When my family and I first arrived in Cusco, Peru with our children in 2003, the idea of vegetarianism was still rather sketchy to the restaurant staffs we had encountered during our Peru family trip. For example, when we told our waitress that our then twelve-year-old daughter ate “nada con carne,” nothing with meat, a lot of the times they would happily nod and then bring us fried rice with cubes of chicken scattered among the vegetables. When we reiterated “Nothing with meat,” we would get that stared face of confusion. It turned out that carne is synonymous with beef to many folks here, and the servers thought my daughter did not eat BEEF, but that chicken would be just fine.
From this cultural interaction, we learned how to be more specific when talking about what we wanted in a restaurant. We needed to say, “por favor, nada con carne, pollo, chancho ni pescado, nada de animal muerto.” Please, no beef, chicken, pork or fish, nothing from a dead animal. This usually, though not always, worked.
Thankfully in Peru of today, things have changed drastically. From small markets, restaurants, and shops throughout Peru one can find all kind of local ingredients that cater to a vegetarian or even vegan diet. However, the biggest change after all of these years has been the constant growing evolution of culture consciousness toward this alternative way of approaching life.
Where to Eat as a Vegetarian in Peru
Fortunately, the major tourist destinations in Peru have become more and more familiar with vegetarianism and veganism, and restaurants that cater to those who don’t eat animals and animal products have sprung up all over, especially in Cusco, Lima, and Iquitos. Not to mention, Kuoda has devised a unique list of characteristic vegetarian and vegan restaurants throughout Peru that one can enjoy during their custom Peru luxury tour. Below are a few examples of restaurants and local markets alike:
The Bioferia of Miraflores, Lima
In Lima, a weekend farmers and artisan food market, known as the Bioferia, takes place every Saturday and Sunday in the Surquillo/ Miraflores neighborhood. I have found this market to be as good as many farmers’ markets in the US. In addition to organic produce (everything at the Bioferia has to be certified organic), one can find goat cheese and butter, vegan snacks and desserts, milk and yogurt from “happy” cows, organic chocolate, and heritage Peruvian grains like quinoa, kiwicha and a large variety of potatoes.
Vegetarian Restaurants in Cusco That Are Worth Checking Out
In Cusco, there are now several restaurants that cater only to vegans and vegetarians, including Greens from the outstanding local chain of Cusco Restaurants and my local favorite, Green Point (completely vegan) happily located in the San Blas neighborhood and now in the Plaza San Francisco. Both locations offer breakfast, have a daily set menu, and an á la carte options and even sell a variety of other products that include nut butters, organic coconut oil, and all types of healthy smoothies and fruit juices as well, and not to mention a variety of integral breads.
The Open-Air Peruvian Markets
The open-air markets throughout Peru, like Cusco’s San Pedro Market, have always offered a plethora of exotic fruits and veggies: For fruits, there is the lúcuma, the cherimoya, the aguaymanto, and the camu camu, to name just a few. As for vegetables, many of us are aware that the potato originated in Peru, but what may not be common knowledge is that there are over 3800 different varieties of this tuber, with a diversity of colors, textures and flavors just waiting to be sampled by the curious vegetarians or vegans alike.
Tip: All major cities and even towns have their local market or a major local market for that matter close to its main square. For one to immerse and see how locals going about buying their ingredients and even for you to learn more about Peru`s grand diversity of products, it is highly recommended to check out these markets as a part of your custom Peru tour.
Helpful Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans in Peru
Nowadays, vegetarians and vegans shouldn’t have too much trouble finding their way around during their personalized tour in Peru. Below is a list of some helpful phrases to use when you find yourself at a restaurant that does not cater strictly to vegetarians/vegans:
Yo soy vegano/a (I’m a vegan)
- Yo soy vegetariano/a (I’m a vegetarian)
- Por favor ¿Se han preparado este caldo con pollo? (Please, was this broth prepared with chicken?)
- Por favor, no puedo comer nada de carne, chancho, pollo, pescado, leche, ni huevo- nada que viene de un animal Please, I can’t eat anything with beef, pork, chicken, fish, milk, or eggs- nothing that comes from an animal..
Looking to travel to Peru and a bit worried about what to eat during your travels? Reach out to a Kuoda Travel expert to get the 411 on what to expect when having a vegetarian or vegan diet.