About the food of Paraguay

a Flooded grasslands and savannas ecoregion of south-central South America. By Alicia Yo.

Paraguay (pronounced parag-why) is the first landlocked country we’ve cooked in a long, long while. To celebrate, we’re going to hang out in a local swamp. Appropriately dubbed “The Great Swamp,” this wet expanse stretches through Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia, and is home to more than 10,000 species of birds, reptiles, fish, and invertebrates, according to Environmental Graffiti. It’s gigantic.

P.S. The Great Swamp is considered by Environmental Graffiti to be one of the top ten swamps in the world.

So there’s that.

Tribo Indigena no Paraguai. Photo by Herr stahlhoefer.

While there, let’s sip on yerba mate – a bitter, hyper-caffienated tea served in a “mate” container and drunk through a bombilla (a straw with a built-in strainer. Brilliant invention, right?). In the summer, try chilled yerba tea mixed with herbs. This is called terere, a wildly popular Paraguayan drink. Speaking of summer – if the sun gets in your eyes, feel free to throw on a a carved leather hat – something local artisans produce (you might find them tucked away between pottery, jewelry, and wooden sculpture vendors).

When hunger strikes, there’s everything from carne asada (barecued meat) [Recipe] and all the fixings, to corn, corn, and more corn.

Jesuit Reduction in Trinidad, Paraguay. Photo by Markus Reckwerth.

Cornbread is a safe bet considering most Paraguayans don’t feel like dinner is done until they’ve nibbled on a slice. There are two main varieties called Sopa Paraguaya and Chipa Guazu (chipa has loads of corn kernels in it – yum) [Recipe]. You’ll find neat squares of sopa or chipa on the side of almost every meal (especially the soups – like chickpea and spinach soup – Garbanzo con Acelga, Pira Caldo – fish stew, or simple meat stews). There’s also corn mush and corn pudding, in case you’d still like some more.

Maps and flag courtesy of the CIA World Factbook. Photos of Asuncion by Motorway065 and FF MM.

You can finish your meal with cafe con leche and alfajores, the dulce de leche filled cookies so popular in many South American countries [Recipe]. Or you can bite into a Kosereva, a candied preserve made from molasses and sour oranges.

Or you can just watch the ladies dance with wine bottles on their heads (16 is the record, as far as I know).

Here’s the description of this competitive dance from The Logic of Long Distance:

The best performance of the night was the bottle-dance, a peculiarly Paraguayan dance in which the women shuffle and weave around the floor balancing wine bottles on their heads. It is a competitive dance. Most of the girls topped out around six or seven bottles. But two girls kept on stacking bottles on their heads. They had to bring a ladder to pile them on—eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen wine bottles stacked end to end on the top of the head of a dancing girl. The girl that won ended up breaking her record, balancing sixteen wine bottles on her head, outside on a windy day!


  1. Will be paying attention to the food of a neighbor country from my home place! “cha’ mate”, like we call in Brazil the yerba matte is indeed very popular also in the South of Brazil and the first time I tried it from the proper container, I burned my mouth really bad. Something that people get used to, apparently – and adults can handle incredibly hot tea as if it’s nothing. I was young and had zero experience with it… learned a painful lesson! Good times!

    • Sasha Martin says

      I’ve always really enjoyed super hot drinks and foods, but Keith has a more sensitive mouth I guess… so he has to wait another 10-15 minutes for the food to cool down (or add a couple of ice cubes). Interesting how different we can be.

  2. Please please give us soups and stews from Paraguay! We are cooling off and I itch to cook new comforting things….

    • Sasha Martin says

      It’s still hitting the 80’s-90’s here ha… How about a compromise… I’ll make the hearty side to go with a yummy soup?

  3. Brian S. says

    What does anyone know about Paraguay? Well here are three very interesting things.

    1. Did you ever see that old movie “The Mission” where Jeremy Irons plays an idealistic Jesuit who goes into the jungle, converts the local people (Guarani Indians) and sets up a mission which is basically a big commune where people farm together, learn together, and split the profits fairly? Well it happened in real life and it happened in Paraguay. There were quite a few of these Jesuit communes, and I think they lasted 100 years, and the writers of the 18th century European enlightenment took notice and praised them. Finally the Spanish, who wanted their riches for themselves, sent in soldiers, just like the movie, and razed them.

    2. Perhaps the world’s bloodiest war was fought in Paraguay around 1870. Neighboring countries invaded and killed perhaps NINETY PERCENT of all Paraguayan men! Some people say Paraguay never recovered from this.

    3. One of the greatest classical composers of all time lived at the beginning of the last century in Paraguay. His name was Augustin Barrios. But nobody noticed because he never left Paraguay. Here is a rare recording of him playing something he composed.


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