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Amazonian food in Peru was one of the most surprising cuisines we discovered while exploring the local food specialties.
Peruvian jungle food is a rich culinary tradition that has evolved from the unique biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest in Peru.
Traditional Amazonian food once relegated to the Amazon region, can now be found in restaurants across the country.
After exploring Amazonian typical dishes and drinks, we share our Amazonian food guide.
Get to know 7 of the most surprising Amazonian foods and drinks on your culinary travels to Peru.
What is Amazonian Food?
Amazonian food is the traditional food eaten by the indigenous people living in the Amazon rainforest.
Within Peru, the Amazon rainforest makes up about 60% of the country, and its influence has made its way into Peruvian cuisine.
Some of the typical dishes from the Amazon include freshwater fish, tubers, edible plants ad leaves, exotic fruits, juices, and more.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you are curious about Peruvian Amazon dishes, consider making them at home with a local chef. The Chef and the Dish offers cooking classes with a Peruvian chef, live via Skype. Learn how to make Amazonian fried rice, plantain dishes, and other popular Amazon foods in the comfort of your own kitchen. Find out more about Peruvian cooking classes with The Chef and the Dish.
Peruvian Jungle Food vs. Amazonian Forest Food
The Amazon rainforest is vast and spans eight countries in South America and one territory.
About 60% of the Amazon rainforest is in northern Brazil, and the rest is shared among the other countries.
Within the Amazon region are different territories each with their own biological diversity and natural resources. And, the Amazon basin is home to more than 350 indigenous tribes.
As a result, Amazon rainforest food varies by region and is influenced by the history of the indigenous people in that area.
Peruvian jungle food refers to the cuisine coming from “selva” or jungle located in the eastern part of the country.
Keep reading to learn about the most popular Peruvian jungle foods and drinks.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Visiting the Peruvian Amazon jungle can be an experience of a lifetime. This 3-day Iquitos Amazon jungle adventure takes you to explore the enchanting and diverse scenery and wildlife in the Amazon jungle. You’ll also savor many Amazonian dishes and try many unique vegetables and fruits.
Top 7 Amazonian Rainforest Food And Drinks From Peru
1. Juane – One of the Most Popular Amazonian Foods
Juane is one of the most traditional and typical dishes from the Peruvian jungle.
The Juane dish consists of a bowl of rice filled with meat, boiled egg, black olives, and spices.
All the ingredients are wrapped up in bijao leaves, which are plants from the Amazon jungle that look like banana leaves.
This Amazonian dish is then boiled as is in clay pots and served in its leaves. We had the Juane de pollo, which is made with chicken and served with plantains.
It is accompanied by a sauce made of onion and cocona (a yellow fruit from the jungle).
Its unique combination of flavors surprised us. The black olives, chicken, and cocona sauce was an unusual but flavorful delight.
This Amazonian food is celebrated in the Peruvian Amazon jungle each year, on June 24, in honor of San Juan (St. John the Baptist).
2. Paiche – Fish From the Amazon Rainforest
Paiche (pronounced PIE-chay) is one of the most popular fish from the Amazon rainforest.
It is a large freshwater fish that can grow over six feet long. As a popular and commonly available fish, it is used widely in Amazonian cuisine.
While in Lima we had the chance to try this Amazonian fish dish. We had slices of the fish accompanied by a chonta salad or ensalada de chonta.
This typical salad made with the heart of palm served in strips like fettucini noodles and has a smooth taste.
The taste of paiche was unlike any other fish. The meat was firm and succulent and utterly delicious. The taste is similar to sea bass but is in a league of its own.
This popular freshwater fish from the Amazon River is worth seeking out on your Peru travels.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: In Lima, dive into Amazonian cuisine on a food history and local markets tasting and tour. This 4-hour local market and history tour takes you explore Amazonian food at local markets typically off the beaten path. You’ll try dishes like juane, cecina, and many surprising fruits, vegetables, juices, and more. Discover the unique flavors of the Peruvian Amazon jungle.
3. Tacacho con Cecina – Plantains and Amazon-style Jerky
Tacacho con cecina is another one of the most representative Amazonian foods, now found throughout the country.
When we had it for the first time, we were quite surprised to be served a plate of two round balls with thinly sliced cuts of smoked dry pork.
At first glance, the dish looked very dry, but it was surprisingly moist, well-seasoned, and delicious.
The round balls in Tacacho con cecina we learned from the chef are made of mashed plantains, pork, and seasonings.
While the cecina itself is pork that undergoes a drying and smoking process. Traditional spices from the jungle are added to give this jerky its distinctive flavor.
This simple dish must be experienced. Having eaten it, we can now understand why it is one of the most popular Peruvian jungle foods.
One of the key ingredients in Amazonian cuisine is plantains. The plantain fruit is closely related to the banana and is used in many Amazonian dishes.
In Peru, you will find this star ingredient served as a side dish to a main meal. You can also find them served as plantain chips as an appetizer or fried.
When they are fried, the plantains are known as patacones and they are extremely tasty.
One of the most memorable ways we had plantains in Lima was in a rice dish accompanied by cecina and plantains.
Known as “Chaufa Mix” a restaurant specialty, the plantains added a nice crunch to the rice and cecina flavors.
Plantain dishes from the Amazon rainforest are unique as they incorporate Amazon ingredients and spices.
Allow yourself to be surprised by the creativity of Peruvian chefs cooking with black, yellow, or green plantains.
5. Salsa de Cocona, Tomate Amazonico – Amazon Tomato Sauce
Cocona is a shrub that is indigenous to the tropical Amazon rainforest. The cocona fruit is small and oblong in shape and typically yellow when ripe.
The fruit is acidic in taste and is used in salads, hot dishes, juices, and alcoholic beverages.
One of the most popular accompaniments to Amazonian food is cocona salsa.
Salsa de cocona is made by chopping up the fruit and mixing it with onions, aji charapita or Peruvian chili from the Amazon, and lemon juice.
You will find this spicy chili sauce on every table accompanying popular dishes from the Amazon.
The salsa de cocona also makes a delicious pairing with plantain chips.
6. Fruits and Juices From the Amazon Rainforest Jungle
Amazon fruits are used in many Amazonian dishes. And, what surprised us was the accompaniment of juices made with fruits from the Amazon with our meals.
Three of the traditional juices we came across with Amazonian food are: Camu camu, Aguajana
The Camu Camu is known as the fruit with the highest vitamin C intake. It provides about 50 times more vitamin C than an orange. The flavor is a little tangy but easy to drink. This was our favorite juice, and knowing the health benefits made it even more appealing.
Aguajina juice is an interesting “female-only” juice. It is made with the aguaje fruit. Apparently, Aguaje fruit is used to improve women’s health due to its high phytoestrogen content, known as a “natural estrogen”.
Despite the benefits, we did not enjoy the taste or the oil texture. It is drinkable, and one any female visitor to Peru should not hesitate trying its unique flavors.
Despite the cocona fruit being acidic, the sweetened juice is refreshing and delicious. This was one of our juice to go with the Amazonian food.
7. Exotic Amazonian Liquors
Iquitos, the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon, is especially famous for its liquors.
Prepared with the maceration of different ingredients from herbs to worms together with sugarcane alcohol, these drinks are known to have aphrodisiac properties.
Amazonian liquors have strange and evocative names. The most popular are RC (stands for Rompe Calzon, or “the underpants breaker”), 7 Raices (“seven roots”), Chuchuhuasi, Uvachado, Levantate Lazaro, and more.
Three of the ones we tried were 7 Raices, which we found to be especially strong.
Uvachado, a liquor based on Amazonian black grapes and honey was fruity, sweet, and easy to drink.
And the final one, coctél de café or coffee cocktail with coffee and alcohol, is perfect for coffee lovers.
Trying Amazonian liquours, with moderation as they are strong, is an experience not to be missed in Peru.
Watch Chef Sulma from El Bijao Talk About Amazonian Liquors
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Best Amazonian Food Restaurant in Lima
In Lima, we recommend El Bijao, a traditional restaurant serving home-cooked meals. This local gem was highly recommended by locals as the best place in Lima for Amazonian cuisine,
El Biajao’s chef and owner, Sulma Penaherrera, has been serving Amazon food in Peru’s capital for more than 30 years.
Sulma is from Iquitos, known as the “Capital of the Peruvian Amazon.” Showcasing the rich gastronomy of the Peruvian Amazon, Sulma’s exquisite dishes have been promoted by Gaston Acurio, Peru’s famous chef and food ambassador.
Your trip to Peru would not be complete without experiencing Amazonian food and juices.
We were amazed and surprised at the large influence of Amazonian food in Peruvian cuisine.
The ingredients, flavors, and preparation are unlike any other cuisine.
If you are not planning on traveling to the Amazon, a stop at El Bijao and other Amazon restaurants in Lima will introduce you to this exquisite cuisine.
Have you had Amazonian food before? Please let us know what Amazonian dishes you’ve had or would like to try in Peru.
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.
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Claire is co-founder of Authentic Food Quest and a lover of simple and exquisite cuisine. Since 2015, with her partner, Rosemary, she has been traveling the world as a digital nomad, creating content about local food experiences.
Her advice from visiting 45 countries and more than 240 food cities has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post. She has also co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
An ex-mechanical engineer, Claire is responsible for SEO, keeping the website running, and the fun food & travel videos on YouTube.
When Claire is not eating, she can be found running or cycling. Find out more about Authentic Food Quest