For travelers who love to eat and explore at the same time, add Peru to your bucket list! A nation diverse in topography is destined to have a wide variety of food to enjoy. From fresh seafood on the coast, to rich stews in the Andes mountain range, and unique recipes from the Amazon rainforest. Eating your way across llama land with these 7 traditional dishes in Peru that are sure to make a memorable trip for any foodie out there.
Awarded nine times as the “World’s Leading Culinary Destination” by the World Travel Awards exemplifies just how impressive this nation is. Have you ever tasted ceviche? That is a Peruvian creation! But, it’s only one dish amongst many that you need to try when you visit. Why not explore some of the more unique recipes enjoyed through history?
The most popular dishes in Peru date back several centuries, savored by generations of hungry travelers. While other countries can boast about one or two delicious dishes, Peru has earned a reputation for five star flavors across the entire map. We’ve outlined exactly which dishes are a must-have no matter where you’re exploring. Eat your way across the country as you indulge in these local delicacies!
Traditional Dishes From The Andes Mountain Range
Hiking to new heights? You’ll need some nourishment. Indigenous Incan communities settled in the Andes as early as the 12th century, leaving traces of an empire for modern adventurers to explore, including a few ancient recipes! Plus, modern communities have been able to adapt and evolve the cuisine over time, delivering an even tastier final product. These are just a few favorites from the Quechua people, Peru’s dominant indigenous group who reside in the mountain range.
1. Cau Cau
A spicy stew to keep settlers warm in the high elevation, Cau Cau takes inspiration from African cooking styles, combining beef tripe with sustainable, locally grown produce. Spiced with onion, garlic, chilis, turmeric, and cumin, there is no shortage of flavor in this dish. As Peru was being colonized by Spaniards, the African slaves who had been brought across the ocean began cooking with whatever scraps they had available. Since Peru is home to over 4,000 varieties of potato, this stew combined the leftover harvest from Andean farms with the excess protein no one else wanted. Today, you can find preparations with chicken, fish, and other cuts of beef. After a long day of hiking through the Andes, a warm bowl of Cau Cau served over rice is an amazing way to end the day.
If you’ve never heard of Cuy before, remove all expectations. Remember that travel is all about embracing new cultures and trying new things! An iconic street food in Peru, cuy is often eaten with potatoes and salsa, an Andean staple that you can now find in almost every region. Just don’t be taken aback by the surprising visual appearance. Guinea pigs, known as cuy in Peru, are not kept as pets and have been bred as food for the Inca for centuries. Slow roasted or deep fried, cuy is rich and tender, and an excellent source of protein! Many have compared the flavor to chicken, with a deeper, “fattier” flavor that makes your mouth water. We may one day see cuy on more menus abroad since they are an excellent, nutritious alternative to overbred protein sources like cows or pigs. Until then, seize any opportunity you might have while in Peru to try this Andean delicacy!
3. Peruvian Pachamanca
Born from ancient rituals of gratitude where Incan communities worshiped Andean divinities, thanking them for a bountiful harvest. Records of Pachamanca date back as early as 8,000 BC, when Andean peoples were cooking meat atop heated stones. Even after the Spanish conquered the nation and imposed their own customs, Peruvian people held onto the traditional methods for this dish, with additional ingredients exported from Europe.
To prepare Pachamanca, a well is opened in the ground, and stones are heated within that well until red hot. Banana leaves then are laid across the stones, followed by the seasoned meats and veggies. A variety of ingredients are used today, so no Pachamanca will ever be the exact same! Lamb, beef, pork, chicken, and cuy are all protein options, flavored with chili, cumin, huacatay, and other spices. Andean crops are celebrated highly here, with potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, pod bean, cassava, and other ingredients locals may have produced that year. Cooked underground over a six hour period in the heat of Mother Earth, Pachamanca is one traditional dish in Peru you cannot miss when you visit.
Traditional Dishes On The Peruvian Coast
4. Causa Limeña
A rough translation for this dish would be “Cause of Lima,” this unique recipe should be viewed as a record of history that lives on today. Dating back to 1820, during the Liberating Expedition of Peru, this dish was born as the nation fought to earn its freedom from Spanish rule. Causa Limeña was sold “for the cause of Lima,” as all profits from this dish went to purchasing medicines, clothes, and food for the soldiers at war. This is only one historic time the dish was celebrated, with stories from the War of the Pacific, and even linking this dish to an ancient Incan recipe. Think of this dish like a layered potato salad, but with all the flavors of Latin spices. Potatoes are pressed with salt and yellow chili peppers, layered with shredded protein and veggies, topped with another layer of the potato patties and enjoyed with salsa, avocado, and lime.
5. Aji de Gallina
Much of the cuisine enjoyed today is a result of the unification of Incan and Hispanic ingredients and techniques, which occurred as Spain began to conquer Peru. Sweetened spiced cream is combined with chicken to create a unique balance of flavor reminiscent of Spain’s caramelized milk, dulce de leche. Caramel and chicken? Not exactly, but also not entirely wrong! Evaporated milk soaks into bread, cookies, or crackers, which eventually gets blended with onions, garlic, and ají to form a dough. The chicken is poached and shredded, then combined with the blended yellow sauce. A spicy, creamy recipe that’s served over rice will bring a smile to any face on cool nights when that ocean breeze rolls over the cities.
Traditional Dishes In The Amazon
Have you ever wanted to run with dinosaurs? If so, the Amazon is one of those places on earth that is home to living fossils giving us a window to observe seemingly prehistoric species. Paiche is one of those fossils. The second largest species of freshwater fish in the world, Paiche have been swimming up and down the Amazon for millions of years. Reaching up to 9 feet in length and 550 pounds, this fish has been an important food source for Amazonian communities across South America for centuries. Whether it’s roasted, grilled, or steamed, Paiche is a delicious option when you’re craving some local seafood! And we simply can’t ignore how amazing Paiche is when cured in a fresh ceviche style, so here’s our one and only honorable mention for the iconic Peruvian dish.
7. Tacacho Con Cecina
While this is a typical breakfast for the residents of Madre de Dios and San Martin, tacacho con cecina is served as lunch or dinner in other regions. One thing is true no matter where you are: Tacacho is one of the tastiest dishes in Peru. This dish requires simple preparation and has tons of protein and healthy fats, making it a staple amongst Peruvian diets. Green bananas, or bellacos, are grown in the Amazon and most commonly used for tacacho. Salted and smoked pork accompanies the mashed bananas, giving the dish a balance of salty and sweet flavors.
Enjoying the traditional dishes in Peru is a fantastic way to explore the history of this nation, while indulging in some of the most memorable meals you will have. From the highest peaks in South America, to the waters of the Amazon, the people of Peru have found incredible ways to elevate the local ingredients. Immerse yourself in the culture by trying new foods in each destination, and you may be pleasantly surprised with the complex recipes from one of the top culinary countries in the world. If you are eager to eat your way across Peru, Kuoda can help create an itinerary full of food tours and cooking classes for the most amazing culinary vacation in South America.
Lima, the vibrant capital city of Peru, has emerged as a culinary powerhouse, captivating the attention of foo...Read Post
Luxury food and wine experiences in Chile are abundant. The country, whose long coastline provides access to s...Read Post
The best travel experiences appeal to the senses - seeing the mighty glaciers of Patagonia, smelling the fresh...Read Post