My South America Trip #19 – Chiliean traditional food “The Pastel de Choclo (Corn Pie)”

In my last post on my South America Trip  #18,  I talked about a very popular Chilean dish Caldillo De Congrio. Even Pablo Neruda wrote an ode to this dish.  As we stayed in Chile for only 3 days, and we lived literally in the National Park, we didn’t have a lot of opportunities to go out and explore about food.  What we ate were good food at hotel level.  At the end of the trip, when I was flying home, a Chilean law student sitting next to me, had educated me about Chilean traditional food. I complained that I didn’t find too many traditional dishes in Chilean, and my impression was that they were just like our American food.  The law student of course disagreed with me. He said that there were many delicious traditional Chilean dishes, but I did not have the chance to eat all of them.  Then it was very interesting – I did have a traditional Chilean dish which is very popular in Chile. It is the dish called Pastel de Choclo, which is a beef and corn pie.  Here’s a photo of the Pastel de Choclo which I ate on the plane. Usually the plane food is not that great.  Even if it was not as good as some home-cooked or restaurant meal, I found this dish really amazing!

Pastel de choco

The Pastel de Choclo (Corn Pie)

When I was preparing to write this post, I looked around to check out the recipes and cooking methods.  I found a very special blog which is all about Chilean food.  It is title Eating Chilean.  This blog is about Chilean food, history and culture, by Jim Stuart, a North American anthropologist living in Chile.  I am so lucky to find this blog which has enriched my understanding of the Chilean culture through the food they eat.  Here’s the:

The Pastel de Choclo (Corn Pie) Mystery

Eating Chilean by Jim Stuart

“And the mystery?  The origins of the Chilean version of pastel de choclo are clearly humble; it was never a sophisticated dish like that of the Dominicans in 1608 or the Argentineans and Bolivians of 1890.  The dish Gay saw in the 1830s among rural peasants either arose spontaneously in rural Chile, as Sonia Montecino suggests, or arrived with some low level conquistador’s woman, to become the center piece in peasant fiestas and rural hacienda kitchens, but not in elegant homes.  And not in Santiago.
At least not until the 1900s. Santiago’s population grew from 190,000 in 1882 to 406,500 in 1916,[14] due primarily to immigration from rural communities.  Among those rural migrants, we can suppose there was a woman; a descendant perhaps of Allende’s Inez, a strong independent woman.  She supported herself and her children by baking her rural specialty, pastel de choclo. She was a good cook and a better businesswoman; her pies sold well and soon she expanded her sales. Others followed and by the end of the first decade of the 20th century, pastel de choclo (or pastel de maiz as the gentry called it) had become popular; so popular that a recipe even appeared in the elegant French-influenced cookbook of La Negrita Doddy.   And from there it grew and grew.”
This is “How the Pastel de Choclo became Chile’s favorite food.” said Jim Stuart.   Here’s the recipe he quotes from a Chilean Cookbook.  
Chilean Cookbook, the 700 page La Gran Cocina Chilena (8th edition, 2000):
Pastel de Choclo
8 ears of corn
1 kg. ground beef
1/2 kg. chicken pieces
6 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon cumin
1/8 kg olives (5 oz)
1/8 kg raisins (ditto)
2 eggs
Salt and pepper
Cut the onions into a small dice and fry, then add the ground meat, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.  Boil the chicken and cut into pieces.  Boil the eggs and cut into rounds.
Grate the corn and blend to a purée in a blender, add a little milk and fry the mixture in a little oil without burning it.
 In an oven proof pan [or ideally in individual earthenware bowls of greda de Pomaire] place the pieces of chicken, separated, and the olives and raisins and over that the prepared filling and the egg rounds, topped by a layer of the corn purée, sprinkling a little sugar on top to aid in browning.  Bake in a hot over for 15 minutes.
Note: The corn used is “field corn,” which is starchier than sweet corn and will cook into a thick paste.  See Chilean Corn (Choclo Chileno). If field corn is not available add corn meal to thicken the mixture. In Chilean supermarkets prepared corn dough for humitas and pastel de choclo is available frozen.

Now you have the recipe, it may be more interesting to watch a video.  This is the best that I found on You-Tube.  Enjoy, and try it out!


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