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Cusco food is some of the best cuisine in the Peruvian Andes.
The former capital of the Inca Empire and a Unesco World Heritage Site, Cusco holds many titles, including Peru’s second gastronomy capital.
While exploring the local and authentic dishes in Peru, we spent more than one month in Cusco diving into the local cuisine.
To help guide your culinary travels in Cusco, a colorful Andean city, here are the best foods in Cusco to eat.
1. Cuy – Guinea Pig
Before arriving in Cusco, we’d heard about Cuy (pronouced COOee) or guinea pig, a cornerstone of Peruvian cuisine.
As cuy are guinea pigs, some may feel squeamish about eating these rodents, but guinea pig is a Peruvian food delicacy.
Cuy has a history reaching back to ancient Peruvians. It is a staple food that has supplemented the diets of indigenous populations in the Peruvian Andes for centuries, and the custom still exists today.
There are two main ways of preparing cuy. The most popular is cuy al horno or baked cuy. And, the second is cuy chactado or fried cuy.
Locals advised us to try cuy chactado, which is specific to Arequipa, where it’s served with potatoes and rocoto relleno or fried stuffed peppers.
Don’t expect to eat cuy with a knife and fork – to enjoy this Cusco food dish; you’ll be getting hands-on.
People say anything strange “tastes like chicken.” With cuy, this is not the case.
Cuy is a dark and lean meat with not too much meat. The bones are thin and brittle, which is why this Cusco food is best eaten with your hands.
The taste, in our opinion, is somewhat like rabbit. It’s not too gamey though lacks a distinctive flavor.
When you order guinea pigs, expect to receive the entire animal – head, teeth, and all.
Eating cuy, a traditional food in Cusco, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s a local specialty with a long history and a must-add item to any list of Cusco food.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: One of the best ways to taste Peruvian cuisine and Cusco food specialties is by taking a food tour. This 10 Tastings Food Tour of Cusco with Locals takes you off the beaten path with a private guide to taste a variety of specialties. In over 3+ hours, you’ll sample different iconic foods while visiting important Inca monuments. With a combination of food and culture, you’ll get to taste the best of Cusco’s food specialties.
Where To Eat The Best Cuy in Cusco
Avoid the touristy Cusco restaurants around Plaza de Armas, the main square of Cusco, to enjoy cuy.
Our local host, whom we stayed with in Cusco, recommended Cuyeria Sabor Moqueguano, a local restaurant that specializes in only Cuy.
This restaurant is off the beaten path and located in a residential area between homes. Frequented mostly by locals, it is a great place to sample this classic Cusco food.
Address: Urb. La Pradera B-1 Santiago Sector de, Puquín, Cusco, Peru
Hours: Open daily, 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
Prices: Price of cuy starts at 43 soles (approx. $11.15 USD)
Alternatively, another of the best Cusco restaurants to eat cuy is Restaurant Sumaqcha. This family-run restaurant consistently ranks amongst the best restaurants in Cusco.
You’ll be able to sample a range of Peruvian dishes, including cuy. Though be aware that it’s off the Plaza de Armas, so is on the touristy side of things.
Address: Calle Suecia 339, Cusco, Peru
Hours: Open Monday – Saturday, 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Prices: Cuy costs 75 soles (approx. $19.45 USD)
2. Alpaca – Relative of the Llama
If you’re visiting Peru, you will likely see many alpacas and llamas.
The alpaca, in particular, is a domesticated species of the South American camelid and is widespread in the Andes region.
Where the llama is used to transport products and goods, alpacas are raised for their meat and wool.
Wool from alpacas is woven into blankets, sweaters, and more, and their meat is a prized source of protein.
Unlike llama meat we had in northern Argentina, Alpaca meat is tender partly because the animals do not carry goods.
Alpaca meat, like llama, is high in protein and lower in fat, making it an ideal alternative to beef due to its low cholesterol.
Where to Eat The Best Alpaca in Cusco
Alpaca steak ranks amongst the most delicious food in South America and is well worth sampling in Cusco. Serving contemporary Peruvian cuisine Uchu Peruvian Steakhouse consistently ranks amongst the best places to eat in Cusco.
Address: C. Palacio 135, Cusco, Peru
Hours: Open daily, 12:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Prices: Alpaca loin about 89 soles (approx. $ 23.08 USD)
3. Chicharrón – Fried Pork Cracklings
Chicharrón is a local favorite Cusco food made with different cuts of fried pork, including pork belly or pork rinds.
This pork cracklings dish, originally from Spain, is part of the traditional cuisine of many countries with Spanish heritage.
Chicharrón in Cusco consists of fried pork served alongside white corn, sweet potatoes, raw onion, mint, and lemon.
It’s a popular Cusco food, and you’ll see several vendors and eateries selling Chicharrón around Plaza des Armas, the main square.
Where To Eat The Best Chicharrón in Cusco
Yaku Restaurant makes traditional and contemporary Peruvian dishes with produce from their farm in the Sacred Valley. The restaurant is consistently judged as one of the best places to eat in Cusco, for their amazing food that is both delicious and visually appealing.
Address: Plaza Regocijo 209, Cusco 08002, Peru
Hours: Open daily, 12:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Prices: Chicharrón costs 50 soles (approx. $ 12.96 USD)
Another strong contender amongst Cusco restaurants is Kusykay, offering Peruvian fusion. Located in the Old Town, pair pork cracklings with a pisco sour, the national drink, and admire views of the city.
Address: Unos metros de la plaza de Armas, Triunfo 338 A, Cusco, Peru
Hours: Open daily, 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Prices: Main dishes start at 39 soles (approx. $10.11 USD)
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Cusco, a gastronomy city has some of the most delicious food you’ll eat in Peru. Consider taking a cooking class and learning to make a few local specialties. See our review of 7 Of The Best Cooking Classes in Cusco
4. Chiriuchu – Cusco Traditional Main Dish
Chiruchu is a cold meal, which in the Quechua language, translates as cold chili or cold spicy.
It is a traditional dish typically prepared during the Catholic Feast of Corpus Christi in June.
For fans of dishes that combine several flavors, combination meals, chiriuchu is probably one of the best things to eat in Cusco.
It’s a traditional dish composed of products from the coast, highlands, and even the Amazon jungle.
Chiriuchu is said to date from the Incas Empire when villagers would arrive in Cusco for religious celebrations.
On a large plate, find specialties like cuy (guinea pig), chorizo (sausage), gallina (hen), and cecina or charki (dried meat).
Also piled on the plate are cochayuyo (seaweed), maiz (corn), torreja (a type of omelete with corn flour, potatoes, yellow squash, green onions, and spices),
Fish roes or huevos de pescado, cheese or queso, and cancha or toasted, crunchy corn are also placed on the dish.
All the ingredients are piled high on top of each other, with hot peppers at the very top.
Be aware that chiriuchu is a little spicy and very filling. The mixture of flavors and textures was weird. Combining fish eggs with the meat felt a little strange.
We liked the addition of cheese and corn, which helped tame the spicy notes.
Where to Eat The Best Chiriuchu in Cusco
There aren’t many restaurants in Cusco that serve chiriuchu year-round, as it is typically a seasonal meal. If you aren’t planning to eat this Cusco food in June, when it is served in many eateries, you’ll probably need to head to a specialty restaurant.
La Cusquenita, a traditional restaurant or tradicional pikanteria, is where locals converge to eat this Cusco food. You’ll not find international cuisine, but instead a wide variety of delicious traditional dishes.
Address: Centenario 800, Cusco, Peru
Hours: Open daily, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Prices: Chiriuchu costs 42 soles (approx. $10.89 USD)
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5. Trucha – Trout
Trucha or trout is a popular Cuzco food. You can find it cooked in various ways, including baked, grilled, and as ceviche.
Of the trout options available, we tried trucha con rocoto relleno or trout with fried stuffed peppers, a local specialty.
This food in Cusco was comprised of fried trout served with stuffed peppers or rocoto relleno.
Rocoto relleno comes from Arequipa, Peru’s second most populous city after Lima. They are meat-stuffed spicy peppers.
The trout we had was tender and delicious as it was cooked in an open clay oven at one of the city’s local markets.
The two specialties, trout and rocoto relleno were some of our favorite dishes in Cusco. We recommend not missing them when visiting Peru.
Where to Eat The Best Trout in Cusco
Faustina Peru is one of Cusco’s family-owned restaurants. The food offers a contemporary spin on traditional Peruvian fare, you’ll be able to enjoy tasty meals like fried trout here.
Address: Ca. Arequipa 159, Cusco 08002, Peru
Hours: Open Monday to Saturday, 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Prices: Main dishes start at around 45 soles (approx. 11.67)
6. Caldo de Gallina – Hen Soup
Caldo de gallina, is chicken soup and it is a much loved traditional dish.
It is a hearty and warming soup that is served both for breakfast and lunch.
Traditionally, old stewing hens are used, as they are better able to withstand the length of time that the soup needs to simmer, whereas other chicken might dry out.
At the San Pedro market, stall owners gather to make this chicken soup in large vats. In addition to chicken, potatoes, vegetables, and grains are mixed in to make a thick heartwarming soup.
The soup is suitable as a main dish or as a small side and is one of Cusco’s best foods to beat the Andes mountain cold.
Where to Eat The Best Caldo de Gallina in Cusco
For chicken soup, don’t go to a Cusco restaurant, but instead take to the cobblestone streets to the soup section of Mercado Central de San Pedro. You’ll find some of the best food in Cusco to enjoy as you wander around the market’s famous gastronomy section.
Address: Thupaq Amaru 477, Cusco 08002, Peru
Hours: Open daily, 7:00 am – 6:00 pm
Prices: Soup costs 8 soles (approx. $2.07 USD)
Pro tip: If you can get to the market in the morning, it will be quieter, and you’ll be better able to stroll the stalls at your own pace.
7. Pachamanca a la Olla – Ancestral Andean Dish
Pachamanca is an ancient tradition and unique way of cooking in the Peruvian Andes.
It has deep cultural significance dating back to the Inca period. Pachamama was traditionally prepared in hommage to Mother Earth
In the Quechua language, pacha means ‘earth’, and manka means ‘pot.’
So, combined, this traditional Peruvian dish loosely translates to ‘earth pot.’
This consists of an underground earthenware pot that’s covered in hot stones and earth.
To celebrate Mother Earth, beef, pork, chicken, and guinea pig would be cooked with Andean crops like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and beans.
Pachamanca represents the strong bond that the Incas and other ancient cultures had with Mother Earth.
Today, many restaurants in Cusco have adapted Pachamama and will prepare the meal in their kitchens.
Where to Eat The Best Pachamanca a la Olla in Cusco
Wiracocha Restaurante is one of the best Cusco restaurants for traditional foods. You will find Pachamama on the menu as well as other traditional dishes like, cuy, trucha, and others.
Address: Jr. Calca Mz. H Lote 12 Urb. Progreso, Cusco
Hours: Open Tuesday – Sunday, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
Prices: Prices start at around 40 soles (approx. $10.37 USD)
8. Lomo Saltado – Peruvian Stir Fry
Lomo saltado is similar to a beef stir fry, and it is a specialty dish of Peruvian cuisine.
It’s a delicious, filling, and flavorful food made of strips of beef steak combined with vegetables, including onions, tomatoes, and fried potatoes.
The word saltado means “stir fr”, which reflects lomo saltado’s Chinese Peruvian heritage. This is one of the most popular dishes throughout the country, and you’ll easily find it in Cusco.
For Peruvians, lomo saltado is a comfort food. While beef or lomo is the most popular variation, you can also find chicken (pollo saltado) and pork (lomo saltado de cerdo).
What makes this such a popular and celebrated dish is the use of aji amarillo paste, which gives it a delicious spicy punch.
Where to Eat The Best Lomo Saltado in Cusco
You’ll find plenty of the best Cusco food at the main market, Mercado Central de San Pedro. In the gastronomy section, you’ll plenty of vendors selling delicious lomo saltado for very affordable prices.
Address: Thupaq Amaru 477, Cusco, Peru
Hours: Open daily, 7:00 am – 6:00 pm
Prices: Prices start around 5 soles ( approx. $1.30 USD)
9. Quinoa – Sopa de Quinoa
As a staple food item of the Incas, quinoa has a long history of consumption in the Andean region of South America.
There are over 1800 subspecies of quinoa, all of which grow across the Andes and provide a vital food source for local populations.
Among the Incas, Quinoa was originally called the “Mother Grain.”
Quinoa has entered the wellness market as a superfood and is revered for its high protein content and its plenty of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
In Cusco, we were impressed by the variety of quinoa grains and the multiple colors it comes in.
At Mercado Central de San Pedro, you can find quinoa soup or sopa de quinoa.
It is one of the more filling and wholesome Cusco foods and an ideal way to warm up on a cold day.
Sopa de quinoa is meat-free and includes vegetables like sweet potatoes, and carrots, with a touch of spicy aji amarillo paste.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Easy and Healthy Traditional Peruvian Quinoa Soup Recipe
Where to Eat The Best Quinoa Soup
The service at Rucula Restaurant is attentive, and you can enjoy a range of traditional Peruvian dishes, including sopa de quinoa. In warmer months, you can enjoy amazing food out on the patio.
Address: Ataud 266, Cusco 08002, Peru
Hours: Open daily, 12:30 pm – 9:300 pm
Prices: Quinoa soup costs 24 soles (approx. $6.22 USD)
10. Emoliente – Peruvian Natural Remedy
While not a food, Emoliente is a traditional Cusco drink made from natural plants harvested in the Andes mountains.
The mixture of plants can be used as a natural remedy to cure various ailments.
While in Cusco, we both had a touch of stomach flu, and our local host recommended taking emoliente drink.
Depending on what ails you, the vendor will make your emoliente drink from different herbal liquids housed in 5-6 bottles on the side of the stall.
The drink can be either hot or cold. The emoliente we had for our stomach flu was strange tasting – somewhat slimy in texture but fruity in taste.
Unlike anything else we’d ever tasted, it helped to settle our stomachs.
After a few days of sipping on this soothing natural remedy, we were better and back to our old selves.
Don’t miss the opportunity to try emoliente while in Cusco.
Where to Have Emoliente in Cusco
You’ll find this drink sold at different Cusco local markets and by street stall vendors. You will notice the street vendors with small carts carrying several bottles on top of them. They typically sell in the late afternoon or evening.
Prices: Expect to pay 1sol or 0.30USD for a glass of emoliente
A trip to Cusco would not be complete without experiencing local Cusco food specialties.
You will probably find yourself in Cusco for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Machu Picchu and the surrounding Inca ruins.
While you are at it, don’t forget to indulge in the once-in-a-lifetime Cusco specialties.
Cuy is the most popular and is an experience all by itself. If you don’t have much time, the mixed Chiriuchu platter will allow you to sample several kinds of meats and eat like the Incas did in their time.
Make your entire visit to Cusco an experience you’ll never forget.
Have you had any of these Cusco foods before? Which one Cusco food would you like to try the most? Please let us know in the comments below.
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Get an introduction into 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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