “the best way to mince garlic” on how the method of preparation affects the flavour of garlic. I like to crush the clove with the back of my knife a bit and then finely chop it. This results in a much subtler, smoother garlic flavour compared with crushing the clove using a garlic press.


Humitas con Ensalada Chilena

With Easter just around the corner, I think it’s time to admit that Summer is finally over. But before it leaves the stage, I want to share with you one of my favourite summertime foods of Chile: Humitas!

Humitas are a delicious combination of freshly grated corn, onion, basil and butter, tied up inside a parcel of corn leaves and gently steamed or boiled in a pot of hot water. You can find them all over Chile, in restaurants or in the street, hand-made by someone’s mum.

They are also found in other South American countries, going by slightly different names, with small variations to ingredients and cooking techniques.

Chilean tomato salad

Ensalada Chilena in our brand new handmade ceramic bowl from Pomaire, Chile.

Ensalada Chilena, a tomato and onion salad, is the perfect side to this mouthwatering bundle of goodness, adding a nice contrast in texture and colour to the creamy yellow corn mix.

It’s also quite common to eat humitas as a dessert, sprinkled with sugar, alongside a cup of tea.

Unfortunately, corn is a crop harvested in Summer, so I won’t be eating these again until later in the year. Corn is available here in winter, but it is usually imported from the US and in an effort to reduce food miles, I’ll be giving it a miss.

unwrapped humita

Humita unwrapped


Next to bread, pebre is basically a staple here in Chile.  It’s rare that a restaurant doesn’t serve up a complimentary bread and pebre as an appetiser. Seriously, though, watch out for this. I always fall into the trap of eating too much before my food comes because this combo is dangerously delicious and we all know that food tastes better when it’s free, ammiright?

Once again, all my fresh ingredients, came from the local street market

Once again, all my fresh ingredients, came from the local street market

Pebre is a kind of tomato salsa. I associate it with summer time, because of the juicy fresh red tomatoes you can find at this time of year. It’s something I refer to a fair bit in this blog so I thought it would be nice to share this recipe with you. Pebre is great for nibblies, as a side dish, or for an afternoon snack with a beer or michelada (Chilean beer cocktail).

Sorry for the bad photo - it was night time.

Sorry for the bad photo – it was night time!

Prepare pebre close to the time you want to serve it. It will not keep longer than 1 day due to the tomatoes.


  • 300g tomato, finely diced
  • 50g brown onion, finely diced
  • 50g banana chili (those long yellowy green ones that aren’t too spicy), finely diced with seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Handful coriander, finely chopped
  • Tablespoon olive oil
  • Tablespoon vinegar
  • Pinch of salt and pepper


Toss all the ingredients together in a bowl. Serve fresh with white bread and butter. See I told you it was easy.

I’m a Vegetarian but sometimes I eat chicken: Cazuela de Pollo

stash-1-50f46db89ed2fMost of you are probably thinking that the title of this post makes me sound a little inconsistent. So before you judge me and call me a bad vegetarian, let me explain.

I am vegetarian for ethical reasons. The most important reason is I disagree with the meat production industry today. Factory farming is environmentally unsustainable, unhealthy, often tied up with horrible working conditions, and almost always with animal cruelty. But I’m not going to write an extensive essay about this, if you don’t believe me, you’ve probably been living under a rock, and I suggest you type factory farm chicken into google and take a look.

I am vegetarian because I want to see a shift back to traditional, small to medium scale animal farming systems such as family farms or cooperatives. These are often shown to be more sustainable, practice better animal welfare standards and offer fairer working conditions. Which brings me to why I sometimes eat chicken.

As you probably know by now, a lot of my recipes are based on what I find at the local feria (street market). Today we walked passed an “abuelita” (Chilean for little grandma) selling whole, plucked chickens that she raised at her house. You could tell that they weren’t commercial chickens she was trying to pass off as home grown, because the fat appeared yellow. This is caused by the presence of beta carotene indicating that the chickens had higher amounts of nutrients in their diets, which corresponds with more access to fresh food i.e. pasture and veggie scraps. This is the look of a true free-range chook which hasn’t been living in a packed shed with only the space of an A4 piece of paper to move around in for the entirety of its life.


I am a realist. I don’t expect the whole world to turn vegetarian. But I would hate to see a world where the only option after vegetarianism is meat from multi-national, highly industrial, large scale, factory farms that destroy the environment and reduce the lives of animals to quotas on a production line.

I don’t believe that buying chicken from that woman in the street is against my vegetarian ethics, in fact, not buying chicken from her would be less in line with them! I buy meat from small scale producers because I want those sorts of farms to exist, and to continue to exist.

Cazuela de Pollo (Chicken Cazuela)

P1060238Cazuela de Pollo (chicken cazuela) is a traditional Chilean dish. It is derived from the Spanish cazuela, left over from the colonial days. There is a specific order to eating a cazuela, typically Chileans will drink the broth first and then eat the meat and vegetables. This dish is a regular meal in the country side and also commonly made with beef.


  • 1 Whole chicken – if you are in Australia, I suggest Inglewood Chicken, as a sustainable, ethical option
  • 4 cloves of garlic, whole but crushed to release the flavour
  • Half an onion, thickly sliced
  • Handful of carrot, sliced
  • Handful of red capsicum, sliced
  • 6 small potatoes
  • 1 large cob of corn, cut into 6 pieces
  • 6 portions of pumpkin with skin
  • Small handful of rice
  • 1 heaped tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Half a vegetable stock cube
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste



Prepare the chicken by removing the skin and fat.* Cut into parts (wings, breast, thighs etc.) and set aside. Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is translucent. Add the chicken and fry until white all over. Add carrot, capsicum, potato, pumpkin, rice, stock, herbs and spices along with enough boiling water to cover everything. Cook for about 30 – 40 minutes on low heat. When potatoes are just cooked, add corn and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, each bowl should have 1 potato, one portion of pumpkin, 1 piece of corn, 1 portion of chicken and the bowl filled with the broth. This recipe serves 6.

*Depending on how fatty you want the broth to be more or less fat can be removed.


A Vegetarian in Chile: Part 1 Porotos Granados

Travelling as a vegetarian can be challenging, especially when you don’t have a house and you’re moving around a lot. “Good luck finding vegetarian food in a restaurant in South America” they told me. “You’re gonna have to start eating meat again” they warned. And they had a point. It was tough, the first few weeks. I pretty much lived off cheese empanadas (a kind of Chilean pastry which is AMAZING but definitely not good for your waistline). I even broke vegetarianism one time at an “asado” (BBQ) because the only options were meat, sausage, meat empanadas, bread with meat, or alcohol.

But now I’m settled into an apartment, ready to start up my daily routine and get cooking! I’m on a quest to find all the traditional Chilean meatless dishes out there, try them, make them, and share them with you here.

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First up, I’m going to write about Porotos Granados. This was actually the first meal I had in Chile, home made by my boyfriend’s mum. This dish is popular in summer, because you can get all the ingredients fresh and cheap at “La Feria”. Ferias are a type of regular street market where you can buy local fruit and veg, fish, eggs, spices and dried goods. They happen all over Chile, from the smallest towns, were the producers themselves come to sell their goods, to the capital. Shopping at the market is a great way to support small, local producers, avoid buying from huge supermarket conglomerates, and best of all, finding top quality food at a great price.

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I love this dish because it is nutritious and delicious, made with the freshest seasonal goodies summer can offer! However, there is quite a bit of prep work, so does need to be planned ahead of time.


  • 2kg porotos granados in pods (known as cranberry beans in English)
  • 2 cobs of fresh corn, grated
  • 200g ish of pumpkin cut into small cubes
  • 1 tomato, chopped (optional)
  • Medium sized brown onion, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped finely
  • 1 green chilli, chopped finely
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 handful of fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • Vegetable stock cube
  • Olive oil


Remove porotos from pods. In a large pot, sauté onion, garlic, chilli and oregano in oil over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add pumpkin and porotos, stir through and then add boiling water until mixture is just covered. Stir through stock and leave covered to simmer over low heat for about 1 hour.

Add tomato. (This step is optional because the dish is not always made with tomato but I personally like the slight acidity it brings to the overall flavour.) After 10 minutes add corn and basil. Stir continuously for 5 minutes to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the pot. The consistency should be something between thick soup and mashed potato. Serve hot!