Peru is one of those countries that leaves you with a unique aftertaste for all the amazing things it offers. Besides the super popular Machu Picchu, Vinicunca Rainbow mountain, and breathtaking natural features to see, this place has a long and exciting historical background, too. With roots in the Inca civilization, modern-day Peru has become a vibrant and culturally rich country to experience for a traveler. However, it is no surprise that such abundance in nature combined with the influences from the outside world has also formed a vibrant cuisine.
Which is how we come to the topic of our article today. Do you know what is the most popular food in Peru? I guess the answer is 'no' if you are here looking for ten dishes of traditional food in Peru. Or maybe you are just trying to get inspired and looking for ideas for Peruvian food recipes that you could try at home? Either way, here's what you will get today. We will talk about some of the most prominent dishes and a bit about those origins. Before all of that, I will try to explain in short what is Peruvian cuisine like, so your main task is not to become excessively hungry by reading about all these delicious things! A small remark - don't expect too much on the recipe part. For that, you will need to look into other blogs. So let's get on with it!
What is Peruvian cuisine like?
Many travel to Peru to experience the beauty of nature, but the curiosity for Inca's Peruvian cuisine is among the reasons for visiting, too. Even though the modern cuisine in this country has had a lot of influences from Spanish, Italian, German, Asian, and African immigrants throughout the centuries, the indigenous produce and techniques allow understanding the life of this ancient civilization better. Nonetheless, in the current day world, one would say that the actual Peruvian cuisine is a blend of cultural influences that are still based mostly on locally available produce. Basically, even if immigrants were cooking up their dishes, the lack of some ingredients pushed them to modify the recipes, and thus an array of beloved dishes have emerged and landed on a typical Peruvian table.
The main staples of this cuisine are corn, potatoes, and other tubers, Amaranthaceae (quinoa, kañiwa, and kiwicha), and legumes (beans and lupins). Other staples (brought by the Spanish) are rice, wheat, and meats. An interesting fact - Peru has the widest variety of potatoes in the world, which technically makes them the potato richest country! Not by the amount of production, of course, but if you are a fellow potato lover like me, this might be the main motivation for you to travel to Peru and check out their cuisine!
What are 10 local dishes of the famous food in Peru that you should know of?
One of the most delicate and delicious seafood dishes taking over the world originates in Peru. Raw fish, or sometimes seafood, too, is cured in citrus juices. Usually lemon or lime, historically, it featured the juice of bitter orange. The most interesting part is that they are not just for the flavor but also as a cooking technique. Yes! The acidity of citrus changes the structure of thinly sliced fish, eventually cooking it.
Taking into consideration the availability of ingredients and knowledge that goes into preparing a dish like this, many would consider ceviche an upper-class meal in other countries. For the same reasons and considering how much is food in Peru worth in general, the price of this dish in Peru will be way more affordable. You will find a plate of ceviche for anything between 3.50 USD and 20 USD!
Before the Spanish arrived, Peruvians were not familiar with pork, beef, and chicken. Nonetheless, Inca's Peruvian cuisine would not be what it is without some local animals to put in their delicious dishes. Here is the story of Cuy, which is a guinea pig. A delicacy served already since Inca times, guinea pig is usually prepared whole and eaten with potatoes and salsa. I know, I know, it sounds too much like a pet for you. However, it isn't for the locals! So if you have obtained a Peru visa, traveled over the world, and are already there, just be brave and try the dish!
3. Rocoto Relleno
If you talk about famous food in Peru then this is the dish to mention. Somewhat influenced by Spanish recipes, this Southern Peruvian (Arequipan, to be more specific) appetizer has conquered the hearts of locals and is there to stay. Rocoto is a local pepper that is about 10 times spicier than raw jalapeno. It is first boiled in water and vinegar to remove as much spiciness as possible and then stuffed with minced meat and cheese. After baking, they are served whole. Sounds delicious, doesn't it?
4. Anticuchos de Corazon
It is a famous street food item in Peru. Strips of the beef heart are skewered and paired with corn, sliced potatoes, and seasoned with aji amarillo sauce. Usually available during outdoor events or stalls, they are a great example of using the whole animal without waste. Because if you weren't told it was beef heart, you would probably miss the fact that it is a different cut. The skewers taste just like a lean beef fillet! And even knowing how much is food in Peru, this will be one of the cheaper options to choose from. So - super saver offer!
5. Causa (or Causa Limeña)
This dish usually features yellow potato, lemon, boiled egg, yellow chili pepper, and black olives. It is basically like potato salad, but Peruvian style. And layered in a special way. Potatoes (or in some cases lima beans or yellow yucca) are boiled and mashed with lemon and other spices, then layered alongside other ingredients. Some of the most common fillings include tuna, trout, chicken, or shellfish. A visually stunning dish!
6. Papas a la huancaína
Basically, it means potatoes in spicy cheese sauce that originates from the beautiful city of Huancayo. How does the dish look? Boiled potatoes are covered with creamy and extremely delicious cheese sauce, decorated with hard-boiled eggs and olives. And the sauce is so delicious you can actually eat it with many other dishes!
7. Lomo saltado
This is one of the dishes where immigrant cuisines have had a finger at creating one of the most iconic Peruvian dishes. Lomo saltado is a stir-fry beef dish. The technique of cooking comes from Chinese tradition in Peru - after marinating sirloin strips in vinegar, soy sauce, and spices, they are stir-fried with red onions, parsley, tomatoes, and possibly other ingredients. And the blend of two cuisines continues by mixing potato and rice to be served along with this delicious stir-fry.
8. Pisco Sour
I know, this is not a dish, but not mentioning it would be a sin. Pisco is a locally sourced brandy (fruit spirit) that is then mixed with citrus juice, egg whites, and simple syrup. Widely enjoyed by locals, this is likely to become your favorite too. That is if you enjoy cocktails more on the refreshing side than creamy.
9. Lucuma Ice Cream
A truly exotic ice cream flavor that you are unlikely to taste somewhere else in the world because lucuma is a fruit that grows in the tropical forests in Peru. The oddly sweet aroma that resembles maple syrup in a way added to ice cream, will give you hints of cookie and pumpkin spice latte. Just try it!
10. Alfajores Made with Manjar Blanco
Alfajores are a staple in most Latin American countries. It is a combination of two delicate cookies glued together with a creamy toffee caramel (dulce de leche in other places, but in Peru, it is called manjar blanco). Crumbly, sweet, and very satisfying, these cookies are great with a cup of coffee or cocoa. Yum!
I hope this has given you enough information to understand what is the most popular food in Peru! But even more so I hope that you have gotten a more thorough impression of the flavors, techniques, and other aspects that make up a larger image of traditional food in Peru. Because cuisine, after all, is a part of the culture and can get you to understand not only history but sometimes even politics. It can also reveal intricate parts that play a very personal role in belonging to a nation! What you put on the table in family gatherings or what feeds you on early mornings before work - these are just a few examples of these notions. With that said, take whatever you learned in this article and use it for good. It is an inspiration to try some Peruvian food recipes at home to change up the menu. Or you are willing to put the work in obtaining a Peru visa and travel to Peru. Remember the broader meaning of what 'food' means, whatever your end goal is!