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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.
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?
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
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
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 a street food tour in the historic center. Over 4-hours you’ll visit iconic Lima landmarks while stopping to savor street food, traditional dishes, and Peruvian desserts. Go hungry and dive into Peruvian food culture on this tour.
2- Rachi – A Peru Street Food with Cow Belly
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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 in 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 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
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.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If your travels take you to Cusco, consider taking a cooking class to learn how to make Peruvian dishes. See 7 of the Best Cooking Classes in Cusco To Take
Where to Eat Street Food in Lima and Cusco
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 5:30 pm 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 Park Kennedy, you will find Picarones Mary’s cart. In the afternoon locals and tourists alike line up for a sweet treat.
READ RELATED: A Guide To Cusco San Pedro Market: How To Best Visit Cusco Main Market
Is It Safe to Eat Street Food in Peru?
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 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?
Our book, Authentic Food Quest Peru takes you on a journey through the regional food specialties in Peru. 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.
Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
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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
61 Comments on “7 Authentic Peruvian Street Food You Want To Have”
I love that you shared tips at the end. I’m a huge fan of tamales, but have never tried Peruvian ones. I’ll have to try them one day
So glad you appreciate the tips at the end of the article. Which ones did you resonate with the most? The tamales were delicious, hope you get to try them soon. Thanks Fatima for your comments.
I’ve never had Peruvian food. Looks tasty.
Hi, If you have a Peruvian restaurant close to you, give it a try. You will absolutely love the local dishes. Give it a try close to you and then plan a trip to Peru in the future 🙂 Cheers!
Oh my goodness I see a lot of meat and dairy! I’m vegan and my boyfriend is from Peru. I don’t know what the healthy options are if I was to go.
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 🙂
Such an interesting post. I love how you not only talk about each food, but the story behind it. I think that the Arroz con Leche would be my favorite to try!
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!
Wow! The Anticuchos and butifarra looks delicious. I’d like to try them.
Yum! I love street food! It’s one of my favorite ways to learn more and immerse myself into a new and exciting culture! Now I’m hungry haha!
Thank you Joe for your message! You are so right, we learned a lot about Peruvian culture through its street vendors and its markets. It is quite amazing. What is your best street food?
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.
Hi Elaine, yes you can always go for a bite and see if you like it. Usually the same street vendor grills chicken as well so you could find something you like 🙂
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 😉
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!
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.
Thanks so much…the food in Peru is simply outstanding! The temptation is literally at every street corner. If you have a chance, do get to Peru…the food is delicious and the landscape diverse. Cheers!
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.
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!
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?
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!!
I never knew you could get street food for breakfast too! Thank you for such an informative post 🙂
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.
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.
Thanks Laura. Did you have a favorite street food when you were in Peru? Agree, love the big, white corn which they call “choclo”. Nice snack before a meal or with drinks. Thanks for your comments!
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.
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!!
Oh wow, look at that smoke billowing from the cart! Street food is my favourite cuisine when travelling, and it shows such an amazing slice of life. Great photos!
Thanks Tammi for your comments. Completely agree, street food is a great way to get in touch with the local culture and people. It’s a fun thing to do. Glad you liked the pics. Cheers!
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! 🙂
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!!
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.
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!
I loved reading about all the different kinds of Peruvian food! Thanks for sharing 🙂
You are so welcome Eileen. It’s been great writing about the food…as well as enjoying it 🙂 Yum!
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. 🙂
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!
Love street food, though maybe not the cow belly one. I agree, the longer the queue the better the food.
Thanks Paula. Glad you love street food as well. One does need to be careful though…and longer lines are a good sign. Thanks for your comments!
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. 🙂
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
My mouth was seriously warring reading this! I love tamales but have only had the Mexican kind. Would love to try them in Peru!
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.
Excellent detailed description of Peruvian street food! Having lived in Mexico, Chile, and Paraguay for several years, I am familiar with eating off the streets. I need to get to Peru for a butifarra!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 🙂
Everything looks so tasty. I’ve heard great things about Peruvian Sandwiches and want to give them a try one of these days. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Megan. Indeed Peruvian sandwiches are incredibly tasty. But actually, all the food in Peru is delicious. If you have a chance to visit a Peruvian restaurant near you, you will not be disappointed!
I love Peruvian food, my husband and I did the Inca Trail hike a few years ago and the cooks on the hike whipped up some of the best dishes ever! You did such a great job of showcasing some authentic dishes from Peru in the post.
xx, Kusum | http://www.sveeteskapes.com
Thanks Kusum! There is so much variety in Peruvian food. Glad you had the chance to experience it on the Inca Trail.
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 🙂
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.
I’m not sure that I could stomach all that food! It looks like a fun experience though!
Hi Brittany, yes, sometime we are more interested by the experience than the food itself 🙂 it is always a great experience to learn about authentic food.
Wow! It’s crazy how different the cuisine can be from all over the world!
Hi Ashley, you are so right; and in Peru the cuisine can be very different between the Amazonian food and the food from the coast. It is quite amazing!
Picarones look delicious! Love your beautifully colorful authentic photography. Food travel blogs are my favorite <3
Thank you Mandi! Yes, Picarones look and taste delicious. The last ones we tried had quinoa as well…delicious!