Andes Overland

Vegetarian in South America

 By Fay Remmers


South America is a beautiful holiday destination. Besides visiting the wonderful places, it is for a lot of people a pleasure to explore the amazing various kitchen. The South American cuisine is well known as one of the best cuisines in the world, but it will not come as a surprise that meat and fish are very important ingredients. South America is also called ‘The Continent of the Carnivores’. Two-third of the entire meat industry takes place here and the average South American eats meat every day. In Peru, by contrast, more fish is being consumed.

As a vegetarian you might think it is a problem to find a proper meal here, but there is good news! It is not an issue to go on a vacation in South America when you do not eat meat of fish. More and more vegetarians are visiting the continent nowadays, so the people are getting used to it. Although a lot of South Americans do not understand why you are a vegetarian, they are always willing to help you and take into account that you are a vegetarian. Actually, you can find many modern vegetarian restaurants who serve delicious Vega dishes with a South American twist.

Even tough meat is a big part of the cuisine, rice, corn and beans are the basic ingredients. Maybe it sounds a bit boring for dinner, but you can always ask for a nice salsa with some vegetables as a side dish. And there is more good news: there are actually a lot of delicious vegetarian dishes that are part of the daily menu. Think about ‘empanadas’ with cheese served with a little bit of sugar, spiced potatoes slices and the amazing range of ‘ensaladas’ (salads). It is really recommendable as well to order a dish with ‘aguacate’ (avocado).

Typical Dishes

‘Arepa’ is the typical basic side to any Colombian meal. It is bread made from cornmeal, similar to a thick pancake. It is normally eaten with an adornment of butter or honey. In Ecuador ‘Bolones de Verde’ are very popular snack. You can find them across the whole country, but it’s most eaten at the coast. ‘Bolones’ are made from green plantains and usually stuffed with cheese. Green plantains are also used in Ecuador and Colombia to make ‘Patacones’. They slice the plantain into small pieces and fry them. They are super tasty!

Bolivia is the leading exporter of ‘Quinoa’, so it is the perfect place to try a dish with this superfood. A delightful ‘Quinoa’ salad or a stew with vegetables is really recommendable. ‘Chifa’ is eaten very often in Peru. In a lot of restaurants you can order a delicious vegetarian version as well. You can compare ‘Chifa’ with a Chinese wok dish with soy sauce.


If you have the time, it is really worth it to visit ‘un mercado de frutas y verduras’ which is a fruit and vegetable market. Here you can find the most amazing range of fruits and vegetables of high quality. When you are going on vacation it is not always necessary to eat have lunch/dinner at a restaurant. Besides that, it is fun to actually visit the market to get to know the daily life better. Another benefit is that the prices at a ‘mercado’ are way lower than at the supermarket.

  • Be very clear to the waiter and the cook. Miscommunications take place sometimes. So, in case of doubt, ask it again before you eat.
  • Try to avoid soups. Most of the soups are made from meat or chicken bouillon.
  • If you cannot find a vegetarian dish on the menu card order a couple of side dishes. For example a portion of rice, a salad and pieces of avocado.
Useful phrases:

I am a vegetarian.                                                             –                             Soy vegetariano / vegetariana.
Without meat, please.                                                      –                             Sin carne por favor.
Without fish, please.                                                        –                              Sin pescado por favor
Is this dish without meat/fish?                                      –                             Este plato no tiene carne/pescado?
I do not eat meat /fish.                                                    –                             No como carne/pescado.


Enjoy your meal! And do not forget about the amazing desserts..