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The exquisite flavors of Peru foods have led the cuisine to be rated among the best in the world.
In fact, since 2012 and for 10 years, Peru has been named the “World’s Leading Culinary Destination” by the World Travel Awards.
Peruvian cuisine has been described as the original fusion food. It is the result of immigration influences from almost every continent and the use of native ingredients dating back to the Incas.
Exploring Peru traditional food was one of the highlights of our culinary travels in South America.
From Cusco to Lima we were continually surprised by the native ingredients and unexpected traditional recipes.
Eating in Peru is biting into a fascinating blend of cultures and influences.
To guide your culinary travels in the country, here are the top 20 Peru foods not to miss.
What is Peruvian Food?
Peruvian cuisine follows the rich biodiversity found all over the country. The country’s rich landscape and climate contribute greatly to the traditional gastronomy.
Seafood from the Peruvian coast, unique ingredients from the Andes Mountains, and influences from the Amazon Rainforest all shape the food in Peru.
Peruvian dishes also date back to the pre-Inca period where the presence of herbs, chili peppers, potatoes, and grains were used in hearty and restorative dishes.
Foreigners or immigrants have also greatly enriched Peruvian food, leading to the exquisite fusion cuisine it is today. First the Spaniards, then the Africans, the Chinese workers, and finally the Japanese.
These early foreign immigrants brought their products, customs, and techniques and added to an already extensive cuisine.
Traditional Peruvian food does not have a singular definition. But rather, a wide and exciting palate of flavors we invite you to explore below.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you are already familiar with some Peru foods, why not learn to make them in your home kitchen? One of our partners, The Chef and The Dish, offers fun virtual cooking classes with chefs from around the world. We really like their focus on traditional and authentic dishes. Using Skype, you’ll connect with Chef Lucia directly from Peru and learn to make dishes like Lomo Saltado, Ceviche, or even cooking with superfoods.
Top Peruvian Criollo Food
1. Peruvian Causa – Layered Potato Dish
Peruvian Causa is a beloved traditional Peruvian food found all over the country.
It’s a quintessential dish of Peru that highlights potatoes, which are native to the country and available in more than 3,000 varieties.
Causa in Peru is sometimes referred to as Causa Rellana or Causa Limeña, which are used interchangeably. Causa Limeña generally refers to being from Lima.
While there are many different interpretations of this traditional Peruvian food, the ingredients typically consist of layers of mashed potatoes, vegetables, meat, or fish.
It’s made with aji amarillo, a spicy Peruvian sauce, and packed into a round mold. Causa is a typical side dish or starter and it is incredibly delicious.
2. Lomo Saltado or Peruvian Beef Stir Fry
Amongst all the top Peruvian foods, Lomo Saltado brings together incredible flavors, ingredients, and a fusion of cooking techniques.
It combines Peruvian ingredients with Chinese cooking techniques and ingredients like soy sauce.
The term “Lomo Saltado” translates to “jumping beef,” which refers to the stir-frying method of cooking the dish.
Stir-frying strips of beef are sautéed with onions, tomatoes stips of chili peppers and flavored with soy sauce and vinegar.
This flavorful Peruvian food is typically served with Peruvian french fries and rice. While Lomo Saltado is traditional Peruvian food, its heritage is Chinese-Peruvian.
Lomo Saltado is one of our favorite Peruvian dishes and is unmissable on any trip to Peru.
3. Anticuchos de Corazon – Beef Heart
The story of Anticuchos is very much part of the national story of Peru.
Anticuchos also known as Anticuchos de Corazon, are pieces of grilled beef heart served on a stick with a boiled potato on the end.
When Spanish conquistadors colonized what is now Peru, they brought enslaved Africans with them.
The Africans were given what were considered inferior cuts of meat, such as beef hearts, while the Spaniards kept other cuts for themselves.
Anticuchos came about when the Africans began roasting the beef hearts. The Antichuchos are served on skewers with boiled potatoes on the end.
A serving of spicy aji amarillo sauce also accompanies the skewers.
Today, this Peruvian food, typically eaten as a street food is part of the country’s national cuisine.
4. Ají de Gallina – Peruvian Creamy Chicken Stew
Aji de Gallina is a beloved traditional Peruvian food that combines European and indigenous ingredients.
This classic dish is made with shredded chicken breast in a creamy and mildly spicy sauce containing Ají Amarillo.
The name roughly translates to “hen’s stew or chili” which refers to the chicken made with the yellow aji amarillo paste.
Considered a comfort food or Criollo food, the rich chicken stew is ccompanied by rice, potatoes, and a boiled egg.
While it may not be much to look at, it is one of the most popular traditional recipes.
We savored Aji de Gallina as often as we could while in the country exploring Peruvian foods.
Top Amazonian Peru Cuisine
5. Juane – Popular Rice and Meat Amazonian Foods
Food from the Amazon Rainforest in Peru is part of the varied diversity in Peruvian cuisine. One of the most traditional recipes from the Peruvian Amazon Jungle is Juane.
This is a rice dish filled with meat, a boiled egg, black olives, and spices. Everything is cooked together in bijao leaves, which look like banana leaves and are native to the rainforest.
The dish’s name refers to St. John the Baptist, who is said to be the patron saint of the Amazon.
On June 24 each year, Peruvians celebrate the Feast of St. John the Baptist, who protects the precious water of the Amazon.
We had food from Peru’s Amazon rainforest in Lima and enjoyed Juane made with chicken. It was served with a yellow sauce made with Cocona, a fruit from the jungle.
The combination of flavors in this beautiful Amazon traditional dish were surprising and delightful.
This Amazon traditional Peruvian food is worth seeking out your travels to Peru.
Top Arequipa Food in Peru
6. Rocoto Relleno – Stuffed Spicy Red Peppers
Rocoto Relleno hails from the Arequipa region of Peru, the country’s second-largest city after Lima.
In its simplest form, Rocoto Relleno is a stuffed pepper dish filled with meat, onions, garlic, raisins, olives, cheese, and spices.
What makes Rocoto Relleno so emblematic is the use of a traditional pepper that grows in the Andes Mountains.
This pepper is typically very hot, but the spiciness is reduced by boiling it in salt and vinegar before cooking with it.
Rocoto Relleno is traditionally served with a potato casserole, and the bell pepper is topped with cheese.
While we enjoy stuffed bell pepper in general, Rocoto Relleno from Arequipa was a delight to discover in Peru.
What surprised us the most was that the pepper was not spicy. Instead, the flavors blended sweet and savory flavors from the meat to the raisins.
The city of Arequipa was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and Creative City of Gastronomy.
Arequipa’s Rocoto Relleno and other dishes like Chupe de Camarones or shrimp chowder are traditional Peruvian dishes not to be missed.
Amazing Nikkei Peruvian Dishes
7. Tiradito – Peruvian Raw Fish Dish
Tiradito is a quintessential Peruvian food that is somewhat similar to ceviche.
It is made of raw fish and is a Nikkei dish, which is a blend of traditional Peruvian and Japanese flavors.
Tiradito is made of raw fish that is thinly sliced in a sashimi style. It is traditionally served with a spicy Peruvian aji amarillo sauce.
In Peru, Tiradito is particularly popular in Lima and the creativity in the recipes vary.
The most important ingredient is to use extremely fresh fish and to elegantly slice it and present it.
Tiradito was one of our favorite raw fish dishes while we were in Peru. And, with just one bite, it will become one of your preferred Peruvian dishes too.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you love salmon, why not try our simple Tiradito Recipe: Peruvian-Style Salmon Sashimi With Quinoa
8. Yakishemi de Quinoa – Japanese-Fried Quinoa
Another popular dish that comes from Nikkei cuisine is Yakishemi de Quinoa.
Yakishemi is a Japanese word that means “pan-fried rice.” However, instead of rice, this dish incorporates quinoa, a staple Peruvian crop.
For thousands of years, people in the Peruvian Andes have grown and cooked quinoa.
When Japanese immigrants moved to Peru, they used the local ingredients in their cooking, including the readily available quinoa.
Besides quinoa, the traditional recipes also chicken flavored with soy sauce, onions, and other vegetables. Eggs can also be scrambled into the quinoa and chicken mixture.
Another popular variation you may see on your Peruvain travels is Yakishemi de Quinoa served with shrimp.
There are no limits to the creativity of Nikkei chefs in Peru. Whatever iteration of Japanese fried quinoa you’ll try, your taste buds will enjoy the delicious adventure.
Chifa Peru Traditional Food
9. Arroz Chaufa – Peruvian Fried Rice
Arroz Chaufa, simply known as “chaufa” is a culinary treasure in Peru. This beloved rice dish is a “Chifa” dish which is a blend of Chinese and Peruvian cultures.
When the Chinese moved to Peru in the mid to late 1800s to work as manual laborers they combined their cooking techniques with local ingredients.
Peruvian fried rice or Chaufa, which is the Cantonese word for “Chaofan”, or “fried rice” was born.
Arroz Chaufa Peruvian food is made with fried rice mixed with vegetables, Chinese onions, garlic, ginger, eggs, and chicken.
The two most important ingredients of this Peruvian dish are ginger and soy sauce.
The fried rice dish is cooked on a wok, resulting in a simple and beloved dish.
Arroz Chaufa is another culinary fusion that is deeply embedded into Peru’s national culinary narrative.
Northern Peruvian Food
10. Seco de Chavelo – Roasted Plantains and Beef
Close to the border of Peru and Ecuador is Piura, the largest city in northern Peru renowned for its gastronomy.
Traditional Peruvian cooking in this region reflects the diversity in Piura. The local dishes are a fusion of the tastes of Spanish or Hispanic, African, and indigenous Andean people.
One of the most celebrated Peruvian foods from the region is Seco de Chavelo’, whose main ingredients are roasted banana plantains and beef.
This Peruvian dish is over a century old and gets its name from its creator, a man by the name of Chavelo.
In addition to the main ingredients of plantains and beef, the dish also includes green peppers, onions, tomatoes, and Chicha or fermented corn beer.
With a name like “seco” which means dry, we were pleasantly surprised by its soft and moist flavors. The sweet and salty combination of the plantains and beef made it a favorite dish.
The traditional Peruvian cuisine of the Piura region is worth seeking out. Beyond Seco de Chavelo, two other specialties, Carne Seca and Majado de Yuca are worth trying too.
Iconic Street Food in Peru
11. Tamales – Ground White Corn Stuffed With Meat
While Tamales are popular across Latin America, each country and region has their own unique preparation style and ingredients.
In Peru, tamales are made using Peruvian corn that is native to the country. White corn instead of the popular yellow variety is traditionally used.
A Peruvian tamale typically contains chicken or beef, as well as hard-boiled eggs. Other ingredients you’ll find in only in tamales from Peru are spicy ají amarillo sauce, olives, and peanuts.
Peruvian Tamales are one of the most popular Peruvian foods eaten on the go. They are traditionally wrapped in a banana leaf and are quite tasty.
If you are already familiar with Mexican tamales, you’ll enjoy getting to know Peru’s twist on this popular street food.
Cusco Peru Traditional Food
12. Cuy – Guinea Pig Peruvian Delicacy
For visitors to Peru, one of the most unusual traditional Peruvian dishes is Cuy or guinea pig.
Popular in Cusco and the Andes region, eating cuy dates back to the ancient Peruvians, where it was used to supplement their diet.
The tradition of eating Cuy still exists today, and you’ll find it on many menus at traditional restaurants in Cusco.
Traditional Peruvian cooking calls for either baking Cuy, known as cuy al horno or frying it, referred to as cuy chactado.
While in Cusco, we had the opportunity to try deep fried cuy, and it was served with potatoes and rocoto relleno or stuffed spicy peppers.
We found the taste of cuy to be similar to rabbit though without much meat. The meat is lean and dark, and the bones are brittle.
Cuy is a specialty food steeped in Peruvian culture and culinary traditions.
As an integral part of Peru’s food culture, it is worth trying at least once on your travels to the country.
13. Quinoa Soup
Peruvian quinoa soup is an ancestral Inca soup that originates from the heart of the Andes Mountain range in Peru.
This traditional dish is made with quinoa, an ancient grain that has been cultivated by the indigenous cultures of the Peruvian highlands for centuries.
Quinoa, known as the “mother grain” of the Incas, is a complete protein and rich in essential nutrients.
When combined with a flavorful broth, vegetables, meat, or seafood, a comforting and filling Peruvian dish is created that is both nutritious and delicious.
Quinoa soup was one of our favorite soups to keep warm in the cooler evenings while in Peru.
If you see it Peruvian quinoa soup on a restaurant menu, do not hesitate to order it.
Top Popular Peruvian Foods
14. Ceviche – Raw Fish Marinated in Citrus Juices
Ceviche also spelled cebiche, is often considered as Lima’s dish of the city. And sometimes as Peru’s national dish.
Peruvian ceviche is essentially a raw dish that consists of fish soaked in citrus juices such as lime juice and spiced with Peruvian chili peppers.
To make this celebrated dish, you need raw fish, sliced red onions, and ají, Peruvian chili pepper all doused in lime juice.
The acidic citrus juices “cooks the fish” making it firm and opaque. The marinade or juices is known as Leche de Tigre or Tiger’s Milk, and it is believed to be an aphrodisiac and some say a hangover cure too.
Peruvian ceviche is typically accompanied by sweet potatoes or camote and large Andean corn known as Choclo.
Every June 28, Peru celebrates this national heritage food with the National Ceviche Day festivities.
15. Pollo A La Brasa – Peruvian-Style Rotisserie Chicken
Pollo a la Brasa, or rotisserie chicken is a beloved and popular dish enjoyed throughout the country.
This rotisserie chicken dish is served at dedicated shops known as pollerías.
Invented in Lima in the mid-twentieth century, the chicken cooks at high temperatures on special rods that spin to ensure even cooking on all sides.
The secret of the success of Pollo a la Brasa resides in its cooking method and marinades.
Each pollería has its own secret marinade recipe for this delicious Peruvian roasted chicken dish.
Pollo a la Brasa is so beloved in Peru, and this roasted chicken dish is one of the most popular foods enjoyed by all.
The way the chicken is flavored and prepared is unlike any we’ve had before. Every year, on the third Sunday of July Peruvians celebrate Pollo a la Brasa.
This national treasure should not be missed on your Peru travels.
16. Papa a la Huancaina – Boiled Potatoes in Cream Sauce
This traditional Peruvian food’s name “Papa a la Huancaina” means “Huancayo-style potatoes.”
Huancayo is a city located in central Peru. While no one knows for certain exactly where this dish originated, the name suggests it sprang from somewhere in or around this city.
Papa a la Huancaina consists of boiled yellow potatoes which are cooled down and sliced along with olives and hard-boiled eggs covered in a spicy cheese sauce.
This spicy, creamy sauce is made from aji peppers, queso fresco crumbly white cheese, and onions.
While the Papa a la Huancaina is simple to make, it is rich in flavor.
You’ll find it as an appetizer at traditional Peruvian restaurants, and we recommend having it as often as you can.
17. Peruvian Fruits
Peru is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world with varied microclimates from the Peruvian coast, Andes Mountains, and Amazon Rainforest.
This diversity is reflected in the fruits which are unusual and exotic. Discovering the unique Peruvian fruits was one of our favorite activities while visiting the local markets in Peru.
One of the unusual fruits you’ll find is granadilla, which is similar to passion fruit. It’s a fruit with a long history in the country. It is eaten as a fruit or used to make mousse or parfait desserts.
Lúcuma is another fruit we fell in love with, and it tastes like caramel. It is used to make everything from juice to ice cream.
One unique fruit we discovered from the Amazon Rainforest was Camu Camu, a small red fruit, the size of a grape.
Camu Camu fruit has one of the highest levels of Vitamin C in the world. It is too bitter to eat raw, and it is typically consumed as a juice, shake, or taken as pills.
Find out more about some of the other surprising fruits from the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest below.
Classic Peruvian Dessert
18. Picarones – Peruvian Donuts
Traditional Peruvian food also includes many delectable traditional desserts like Picarones.
Unlike traditional donuts, Picarones are made using flour from squash and sweet potato.
The dough is formed into small, round rings and then deep-fried.
These donuts are then covered in chancaca, a syrup made from sugar, cinnamon, and oranges.
Incredibly delicious, Picarones are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They are a classic street food in Peru and one of the most popular desserts in the country.
It’s a good thing the Picarones donuts are sold in sets of four because once you bite into one, you’ll not want to stop.
Peru Foods To Drink
19. Chicha – Corn-Based Traditional Beverage
Chica is one of the most traditional Peruvian drinks from the Andes Mountain region. It is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented corn.
Chicha drinks in Peru are varied based on the corn used to make the drink. One popular style uses a yellow corn, called jora, to make a fermented Chica de Jora drink.
This drink had special significance during the Inca Empire where corn was considered a sacred crop.
In the Arequipa region, you’ll find another type of chica known as Chicha de Guiñapo. This one is made from a native corn that grows only in the region.
Across the country, you’ll find other types of alcoholic Chicha beverages made with other ingredients besides corn.
For example, in the Amazon Rainforest there is a Chicha made with yuca or cassava. You’ll find another version made with quinoa from the Andes, known as Chicha Blanca.
The most popular non-alcoholic chicha is known as Chicha Morada made with purple corn.
You will no doubt come across Chicha in Peru, and we recommend trying the different iterations from the alcoholic to the non-alcoholic versions.
20. Maca – Inca Superfood Root
Maca is a Peruvian root vegetable that grows in the high Andes mountains. It has been cultivated for thousands of years and was an important part of the Inca diet.
The Maca plant was revered for its ability to increase energy, endurance and fertility.
Even today, Maca continues to be an important food source in Peru and is consumed as a drink or in food.
Maca is a national heritage food of Peru and is growing in popularity around the world as a superfood.
Intrigued by its high nutrional density, we had Maca in several forms in Peru and even embarked on a 30-day Maca diet which you can read more about below.
Peruvian Maca is worth trying and learning more about on your travels to the country.
The food in Peru is incredibly diverse and Peruvians are very proud of their cuisine. There is a saying in Peru we heard several times that says “we don’t talk about sports or football, we talk about food instead.”
Unfamiliar with the breadth and diversity of Peruvian food before visiting the country, we quickly became raving fans.
There’s a reason Peru keeps getting recognized as a world’s leading culinary destination. On your Peruvian travels, you’ll quickly discover why.
Which of these Peru foods have you had before? Or would like to try for the first time? Please let us know in the comments below.
Savor The Adventure!
More Peruvian Local Food Experiences
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.
More Local Food Experiences and Recipes
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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.
Find out more about Authentic Food Quest