An exploration of the Argentine world of alfajores

An outsider's view of the conventional kiosco cookie

Alfajor, a typical Argentine sweet. Credit: Wikipedia

Alfajores are more than just a cookie. They’re one of the most popular baked goods in the world, with the Argentine Association of Distributors of Cookies, Sweets, and related goods estimating that 6 million are sold each day in Argentina. That equates to 70 alfajores eaten every second, enjoyed by tourists and locals alike. 

Buenos Aires has two different weekends celebrating the importance of the alfajor in Argentina. Since 2017, a group of kiosqueros, the people who attend refreshment stands, has chosen the first week of May to espouse the cultural significance of the tasty treat. 

There’s also an official world competition with a panel of judges picking a winner from a blind taste test of over 300 samples. Although no official figures were provided, an estimated 10,000 people attended the three-day festival. There are also individual celebrations of the alfajor in provinces around Argentina, the most popular in La Falda, Córdoba province, every October. 

This last week, I set out to ascertain the roots of the Argentine adoration for alfajores, trudging through corner stores and countless calories to figure out, from my US perspective, which were the best brands available.

A quick history

There is little known about the exact origins of the alfajor but many have traced its roots to the Arabic word “alaju,” meaning stuffed or filled. It was first taken to the Iberian peninsula by Muslims in the early 700s during their initial conquest. The original cookie was made with dried fruits and nuts, with the Spanish adding a powdered sugar coating. 

The Spaniards brought it to South America during their own conquests in the 15th century, but underwent a radical transformation once it got here, including replacing the fruit with dulce de leche. 

As well as being the most voracious consumer, Argentina is also responsible for introducing the triple alfajor with three baked cookies instead of two. Purportedly, the twist originated in the province of Santa Fe in 1851 where they became so popular that Colonel Néstor Fernández brought a full bag to the battle of Caseros, a crucial battle of Argentine history, to boost his soldiers morale. General Justo José de Urquiza took to the treat immediately and subsequently scheduled a weekly delivery to his ranch. 

Alfajores typically feature a chocolate coating with vanilla cookies and a sweet dulce de leche filling, but each Argentine province has its own take. Mar del Plata, a coastal city in Buenos Aires province, is famous for its beachside chocolate alfajores and is the birthplace of the bougie brand Havanna. In Córdoba and Mendoza, you are more likely to find sweet apple, strawberry, or other fruit fillings. The mass-produced alfajor brands found in stores offer the entire spectrum of styles and sweet fillings. 

Just like politics, the debates surrounding the multitude of brands are polarizing, with each having its own dedicated devotees. Even in our newsroom, there is a harsh divide over the fruity fillings. Our economics writer Facundo cannot come to grips with the absence of dulce de leche and the sweeter taste of the alfajor from Cordoba. However, for Estefanía, our resident Cordoban, the fruit filling is a crucial element of the perfect treat, especially with raspberry. Valen is partial to alfajores de maicena and I have to respectfully disagree with them. One thing we all can agree on, Guolis is the pinnacle of alfajores.  

Ranking the Competition  

(All prices in Argentine pesos)

Bougie Brands 

  • Guolis: ($450): A much newer confection than its competitors, only created around 10 years ago, Guolis offers a myriad of chocolate coatings and fillings. My favorites are the intenso negro, a harder coating of dark chocolate, and the extra blend, with a rich, creamy, and sweet strawberry filling. You could buy a single alfajor, but I would recommend a box of 6 ($2300) or 12 ($4500) to try them all.  
  • Havanna ($470): Havanna has become an international powerhouse, with almost 300 stores in 9 different countries as well as their first US location in 2017 in the Miami metropolitan area. Their alfajores are worth the price tag: creamy and not crumbly, they’re delicious and match their reputation.  

Kiosco favorites 

  • Guaymallén ($150): Considered to be the first mass-produced alfajor, the golden oro is the best selling in Argentina and is also one of the cheapest. It is my favorite of the kiosco staples with a rich mixture of creamy flavors that sets it apart
  • Cachafaz ($400): One of the more expensive brands at $400, but worth it. A savory chocolate filling with a solid outer layer that does not instantly crumble when touched. 
  • Jorgito ($190):  Simple, sweet, and delicious. The cookie has sound structural integrity and is crunchy and crumbly without leaving your mouth an arid wasteland.
  • Jorgelín ($270): An impressively sized triple-decker chocolate alfajor that is there to meet any sweet cravings, a solid choice
  • Terrabusi ($250): a classic, the cookie is much thinner than other brands with the filling taking center stage. A very middle-of-the-road choice for me — for more crunch, try the triple chocolate with the extra cookie layer. 
  • Cachafaz alfajor de maicena:($360) The second entry on the list from the Cachafaz brand, this is a different type of alfajor, made from corn starch and often topped with coconut shavings, and are less common in your average kiosco

Wild cards

  • Felices las vacas: A newer, vegan brand that offers gluten-free options as well. At $460 on average for a single alfajor, they are more expensive than most other brands and usually require a trip to a dietética. However, many Argentines swear by them and I have to agree, especially the delicious peanut butter. A Reese’s peanut butter cup, but bigger and with a more full-bodied flavor. 
  • Rasta ($340):  This brand has become popular among smokers but the fun Rastafarian-themed packaging does not make up for the pricing and the taste. There is little to no dulce de leche and the cookies are thin and dry compared to others. 
  • Capitán del espacio ($400-500): These alfajores have a mythical reputation due to their limited distribution and a commitment, despite their popularity, to never increase production. They were created in 1962 by two friends Ángel de Pascalis, a refrigerator repairman, and Arturo Amado, a milk delivery man. They have never run advertising and solely rely on word of mouth. As they are in limited supply, I was unfortunately not able to try one and could not give it a ranking.  

Among all the alfajores, my favorites are clear: you really can’t go wrong with Guolis. As for my least favorite, I have to say the alfajor de maicena. To acknowledge my own personal bias, I am not a supporter of the texture and taste of coconut shavings so they’re simply not my cup of tea.

Choosing and defending a favorite alfajor can prove to be divisive, but it’s an essential decision to make for any Argentine or tourist.


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald