Thursday, March 3, 2011

Chilean Salad Recipes

Chilean salad, or ensalada chilena is a traditional Chilean food that you will encounter during your stay in Chile.

Here’s a Chilean salad next to some freshly eaten seafood:


If you are used to a salad with lots of lettuce and green color, you may not even think that ensalada chilena qualifies as a salad.

However, this salad variation consisting primarily of tomatoes, onions, and cilantro is a common side dish with Chilean meals.

There are many different recipes but the basic ingredients are:
3 sliced tomatoes
1 sliced onion
1/4 cup diced cilantro
1 tablespoon oil
Salt, vinegar, pepper to taste.

Here's another persons experience and recipe for Chilean Salad.  Doesn't her picture below look delicious?:

I will never forget the first time I ordered “Chilean Salad” back as an exchange student. Expecting a heaping bowl of greens, to my dismay, what arrived was a simple plate of peeled tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. The waiter, sensing my confusion, quickly explained that the term “salad” in Chile is a generic term for any fresh vegetable, raw or cooked, served cold as an accompaniment.  And in this case, Chilean salad was always made with tomatoes. Aha!.

This salad is a staple on every Chilean table. I am sure if you polled any Chilean, they would name this as a perennial favorite. Quite simply it goes with everything. From the classic humitas, sweet corn tamales, and corn pie in the summer time to costillar de cerdo, spicy pork ribs, grilled chicken, fried fish, any asado, barbecued beef, or even as a side with empanadas or beans which Chileans love. The freshness of the tomatoes, mildness of the onions, and the herbs create crunchy, juicy, tangy, herby ecstasy in your mouth.

Cecilia, my mother-in-law, taught me the age-old Chilean trick of tempering the onions with salt or sugar to take away their sting so they can be savored raw in the salad. Although many Chilean cooks would add cilantro to this recipe, basil is so abundant in the summer time and pairs so well with ripe, succulent tomatoes, I have taken the liberty of making that substitution.

1 medium onion or red onion
1 teaspoon of salt or sugar
3 large ripe tomatoes
¼ cup basil cut in threads, or chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Sea salt to taste
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Slice the onion paper-thin, cutting with the grain (lengthwise). Separate the sections with your fingers. To temper, sprinkle a teaspoon of salt or sugar, combine well with your hands to mix. Set aside for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, peel, slice, and arrange the tomatoes on a platter. If you prefer, you can leave the skins on the tomatoes although traditionally, most Chileans will peel them.Cut the basil in threads by rolling the washed leaves up like a cigar and slicing finely. When the onion has rested and rendered its “milk,” rinse it well with cold water and gently squeeze out the excess liquid. Arrange the onions on top of the tomatoes and sprinkle with the basil threads.Drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Lightly toss before serving.   Serves 4-6 as a side.


  1. You know how Alex hates salad? I wonder if he likes this salad :) haha