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Eat and drink your way through South America’s culinary capital with the list of the best food to try in Peru!
Is Peruvian Food Good?
Peru’s food pedigree stretches back thousands of years. This region has seen the rise and fall of many civilizations, each one adding to the country’s culinary fabric.
Modern Peru is a multi-cultural melting pot, and the cuisine takes its cues from the rich cultural tapestry and culinary history that exists here.
Today, Peru has two restaurants on The World’s 50 Best Restaurant List, a distinction only awarded to the top…you guessed it…50 restaurants in the world.
While having just one entry on the list is quite an achievement, Peru has two restaurants in the top 10. So there is no question that there is a fantastic gastronomic culture here. Indeed, many consider Peru the culinary capital of South America.
Unfortunately, most travel budgets do not stretch quite far enough to eat at critically acclaimed restaurants every meal.
Luckily, the passion and culture around food can be felt throughout Peru from street food to local restaurants to high-end fine dining experiences.
The food in Peru is as varied as the environment and the people here. From the seafood of the Pacific Coast to the hearty mountain meals of the Andes to the unique foods that grow only in the Amazon jungle, there is a wide variety of food throughout Peru.
The question is not, is Peruvian food good? But, what are the best foods to try in Peru and where can I find them?
We have taken care of some of the leg work and rounded up a complete list of food to try in Peru and where to try them!
The Best Dishes to Try in Peru
Perhaps the most famous Peruvian contribution to food, and certainly among the most popular food to try in Peru is Ceviche.
This simple dish is made of only a handful of ingredients but packs a lot of punch and is one of our absolute favorite Peruvian food of all the dishes we have tried.
Fresh seafood is cooked in an acidic dressing made from lime, cilantro, and chile. Incredibly fresh, tasty, and addictive, this light meal is a staple on the coast of Peru.
Even if you are someone who usually tries to give raw seafood a wide berth, trust us on this one, and give it a try. The effect of the acid gives a firmer texture than traditional raw seafood dishes.
The best place to find ceviche is where the seafood is fresh and plentiful. And, it doesn’t get much fresher than the ceviche from the coastal Peruvian capital of Lima.
For some of the best ceviche in Lima, head over to the Mercado de Surquillo.
Alternatively check out Al Toke Pez, a hole-in-the-wall, ten-seater where you can watch the chef prepare your ceviche right in front of you. Make sure to get the Leche de tiger while you wait for your freshly prepared ceviche!
Another establishment turning out great ceviche in Lima is the Cevichería Bam Bam Y Sus Conchas Negras which caters to both tourists and locals.
But even if you cannot make it to one of these great restaurants, there are plenty of hole in the walls, ceviche stalls, and restaurants serving this Peruvian national dish! Try to find one that is busy with locals, not tourists!
Papas a la Huancaina
High in the Andes of central Peru, the city of Huancayo is the economic and commercial center of the Peruvian Andes.
But perhaps one of the most famous things to come out of Huancayo is the regional potato dish papas a la huancaina.
A spicy cheese sauce flavored with yellow Peruvian chili and garlic is served over yellow potatoes and garnished with boiled egg and black olives.
This regional specialty is now enjoyed throughout Peru and can be found as an appetizer in most restaurants serving traditional Peruvian food.
If you find yourself in Arequipa on a Sunday and with a hangover, head to Cayma Plaza in search of adobo.
A Sunday tradition for Arequipeans, this delicious spicy pork chop stew is sure to cure what ails you.
Served with plenty of bread to soak up the rich broth you will leave well-fed when you head off for an afternoon siesta.
Enjoy this local delicacy from any of the stalls in the Cayma Plaza in Arequipa who sell it only on Sundays.
Rocoto Relleno Con Pastel de Papa
The rocoto relleno con pastel de papa is Peru’s version of the Mexico’s chili Relleno.
A pepper filled with meat, spices, herbs, and vegetables topped with cheese and baked until lightly crisped.
Not only will you get a delicious stuff pepper, but this Peruvian dish comes with a side of delicious potato pie. Two yummy (and fattening) Peruvian dishes that are probably better shared than enjoyed on your own.
The best rocoto rellenos con pastel de papa are usually found in the markets.
Beware some markets are safer to eat in than others. Do your research. We found out the hard way, eating in the San Pedro Market in Cusco!
Aji de Gallina
If you have been craving something warm and hearty, then look no further than aji de gallina. Peru’s answer to Indian curry, this Peruvian stew features chicken served up in a spicy, creamy sauce.
Brought by the colonizing Spanish Aji de Gallina can now be found throughout Peru. This traditional food is best enjoyed on cold, rainy days.
Lomo Saltado is a Peruvian stir-fry. Beef, tomatoes, onions, and fries are sauteed in soy sauce.
The Lomo Saltado is a product of the Chinese influence on Peruvian cuisine. In the mid-nineteenth century, Chinese immigrants came to Peru for work. The settlers introduced Peru cooking to soy sauce. The Lomo Saltado has since become a mainstay of traditional cooking here and one of the top foods to try in Peru.
Arroz con Pato
Arroz con pato or rice with duck is one of the most recognizable and famous foods of Peru. It is also a favorite with locals and definitely a must-try food in Peru!
If you are looking for Arroz Con Pato, The Ferreñafano Countryman in Lima is renowned!
Pollo a la Brasa
Pollo a la Brasa or rotisserie chicken can be found in mom-and-pop restaurants throughout Peru.
A popular staple in Latin America, this typical Peruvian meal is available everywhere and reliably delicious.
You will likely be eating pollo a la brasa more than once on your trip to Peru. Usually served with a side of salad, rice, and fries, this is one of the most budget-friendly meals available.
Chifa is Peruvian Chinese food. This popular food to try in Peru came about during the late 19th century and early 20th century when an influx of people immigrated to Peru from China.
With aspirations to produce authentic Chinese cuisine in their new homeland, the Chinese immigrants imported various vegetables and products to Peru. Despite their efforts, however, many of their traditional ingredients were still unavailable. Substituting original ingredients for locally available produce, the Peruvian cuisine of Chifa was born.
If you love Chinese food at home, then you are bound to love the Peruvian Chifa.
From budget chifa to fancy chifa, there is chifa for all types of travelers. It is a food to try in Peru that might have surprised you but is as Peruvian as any other food on this list.
If you are visiting Cusco, our favorite chifa restaurant is Kion in the historic city center.
The Best Street Foods to Try in Peru
Salchipapa is basically fries loaded with hot dogs. Hard to go wrong with that winning combo. Although salchipapa is popular throughout South America they originated in Peru, and many say Peruvian Salchipapa is the best.
The salchipapa is finished off with condiments that you would expect to find on a hot dog. Mustard, mayo, ketchup, or more traditional flavors like aji amarillo paste, green chile sauce, or salsa rosada.
A true street food, you’ll find salchipapa on corners throughout Peru.
Chicharrón is a fried pork dish. While other Spanish-influenced regions may use pork rind to make their chicharrón, in Peru, pork shoulder is typically used.
The meat is boiled in seasoning, before being fried in fat. While it might not sound like the most nutritious breakfast, it is a morning staple in Peruvian marketplaces as ‘pan con chicharrón’, where the meat is served on a roll with spicy salsa.
Anticuchos are skewered meat, often beef heart, cooked over a charcoal grill on street corners across Peru. Anticuchos have become one of the most popular and famous street foods throughout Peru, and something you absolutely must try.
While you won’t have to look too hard to find great Anticuchos, Antichucos de la Tia Grimanesa in Miraflores, Lima has been recognized by Lonely Planet and others as the best in the world, so that’s a good place to start!
If you’re not quite sold on the beef hearts, alpaca, and various other street meat in Peru, then the papa rellena may be the perfect alternative street snack for you.
A potato stuffed with vegetables, herbs, and sometimes meat, is deep-fried and served piping hot from street corners all over Peru.
If you are craving something deep-fried, you are sure to love this Peruvian snack. You can find it throughout Peru from street stall vendors.
The Best Seafood to Try in Peru
From the coastal town and cities along the pacific to the high altitude lake of Titicaca, Peruvians love seafood and there are several seafood dishes you have to try.
In the rivers and lakes of Peru’s Andes trout grows wild and in abundance. In these places, fried trout, or trucha frita is a common and tasty dish. Simply prepared, the pink-fleshed fish is deep-fried and served with potatoes and salad.
One place to find trucha frita is in the lakeside city of Puno on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. Many restaurants will offer trucha frita as part of a menu del dia.
Orestias ispi are the small fish found in lake Titicaca.
These small fish are fried whole in a popular dish similar to the whitebait of the Mediterranean.
Find this delicious regional delicacy in Puno on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca.
Arroz con Mariscos
Arroz con mariscos is a Peruvian dish equivalent to the Spanish paella. Rice loaded with various shellfish cooked in herbs and spices to taste. It is a great meal on its own or as a side to ceviche.
Most cevicherías will also serve Arroz con Marisco.
A result of Japanse influence on Peru, tiradito resembles sashimi.
Delicate slices of white-fleshed fish, are arranged on a plate much like sashimi. The fish is then covered in a citrus sauce flavored with ginger and chili.
Tiradtio is best enjoyed by the sea and popular lunchtime spot Punto Azul in Lima is one of the best restaurants to try it.
The Most Unusual Foods to Try in Peru
Perhaps the most unusual thing on the menu is Peru is cuy. Cuy, or guinea pig is a household pet in many parts of the world.
A local Peru delicacy for the Andean people, Peruvian cuy has been served in the mountains for thousands of years.
Considered a Peruvian national dish, cuy is traditionally served for special occasions.
While it might be difficult to come to terms with eating a family pet, it is certainly a new and novel experience you won’t experience in too many other places.
Cuy tastes a little bit like a cross between duck and rabbit (though not as delicious as either).
If you do decide to try cuy, order the full cuy for the traditional Peruvian experience, celery hat and all.
Try Cuy in the high-altitude city of Cusco at Kusikuy Restaurante.
Another dish that should be tried as much for the experience as for the flavor, is alpaca.
Alpaca is popular in Cusco and Puno and can be enjoyed roasted, fried, or in a sandwhich.
The Best Desert Foods to Try in Peru | Peru Desserts
Our favorite of the Peruvian desserts is the picarones. This yummy treat is found on the streets of Arequipa and is Peru’s answer to a donut. Delicious fried dough covered in a sweet syrup served with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee. It is a perfect way to watch the sunset and warm up from the cool temperatures of Arequipa.
Grab one on your way to Yanahuara to watch the magnificent colors from the backdrop of El Misti. Enjoy an evening devouring picarones, sipping hot chocolate, and watching the colorful display as the sun sets behind the mountains.
Frozen cheese or perhaps better translated to ice cream cheese is not in fact made with cheese but is a uniquely Peruvian desert made with milk and eggs. Fresh milk is combined with condensed milk and egg yolk and flavoured with vanilla, spices, and sugar.
This delicious ice cream was born on the streets of Arequipa. Today it can be found not just on the streets but on the menus of many restaurants throughout Peru. For the original head to Arequipa. There are plenty of street vendors and restaurants to choose from but Astoria cafe is a safe bet!
Suspiro de Limeña
The Suspiro de Limeña, which translates to “Sigh of the lady from Lima”, is one of the most popular Peruvian desserts. The suspiro de limeña is a combination of dulce de leche (caramelized sweetened condensed milk) and meringue. You will find the suspiro de limeña in most restaurants in and around Lima, Peru’s capital.
Lucuma Ice Cream
Who doesn’t love ice cream? And one of the best Peruvian desserts is the lucuma ice cream found in the coastal Andes valleys of Peru. Lucuma is the fruit of the Pouteria lucuma tree which is native to South America and looks like a cross between a pear and a mango. This delicious native Peruvian fruit tastes similar to custard and is considered the gold of the Incas.
The fruit can be used in a variety of ways, but the best way to enjoy lucuma is with lucuma ice cream! The best time to try lucama ice cream is during the summer months which run from January to March.
Arroz Con Leche
Arroz con Leche or rice with milk is a popular dessert found throughout South America and originates from Spain. This delicious dessert consists of rice mixed with water or milk and other ingredients such as cinnamon, vanilla, and raisins.
You can find this popular desert throughout Peru.
Peruvian Fruits and Vegatables
Get this, according to the International Potato Center (did you know that was a thing?), Peru has the largest variety of potatoes producing over 4,000 different types! Given this, it’s going to be difficult to avoid potatoes in Peru. Be it boiled or fried as a side dish or floating in soups and stews, the potato has been an important food in Peru’s history.
You can find purple potatoes, blue potatoes, skinny potatoes, and fat potatoes. The diversity of potatoes that grow in the Andes is astonishing and a must on any list of food to try in Peru.
Potatoes will feature heavily on most menus, but you can also head to the markets to see a wide range of differently sized, shaped and coloured potatoes.
Did you think (like I did) that there were just two types of corn… yellow and white? Well in Peru, there is a ridiculous variety of corn. In fact, 55 of them.
You’ll see choclo or Peruvian corn everywhere. This large kernel white corn is served boiled as an accompaniment to many dishes or toasted into a crunchy and salty snack.
Other corns are used for a variety of purposes. Ground into flours added to soups, stews, and sauces. Used in deserts or brewed into drinks like the purple chicha morada.
During spring and summer, you can see the variety of colored corns in the markets of Peru.
The cherimoya (or chirimoya) is native to the Andean Mountains of Peru and is known as a custard apple in other parts of the world.
The soft white flesh of the cherimoya has a fruity and creamy taste and is widely regarded among the tastiest fruit in the world.
Be sure to track down this fruit grown in its natural habitat in the high altitude regions of the Peruvian Andes in late winter and early spring.
The caviar of the Andes according to the top chefs of Peru, Cushuro is a blue-green alga that forms small bead-like structures with a soft, gelatinous consistency.
It is also known as the “egg of the rivers” or locally as murmuntu, llullucha, macha-macha, or rachapa.
Cushuro is in season at the beginning of the rainy season in December when it is harvested from high-altitude freshwater sources.
Long used in the soups and stews of the Andean people, it has recently gained popularity as in vogue ingredient in trendy restaurants and can be found in top restaurants in Lima and other major cities.
Similar to a cherry, this native fruit grows in the Peruvian Amazon. It is a powerful antioxidant and rich in vitamin C.
The local market in the Amazon town of Iquitos is one place to source this unique treat but you might also find it in markets throughout Peru.
Peruvian Drinks | 4 Drinks to Try in Peru
Peru’s national cocktail is made from pisco, a South American grape-based brandy, the pisco sour is created with egg white, simple syrup, and lime juice.
This drink is not without its controversy though, as historians and commentators from neighboring Chile have at times claimed that the cocktail in fact originated in Chile.
Taste a pisco sour at the Old Tavern Queirolo in Lima, a historic and classic taverna that has existed longer than the Pisco sour itself.
Mate de Coca
Not to be confused with the yerba mate popular in southeastern South American countries, mate de coca or coca tea is brewed from the dried leaves of the coca plant.
The leaves, which are used to make cocaine, act as a mild stimulant when brewed as tea, equivalent to a cup of coffee or tea.
The drink originated in the Andes and is still thought to help combat altitude sickness. The best place to experience this local tea is the altitude city of Cusco where the dried leaves can be bought from Mercardo San Pedro.
Originating in the Peruvian Andes, chicha morada is now enjoyed everywhere in Peru and is widely considered a national drink of Peru.
It is made from ckolli, a variety of purple corn found in the Andes. The deep purple drink has a semi-sweet and a fruit juice-like flavor, with an earthy taste from the addition of spices like cinnamon.
Chicha Morada is now so prevalent that pre-bottled, and ready-to-mix powders are widely available at most stores in Peru. To try the real deal, traditionally prepared, head down to any mercardo in Peru to find fresh chicha morada being served from large buckets.
Leche de Tigre
If you have been finding yourself drinking the juices from the bottom of your ceviche bowl (and we don’t blame you), you’ll be pleased to know you can order a side of this juice as a beverage!
Leche de Tigre or tiger’s milk is the salty, sour, spicy, and acidic marinade that is used to create ceviche with fresh seafood. You can order this interesting beverage straight up or sometimes as part of a cocktail.
It is believed that Leche de Tigre has restorative powers, and is a great hangover cure.
We hope this list of food to try in Peru, will help you discover something you love!
Our favorite food that we tried in Peru was ceviche! Which Peruvian food was your favorite? Let us know below!
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