Even though I grew up in a mixed Latinx household, Chilean culture and food dominated. Not necessarily on purpose, it was just that my maternal grandparents, who were from the South American country, lived with us, so my Mexican father was simply outnumbered. As a child consumer, eating all of the chilean delicacies, I wasn’t mad.
When I was little, my grandma always had me in the kitchen helping, and, because she was OG señora status, she made everything from scratch. It’s another reason why sweets, in particular, are close to my heart and my tummy. She knew that I’d never turn down cuchuflí or mote con huesillo.
Chilean food doesn’t generate the same excitement that Mexican, Argentine or Cuban food does — I mean, it’s really hard to compete with those — but just because they aren’t super similar doesn’t mean that Chile doesn’t also have some bomb, albeit weird-sounding, cuisine and desserts.
Here, nine Chilean desserts that my abuelita would make me with amor y cariño.
1. Mote con Huesillo
(Photo Credit: Nomadic Chica)
I’m not entirely sure if this counts as a dessert, but in my family it was definitely presented as such. Mote is husked wheat, and huesillo is a special kind of dried peach that is re-hydrated, boiled and served cold in its own sweet juice. My abuela would make this for us during the summer months, and my sisters and I would just sit in the backyard and slurp it up. I know, I know, it sounds gross, but it’s really refreshing.
(Photo Credit: Bagel Company)
Kuchen is the German word for “sweet cake.” There is a lot of European influence in Chilean food. The popularity of this particular pastel probably has something to do with the substantial German population in Chile (my own family actually lived next-door to Germans in Valparaiso). It’s basically just a flat dense cake with fruit baked into it, typically peach or apple, which is then glazed with marmalade. Yum!
(Photo Credit: Dulcere Posteria)
You might know manjar as dulce de leche, but in Chile, ours is a little different. It’s a bit darker and thicker, like a spread more than a chunky syrup. Manjar is a household staple. People put it on cookies, toast, cakes and pretty much anything they can get their hands on. When my tia comes from Valparaiso, you better believe she is bringing manjar at the TSA legal max (they sell it in large bags by the kilo). When I was small and we were in short supply, my abuela would just boil a can of condensed milk and give each of my sisters a spoon.
(Photo Credit: Cherry Tomate)
This is a fried dough made from squash/pumpkin, accompanied with a molasses “sauce” you can dip them in or pour all over. Again, doesn’t sound delectable, but hear me out! It’s kind of like a yellow, flatter beignet. It’s also similar to zucchini bread, but somehow still nothing like it. All you need to know: It’s good — I swear!
5. Murta Con Membrillo
(Photo Credit: Pinterest)
I like to call this one a “Chilean fruit cup.” It isn’t a postre my abuela ever made us in the U.S., since the main ingredients, Chilean guava and quince, are specific to the South of Chile, but I remember having it in Santiago as a kid. It’s kind of similar to Mexican ponche, in that it’s boiled fruit served warm or chilled in its juice, but with a Chilean twist.
6. Leche Asada
(Photo Credit: Mi Diario De Cocina)
Even though I’m half-Mexican and grew up in Southern California, my first introduction to custardy desserts was through leche asada. I know what you’re thinking, why on earth would they call it that? Honestly, I can’t explain or be responsible for the strange names Chileans come up with. It’s a custard dessert that’s slightly crisped on top. If you like flan, you’ll like leche asada, and I know you like flan!
7. Pan De Pascua
(Photo Credit: En Mi Cocina Hoy)
This is something we bust out for Christmas, since Pascua is what Chileans call Christmas … and Easter. My Mom, sisters and I would spend hours in the kitchen with my abuela making it for the neighbors. I’m sure you’ve had other versions of this, but the Chilean iteration is worth mentioning because it’s a bit different. It’s darker, more moist and is full of chopped nuts and dried fruit. I hated it as a kid, I actually still don’t like it, but my tias y tios seem to love it. To each their own.
8. Brazo De Reina
(Photo Credit: Curious Cuisiniere)
This is another familiar dessert found throughout Mexico as well as Central and South America. In Chile, though, it’s a flat sponge cake filled with manjar, rolled, and then covered with powdered sugar. My abuela would make these for birthdays and serve it with ice cream and fruit. It’s suuuper yummy!
(Photo Credit: Mercado Libre)
Kind of like little crispy tubes filled with, you guessed it, manjar, these are great for when you take Onces. Usually served with tea, this dessert can also be filled with chocolate (sometimes even covered in it) or jelly. These are still one of my all-time favorite sweets.