Food During Argentina’s Spanish Colonial Era

Culinary traditions in colonial Argentina

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Colonial Argentina

From the 16th to the early 19th century, Argentina was part of the Spanish empire. The coexistence of Argentina’s indigenous people and its new European inhabitants led to a unique national gastronomy with a myriad of different dishes.

The Cabildo in the city of Buenos Aires is an iconic building that was built in the colonial era and is a symbol of Argentinian independence and its birth as a nation. It was here that the first non-European government was formed, on May 25, 1810.

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This tasty morsel is the perfect illustration of Spanish culinary influences, as it is made with flour, which was unknown in the Americas before 1492. Pastelitos were the unlikely stars of the establishment of the first government to be independent of Spain, on May 25, 1810.

They were sold by street vendors and eaten on the go, and the story goes that, on that fateful day in May 1810, sales of pastelitos went through the roof as they were purchased by people in the crowds outside the Cabildo.

Panadería (2021-02-05/2021-02-05) by Edgardo ReinaGustar

The recipe is simple: they are made from a stuffed dough, and then fried in oil or fat. There are both sweet and savory versions, and the stuffing is usually candied sweet potato, tomato, orange, and occasionally plum.

Fritos y pasteles (1925) by Cesáreo BERNALDO DE QUIROSGustar

The arrival of beef

The wild horses and cows that were first brought to the Rio de la Plata region on the ships of the Spanish conquistadors were known as wild livestock. People started eating beef on its own and in stews such as the Argentinian stew known as locro.

Provincia de Buenos Aires, tradición agrícola y ganaderaGustar

The first asados

Asado, meaning roast or barbecue, is an iconic Argentinian tradition that all tourists are duty-bound to try. Some historians suggest that the earliest versions date from the colonial era, when beef or lamb was roasted on a spit.

Provincia de Buenos Aires, tradición agrícola y ganaderaGustar

A cross spit is a common cooking technique today and closely resembles colonial spit roasts. The meat is cooked a short distance away from a wood fire. The cooking process can last three or four hours. 

La mazamorra (1927) by Fernando FADERGustar


Several researchers see the dessert known as mazamorra as a classic example of the blending of cuisines during the colonial era. European ingredients such as milk, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon were added to the indigenous corn-based recipe.

Mazamorra was one of the country’s favorite desserts at that time. The recipe combines white corn, granulated sugar, and milk, although many people have their own variations, adding other ingredients such as spices or fruit.

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The women who sold their desserts to passers-by were known as mazamorreras. 

Receta mazamorraGustar

White corn, which is the main ingredient in this sweet dessert, was commonly eaten before the colonial era. It was highly prized for its high calorific content, as well as the fact that it could be easily incorporated into several different recipes.

Interior de una pulpería (1860) by Jean Léon PALLIEREGustar

The nation’s favorite tipple

The tradition of Argentinian wine also has its roots in the colonial era. Wine was produced in the region now known as Cuyo, which now includes the provinces of San Juan, Mendoza, San Luis, and La Rioja.

At that time, wine was produced entirely by hand. A wine known as carlón, made in Cuyo with Criolla grapes, was the most popular variety.  

El carnicero (1924) by Cesáreo BERNALDO DE QUIROSGustar


The origins of maté lie with the Guarani people, who were the first to make infusions using this herb. They also used it as an object of worship and as currency for trading with other indigenous groups.

By the time of the colonial era, this infusion, intended for sharing, was able to bring people together and establish more equitable conditions among all social strata, as it was drunk by indigenous people and the Spanish.

Maté with tortas fritas

The quintessential accompaniment to this infusion was a fried pastry known as a torta frita. These tasty morsels are made with wheat flour and fried in oil or fat. They can be eaten as a savory snack or dusted with powdered sugar.

Credits: Story

Editor: Diego Marinelli/Text: Juan Marinelli 

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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