Grains and potatoes, grains and potatoes, grains and potatoes.
If you love grains and potatoes, then you’ll love Uyuni (and altiplano Bolivia).
The local diet is heavily dependent on those two local staples, but there are also some other dishes that are worth giving a try.
Uyuni isn’t a culinary hotbed by any means either, but if your time in Bolivia is relatively limited, this is just as good a time as any other to check off some food to-dos.
Best Restaurants in Uyuni
Calle Sucre, between Potosí and Ferrovaría
A variety of options, including meats, soups, salads and vegetarian options.
Also open in the evening with beer and some rudimentary cocktails.
Probably the closest you’ll come to a gourmet restaurant in Uyuni, outside of the super luxurious hotels.
Menu has both international and Bolivian options–including some of the dishes mentioned below.
Breakfast in Uyuni
Located inside the Toñito Hotel, Av. Ferrovaría between Ayacucho and Avaroa
Minuteman Pizza is the place to go in Uyuni for breakfast.
Located inside of the Toñito hotel, the American owner knows what it takes to put together an American breakfast. Pizzas are often recommended as well for lunch and other meals.
Also traditionally been a place where travelers traveling solo or in pairs meet others to form
Foods to Try in Uyuni
Salteñas: Another Bolivian Staple
The easiest way to describe the ubiquitous salteña is to compare it to an empanada, with the notable difference being that it is baked, as opposed to fried.
Depending on what you order, they may have meats or may be vegetarian, but will almost always have a bit of potatoes, onions, a hardboiled egg and an olive.
They also have a juicy gravy inside that will spill and shoot out if you’re not careful–getting salteña juice all over your clothes is almost a rite of passage in Bolivia.
You can usually find salteñas in many shops and street corners in the mornings–by the afternoon they’ll be in short supply. They also tend to be pretty safe to eat if you’re worried about getting sick.
Quinoa in Uyuni
Quinoa is also popular in Bolivia, but not necessarily in the way that you’d traditionally think of it if you’re coming from North America or Europe.
Quinoa is not a replacement for rice, nor is it the base for healthy salads in Bolivia. Rather, it’s typically included in soups and in hot drinks.
Api: A Bolivian Alternative to Coffee
Bolivia produces some pretty tasty coffee, but there still isn’t a widespread coffee culture amongst locals. Unfortunately, that means that you’re likely to come across a lot of instant coffee in your mornings, and on your tour.
If a few days with caffeine won’t be too much of a hardship, consider trying out a traditional morning drink in Bolivia: Api.
Api is a sweet, thick, syrupy drink served hot in the mornings across highland Bolivia made with purple corn and hints of cinnamon and chives.
It’s often served with pasteles, thin-fried dough pastries with powdered sugar, making it a good morning options for those that need a little kick and a little sugar too. Be careful–api seems to always be piping hot, no matter how much time you may spend trying to cool it down blowing.
You could also look for llama/alpaca meat, but steaks like that are not really part of the local diet, they are more targeted towards tourists. Llama charque, a dried meat similar to jerky, is much more typical.
Also, fun fact, that the word jerky comes originally from charque, and is the only English word derived from the Aymara language.
Charque is generic for the dried meat, whereas charqueqan refers to a more specific dish, with dried meat, large-grained corn and some quesillo cheese.
Sopa de Mani
One of my favorites from Bolivia, a peanut and potato soup. Rich and creamy, you can often nab it as the soup in a traditional Menu del día if you are lucky.
Llagua is a blanket term for the hot sauces that are typically included on most Bolivian tables. The name of the pepper that it’s based off of is Rocoto pepper, sometimes referred to Locoto pepper in Bolivia.
The spices will vary in color and in how hot they are–it’s always better to try a little bit before committing to dousing your food in hot sauce.
The pepper itself is a intermediate to high heat, hotter than most Western spices, but not as hot as many Asian peppers nor Jalapeños.
Oh, and purists will tell you, that real llagua is always ground with a mortar and pestle, never blended in a blender.
Other Bolivian Foods to Look for in Uyuni
Some other foods to jump at if you decide to try and find a more traditional Bolivian meal in Uyuni:
- Picante de lengua/pollo/etc — Not terribly spicy, but usually tasty and a nicer plate to try.
- Ensalada de frutas — Bolivia has delicious jungle fruits and many make it to Uyuni! This fruit salad is good for breakfast or for quick snacks at places that otherwise would have only sandwiches, pizza or other backpacking basics.
- Argentine Steak — Uyuni is not all that far from Argentina. It’s not uncommon to see high-quality Argentine steaks and other meats in Bolivia.
- Mocochinchi — Dehydrated peach juice, with a dehydrated peach at the bottom! Refreshing on a hot day!
- Wines from Tarija — Local Bolivian wines are very underrated internationally, and are very affordable. Kohlberg, Campos de Solana and Aranjuez are three popular brands that provide a variety of wines, from affordable to expensive.
What to Grab at the Market For Your Tour
Tours are long and the food provided might not always be great, or timely.
Dropping into a market or to corner shops is a savvy way to be sure you’ve got some extra good on-hand for whenever hunger strikes.
In most stores or markets, you can stock up on a few staples for cheap:
- Bread loaves
- Avocados–take advantage while you’re here!
And if you’re lucky, and looking for some assurance against the altitude, you could even try and grab a bag of coca leaves.
The local market, along Avenida Potosí (Potosí and Albaroa) is more active on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. There are typically still some activity on other days as well.
There is another market located at Avenida Arce and Avenida Colón.