Located on the Pacific coast side of South America, Peru has long been a nation of contrast. The best way to immerse yourself in the unique culture is with Peruvian food. Local ingredients, unique flavor combinations, and cooking methods tell a story that words sometimes cannot.
From busy, thriving cities to the almost-lost ruins of civilizations like the Incas, this South American country is a major drawcard for any traveler planning to visit the continent. Yet, the food of Peru should definitely be another big reason for visiting.
What’s Special About The Food Of Peru?
Peruvian food is a gastronomical experience for even the most seasoned foodies. There is a new flavor adventure around every corner, from rich, spicy stews to light, fresh ceviche.
Food from Peru is exceptional due to its unique blend of herbs and spices. One of the most common ingredients in Peruvian cuisine is ají pepper. This local chili pepper is not usually spicy but provides a depth of smoky flavor and color to traditional Peruvian food.
One of the best parts about food from Peru is its simplicity. Basic ingredients of Peruvian food include rice, potatoes, chicken, fresh seafood, and ají pepper. However, traditional cooking methods and unique preparation of meats mean that Peruvian food tastes unlike any other in the world.
Both Sweet And Savory Peruvian Food Is Excellent
If you have a sweet tooth, make sure to try Peruvian desserts during your visit! These sugary treats are often based around fresh fruit and dairy, perfect for everything from a quick afternoon pick-me-up to festival and celebration meals.
Something you may not have known about Peru is that its gastronomy scene is amongst the best in the world. As of 2021, Peru boasts the #1 and #2 restaurants in Latin America and two restaurants in the top ten of the world’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards. If that isn’t enough reason to visit, we don’t know what is!
READ MORE: 20 INTERESTING AND FUN FACTS ABOUT PERU
Traditional Food Of Peru To Try
No matter what your tastes, the uniquely delicious food from Peru will win over your tastebuds and your heart. While the full list of Peruvian dishes may seem intimidating, we’ve rounded up 20 of the best traditional foods of Peru for you to try.
Anyone visiting Peru can’t go past ceviche. Considered the national dish of Peru, this seafood appetizer is a deliciously fresh option for anyone with adventurous tastebuds.
On paper, ceviche is raw white fish marinated in lime juice. However, the combination of sweet red onion, traditional Peruvian chili peppers, and salt mixed with the citrus elevates this dish to the extraordinary.
This Peruvian dish often comes with sweet potato and corn slices, creating a textural adventure that you won’t soon forget.
If you don’t eat seafood, don’t despair! Vegetarians and vegans enjoy a version of ceviche made with mushrooms. You’ll find ceviche in every town and city in Peru, though for the best version, make sure to head to Lima!
Many of the best foods in Peru come from the Andean region. Nutrient-rich soils mean that vegetables, herbs, and spices can grow uninhibited and are among the best in the world.
Pachamanca is a traditional food of Peru that showcases fresh produce and meat in a delicious, spicy dish that will fill your belly and warm your soul.
While many different types of meat can be used, traditionally, beef is the star of the dish. Lean cuts are marinated with local vegetables in spices and herbs like black mint and chili peppers. The mixture is then transferred to an ‘earth oven’ – the English translation of pachamanca!
Earth ovens are holes filled with layers of hot stones – the meat and vegetables cook between layers of fire-heated rocks and are insulated using grass and Earth.
After cooking for hours, the result is a tender, warming dish often brought out during Peruvian festivals and celebrations.
While many restaurants in Peru offer pachamanca, the traditional experience is unforgettable! If you want to taste this Peruvian dish the way the locals do, visit the Sacred Valley region or journey to the Andes for a true culinary adventure.
One of the unusual things about Peruvian cuisine is that it draws from unexpected influences. In the early 1900s, many immigrants from China and Taiwan came to Peru.
The combination of Peruvian ingredients and Chinese cooking methods created chifa, a popular fusion cuisine that remains part of the Latin American cultural scene to this day.
One of the most famous Peruvian dishes is Lomo Saltado. This hearty stir-fry combines beef, tomatoes, onions, and traditional Peruvian chili peppers in a rich, savory soy sauce marinade.
Unlike traditional stir-fries, Lomo Saltado often comes with French fries and/or a side of white rice. This Peruvian dish is salty, rich, and incredibly satisfying, no matter the variation. A good blend or protein and carbohydrates, I remember this as an easy go-to dish after a day of hiking in Huaraz.
Pollo A La Brasa
If you’re a fan of roast chicken, make sure you try Pollo a la Brasa! One of the most popular foods in Peru, this comfort food comes with fries, traditional salad, and a spicy chili sauce and is a firm family favorite.
While this Preuvian dish is time-consuming to cook, the taste is certainly worth it! The chicken is marinated for hours in a rich soy-based sauce with ají peppers, cumin, and plenty of garlic. Cooked over hot coals, Pollo a la Brasa is served whole, and every mouthful is as delicious as the last.
This dish originated in the Amazonian region of Peru, but its unique flavors and melt-in-the-mouth textures mean that it has exploded in popularity across the country. You’ll find Pollo a la Brasa at pollerias, or many local restaurants in Peru, so duck in and order this delicious Peruvian food during your visit!
You may have eaten stuffed peppers before, but Rocoto Relleno is like nothing you’ve ever tasted. Instead of the crunchy, sweet taste of bell peppers, Peruvians prefer this classic dish with a little more kick.
Native to Arequipa, rocoto peppers are around 10 times hotter than your average jalapeño and will make any spice addict dance for joy.
Aside from the heat factor, this Peruvian food follows the basic recipe for classic stuffed peppers. Rocoto Relleno traditionally contains ground beef, cheese, and vegetables. However, you’ll find versions with rice, mushrooms, and even mango in many major cities and towns.
Whatever you do, make sure that your version contains sour cream, cheese, or some kind of dairy – it helps to cut through the pepper’s heat!
If you want to try some unusual food, Peru is the perfect destination to expand your tastebuds. Unless you’ve spent a lot of time in Peruvian restaurants, you probably haven’t heard of this dish before!
Local to the Andes Mountains region, Cuy Chactado is a fried guinea pig dish that is the perfect experience for an adventurous foodie. While it may sound strange, the meat is lean, high in protein, and has a similar taste and texture to lamb.
You’ll find Cuy Chactado in many restaurants in Peru; this unique dish is a delicacy in South America. Guinea pig meat is expensive and rarely served outside of birthdays or festive occasions.
Look for it in stores around the holiday season, or if you’re lucky enough to be get an invitation, at a local family’s table during Christmas!
Peruvian street food is among the best globally, and Anticuchos is the king of street food culture! These tender meat skewers are marinated in a rich sauce of garlic, smoky Peruvian panca peppers, cumin, and lime juice. They fall apart in your mouth.
Grilled to perfection, you’ll find Anticuchos on street corners in every major city or town and won’t regret trying this Peruvian food!
Peruvian food can be simple and designed to be eaten quickly without fuss. If you want a traditional taste, look for a vendor selling Anticuchos made from beef hearts – don’t forget the rocoto sauce!
Tiradito De Pescado
Peru has long been a haven for immigration, so many traditional Peruvian food are a combination of local ingredients and foreign cultural cooking.
One of the most popular cuisines in Peru, known as Nikkei, combines Japanese and Peruvian culture into delicious, flavourful meals sure to make your mouth water.
If you like ceviche, you’d want to try Tiradito de Pescado! Raw fish is thinly sliced, then bathed in a spicy, citrus-based sauce. Simple, light, and delicious, this Peruvian sashimi is an ideal warm-weather meal and is sure to make your tastebuds dance.
With plenty of garlic, chili pepper, and cilantro, it’s also a great immune system booster – perfect if you’re feeling a little under the weather!
Arroz Con Mariscos
If you’ve ever tried Spanish paella, you’ll love Arroz con Mariscos! Literally translated to ‘rice with seafood,’ this food of Peru is a classic that’s popular with locals and travelers alike.
While most recipes call for squid, shrimp, and scallops, some variations include mussels or even white fish. This Peruvian comfort food with rice, spices, and vegetables is popular along the coastal regions. It is a regular Peruvian dish option in restaurants year-round.
If you’ve ever visited the Philippines or Mexico, you may have seen or tried adobo. However, the ingredients of this dish vary from country to country, and Peruvian adobo is truly something special.
The name adobo means ‘marinade’ and refers to the rich, spicy baste covering the meat. In Peru, adobo always contains pork, and the marinade is a tangy combination of chicha de jora, annatto seeds, and of course, aji chili peppers.
To try this Peruvian classic at the source, visit the Arequipa region and discover just why adobo is such a staple of cuisine in this Latin American country!
Causa Rellena is a Peruvian-style potato salad – but we promise that you’ve never had potato salad like this before! Often served cold, causa Rellena has layers of lime-seasoned potatoes, avocado, and white meat – typically chicken or white fish.
The dish is topped with hard-boiled eggs, chopped tomatoes, and a spicy ají pepper sauce! Filling and refreshing, this typical Peruvian food is perfect for hot summer weather, and makes a great side for roast meats or fresh seafood.
Papa A La Huancaina
The food of Peru may be heavy on meat and seafood, but this next dish is for vegetarians! Papa a la Huancaina is a traditional comfort food of Peru that combines the best things in life – potatoes, spice, and cheese!
Unlike adobo and other spicy Peruvian dishes, Papa a la Huancaina uses a yellow chili pepper known as aji Amarillo. This chili provides color and flavor rather than heat and is popular for seafood and chicken marinades.
These cheesy potatoes aren’t usually the main meal although they can be filling. Papa a la Huancaina makes a perfect snack or side dish for other Peruvian dishes like Pollo a la Brasa or ceviche. You’ll find them in restaurants around Peru or sold in paper cones by talented street vendors all year-round.
With influence from Venezuela, Tequeños are popular appetizers served at bars and restaurants across Peru. They are a perfect quick afternoon snack.
Wonton wrappers or pastries are deep-fried and then filled with white cheese, spices, and sometimes vegetables to create the perfect fried finger food.
Dip your tequeños in chili sauce, guacamole, or sour cream while enjoying a beer, cocktail, or juice in warm weather. Crunchy, creamy, and highly addictive, the only problem you’ll have with tequeños is stopping at one!
Fish and chips – with a twist! Jalea is one of the most popular foods in Peru, and comes in many different varieties. While many opt for the traditional Jalea de Pescado, you can also choose a combination of seafood with a jalea mixta.
If you’re expecting potatoes with your seafood, you may be disappointed. Most versions of this Peruvian food come with fried cassava, a starchy vegetable native to South America.
It goes perfectly with a red onion and lime salsa known as criolla. The fresh lime cuts through the oil and creates a well-balanced meal that pleases any seafood lover.
Peruvian Food – Stews and Soups
Aji De Gallina
As you might have guessed from the name, Aji de Gallina is a spicy Peruvian delicacy! This Chicken stew in rich chili sauce is a dish from the mountain regions of Peru. It has found its way into the hearts and bellies of Peruvians across the country!
Not only does the Aji Amarillo give this Creole staple a kick, but it is also the main reason for the rich yellow color. To tone down the heat, chefs will often add dairy products like milk and cheese and salted crackers crushed over the top to add some crunch.
Aji de Gallina features on many contemporary Peruvian restaurant menus, but head to the mountains for the best version of this hearty stew! The delicious meal pairs perfectly with rice or potatoes. It is a great Peruvian dish to soothe a rumbling stomach after a tough day of exploring.
Seco De Carne
Peruvians are famous for their hearty stews, and Seco de Carne is one of the most well-known in the country. Unlike other stews, Seco de Carne uses a traditional corn beverage called chicha de Jora as its base.
This fermented liquid creates a tart, acidic flavor that cuts through the meat’s richness and creates a delicious, satisfying meal perfect for cold weather!
Seco de Carne is a great way to fill your belly after a long day of exploration. It usually comes with rice and beans and is popular around Peru. Originating in the Andes Mountains region, you’ll find this tasty Peruvian food in many restaurants across Peru. It’s also an easy enough dish to make at home.
Leche De Tigre
Literally translating as ‘tiger’s milk,’ Leche de Tigre is a unique Peruvian snack based on the marinade used for ceviche!
Lime juice, chili peppers, cilantro, and red onion come together to create this milky-white sauce, which is poured over seafood and corn kernels.
Restaurants serve Leche de Tigre in tall cocktail glasses during summer. If you’re a fan of ceviche, make sure you try it!
If you’re enjoying a Peruvian meal, make sure to pair it with a traditional beverage! Drinks in Peru are usually created from fresh fruits and vegetables. They have a unique flavor profile that is both refreshing and intriguing.
This seafood-loving country loves bitter-sweet beverages like fruit beers and herbal teas. The people still uses traditional healing brews to fix everything from headaches to altitude sickness. Peruvian drinks vary from region to region, but all can be guaranteed to be unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.
Here are five of the most popular drinks in Peru to get you started. While you may not enjoy all of them, we promise they’ll stick in your memory for years to come!
Chicha De Jora
We’ve talked about Peruvian food, but what about Peruvian drinks? With fresh fruits and fermentation techniques dating back to the Incas, Peru is a haven for unique beverages unlike any found in other countries.
Often used as a base for stews and soups, Chicha de Jora is one of these drinks. Made from fermented Jora corn, this Peruvian drink is similar to beer and was traditionally used during fertility rituals of the Incan empire.
Many traditions surrounding chicha de Jora still exist today. For example, it’s still common practice to pour out the first sip onto the ground as a tribute to the Earth before drinking.
Chicha de Jora has a sweet and sour taste reminiscent of apple cider and often ends with bitter notes that linger on the tongue. Potent and refreshing, this beverage is one of the most popular drinks in Peru, but may not have the same effect on travelers. While you may not be able to finish your glass, don’t miss out on this Peruvian specialty during your visit!
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
For those who avoid alcohol, but still want to trial a traditional Peruvian beverage, get your hands on chica morada! Deep purple in color, chica morada originated in the Andes, but is now consumed across the country.
This delicious drink is mildly sweet, and draws its unique flavor and hue from the Peruvian purple corn that is used as the base. Locals also love chica morada for its antioxidant-rich properties and revitalising taste – perfect for combatting altitude sickness or rehydrating!
You’ve definitely tried Coca-Cola or Pepsi, but have you ever heard of Inca Kola? First introduced to the Peruvian drinks market in 1935, this South American soft drink is a bright yellow bubble gum-flavored beverage that is a favorite with young children and teenagers.
Created in Lima by English couple Jose and Martha Robinson-Lindley, Inca Kola was made to celebrate Peru’s 400th-year foundation celebration and is known as the “Pride of Peru.”
Sweet and refreshing, Inca Kola is available in convenience and grocery stores all over Peru. Pick up a bottle on a hot day for a quick and delicious sugar hit.
If you’ve had a long day of exploring Peru’s winding streets, cool down with a pisco sour. Known for its tart taste and refreshing properties, this Peruvian drink has exploded in popularity and can now be found in cocktail bars around the world – perfect for an after-work tipple!
As you may have guessed from the name, pisco sour gets its name from the base ingredient – a Peruvian liquor called pisco. Similar to brandy, locals quickly discovered that pisco was perfect when combined with lemon juice, Angostura bitters, simple syrup and shaken over ice. Delicious!
Mate de Coca (Coca Tea)
Mate de Coca is one of the most popular drinks in Peru, but it is somewhat controversial outside of its homeland! Made by brewing coca leaves, this tea is used to treat altitude sickness and is common in the mountainous Andean region.
The reason for the controversy comes down to the chemical makeup of the coca leaves. These plants contain alkaloids, which are the base for cocaine. While the tea doesn’t have the same effects as the illegal drug, one cup is enough to cause a positive test result, meaning that this Peruvian drink is banned outside of Latin America.
Mate de coca has a herbal taste similar to green tea and can be enjoyed warm or chilled. If you feel unwell while hiking, this beverage may help soothe nausea and dizziness. This is a common morning drink when hiking the Inca Trail.
Expand Your Tastes With Peruvian food!
So there you have it – 20 Peruvian foods and drinks to try! While there are tons more Peruvian food, these dishes are some of the most traditional and popular food in Peru. They are great to fill you up after a day of hiking and exploring the famous landmarks in Peru.
To get the most out of these foods, pair them with Peruvian drinks or drinks for a full-flavored culinary experience!