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Bolivians love breakfast. In fact, many of the country’s staple dishes (including the now world-famous salteñas) are most commonly eaten first thing in the morning. From honey-smothered doughnut fritters to meat and vegetable stews, here’s how you should start every morning during your stay in Bolivia.
Literally translating to “bread with cheese”, pan con queso is exactly what it says on the tin. But don’t underestimate it: the homemade slice of Andean cheese wedged in between a light, fluffy baked roll hits the spot every time. The best bit? This on-the-go desayuno will only set you back a couple of bolivianos, or less than $1.
A little like the famous empanada, salteñas are small baked pastries usually filled with minced meat, cheese, potatoes, olives and sometimes slices of boiled egg. They’re cheap, filling and bite-sized, so they make for another great breakfast on the move. A word of warning though: salteñas are always overloaded with a delicious but messy tomato filling, so make sure you have some tissues at the ready.
Empanadas fritas – fried empanadas – are very similar to salteñas, only they’re deep-fried rather than baked. They may be a little unhealthier than their sister pasty, but they’re a lot less messy (the deep-frying process seems to make the sauce a little less runny, and the meat a little less rogue).
Known for its perfectly crusty outside and fluffy inside, marraqueta is the name of Bolivia’s famous oval-shaped bread. The name also refers to a typical breakfast, which, as you might have guessed, features a freshly-baked marraqueta as the main event. If its a weekday and locals are heading to work, a marraqueta breakfast will just be a single marraqueta roll served with a piece of grilled meat or cheese and a cup of black coffee. If it’s a weekend, though, they pull out all the stops, and the bread is served alongside fricasé (a meat and vegetable stew) and chairo (dehydrated potatoes).
Similar to a cheese biscuit, cuñapés are deliciously cheesy doughs balls made from cassava or yucca flour. It’s common to have them served as a kind of “pre-breakfast” snack with a cup of black coffee or coca tea. Since no wheat is used to make them, the cuñapé is an excellent option for those looking for a gluten-free breakfast on the go.
If you’re the kind of person that craves a sugar hit first thing in the morning, then buñuelos might just be the Bolivian breakfast of your dreams. A fluffy doughnut fritter, buñuelos are dusted with sugar and cinnamon and then drenched in warm, melted honey. You’ll also see savory buñuelos in some regions, which are usually filled with soft, gooey cheese.
Humintas are Bolivia’s answer to tamales. Like the Mexican dish, the huminta is a soft but dense mixture of flour dough that has been either boiled or baked in corn husks. What makes them different from tamales, however, is that there’s no meat or dairy inside (think dense corn cake), making them a perfect (and hard-to-come-by) on-the-go breakfast for vegetarians and vegans.
While not strictly a breakfast in itself, this hearty morning juice is still worth a mention. A hot drink made from purple or white corn, pineapple, water, cinnamon and sugar, api is Bolivia’s favorite breakfast accompaniment (even more popular, in fact, than tea or coffee), particularly with empanadas fritas or buñuelos.