There are so many great traditional Peruvian food to try. The first thing we think of about Peru is epic ruins and huge temples (such as Machu Picchu) not necessarily the food.
Yet, the food is literally so good that Peru has managed to win the World’s Leading Culinary Destination prize every year since it’s unexpected victory in 2012.
Traditional Peruvian Food
Nowadays, Peru is actually leader of Culinary expertise and a great place for food tourism. With its flavorsome and authentic dishes, it’s every food lovers’ dream come true.
Traditional Peruvian food packs a lot of flavor with their spices and locally found flora and fauna.
The style and color of the food differs with the region as every area has something distinct to offer.
Plus, foreign influences have also left their mark on Peruvian cooking techniques. Basically, the food is the combination of the native culture and the impact of outsiders.
10 Must-TryTraditional Peruvian Food
The tantalizing Peruvian Cuisine is just waiting to be explored and enjoyed.
If you ever get a chance to visit Peru, you must try at least some of these dishes. You won’t regret tasting heaven on earth.
Are you ready to discover Peruvian Cuisine at its peak?
Lomo Saltado is found in nearly every restaurant in Peru and savored by the young and old alike.
It is a mouth-watering dish consisting of beef or alpaca marinated in soy sauce, tomatoes, onions, Ají chilies and other spices of choice.
Everything is stir-fried until the texture of the meat is just perfect and the onions and tomatoes form a gravy.
The plot thickens further as east and west clash on the plate; the stir-fried steak is served with sizzling hot French fries and steamed rice.
I’m salivating just thinking about it. Aren’t you?
Unfortunately for vegetarians, this dish is not meant for them, but some restaurants in Peru do offer it with mushrooms instead of meat. So now, veggie lovers can savor it.
This traditional dish is Peruvian through and through.
Having many versions, it’s typically made with white fish soaked in lemon or lime juice – they give it the characteristic tarty tang. The duration of the marination depends on the cook or the recipe. Some marinate it for a few minutes while others for at least 3 hours.
Spiced with Ají chilies and garnished with onions or cilantro, Ceviche is best served cold.
Side dishes include velvety sweet potatoes (Camote) and roasted corn kernels (Cancha). They are simply used to balance the picante(spicy) taste of Ceviche.
BEWARE: Eat it fresh or risk having to deal with food poisoning.
If you want to make it yourself, here is a great recipe.
Cuy (aka Guinea Pig!) – a very interesting traditional Peruvian food
A meal created some 5000 years ago in the Andes region, Cuy aka Guinea pig is either baked or fried.
The meaty rodent is stuffed with herbs before cooking and to make the skin crunchy, it’s often doused in garlic and salt. It is then eaten with salsa sauces or Ají Gallina, the latter gives it a spicy touch. Potatoes, fries, rice, corn and salads are served alongside Cuy.
It’s basically only made on special occasions like holidays in most Peruvian homes so one would think it’s hard to find. But, most restaurants have it on the menu to attract tourists so you don’t have to worry about missing it on your trip to Peru.
Arroz Con Pato
Simply known as rice with duck, this is a signature dish in many Peruvian homes.
Locally produced rice and duck – preferably the female – are used to make this delicacy.
Have you ever heard of green rice? How do think it’s made? The answer: Cilantro Paste. This paste is mixed with rice along with herbs, onions and dark beer (gives it more depth of flavor).
Roasted duck is served atop a bed of green rice, a tasty treat to die for!
Anticuchos de Corazón
Anticuchos de Corazón (grilled heart) is a typical street food in Peru, particularly devoured on BBQ day as there can’t be a BBQ without it.
The nutrient-filled heart is washed and sliced into cubes; the meat can be beef or alpaca.
Immersed in garlic, vinegar, Ají Amarillo (yellow chili) or Ají Panca sauce, the chunks are skewed and grilled, giving it a smoky texture.
Potatoes and onions may also be grilled alongside it.
This dish packs a lot of punch and is a perfect wakeup call for someone who is drowsy in the morning. Want to test it out?
‘Pacha’ means earth and ‘manca’ means pot. Pachamanca is more of a cooking style than just one dish as it implies cooking meat of any kind – cuy, lamb or beef – in an earth oven. Cooking in an earth oven adds its own zeal to the food.
Meat (marinated with herbs and spices) along with vegetables like corn, potatoes and lima beans are grilled in the oven. The flavor of all the ingredients well-combined together, the smoky taste and the tender meat will make fireworks explode in your mouth.
How this wonderful earth oven is made is also a topic of interest. Making an earth oven requires manual labor as stones are first heated in a fire to be lined carefully in a hole in the ground. The earth oven is then covered with grass or dirt until the food is cooked completely.
Choritos a la chalaca
No coastal restaurant can be called as one without Choritos a la chalaca being on its menu.
It is a dish with boiled mussels brimmed with veggies. Red onions, corn kernels, rocoto pepper, tomato, parsley, Ají chilies – of various kinds – are used to fill the mussels.
Lime juice may also be sprinkled. If you’re a seafood lover with a habit of eating healthy, then you have to try this innovative dish.
This is the name given to a patty made of mashed beans and steamed white rice.
Onion, garlic and Ají Amarillo paste (yellow chili) are mixed with the beans and rice to make an appetizing patty. Herbs and spices are also added, no dish is complete without them, especially a Peruvian dish.
The patty is than fried and served with fried egg, slices of meat or even chili sauce. With a golden-brown skin, the patty is slightly crispy. However, it’s tender and flavorful on the inside.
Did you know that Tacu Tacu was made by slaves who wanted to make a meal out of leftovers for themselves?
Their ingenuity to make something to satisfy their stomachs led to this sensation. Today, it’s heartily enjoyed by so many people.
A Chinese-Peruvian dish that evolved when Chinese came to Peru in the 19th century. Every Chifa restaurant has this delightful dish.
You must be wondering what Chifa has to do with Kamlu Wantan. Chifa is basically a culinary tradition of the Chinese Cuisine mixed with the traditional Peruvian Cuisine. It’s a cuisine that developed due to the interaction of the foreigners with the locals.
It’s a sour dish with hints of sweetness inside. Chicken, pork, peppers, onions are doused in tamarind sauce to give them an acidic flavor.
Wontons – a type of Chinese dumplings –filled with shrimp or minced meat are usually eaten alongside Kamlu Wantan.
Pollo a la Brasa
It’s a classic and a simple dish. The chicken is marinated in lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, paprika, or even Ají chili sauces of choice.
The combination of spices and herbs depend on the cook or the region.
Roasted on hardwood or a coal grill, the chicken comes out crunchy and has an earthy taste. It is then served with Ají Amarillo or Ají Verde (green chili) sauces or black mint sauce and French fries.
Peru offers many unique drinks that need to be tried out. Inca Kola has the first spot, as always.
A yellow colored, non-alcoholic soft drink, Inca Kola tastes a bit like bubble gum and it’s the perfect match for Lomo Saltado.
Our runner up is Pisco Sour, Peru’s national cocktail. Peruvian Pisco is used as the base liquor and it’s topped with lemon juice, ice and syrup. Even egg whites are used!
Have you ever heard of Chicha before? Probably not, as it’s only native to Peru and not many foreigners know about it.
This traditional homemade drink is made using corn and we’re going to look at only two delicious versions.
Chicha Morada, a non-alcoholic drink, is made using purple corn as its base and Chicha de Jora on the other hand has yellow corn as its base. Both can be mixed with cinnamon, lime juice, sugar or other fruits to enhance their flavor.
NOTE: Chica de Jora is made with fermented corn so it is bound to be alcoholic.
Peruvians are crazy about the potato, so crazy that they even hold a festival in its honor.
At least 3800 varieties of potatoes are found in Peru.
Did you know that potatoes spread to the world from Peru? Believe it, it’s true.
Centuries ago, only Peruvian knew of potatoes but then trade kicked in and potatoes became common.
Only the yellow ones were traded, not the purple or pink ones. Native to Peru, potatoes are used in a lot of mouthwatering foods.
Papas a la Huancaína
Made with Ají Amarillo chilies, potatoes and queso fresco cheese (it has a salty-sour taste and is creamy), this dish is overflowing with Peruvian culture.
Steamed potatoes are submerged in a puree of chilies, queso fresco, evaporated milk, garlic and lime juice.
Lime juice is an important ingredient as it gives the sauce a tangy flavor.
Saltine crackers are added to the sauce to make it thick and it also gives it a special texture. This appetizer is served cold along with cool sliced boiled eggs.
An interesting fact about Ají Amarillo is that the chilies are either orange or red when ripe and turn yellow when cooked, giving the sauce its typical yellow color.
This spicy dish is not for the faint of heart but the cheesy sauce is bound to be thrilling for cheese lovers.
Causa – a mashed Traditional Peruvian Food
Mashed yellow Peruvian potatoes are mixed with lime, oil and hot Ají Amarillo sauce in Causa.
It has a long history in Peru and is made from a variety of ingredients.
For the meat layer, chefs use chicken, tuna or even salmon combined with mayonnaise.
Subsequently, they make layers over layers of vegetables like olives and avocado; boiled egg slices may also be used.
This delicious and highly nutritious side dish is always served cold. Why do you think it’s served only cold? Try finding out the hidden secret.
Salchipapas – a simple traditional Peruvian food
This simple traditional Peruvian fast food is made with sausages – Salchicha – and potatoes – papa.
That’s where its name comes from. Everyone craves Salchipapas, especially the children. Large starchy potatoes, the sweet ones or yucca are used to make French fries.
When fried they are combined with stir-fried sausages cut into rounds or sticks.
Four distinctive dipping sauces are eaten with Salchipapas: ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and how can we ever forget the ají chili sauce.
This dish is best to eat when watching a football match at the stadium or when your kids want a mouth-watering snack to enjoy.
Papa Relleno are just stuffed potatoes with a meaty surprise at the center. A very delicious traditional Peruvian food.
This dish originated when Arabs came to Peru.
They were masters at stuffing anything inside mashed potatoes. Peruvian yellow potatoes or the white ones are boiled and then mashed. The recipe of the stuffing is very flexible and anything from parsley, soy meat, ground beef, chicken or seafoods, chilies, peanuts, vegetables to cheese can be used.
The size of the stuffed potatoes depends on the cook, they can be miniscule or gigantic. Rolled in raw beaten eggs and corn flour, the balls are fried until they turn golden. They can then be relished with white rice or salsa criolla. Bon Appétit!
TIP: Choose the variety of potatoes wisely because they determine the texture and the basic taste of the Papa Rellena.
S Stands For…
What does the ‘S’ stand for? What type of foods begin with an ‘S’? You have guessed it. Salads and soups or Sopa as the Peruvians call it.
The salads in Peru are rich in flavor and have a unique freshness to them that can’t be found elsewhere. Chonta, a salad made with shredded palm hearts, tomatoes and onions is the perfect starter.
You may even find it drizzled with some light mayonnaise.
Solterito, an easy and refreshing salad is a mixture of many vegetables like corn, tomatoes, fresh coriander, sweet potatoes, carrots and hot peppers – in Peru Rocoto (red bell pepper) is typically used. Cheese is used in dressing the salad and the smoothing delight is ready to be eaten.
Ensalada de Pallares or Lima Beans Salad can be made quickly and looks lovely on the table. Baby lima beans, onions and tomatoes are garnished with chopped cilantro and farmer’s cheese. It is one of the best picnic salads.
Similarly, the Peruvian Avocado Bean Salad is assembled with giant white beans, diced potatoes, longitudinally sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced onions and chopped cilantro. Dressed with vinegar, honey, salt and pepper, this salad is a great starter for any course.
Peruvian Cuisine has at least 491 traditional types of foods and of those 491, more than a hundred are just soups. Peru’s the king of soups!
Aguadito de Pollo – a popular soup – is also known as Chicken Cilantro Soup. Cilantro paste with onions is cooked to make the green soup.
Carrots, peas, corn and any kind meat like hen, turkey or even fish is added to the bubbling soup.
A small tip: do not let the peas become mushy. Another delicious soup is Shambar.
Found typically in the northern region of Trujillo, different kinds of beans, peas, several types of meat like pork or ham are used to make the soup. Lastly, the main ingredient is wheat. Strengthening and very nutritious, it’s a must-try soup if you’re ever in Trujillo.
Soup a La Minuta is the type of food that comforts and rejuvenates you. Made with ground beef, stock, onion, garlic, angel hair pasta, Ají Panca, eggs and white bread, this soup can be prepared in mere minutes, just as its name suggests. Ají Panca – the chili which gives it the red color – makes the soup spicy but the hotness level can be controlled by varying the amount of the chili added.
Peppers like Rocoto and Ají Amarillo are extensively used in traditional Peruvian foods.
In almost all the foods I have told you about, peppers of some kind or another were used. Why are chilies so popular among the Peruvians? Let’s find out.
Around 50 varieties of Ají are used in Peru and have been used for longer than 8000 years.
Peruvian chilies are actually from the Capsicum Baccatum family of fruits. Who would have thought chilies could be fruits?
Some of the chilies are hot while others are smoky or sweet. Foods prepared with these peppers are bursting with flavor. That’s why chefs like to use them.
This Relleno dish consists of a red rocoto pepper stuffed with chopped beef, raisins, garlic, onions, peas, olives and herbs.
After it’s filled, it is garnished with queso fresco cheese and baked in an egg and milk custard.
The custard gives it a distinctive texture and tang. This traditional full course meal is served with fries or even baked potato. The pepper is gigantic and will surely burn you if you eat it. Are you up for the adventure?
Ají de Gallina
A traditional Peruvian food, that can be translated to creamy chicken. Shredded chicken is mixed with the Ají Amarillo sauce which is made with onions, Ají Amarillo, cheese and mayonnaise all blended together in curry-like style.
This flavorsome dish is best served with rice, sliced and steamed potatoes, boiled egg slices and black olives. Like rocoto, Ají Amarillo is just as hot so be careful while eating it.
NOTE: Eat both these chilies if you can stand the heat. Good Luck!
For Your Sweet Tooth
We have talked a lot about flavorful and spicy foods so now let’s about desserts. Peru offers various sweet delicacies.
One of them is Picarones, the Peruvian version of doughnuts. Sweet potatoes are mashed and made into doughnut-like shapes and then deep fried until golden.
Topped with honey combined with cinnamon and essence of orange, they are a delight worth trying. Mazamorra Morada is a famous dessert in Peru made with purple corn, dried fruits, sweet potato starch and sugar.
All of the ingredients are boiled to make a delicious and exotic pudding. These two desserts represent the traditional style of Peruvian cooking.
Alfajore or Peruvian cookies are made of sweet caramel cream (Manjar Blanco), sandwiched between two round, crumbly cookies and sprinkled with powdery sugar.
They are the most sought-after cookies in all of Peru. The round cookies are breakable as they are made with corn flour.
Torta de Chocolate (chocolate cake) might not be native to Peru, but the Peruvian version is stunning. Made with cocoa, the cake comes out mud-brown and is covered in a fudgy chocolate icing. Put it on your bucket list. You don’t want to miss it.
Peruvian Cuisine offers delicious foods. The traditional ones have been experimented on and there are now several mouth-watering versions of them.
The foods of Peru are exceptional in their flavors and you should not miss them if you visit Peru. From Ceviche to Rocoto Relleno, every food has a long history and are tied with the culture of the regions where they were made. If you ever have a chance to visit Peru, don’t forget to try its food.
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