Oh the joys of street food. Food, on the street, hot, cheap and ready to eat. We’ve found a generous amount of vegan street food in Bolivia, never hesitating to try something new or weird. We’ll buy anything we find that’s made without meat, fish, cheese, milk, eggs and butter. No one in Bolivia is selling vegan street food on purpose. However, in Bolivia, circumstances seem to be working in our favour more often than they have in the other South American countries we’ve visited. The result, lots of amazing food, conveniently enjoyed on the go.
First up, tortas fritas, an amazing wad of deep fried dough. Big, greasy, crispy and delicious. We’ve come across these several times, eager to indulge for the low price of $0.50 to $1.00 Bolivian Bolivianos ($0.07 to $0.14 USD). We first came across them in Tupiza, at the market near the train station. We’ve also found them on Avenue Montes in La Paz, Bolivia.
Empanadas are everywhere in Bolivia but nine times out of ten they’re made with queso (cheese) or carne (meat). On the way back from the Uyuni salt flats tour, we stopped in a small town for a quick baño break and snack. There were lots of women selling food but, as usual, it was hard to figure out what they were selling. There are never any signs and each person’s basket or pot of food is covered with cloth to keep it hot and free from bugs and pollution. The only way to find out what’s available is to ask or wait and see what someone else walks away with. We saw some people eating empanadas that appeared to be free of meat and cheese. We were skeptical but asked anyway. We were delighted to find the woman was selling empanadas stuffed with carrot and potato. They were so good, John couldn’t help buying a second for the road. At $2.50 Bolivianos ($0.36 USD), we couldn’t resist. The town we stopped in was so small and basic, we guessed the lack of cheese was likely due to the fact that many small, rural towns in Bolivia don’t have electricity or the luxury of refrigeration.
We discovered our next vegan street food delicacy while traveling North through Bolivia on route from Uyuni to Sucre. Once again, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere for a bathroom and food break. There were several ladies selling different varieties of corn, and one selling humintas, corn tamales or corn purèe cakes. They are sometimes made with cheese and butter but we were able to confirm these were free of animal products. Same as before, it was likely the limited resources that worked in our favour. They were delicious! The texture was similar to Indian pakoras made of shredded vegetables. Like all of our street food finds, they were especially cheap, priced at $1.50 Bolivianos ($0.21 USD).
Moving on to street food of the sweeter variety, peanut bars. They’re everywhere and they’re excellent. Made of ground peanuts and sugar, they’re hard to pass up when you have a craving for something sweet and substantial. While peanut butter is hard to find in Bolivia, peanuts are hard to avoid. Roasted, plain, salted and candied peanuts are waiting for you on every corner. We first tried peanut bars in Tupiza, where we met two friendly but shy women selling several varieties of peanuts, dried Lima beans, plantain chips and roasted chickpeas. They taste similar to Eat-More candy bars, minus the chocolate. Peanut bars sell for $1.00 – $3.00 Bolivianos ($0.14 to $0.43 USD), depending on the size.
After trying a sample of the roasted chickpeas, we had to buy a bag. They too were a great find, crunchy, chalky and filling. While waiting for the train, I finished an entire bag, also making space for a banana and papaya smoothie.
Natural juices and smoothies were very popular in Brazil but hard to find in Argentina. Thankfully, Bolivians seem to agree with Brazilians regarding the benefits of natural juices. We’ve seen long rows of juice vendors near all of the major markets we’ve visited in Bolivia and every restaurant we’ve eaten at has had a long list of natural juices on their menu. Along the streets of Bolivia, there are many ladies eager to squeeze you fresh orange, grapefruit or pineapple juice. There are also rows of women waving you over to their juice stands, ready to blend you any combination of fruit, with common mixes including banana, papaya, pineapple, passion fruit, peach, mango, kiwi, strawberry, orange, carrot and apple. I’ve tried lots of them, but always made sure to find vendors who use bottled water. Freshly squeezed juice and fruit smoothies, with a full refill, sell for about $3.50 Bolivianos ($0.50 USD).
Bolivian street food, you’re awesome.