A Brief History of Chimichurri: Argentina’s Favorite Sauce

Steak Chimichurri
Steak Chimichurri | © yosoynuts/Flickr
Jerry Nelson

Chimichurri. Go ahead. Say it. Roll the Rs. Enjoy the sound and take the sauce seriously. Chimichurri is an uncooked sauce used principally on grilled meat. Available in both green (chimichurri verde) and red (chimichurri rojo) varieties, it stems from Argentine cuisine. Here’s everything you need to know about where it’s from and how to use it.

Argentine in its origins, chimichurri is typically made of finely-chopped parsley, minced garlic, oregano and white vinegar – though there are regional variations, with Uruguay adding red pepper flakes for an added kick. The name’s origin is unclear. Numerous linguists hold the name, chimichurri, as derived from Basque’s tximitxurri, pronounced chee-mee-CHOO-ree; stumbling interpreted as ‘a mix of several things in no special order’.

Gaucho BBQ in Argentina

Another story claims that the name comes from ‘Jimmy’s curry’, Jimmy, being an Englishman who joined the fight for Argentine Independence. His name, being difficult for Argentines to pronounce, morphed into chimichurri.

Miguel Brasco, an Argentine food critic, believes the word was coined when the British failed in their invasion of Rio de la Plata in 1806 and were taken prisoner. The detainees requested condiments for their food and mixed English with Spanish.

Perbacco chef, Staffan Terje believes that chimichurri is identical to Sicily’s salmoriglio sauce, which is served mainly on seafood.

Food historians think that chimichurri was invented by gauchos to flavor meat cooked over open fires. If so, the gauchos probably used dried herbs as fresh herbs would spoil.

Chimichurri on llama steak

Four chimichurri myths put to rest

It’s not pesto

Chimichurri is not an Argentine style of pesto. Some look similar, but they have distinct flavors. Pesto contains basil, olive oil, garlic, nuts, and cheese. Chimichurri has oil, water, vinegar, parsley and assorted herbs and vegetables as well as other spices blended in. Pesto is affiliated with pasta. Chimichurri goes with grilled meats.

It’s not Argentine ketchup

No, chimichurri is not Argentina’s version of ketchup. Argentines use ketchup just as people in other nations use it. What you won’t see is people layering ketchup on their grilled meats. That’s what chimichurri is for. Chimichurri is not used for dipping fried potatoes, sprinkled on hot dogs or put on hamburgers.

It’s not a marinade

Chimichurri is not a marinade. It is seen mainly as a flavoring for grilled sausages, meats and offal. Like any sauce, chimichurri is used by some as a marinade, but it is one of dozens.

Herbs used in chimichurri

It’s not pureed herbs

Again, no. Pureeing herbs, vegetables and spices do not make chimichurri. For example, consider mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is an emulsion of blended oil, egg, and acidic liquids, like lemon or vinegar. Are all such mixtures containing oils referred to as mayonnaise? No. Throwing cilantro, limes, tomatillos, avocados and chipotles into a blender doesn’t make chimichurri.

Argentina’s chimichurri is the original and the best. Just ask any Argentine.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider

Hanna

women sitting on iceberg

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?

2 years.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?

It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.

WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?

I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

X

Keen to explore the world?

Our passionately curated premium small-group trips are an invitation to connect with like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences.