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Arequipa food is a gastronomic gem within Peru. Even though the city is only about one-tenth of Lima, its cuisine, historical significance, and pride is coveted.
Arequipa cuisine is varied and can be traced back to more than 3500 years ago. The region is famous for succulent soups and hearty dishes made with unique tubers and herbs.
Traditional beverages and unusual Arequipa desserts also contribute to Arequipa food being described as among the best in South America.
Picanterías or traditional Arequipa restaurants are the best places to savor Arequipa dishes.
Discovering Arequipa cuisine was one of our highlights while exploring authentic food in Peru.
If your travels take you to the White City, here are 10 unmissable Arequipa food and drinks to relish.
What is Arequipa Peru Known For?
Arequipa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is located about 600 miles south of Lima. It is the 3rd most visited city in Peru after Cusco and Lima.
The city is known for its unique scenery, surrounded by three dormant volcanoes, Arequipa dishes that rival those from Lima and Cusco, and a strong local culture.
Arequipa is also known as the White City because of the white volcanic stone known as Sillar on its buildings. You can visit the Sillar Route in Arequipa and enjoy stunning views of the volcanoes.
Peruvians joke that you need “a different passport to enter Arequipa.” While in Lima, we heard this joke several times often in the context of Arequipa food.
There is an ongoing gastronomy rivalry between Lima and Arequipa, for the best Peruvian cuisine.
Arequipa cuisine is known for its distinctive flavors due to its abundance of produce from the rich volcanic soils.
Fresh fish and seafood from the nearby Pacific Ocean, combined with meat cooked with Andean herbs served alongside unique grains make it a culinary destination.
At traditional Picanteria’s which are traditionally only opened for lunch and date back to the 16th Century, you can try some of the best Arequipa cuisine.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: To truly savor the best of Arequipa, we recommend taking a food tour with a local guide. This 3-hour guided tour of four iconic restaurants in Arequipa takes you on an unbelievably delicious journey. You’ll visit 4 different iconic Picanterías and sample a traditional dish and drink at each one. Along the way, you’ll learn about Peruvian and Arequipa cuisine while deepening your knowledge about Peru.
The largest and oldest market in Arequipa is San Camilo Market or Mercado San Camilo.
At this popular market, you’ll find local restaurants with some of the best Arequipa food, stalls to pick up souvenirs, fresh produce, and more.
Arequipa is considered the capital of Alpaca and this local market is one of the best places to pick up high-quality Alpaca wool products like blankets, socks, shawls, and more.
Must-Have Arequipa Food
1. Rocoto Relleno – Stuffed Spicy Red Peppers
Rocoto Relleno is the most emblematic dish of Arequipa. It is a stuffed pepper traditionally filled with chopped meat, onions, garlic, raisins, olives, cheese, and spices.
In size, this Peruvian pepper is similar to a bell pepper or large tomato, and it grows on the slopes of the Andes Mountains.
The Rocoto pepper is a spicy hot pepper that can be anywhere from four to 10 times more spicy than jalapeño peppers.
To soften the spice, the hot pepper is prepared without the seeds and veins and is boiled in salt and vinegar.
After the rocoto peppers are stuffed, a boiled egg is sometimes added along with melted cheese.
We didn’t find Rocoto Relleno stuffed pepper to be particularly spicy and enjoyed the slight heat in the dish.
Although it is from the Arequipa region, you can find it served across the country.
2. Chupe de Camarones – Shrimp Chowder
Chupe de Camarones is another beloved Arequipa food. The word “chupe” in the Quechua language means soup.
Chupe de Camarones is a hearty and thick soup filled with large freshwater prawns from the coast in southern Peru.
Combined with the large shrimp are yellow potatoes, squash, rice, beans, carrots, corn milk, eggs, salt, and Huacatay, a local aromatic herb paste.
Traditionally, this thick soup is served in large bowls enough to share.
After our first bite, it quickly became our favorite Arequipa dish.
With the huge prawns and exquisite tastes, it is an explosion of flavors and textures in the mouth.
Popular in the coastal regions of Peru, this delicious traditional Arequipa food needs to be experienced.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Taking a cooking class in Arequipa and learning how to make the typical dishes is a delicious way to dive into the local culture. This Peruvian cooking class with Pisco Sour and local market visit will teach you about Peruvian food culture and the traditional food. This cooking class can be tailored for vegetarians or vegan food. Learn new cooking skills and have fun in an Arequipa cooking class.
3. Adobo Arequipeño – Traditional Arequipa Pork Stew
Adobo Arequipeño also known as adobo de chancho is a popular Sunday morning dish in Arequipa,
Adobo is a thick soup or stew cooked and served in a clay pot.
It is a main dish consisting of pork loin, ají pepper, onion, potatoes or sweet potatoes, and chicha de jora corn beer.
To make this traditional dish, the pork loin is marinated in chicha de jora beer.
Chicha de jora is an Indigenous alcoholic corn drink consumed across the Andes since the Inca period.
Adobo is typically prepared overnight and cooked with ají pepper, a staple in Peruvian cuisine.
This traditional soup is consumed as a hangover cure.
It’s s not uncommon to find bleary-eyed locals enjoying this spicy soup at a picanterías after a Saturday night of partying.
4. Chaque de Tripas – Traditional Tripe Soup
If you’re looking to enjoy some of the more traditional dishes of Arequipa city, add chaque de tripas to your list.
Chaque de tripas is a thick, hearty soup or broth.
The tripe is simmered with ingredients like potatoes, onions, and other vegetables like red pepper, cabbage, and turnip. Spices and herbs like oregano and aji panca are also added.
The key components, however, are the meat. Lamb tripe (belly) is simmered alongside other meat such as pork or beef, and even a bone broth.
It’s the meat that gives chaque de tripas its distinctive flavor.
This Arequipeño soup is typically consumed on Mondays. This gives workers the strength and nutrition that they need to start the week with energy.
The dish dates back to the nineteenth century when it first appeared in cookbooks around Arequipa.
Since then, this Arequipa food has become a key dish associated with the city.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Arequipa is home to Colca Canyon the deepest canyon in the world. It is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon offering stunning views of the Andes Mountains. We recommend taking a Colca Full Day Tour to experience the majestic scenery. Tour the canyon, hot springs, and natural reserve while learning about its history and wildlife. Breakfast and lunch are included.
5. Ocopa, Ocopa Arequipeña – Arequipa Signature Black Mint Sauce
Ocopa is a traditional Arequipa food that consists of a sauce typically served with boiled potatoes, a hard-boiled egg, and olives.
This signature Ocopa sauce is made with chili peppers, toasted peanuts, onions, cheese, milk, crackers and, huacatay, a Peruvian black mint.
Huacatay is an endemic herb of Peru, and it is what adds unique flavors and aromas to this popular Arequipa dish.
Ocopa is most commonly eaten as an appetizer with boiled potatoes. You’ll also find it as Quinoa Ocopa, accompanying another endemic Peruvian grain.
The origins of this chili and huacatay-based sauce is said to date back to the Inca Empire.
Messengers known as “chasquis” carried an Ocopa bag containing chili peppers, peanuts, and herbs.
This traditional Arequipa sauce is now used throughout Peru to add a fruity spiciness to any dish.
6. Soltero de Queso – Fresh Cheese Salad
Soltero de queso is a typical dish of Arequipa that is eaten as a starter or main meal.
It is a colorful, tasty, and aromatic dish made with solterito de queso fresh cheese, fava beans, tomatoes, onions, olives, and potatoes.
This popular salad is dressed with vinegar, olive oil, parsley, and salt and pepper.
The name “sollterito” in Spanish translates to “little solo man” There are many interpretations of its name.
In Arequipa, solterito de queso is eaten as a healthy dish. It is said to keep eligible bachelors slim and appealing to potential partners.
Another interpretation tells the story of this dish being given to single girls to find a boyfriend. And yet another version describes it as a simple and easy meal for one person.
Regardless of the name’s origin, this nutritious salad is a favorite Peruvian food you’ll find at most traditional restaurants.
7. Queso Helado – Frozen Cheese Dessert
One of the most unusual and delicious Arequipa desserts is Queso Helado.
The name literally translates to frozen cheese ice or iced cheese, however, there’s no cheese in it.
Queso helado is made with condensed milk, coconut, and cinnamon. While we had it served by itself, it can also be served with honey.
The name of this Arequipa dessert comes from its traditional preparation technique.
It looks like iced blocks of sliced cheese, which are refreshing to suck on.
This frozen cheese dessert is said to have been prepared for the first time at Santa Catalina monastery as early as the 16th century.
Created first for the wealthy families, it is now found all over Arequipa at traditional restaurants and street vendors.
This emblematic Arequipa dessert, which has cheese in it’s name, but does not contain any, is an experience not to be missed in Peru.
Must-Have Arequipa Drinks
8. Kola Escosesa – Traditional Arequipa Soft Drink
Kola Escosesa is one of the most iconic local drinks of the White City. It is a soft drink made with natural mineral water and does not contain caffeine.
It has a unique flavor, fruity but not excessively sweet. It is traditionally served to accompany Arequipa’s local specialties.
In English, the name translates to Scottish Kola, and many theories surround its origin.
Some say the recipe was given to the creator by a Scottish citizen. Others talk about the name honoring the patron saint of Scotland.
Despite the many origin stories, Kola Escosesa is extremely popular and fondly called the “Soda of the Arequipeños.”
In Arequipa, it has displaced Inka Cola, the most famous Peruvian soft drink.
When you visit Arequipa or eat at a traditional Arequipa restaurant, savor the delicious food with this iconic drink.
9. Chicha de Guiñapo – Traditional Alcoholic Corn Drink
The rivalry between Lima and Arequipa exists so much that Arequipa has continuously attempted to gain independence from Lima to create the “Independent Republic of Arequipa.”
Arequipa even has its own national anthem and flag.
The crimson-colored Arequipa flag is the same color as chicha de guiñapo, which celebrates the black corn used to make this traditional beverage.
It is similar to chicha de jora, another corn-based fermented beverage popular in the Andes.
The name guiñapo refers to a type of black corn from the Arequipa region that is fermented to make this traditional beverage.
Chicha de guiñapo has been enjoyed throughout the Arequipeño valley for centuries, dating back to the Inca Empire.
You will most commonly find chicha de guiñapo at Picanterías traditionally served to accompany the typical dishes.
Chicha is a symbolic drink for the people of Arequipa and is fundamental to the city’s identity.
There is even a Chicha de Guiñapo festival celebrating this drink held in Arequipa city each August.
10. Arequipeña Beer
Arequipena beer is an emblematic Peruvian beer. It is brewed near Arequipa in the Cervecera del sur del Peru brewery.
Popular in Arequipa, it is enjoyed across the country. It is a pale “Pilsner Lager” style beer of 4.6%.
While enjoying our authentic Arequipa food, Claire chose to enjoy this beer alongside a dish.
She found it a bit too hoppy and didn’t enjoy its distinct taste. Nevertheless, she found it easy to drink.
In addition to Arequipeña Beer, the White City also has an emerging craft beer scene.
Peru is celebrated for the diversity and vibrance of its cuisine. We were consistently blown away by the local specialities from the different regions.
Arequipa cuisine is so much more than a delicious selection of diverse typical dishes. The flavors, cooking techniques and ingredients are imbued in history.
When you eat Arequipa food, you taste the tradition. You feel the pride in the culture and customs celebrated with the city’s flag and anthem.
If you can’t visit Arequipa on your Peru travels, make it a eat at Arequipa Picanteria.
Savor the dishes of Arequipa and by all means, make sure to end on Queso Helado or frozen cheese.
Have you had Arequipa food before? Which of these typical dishes of Arequipa would you like to try? Please let us know in the comments below.
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Our book, Authentic Food Quest Peru takes you on a journey through the regional food specialties in Peru. Get an introduction to Peruvian food and the history of how this unique gastronomy came to be.
Discover the authentic foods in Lima and Cusco as well as the top Peruvian foods and drinks that should not be missed. Take this guide with you as you explore Peru’s magnificent cuisine.
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Rosemary is the editor-in-chief and strategist at Authentic Food Quest.
Traveling slow since 2015 with her partner, Claire, she has explored the cuisine in 45 countries and more than 240+ culinary cities.
Her writing about local food specialties has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post.
As a food and travel writer, Rosemary has co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
Rosemary is an avid runner when she’s not eating and exploring new destinations. She has run ten marathons and counting.
Before Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary held senior-level strategy positions in advertising.
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