7 Authentic Peruvian Street Food You Want To Have

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Peru street food is very popular. Of the South American countries we visited, we were most surprised by the popularity and diversity of the Peruvian street food.

We observed a strong Peruvian street food culture with different types of vendors showing up at different times of the day. 

In the mornings you find street carts selling breakfast type foods. This includes bread with cheese, omelets or fried eggs. 

In the evenings, another set of street carts appear selling a variety of options. Ubiquitous carts with names like “anticuchos, “mazamorra morada” fill up the streets.

On your travels to Peru, be sure to try these 7 authentic Peruvian street foods in Lima or Cusco. 

And don’t forget to check our tips to enjoy Peruvian street food safely.

Note: Article updated – September 2020

1- Anticuchos – Peruvian Meat Skewers

As the sun begins to set and dusk approaches, the first thing you will notice on the streets of Peru are little carts being set up on virtually every corner. One popular sign you will see is for Anticuchos.

What is Anticuchos?

Peruvian Street food Anticuchos
Anticuchos waiting to be cooked

Quite literally, this is meat on a stick served with a boiled potato on the end.

The most traditional Anticuchos are Anticuchos de Corazon, which are pieces of grilled beef-heart served on a stick. 

They are served with a boiled potato on the end of a skewer and aji, or hot sauce. If you can’t stomach the idea of beef heart, you can also get chicken, regular beef or even hot dog anticuchos.

History of Anticuchos a Unique Peruvian Street Food

Lady selling peruvian street food in Lima by Authentic Food Quest
Grilling Anticuchos

The story of anticuchos is very much part of the national story of Peru. This tradition comes from the African slaves who were brought by Spaniards to Peru in the 16th century.

From time to time, the Spanish would slaughter cows for food and give the innards which they considered garbage to their slaves.

The African slaves learned how to cook them using different seasonings from the Spanish and the Andes region, transforming them into delicious morsels of meat.  

As the story goes, after the slaves were freed in 1874, they moved to the cities to start a new life. Poor, hungry and in search for work, the mothers started selling anticuchos at neighborhood corners.

Attracted by the smell, Limenos (people from Lima) would stop and enjoy them, quickly making them a daily habit.

The number of anticucheras or Peru street food stalls selling anticucho quickly grew and spread throughout Lima and other cities.

Today, anticuchos are loved and eaten by all – young, old, rich and poor. They are a part of the traditional Peruvian cuisine. 

The greatest consumption is in July during the celebration of Fiestas Patrias or Independence Day.

The Taste of Anticuchos

Peruvian street food tasting anticuchos by AuthenticFoodQuest
First bite of Anticuchos

Watching the preparation of the Anticuchos is fascinating. All the skewers are lined up and loaded with pieces of cow heart, beef or chicken.

They cooked “made to order” for about 5-7 minutes with a sauce applied regularly.

The first bite of Anticuchos is like biting into a piece of beef. The difference is in the texture.

The heart meat feels slippery, compared to beef, and is like biting into muscle fiber. Tender, with lots of chewing.  

Surprisingly delicious is what we thought after eating the anticuchos. We enjoyed them so much that we had to have them a second time.

Tasting this popular Peruvian street food is a unique experience. Be in Lima or Cusco, this is a street food one should try.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Explore local and traditional Peruvian food on an off-the-beaten-path food tour with a guide. While visiting the city’s largest market you will taste up to 10 Peruvian dishes and street foods, 3 drinks and learn about the fusion of cultures. Dive deep into Peruvian local food culture on an intimate 4- hour walking food tour. Go hungry!

2- Rachi – A Peru Street Food with Cow Belly

Rachi on top of anticuchos a Peruvian street food by Authentic Food Quest
Rachi with Anticuchos on the skewers

Typically, on the same street cart that has anticuchos, you will most likely see rachi.

Rachi is essentially a cow’s belly. It is a traditional pre-hispanic Peruvian food served in the Andes and popular throughout the country. 

When we had Anticuchos for the second time, we decided to order the mixto which is a combination of anticuchos and rachi.

Vendor of rachi and other Peruvian Street Food in Lima by Authentic Food Quest
Vendor cooking rachi, anticuchos and more

We did not enjoy the Rachi much. We found the texture too chewy and the taste not as delicious as the anticuchos. 

It is a dish that is well worth trying given its importance in the Peruvian cuisine. The ingredients include slices of cow belly, garlic, Peruvian corn, salt, pepper and seasoning.

3- Butifarra – Peruvian Pork Sandwiches 

Butifarra_PeruvianStreetFood_ManuelGonzálezOlaecheayfranco_Wiki_AuthenticFoodQuest
Butifarra Sandwich (credit: Manuel González Olaechea; Source: wikimedia)

Sandwich vendors are a common street food in Peru. Vendors sell different types of sandwiches including hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and the famous butifarra (pronounced boot-ee-FAR-ah).

The vendors place their mobile carts on the sidewalk with their stock of food as well as a plancha (flat metal piece of cast iron over fire) to cook on. Some will have a menu of sandwiches to choose from.

They make an appearance at dinner time between 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm and stay open late into the night.

Peruvian Street Food Sandwich cart
Vendor preparing sandwiches on his cart

We tried two different types of sandwiches. The butifarra and the hamburger sandwich.

Butifarra is a traditional pork sandwich. Another name for the butifarra is jamon del pais or country ham.

It is made with slices of Peruvian ham or boneless pork slow cooked with garlic, pepper, achiote, cumin, oregano and butter. 

The ham sleeves are then served in between two slices of small white bread similar to a french bread. It typically comes with onion and aji (chili pepper). 

Incredibly delicious, the Butifarra has a slight spicy kick. 

Accompanying the hamburger sandwich were tomatoes, onions, bacon, and the patty. Not knowing what sauce to select, we asked for a combination of all proposed sauces including the spicy picante sauce.

The sandwich was rich and tasty though not exceptional. Nothing like juicy wagyu burgers.

Nonetheless, if you are craving Peruvian street food and want a sandwich, go for the butifarra.

4- Peruvian Tamales

Peruvian street food tamales
Tamales at the Surquillo market in Lima

Tamales are a staple that can be found across South America with different flavors and ingredients.

Unlike Mexican tamales, in Peru the tamales are made with Peruvian white or yellow corn. 

Inside is cornmeal dough filled with chicken or pork, boiled eggs, olives, nuts, and aji (chili pepper) topped with red onion.

They are typically steamed and wrapped in a banana leaf. Easy to eat they make for an ideal Peruvian street food snack.

tamales street food vendor in Lima by Authentic Food Quest
Tamales street vendor at Surquillo market in Lima

Our tamales experience was at a street corner near Surquillo market, one of Lima’s most important markets. 

A vendor with a warm smile tempted us with her homemade tamales. After seeing locals stopping to get some, we decided to try them as well

The mix of flavors was incredible. You have a great combination of the mild taste of corn with spicy bites of meat.

We found them tasty and liked the convenience of eating it on the go. A great option when strolling the streets and one of our best Peruvian street foods. 

5- Arroz con Leche – Peruvian Rice Pudding

Vendors selling Arroz con Leche Peruvian desserts by Authentic Food Quest
Vendors selling Peruvian rice pudding or arroz con leche

Arroz con Leche is the Peruvian version of rice pudding with an emphasis on the sweet. Brought to Peru by the Spanish conquerors, this simple dessert is a popular favorite.

Arroz con leche is also a very popular Peruvian street food. You find it easily on the street of Lima in the evening or night. 

It is made with rice, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk.  The traditional version is flavored with vanilla, lemon peel and cinnamon. Though, you can find many variations including some with Peruvian Pisco.

Peruvian street food Mazamorra and aroz con leche by Authentic Food Quest
Combination of mazamorra and arroz con leche for a “classical” Peruvian dessert

While rice pudding is something we are familiar with, we found the Peruvian version to be a little too sweet and the rice a little too thick.

Nonetheless, given its popularity in Peru, it is a must eat Peruvian street food worth trying on your travels.

This sweet Peruvian dessert can be eaten two ways. Arroz con leche by itself. 

Or you can choose the “classical” which combines equal servings of the rice pudding and the mazamorra morada highlighted below.

6- Mazamorra Morada – Peruvian Purple Corn Pudding

Mazamorra Morada PeruvianDesserts_PeruvianStreetFood_AuthenticFoodQuest
Street vendor selling mazamorra morada

Mazamorra morada is a traditional and popular Peruvian dessert. A peruvian purple corn pudding, it is a typical Limeña dessert (from Lima).

The purple part is like a porridge and it is made from a concentrate of purple corn starch. Purple corn is native to Peru and has been cultivated since the pre-Hispanic times.

Quite delicious, it is spiced with cinnamon and cloves and mixed with diced apples and apricots. 

Sold on the street of Lima at every street corner, it is impossible to miss this dessert. Most of the vendors offer it with arroz con leche. 

It is worth trying mazamorra morada by itself as well to enjoy the delicious nuances of fruit and spice flavors.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: The Easy Way To Make Mazamorra Morada – Peruvian Corn Pudding

7- Picarones – Peruvian Doughnuts

Picarones popular Peruvian street food by Authentic Food Quest
Delightful Picarones with chancaca syrup

Even though picarones are referred to as a kind of doughnut, they are actually quite different and unique to Peru. The principal ingredients of this Peruvian street food dessert are sweet potato and squash.

The story goes that these unique Peruvian doughnuts were invented by the Spaniards. Looking to recreate Spanish buñuelos fritters, they were missing their traditional ingredients. 

Instead they used squash and sweet potatoes, the local ingredients, creating an entirely new Peruvian dessert.

Picarones are deep fried and served with cane syrup called chancaca. It is a tradition to serve picarones while eating anticuchos.

They are typically served in sets of four. The first time we got our order, we were surprised and thought we would not finish them. It was after a big meal and we were already stuffed.

After the first couple of bites, we understood clearly why these little-fried fritters are so popular. They are not overly sweet, and the combination of sweet potato and squash is heavenly.

No questions, this delightful Peruvian street food should be on your list to savor in Peru.

Where to Eat Street Food in Lima and Cusco

dona pochita street cart Grilling Anticuchos a popular peru street food in Lima by Authentic Food Quest
Grilling Anticuchos

With the popularity of Peru street food, it is hard to miss it when you are visiting Lima or Cusco.

The places where you are sure to find street food are around local markets or close to bus stations especially in Lima.

Other locations where street food is popular are in neighborhoods well frequented by locals. 

In Lima, we stayed in a popular neighborhood called Lince and had plenty of opportunities to taste Peruvian street food.

In Cusco, we stayed away from the historic center and found street food near bakeries and supermarkets.

Additionally, Lima street food is particularly popular in parks or surrounding festivals. 

Here are a few street carts to eat Lima street food.

Anticuchos Dona Pochita draws a long line of locals in Lince. Located at Av. Ignacio Merino 2328, she opens in the afternoon after 5:30pm and remains open until midnight.

By the market Surquillo #1, you will find ladies with large baskets selling tamales directly across the main entrance. 

For Picarones, head to the Park Kennedy, you will find Picarones Mary’s cart. In the afternoon local and tourist alike lineup for a sweet treat.

Is It Safe to Eat Street Food in Peru?

Anticuchos vendor in the street of Cusco by authentic Food Quest
Anticuchos vendor in the street of Cusco

It is generally safe to eat street food in Peru. Here are the tips we recommend to observe and apply.

Tip 1- Find The carts with the longest lines

This one might seem pretty simple and obvious. Try to find the carts with the longest lines. 

If there is a long line or queue of Peruvians. It’s probably a good sign. A long line suggests that there is a high turnover of the food. 

This means the food is cooked and eaten quickly, reducing the chances of using “old food” that has been sitting around for a while.

Tip 2- Check the hygiene of the cart and the person preparing the food

Does the cart look clean? Are there any flies around the cart? 

How is the person preparing the food getting rid of the waste or remains of the food? 

Pay attention to the sanitary conditions and make sure you feel comfortable.

Tip 3- Look at How The Money is Handled

Street food is synonymous with cash payment in Peru. How the money exchange is happening is quite relevant.  

Is there a second person at the cart to receive payment? If not, is the person preparing the food also handling the money? 

Are they wearing gloves and taking off the gloves to handle money? Lots of germs can get transmitted by dirty bills and coins. Pay attention here.

Tip 4: Be cautious about the eating utensils.

This is a big watch out. Since you never know how the utensils are being washed, it is best to have your own utensils with you. 

The spork (combination spoon and fork) has been our lifesaver. We never travel without it and it has come in handy in many situations.

READ MORE: additional street food tips and advice How to Eat Local and Safely on the Street

Looking for More Peruvian Local Food Experiences?

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Peruvian Street Food Guide by Authentic Food Quest

61 comments

    • Actually, Rosalyn, you would love the food in Peru. There is actually lots of seafood and not that much meat, as compared to other countries. However as a vegan, you will be blown away by the fresh fruit and produce. Not to worry, you will have delicious options 🙂

      Reply
    • Thank you so much Joules for your feedback. Glad that you enjoy the “story” behind the food as well:) We think it makes the experience more enjoyable to know the back story. The arroz con leche is quite delicious..you would love it 🙂 Cheers!

      Reply
  1. I’m not a big beef eater, which makes it a stretch for me to go for the innards. That said small plates and bites are passable and I’m sure I too would fall for the delicious smell from the vendors.

    Reply
  2. Great post ! I enjoyed reading it and learning more about peruvian street food.
    Great photos as well. You managed to show the friendly atmospher around the street carts that is part of the success of this kind of food delivery.
    You can add in your Tip #1: Long queues is good sign, and if there are kids or elder people in the queue this is even better sign as we would expect the food to be healthy there.
    The anticuchos look really delicious and I would like to taste it.
    I didn’t know the tamales but I used to say that “anything that is cooked in a banana leaf is delicious”. Please correct me if I am wrong 😉

    enjoy, Tuan.

    Reply
    • Thanks Tuan! Glad to hear that you like the post and the photos. Great suggestion about the elderly and kids! Anticuchos are indeed delicious and an experience in and of themselves. Yes we totally agree with your comment about the banana leaf, it wraps and keeps the flavor inside the dish. We recently discovered the bijao leaf which is used to cook typical Amazonian food. We’ll talk more about this in our next post. Stay tuned!

      Reply
  3. I should have known better than to read this while I was hungry! All these foods look amazing. I hope to make it to Peru to try it for myself one of these days.

    Reply
  4. Great tips! I would have never thought to bring my own utensil. The spork is good one. As I was going through the post I was like I wonder if I would get sick. Great tips on the best ways of how not to.

    Reply
    • Glad you liked the tips about staying safe when eating street food. The spork has been a life saver and one thing we recommend highly. It’s all about making smart choices when experiencing street food. Thanks Holly for your comments!

      Reply
  5. I love Peruvian food! It always has so much flavor. I wish I would have gotten a chance to try the tamales. Since every country makes them differently, I always try to taste the differences. Did you guys try cuy while you were there?

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comments. Yes indeed! We did try the Cuy in Cusco. Didn’t have much of a distinctive flavor and with so little meat on the bones, it was difficult to really enjoy it. Check out our recent post about the specialities not to miss in Cusco, we talk about the Cuy there. Agree Peruvian food is fresh and flavorful, including the delicious tamales!!

      Reply
    • We were just as surprised to learn about breakfast street food. The funny thing is to see long lines of people in business suits eating a bite before 9am at street carts. It’s a different crowd compared to the evening crowd. Glad you liked the post Lauren.

      Reply
  6. Great list of foods to try! Street food can be the most exciting to try. I had most of those things in Peru. One of my favorites was the toasted corn they serve as snacks, because the corn is so big. It’s like enormous corn nuts.

    Reply
  7. I’ve never tried Peruvian food, although their street food reminds me a lot of our street food here in the Philippines, especially the Rachi, but instead of cow’s belly, we use pig’s belly. We also skewer them and barbecue them.

    Reply
    • That’s really interesting Marge that the street food is similar to the Philippines. In Peru, they also use the pig’s belly called “pancita”. After the trying the grilled cow’s belly, we didn’t have the courage to try the pig’s belly. It’s great to note the similarities between countries!!

      Reply
  8. Sensational post! Street food is always my go-to overseas. The photos and the tips are awesome.
    Rosemary, I grew up in Kenya too and just loved all the street food there. Haven’t had a decent mandazi since! 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks Michelle. Glad you liked the post and the pics. We’ve had a great time experiencing local Peruvian food. Hey…that’s great that you know about the Mandazi. The Picarones was different but just as good! Cheers!!

      Reply
  9. I loved your account of the history of Anticuchos. Very interesting. I learnt to accept offal when I lived in Taiwan – it was such an essential part of the diet that I had to make peace with it. And prepared properly, it can be delicious.

    Reply
    • Thanks Serina! When we understand the history of the food, I think when we have a deeper appreciation for the dishes, we appreciate them even more. Especially when the foods are outside of the “norm”. Agreed, when the interior organs are cleaned well and prepared by those who know how to make them…they can be delicious! Thanks!

      Reply
  10. Peruvian food is my all time favourite, especially the street food, although in saying that, I have not eaten it in Peru. I am a chef by trade and have been lucky enough to work with some of the best from all over the globe, the last kitchen I worked in had a couple of folk from that part of the world and would often make staff meals. Seriously amazing, nothing like eating on the street in that country, but nice to escape the confines of the kitchen via our tastebuds and eat the food. Great post, can’t wait to try for myself. 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks so much Anna for your comments. We have seriously fallen in love with Peruvian food. It has quickly become our favorite as well. That’s great you have already experienced Peruvian food from chefs. If they used local products…I’m sure you got the very best. Hope you get to Peru soon and enjoy the street food as well. It is quite a unique experience. Thanks much!

      Reply
  11. Oh my – everything looks so interesting and delicious. 🙂 Good friends just returned from South America, and could not say enough good about it. 🙂 I hope to explore there one day. 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Krista…I do hope you get a chance to go to South America soon. It is truly a special place. The food is amazing and very diverse. All the countries and regions within each country have their own unique local dishes. It’s truly an experience – from the landscape to the food! Keep this post in mind if you do make there soon. Cheers

      Reply
    • The tamales in Peru are different from the Mexicans one. The spices used are different and the texture as well. We actually prefer the Peruvian tamales over the Mexican ones. I bet you would like them too. Thanks for your comments Chantell.

      Reply
    • Thanks Howard. Glad you like the post Eating street food can certainly be an adventure. It’s an intimate look at the culinary culture. We have been surprised at how diverse the street food is in Peru, how is it in Mexico, Chile or Paraguay? Thanks for your comments!

      Reply
  12. I’m going to stick with the sweets being the vegetarian that I am. The picarones looks incredible. A lightly sweetened fried squash dessert has my name all over it. Great tip, too, on bringing your own utensils! It’s little things like that you forget when you think you’ve taken all other precautions.

    Reply
    • It’s true Jackie, those little things like bringing our own spork, make a whole lot of difference to the eating experience. The best thing about the Picarones is that they are not overly sweet…neither is the sauce. Thanks for your comments.

      Reply
  13. Wow…that is a lot of meat. I recently read an article on how much meat South Americans eat and this article proves it once more. Southeast Asia turned me into almost a full vegetarian and I think it would be quite tough to eat street food in Peru as well. In Asia it was sometimes really difficult to find something. 😉 Very brave to try it all out!

    Reply
    • Thanks Melanie…actually there are a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood and some vegetarian options. Not everything you eat has to be meat heavy. Here we talk about authentic food and most of the dishes are meat based. However, the country offers much more 🙂

      Reply
  14. Great guide to Peruvian street food! I’m not sure I would enjoy Rachi either, as we tried some beef stomach in China and it was way to chewy for us too. The Anticuchos sound like an interesting option, but I would only go for the non-beef version. And finally the rice puddings is something definitely to my taste! I’m getting hungry now 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks for your feedback. Glad you like the guide to Peruvian street. It’s all different and interesting as well. We much preferred the Anticuchos to the Rachi…and they do have non-beef options. The purple sauce or Manzamorra on the rice pudding takes it a whole new level of deliciousness!! Street food is great an interesting slice of any culture.

      Reply

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