The Country Food Similarity Index is a statistically-based attempt to quantify how similar the food in one country is relative to another. By comparing the weight of raw food ingredients used in each country, a score is assigned that reflects the degree of similarity between the respective countries. The methodology is exactly the same for each country studied.
The Most Similar Cuisines to Bolivian Food
Bolivia’s cuisine has a mix of European and indigenous influences. The five countries with the most similar food to Bolivia are all located in South America. With the exception of Brazil, these nations all have Spanish as one of their official languages. In addition, the majority of the land in these countries has a tropical climate.
- Peru is located to the northwest of Bolivia. These countries share a long and intertwined history. Both have a strong Incan influence. Even today, many of their people natively speak Quechuan languages. The use of indigenous ingredients such as potatoes, corn, and quinoa is widespread in both cuisines. Anticuchos, grilled skewers of marinated meat that come with potato at the end of the skewer, are popular in Peru and Bolivia. Moreover, they both have traditional dishes like rocoto relleno and pachamanca.
- Colombia and Bolivia do not border each other, but the Andes Mountains run through both countries. Potato is the most commonly eaten starch in these countries, but Colombia tends to eat more rice and less wheat products. One similarity is the prominence of hearty soups in both cuisines. In Colombia, dishes like ajiaco and sancocho bear resemblance to Bolivian soups like sopa de mani and fricasé. Additionally, both countries share a love for empanadas.
- Ecuador borders both Peru and Colombia, so it is no surprise its food is similar to Bolivia’s as well. Both countries have a strong indigenous influence on their cuisine, so they rely on staples like potatoes, corn, and legumes. Ecuadorian llapingachos, potato patties stuffed with cheese, closely resemble Bolivia’s papas rellenas. However, Ecuadorians have more rice and seafood in their diet.
- Venezuela and Bolivia, despite their geographical distance, share many culinary traditions. Venezuelan arepas and Bolivian humitas are similar corn-based snacks. Additionally, both nations love hearty soups. Bolivian sopa de mani and Venezuelan sancocho both feature a rich broth with meat and vegetables. However, potatoes are featured far less prominently in Venezuela.
- Brazil borders Bolivia to its east. The Amazon Rainforest runs through large swathes of both countries. Although Brazilian cuisine differs significantly from Bolivia’s due to its Portuguese and African influences, certain aspects overlap. Both countries embrace the use of cassava in their dishes. Brazil’s feijoada, a black bean and meat stew, bears similarities to Bolivia’s stews.
The Least Similar Cuisines to Bolivian Food
Four of the five countries with the least similar food to Bolivia are located in Africa. The climate in these countries tends to be much hotter, since their land is at a relatively low elevation compared to Bolivia’s. The potato, which originated in Bolivia and spread in popularity throughout much of the world, is not a big part of the diet in these countries. However, few countries have extremely different ingredients in their cuisine.
- South Sudan is a country located in the tropical savannas of Africa. Cassava is its staple food, however the country eats a lot of sorghum as well. Porridge is one of the most popular dishes in the country. In addition, South Sudanese cuisine features a variety of sauces and condiments made with peanuts, sesame seed, unlike in Bolivian cuisine.
- Niger is a predominately Muslim country. It has an extremely hot and dry climate, so it is mostly desert. Its two most common staple foods are millet and sorghum. Some traditional dishes in Niger include tuwo, a porridge made from millet or sorghum, and dambunama, a dish made from millet, vegetables, and meat.
- Solomon Islands is the only nation not in Africa on this list. It is a Melanesian archipelago located in the Pacific Ocean. The country’s diet is much more reliant on sweet potato, yam, taro, and coconut than Bolivia. Furthermore, pelagic fish are its largest source of meat, while seafood is less common in landlocked Bolivia.
- Sierra Leone is another predominately Muslim country on this list. It was once a British colony before becoming independent. Sierra Leone’s diet is made up of more rice and less potatoes than Bolivia. Like the Solomon Islands, most of the meat eaten in this country is fish, since the country’s population is located close to the Atlantic Coast.
- Chad is yet another African country on this list. Sorghum and millet are the two most commonly consumed grains in the country. These crops are well adapted to the Sahel’s harsh climate. One popular dish is saka-saka, a mix of spinach and cassava leaves.
Bolivia’s Most Common Food Ingredients
Protein: Chicken, Beef
Fruit: Banana, Tangerine
Vegetable: Onion, Bean
Starch: Potato, Wheat
Primarily based on 2020 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.