Article updated November 2015
Thanksgiving is one of the most important and widely celebrated holidays in the US and Canada. So what do you do if you find yourself in Chile during Turkey Day? Eat turkey of course! Thanksgiving is quite easy to recreate in Santiago with a little planning. To assist you in your shopping I have included a list of common translations, as well as store suggestions for many of your standard Thanksgiving ingredients at the end of this article.
There are options for all levels of cooks or restaurant enthusiasts to celebrate Thanksgiving in Santiago. You can easily find all the ingredients to cook your own Thanksgiving dinner if you choose, or you can just cook one or two things and plan a potluck with some of your friends. If you want to avoid a lot of cooking you can order some parts of the dinner to be cooked for you. Lastly you can head to one of the local restaurants or bars that are having a Thanksgiving dinner.
Cooking Thanksgiving Yourself
Kitchens, and especially ovens, in Chile are often a lot smaller than the ones in the US so you will need to plan your cooking and preparing accordingly. Usually they only have one oven shelf, so making some of your sides and desserts a day or two before will help you coordinate your cooking. You might need to make a few adjustments to your standard menu based on availability of ingredients but don’t worry, most everything you would want can be found here.
The first thing you should do is get or order a turkey. Turkey is popular in Chile and is a typical Christmas meal, they are often available frozen at the larger grocery stores year-round, just search the frozen food bins, or ask the butcher. I ordered one to be delivered from ensucasa.cl, Carnes a Domicilio also offers delivery. They also sell turkey breast(pechuga de pavo) if you are cooking for a small group and don’t want to tackle the whole bird. I suggest ordering your turkey at least a week or two in advance as turkey is not widely eaten by Chileans in October or November and they may run out if you wait until the last minute. It is most likely that you will get a frozen bird so make sure to buy it or have it delivered at least a few days in advance to give it time to thaw out and make it easier to handle. If you do end up with a frozen bird on Thanksgiving morning, don’t freak out/panic, it will cook through, it will just take a little longer. In recent years Butterball turkeys have been available at select Lider’s in Santiago, but they show up late in November if at all, we suggest checking with the managers to see if they have any intel on this years orders.
The turkey will arrive in a similar condition as you are used to if you have cooked one before, but double check for missed feathers and make sure to pull any out prior to preparing it, if you have trouble use your tweezers! Make sure you check for the plastic bag of organs and turkey neck in the body cavity while you’re cleaning the bird, if it is still frozen you may need to cook it for a little while before you can slide them out, but don’t forget about them!
I cook my turkey and stuffing separately so that the turkey cooks faster and more evenly. I use herbed butter on the turkey, rubbing it all over underneath the skin and then just stuff it with some fresh herbs and sliced fresh citrus fruits like oranges and lemons. You can usually find fresh herbs near the lettuces in the grocery stores, the larger stores will have a bigger selection, but you may need to visit a few to find everything you need. If you can’t find fresh herbs just buy dried ones and Google search the substitution measurements. For gravy if you’re handy in the kitchen you can make a roux ahead of time, or if you don’t have time or patience for that just whisk some flour into your pan drippings for a quick easy gravy. If you want or need more stock, boil your neck and organs in a small pot of water, or you can save them and combine them with the turkey carcass to make some stock for Turkey Soup!
Buying a Pre-cooked Turkey
If you don’t want to tackle the task of cooking your own turkey you can ask at the large grocery stores, some of them will cook a turkey for you, but you should order it at least a week in advance. You can also ask them to include the pan drippings but I have read that they can be quite salty so be sure to taste them before making your gravy, you can always order some turkey necks to boil for a gravy stock. A popular local chef, Nancy Bavestrello of Chef Nancy Organics usually offers cooked turkeys, cornbread, pumpkin pies, and more, as well as fresh veggies and other goodies you might need for your dinners. For pre-cooked products order at least a week in advance to ensure your holiday delivery! Coquinaria is also offering a Thanksgiving meal until November 25th, you need to order at least 3 business days in advance and it’s pick up only. Offerings include, turkey and stuffing, glazed ham, roasted potatoes, pumpkin pie, mincemeat tart, pecan pie, apple pie and cranberry sauce. If you order a cooked turkey you can reheat it in your own oven on Thanksgiving if you want to serve it hot, it can take up to a couple hours to reheat but you won’t need to do the prep and cooking.
Ham or Beef
If you’re interested in an alternative to turkey we’ve got you covered there too. If you want a ham, order one from Hubbard and Smith, they offer traditional and honey cured, make sure to order ASAP as quantities are limited. They also have bacon and sausage for any of your stuffing needs. If you prefer beef or doing an Chilean asado, you can pretty much shop at any of your local grocery stores or butchers.
I make a Chorizo Apple Cornbread Stuffing to give our meal a nice South American twist. I adapted several recipes to create the one I wanted, stuffing is very forgiving so just play around with the ingredients you find. I make my cornbread for the stuffing a few days in advance to give it time to dry out to absorb the yummy juices and spices. You can use polenta instead of cornmeal, let it soak for up to an hour in the milk if you have time, and your cornbread should turn out perfectly. You can also just use regular sliced bread from the grocery store, if you have time cut it up and let it dry out for a day or two for the best results. Stuffing is something that can be prepared the day before and then baked while you let the turkey rest before you carve it.
Chile generally has a good stock of canned cranberries, fresh cranberries however can be difficult to find in Chile, making cranberry sauce an easy dish. Just look for them in the canned fruit and vegetables aisle. Make sure to buy them early as in the days right before Thanksgiving they tend to sell out! Cranberries can be a bit tart for some of your South American guests so I generally make a cran-apple sauce. I cut the orange juice and sugar in half and it still turns out great. Cranberry sauce can also be made several days in advance and reheated or served cool or at room temperature on Thanksgiving.
Sweet potatoes are pretty much available year round in Chile, but you might have to visit La Vega in order to find them. They are often purple or very orange here on the outside, they also sell a white version which isn’t quite the same but will do if you can’t find the purple or orange ones. If you’re not sure ask for camotes, elsewhere in South America they are also called batatas. You can cook them exactly as you do back home, I generally boil them then slice them up and top them with pineapple, brown sugar and marshmallows and bake them till they’re hot all the way through. You can also prepare them the day before and then just add the marshmallows and reheat. Potatoes for mashed potatoes are available at pretty much every grocery store or market in Chile year round. All you have to do is peel, boil, mash them and add any extras you enjoy. They can also be made in advance and just reheated on Thanksgiving.
Salads and Dressing
Salads are an easy side, just buy, clean and cut your favorite vegetables. Salad Dressings are more complicated as they aren’t as common in Chile. If you want to avoid the imported and expensive, pre-prepared ones, you can easily toss together a vinaigrette, just Google your favorite type. I also make my own blue cheese dressing but you can sometimes find them in the grocery store, do be aware that the ones in the store may not be the same as you’re used to. If you make your own dressing it’s best to make it a few days in advance to let the flavors develop.
Green Beans can sometimes be difficult to find in Chile in November, but you can use unshelled peas or any similar vegetable if you can’t find them. Shop around and look for potential substitutes, and check the frozen food bins you might come across some. Fried onions, which are a typical green bean casserole topper, are also not found often in Chile; people have suggested simply buying onion rings from one of the fast food burger joints, or you can easily make your own.
You can find rolls at any grocery store or panaderia (bakery) in Santiago. If you want to make your own there are a lot of recipes, the one I make is a no-knead recipe to which I add some fresh herbs. The great thing is you can make the dough ahead and then bake the rolls before you put the turkey in the oven for freshly baked rolls on Thanksgiving. If you have a toaster oven you can try to cook your rolls in there as well.
Some other easy sides, snack, and appetizer ideas with easy to find in Chile ingredients are: corn, peas, beans, guacamole, hummus, clam dip, spinach dip, cheeses and cured meats, and nuts.
Now all that’s left are your desserts! I usually make an Almond Apple Crumble Cheesecake, apples are available year round, and you can find a variety of them at any market and cheesecakes are very popular in Chile.
I also make a pumpkin pie, canned pumpkin is not usually found here but they have pumpkins available year round and it’s very easy to make your own filling and pie. I usually only use 2 ⅓ cups of pumpkin in the pie, any more and it overflows the pan. I use the rest, without pureeing, mixed with a little butter and brown sugar, as a side of mashed pumpkin. If you have extra filling you can either cook it for some extra non crusted pie, or Google search pumpkin recipes, lots of things from desserts to raviolis are made with pureed pumpkin fillings. If they don’t have pumpkin at your local market just head to La Vega, they always have them there. Although they might not look like the standard pumpkin you have at home from the outside, they are often green or white, their taste and texture is fine for making pies, you often see squashes substituted for pumpkin in recipes.
You may not always encounter ground spices, or pie spice mixes here, but you can easily grind and mix your own and there is always a substitution if one of the spices eludes you on your shopping trips. Last year I couldn’t find allspice so I substituted an additional 1/3 of cinnamon and cloves and added 1/3 of nutmeg. If you don’t see what you’re looking for check your local tostaduria (dry goods shop). If you’re still looking check out the spice shop Susana Kuschnir right next to La Vega Chica, they often have harder to find spices there.
If you don’t bake you can always buy some desserts. Some bakeries offer pumpkin, apple and pecan pies for sale. Other popular desserts in Chile are cheesecakes, brownies and anything made with the local favorite manjar (also known as dulce du leche). They also recently opened a Denny’s which carries pies for sale, or you can check some of the other American restaurants to see if they offer carryout desserts. I always make my own so I haven’t tried any of these options and I can’t vouch for the quality but in my overall experience desserts tend to be different here.
If you’re not up for cooking your own Thanksgiving dinner, don’t fret, some of the local expat bars and restaurants cook a Thanksgiving dinner. We will list all the ones we hear about here so if you’re hungry for turkey, check our list at the end of this post. Do keep in mind that dinner spots may be limited so make your reservations early to ensure your turkey coma!
Football and Parades
Of course Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without watching the parade and some football games. If you have cable check ESPN and Fox Sports, especially on the digital channels you’re likely to find at least one game. You can also watch the parade and games on your computer with sites like USTV NOW, if you have a HDMI cable check your TV to see if you can hook it up and watch them on your big screen.
If you’re going to be cooking your own dinner you can find most of the supplies here in Chile, Last year Jumbo sold disposable aluminum turkey pans, just make sure you place it on a cookie sheet or something else to avoid spilling the juices as you remove it. I recently saw basters, which can be difficult to locate in South America, at Jumbo as well, but expect to pay a lot more for things like that. If you are planning ahead, to save some money and since they take up little space, I would suggest bringing your own baster and meat thermometer with you to Chile.
We have tried to include everything we could think of in this guide to Thanksgiving in Chile, if you have any experiences with other food sources or tips for other expats please send them to us so we can include them!
Larger Grocery Stores:
Jumbo – turkey, canned or dried cranberries, fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs
Lider – turkey, canned or dried cranberries, fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs
Totus – fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs
Unimarc – fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs
Santa Isabel – fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs
Montserrat – fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs
For harder to find items:
Asian grocery stores on Calle Antonia Lopez de Bello between calle Purisima and Avenida Recoleta in Barrio Bellavista/Patronato
La Vega Market – for turkey, fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs
Susana Kuschnir Silva – for spices, herbs and other baking supplies, right next to La Vega Chica
Cherry stores – for baking supplies and equipment
Typical Thanksgiving Ingredients
turkey (whole, frozen) – pavo (entero, congelado) (under 7-8 kilos often called pavita/pavito)
turkey breast – pechuga de pavo
cooking juices – jugo de pavo
butter – mantequilla
oranges – naranjas
lemons – limones
cornmeal – harina de maíz (or just use polenta)
chorizo – chorizo
apple – manzana
cranberries – arándanos agrios (usually just cranberries if imported)
orange juice – jugo de naranja
sugar – azucar
sweet potatoes – camotes, sometimes papa dulce (elsewhere in South America – batatas)
pineapple – pina
brown sugar – azúcar rubia, azúcar morena
marshmallows – malvaviscos (usually just labeled marshmallows)
pumpkin – calabaza (often used to refer to all squashes)
Restaurants Serving Thanksgiving Dinner!
We will add and update events as more info becomes available. If you are hosting an event not listed please send us the details.
The Black Rock Pub Thanksgiving dinner
When: Thanksgiving! Thursday November 24th, 2016 8:00 pm
Where: The Black Rock Pub – Avenida Providencia 2528, Local 42 (downstairs), Santiago
Cost: $20,000 CLP for an all you can eat buffet, drinks not included, reservations only.
When: Thanksgiving! Thursday November 24th, 2016 2 Seatings 6pm & 8pm Note: No walk-ins, reservations only.
Where: California Cantina – Las Urbinas 44, Santiago
Cost: $12.000 CLP Adult, $10.000 CLP Students W/ID, $9.000 CLP Kids
Santiago Community Church
When: Thanksgiving! Thursday November 24th, 2016 7:30 pm
Where: Santiago Community Church – Holanda 151, Providencia, Santiago
Cost: $5.000 for adults and $2.000 for children 3-10 (under 2 free), plus a contribution of one item (appetizer, hot veggie dish, stuffing or cranberries). All are welcome, but as there is limited seating, you must pay in advance!
When: Thanksgiving! Thursday November 26th, 2015, Football games from 2:30pm and Thanksgiving Day Sandwiches
Where: The Shamrock – Av. Providencia 1100, Local 18, Santiago
Cost: None listed, A la Carte menu
Santiago Potluck Dinner
When: Thanksgiving! Thursday November 26th, 2015, 8pm
Where: Bar Apunto Rojo, Antonia Lopez de Bello 0110, Santiago
Cost: This is a potluck dinner, please plan to bring something, drinks not included but happy hour prices for the evening.
10th Annual Pucón Thanksgiving
When: Sunday November 20th, 2016, from 1pm until 7pm
Where: Willie’s Quincho, Sierra Madre Los Nevados, Pucón
Cost: This is always a potluck dinner, please plan to bring something.
Note: This article was accurate when published. Please be sure to confirm all details directly with the sites in question before planning your trip.
To learn more about Beth, read her bio!