Worldwide Flavors: What Is Chimichurri?

what is chimichurri

At first glance, it may sound like a song from Mary Poppins. But today, what we’re talking about doesn’t originate from an old English film. We’re talking about a fascinating sauce straight out of the Argentinian countryside: chimichurri.

What is chimichurri? It’s a delicious sauce made from herbs, with its culinary roots in Argentinian cuisine. If you haven’t heard of chimichurri sauce before, then today is your lucky day. It’s an excellent addition to most meat-based meals, adding a delicious bit of zest to change things up.

If you’ve never heard of chimichurri, or if you love to know more, then we are here to help. Keep reading as we discuss everything concerning chimichurri.

A Little Bit About Argentine Cuisine

Argentina has a fascinating country that quite frankly does not get as much attention as it deserves. It takes up a wide swath of land on the eastern edge of the South American continent. 

Argentina is a land of agriculture, animal husbandry, and plentiful natural resources. Like many other countries surrounding it, it has jaw-dropping natural beauty. There is a heavy influence from immigrating European cultures here, such as Germans and Italians.

As such, Argentina does differentiate itself quite a bit from Latin American cultures like Columbia and Brazil. Argentina is a country of meat lovers. If you like your steaks thick and juicy, you’ll love a visit here.

Here are just a few of the excellent choices for Argentine cuisine:

  • Deviled Eggs: thanks to the massive Italian migration, stuffed eggs are quite popular here
  • Provolone with Oregano: just like the Italians, Argentinians love their drippy, oily cheese
  • Russian Salad: Russian salad is a lot like potato salad
  • Meat and Cheese Board: just as your imagining it, a tray filled to bursting with deli meats and cheeses
  • Escalope with French Fries: sort of like an Argentine version of fish and chips
  • Empanadas: a popular dish in Argentina and elsewhere in South America
  • Lentil Stew: lentils aren’t just for Cinderella, and Argentinians love them
  • Meats Stew: a favorite during national holidays
  • Fried Fish: the Argentinian take on Peruvian ceviche
  • Stuff Tamales: tamales are common in every Latin American country, and Argentina is no exception

However, there’s only one dish that we’re going to focus on for this article: asado. The literal translation is grilled meat. Think of asado as the Argentine version of our American barbecue.

Barbecue is a mainstay everywhere you go in Argentina. It’s the one thing you should never miss if you happen to find yourself near the Andes. The only other essential is trying out their mate tea.

What Is Chimichurri? A History

The origins of chimichurri are hard to pin down. No one has any clear-cut evidence, but everyone has a theory. Like many cultural foods,  there’s a great deal of fun in swapping myths and legends about its creation.

Let’s discuss just a few of the stories that people share.

James McCurry

Some theorize that it first showed up in the 19th century. An Irish immigrant by the name of James McCurry was helping native Argentinians in their struggle for independence. During his time with the locals, he tried to create his own version of Worcestershire sauce.

Since he couldn’t find that sauce while living in Argentina, he combined similar ingredients to get the same effect. Apparently, the sauce was a hit.

To honor James McCurry and his sacrifice, the locals named the sauce after him. However, saying James McCurry when English isn’t your native language is quite a challenge. So the name evolved over time to become chimichurri.

While this may be the most popular origin story–and the most fascinating–it’s not the only one out there.

The British Invasion of Rio de la Plata

Others suggest a different origin. When the British attempted to invade a location known as the Rio de la Plata in the early 1800s.

Though this invasion failed, there was a shred of success. British soldiers asked the locals for condiments, saying in English, “give me curry.” Like James McCurry, non-English speakers pronounced this as chimichurri.

Basque Tximitxurri

But that’s not the last theory about the origins of chimichurri! Still, more believe that its true source originates with Basque migrants.

Basque is a small European country with a language unrelated to any other on the planet. They are known most of all for grilling on wood fires.

They say that the Basque had their own type of sauce by the name of tximitxurri, which has a similar pronunciation. Further, this sauce has some similar ingredients, such as herbs and vinegar.

This may explain the Mediterranean influence that we see in chimichurri. As will discuss below, chimichurri is very similar to Italian pesto. So far, this is the most likely link between Basque, Italian, and Argentinian cuisine.

Quechua Cuisine

That’s not the end of the theories, though. Some suggest that you could find chimichurri way back before Columbus arrived. There was a Quechua word with similar pronunciation, although this meant any strong sauce.

The Quechua were and are one of the largest native American Indian groups. Their language survives to this day, with many natives living on reservations in Argentina. If this origin story is true, then chimichurri is a food that originates long before colonizers set their eyes on the Americas.

Although nobody can say for sure which origin story is true, we know one thing is true. Chimichurri sauce is delicious, and most people will enjoy it.

Chimichurri Ingredients

While there is no set recipe for making chimichurri, it tends to have the following ingredients:

  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar

If you’re having trouble imagining what it tastes like based on those ingredients, think of it like pesto. It has a strong Italian influence, much like green pesto sauce that you might find in northern Italy. The focus is on fresh herbs with a basis of olive oil and tons of seasonings.

Chimichurri is primarily a sauce used for beef. As we’ve made clear, Argentinians love their beef. Chimichurri is excellent for the best red meats.

However, chimichurri is a very flexible sauce that works with almost any type of meat. Whether it’s grilled or roasted, you’re bound to enjoy adding a dash of chimichurri. It even works with fish!

When you purchase chimichurri, it tends to come in a jar or as a powder. You then add olive oil to this powder to reconstitute it and make it into a sauce. Of course, if you have the skill, you can make chimichurri from scratch in your own kitchen.

How to Make Chimichurri

Chimichurri is relatively easy to make if you have the time and ingredients. Ingredients that you can use may include the following:

  • A single bundle of flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 to 4 minced cloves of garlic
  • About 1 or 2 tablespoons of fresh oregano, chopped (this can be dried if you’re not able to get fresh)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • A single bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon of salt, preferably coarse
  • 1/4 cup with red wine vinegar
  • About 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil

First, ensure that your parsley is nice and clean. Run some cold water until you’ve removed all the grime and grit. Use some paper towels to pat dry it without destroying the leaves.

Chop up the leaves, but don’t include the stems. Find a medium bowl to place them in the meantime. Pour in the bay leaf, paprika, pepper, oregano, and garlic.

Toss this mix until you have the ingredients nice and blended. Then get a small bowl and mix together the water, vinegar, and salt. Empty this mixture into your medium-sized parsley bowl.

You’ll know it’s ready when the herbs are sufficiently saturated in liquid. If that’s not the case, then add a small amount of vinegar or oil in equal measure. Now seal the container, and store it in the refrigerator for at least one-half hour.

Tips for Preparing Chimichurri

making chimichurri is a lot like making salsa. It’s up to you to choose the consistency. Some people prefer a much thicker sauce, while others like it finally blended.

If you want the finally blended side, then use a blender to get the right consistency. However, a food processor or hand chopper might do the trick. Just keep in mind that metal will affect the taste. Using high-quality chef knives will give it the right flavor.

Like with any salsa, it will take practice to find the right balance. Try adding higher concentrations of red wine vinegar or olive oil. Little adjustments can make a bold change to the flavor.

Serving the Chimichurri

It’s a good idea to make your chimichurri at least one day before you intend to eat it. This gives the sauce time to soak and blend, creating optimal flavor.

When you serve it, throw away the bay leaf. You can use it as a sauce or marinade your meats before you grill them. Of course, you could just order from your local Argentinian restaurant and get it in under 3 minutes.

Chimichurri Variations

Chimichurri comes in several different variations. Some choose to add fresh cilantro to spice up the flavor. This goes very well with chimichurri’s pungent and spicy flavor, as well as the vinegar tang.

You can boost up the spicy components with red pepper flakes. Cumin is also a great way to make the flavor more curry-like. Making the sauce more like green pepper salsa may sate the appetite of spice lovers.

Chimichurri Pairings

As we’ve said before, chimichurri is the sauce for Argentinian asado. If you’re a meat lover, then you’ll find that this is a great addition to what you regularly grill. Fans of American dining like Bennett’s will be right at home.

For those that have never tried Argentinian asado, though, you might feel a little out of your depth. In Argentina, the focus is much heavier on meat. This is in contrast to Western culture, where the focus is often on spices and the marination of meat.

Argentina, like Chile and other South American cultures, tends to be very light on the seasoning. It’s very common to sit down for an Argentinian dinner where the cook only rubs on a bit of salt for your stake. But since Argentinian beef is very high-quality, you wouldn’t want anything more!

In this vein, focus on the highest quality beef and meats that you can find. Chimichurri does have a potent flavor, but it’s not meant to overpower the existing, rich meat flavor. With the exception of marination, you just want a few small scoops on top of your meat dish.

Here are a few ideas for meat dishes with chimichurri:

  • Steaks and pork chops
  • Chicken breasts
  • Ribs

Make Meals Easier Without Leaving Your Home

Of course, nobody likes food prep. If you love meals that are home-cooked but don’t require hours in the kitchen, consider Cravable.

At Cravable, we specialize in restaurant-quality meals in the comfort of your home. Our meals are fresh, delicious, and easy to prepare. 

Cravable is an excellent way to try out new foods from new cultures. You can never leave the house but still get a taste of Argentine cuisine. Who wouldn’t love some chimichurri made by professional chefs?

We are always expanding the meals that we provide. Check out our blog for more dishes that might interest you.

Order Meals With Cravable

What is chimichurri? Chimichurri is a delicious Argentinian sauce that may go back as far as pre-Columbian times but is quite similar to Basque or Italian sauces such as pesto. You can make chimichurri from the comfort of your home, or you can order from a restaurant.

Cravable is all about delicious foods from all corners of the world. We recognize that it’s a pain to always cook from home just to eat happy and healthy. That’s why we do express meal delivery to you, no matter where you are.

We’d love to share the awesome foods we (and you) like. Visit us at Cravable and input your ZIP code so we can send delicious delicacies to your doorstep.

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