Traditional Peruvian Food: 15 Must-Try, Big-Flavored Dishes
If you’ve ever had a bite of Peruvian food, then you won’t be surprised to learn that this small South American country was named the World’s Leading Culinary Destination over 6 years in a row. Peru’s unique flavor comes from its melting pot of cuisine, taking in the best aspects of gastronomy from all over the globe.
There are hundreds of amazing peruvian dishes, but we selected the 15 most mouth-watering recipes so that you can bring rich Peruvian cuisine into your own home!
The History Behind Peruvian Food
In order to understand what makes Peruvian food unique, it’s important to take a look at Peru’s history. Before it was colonized by Europeans, Peru was dominated by the Incan Empire. Sadly, much of this culture was lost. Yet, indigneous gastronomy is one of the few Incan aspects that still strongly influence modern Peru today.
The diet of Peru’s original inhabitants mostly consisted of cultivated crops like potatoes, grains, and corn. It also incorporated animals like guinea pigs and alpacas. You can still see these native plants and animals being used in modern Peruvian foods.
However, after colonization, Peruvian dishes became very diverse as they now consist of a mixture of indigenous foods and immigrant cuisine. Peru’s gastronomy takes on characteristics from Asia, Europe, and even West Africa and combines it with the Incan gastronomy to create flavors as unique as the country itself.
In most Peruvian foods, you’ll find at least a few of these staples:
- Amaranthaceae (quinoa, kañiwa and kiwicha)
- Legumes (beans and lupins)
15 Must-Try Peruvian Dishes
Without further ado, here are the 15 most heavenly dishes of Peruvian food that will have your taste buds throwing a fiesta in your mouth!
1. Causa Rellena — Stuffed Potato
Don’t let the appearance of this dish fool you! It’s not a cake stuffed with vegetables. Rather, it’s a dish made from two slices of fried potatoes with a chicken, salad, or seafood filling. It’s flavored with fresh lime juice, parsley, and salt and pepper.
Rellena means “stuffed” in Spanish while causa gets its name from “kausaq,” an old Incan Quechua word meaning “giver of life.” “Giver of life” is also another name for potato! In essence, the dish is called “stuffed potato” which is exactly how the food is organized. This recipe shows you how to make your own causa rellena in under 35 minutes!
2. Chicharrón — Pork rinds
Chicharrón is a guilty pleasure in Peru. You can smell this hearty dish from a mile away. It smells just as good as it tastes. The only con to this meal is that it wouldn’t be recommended by your nutritionist. However, some delicacies are worth the price!
This dish consists of pork belly and rinds that are marinated in salt water and boiled before being fried in their own fat. This leaves them soft and meaty rather than the crunchy texture you might experience somewhere else. The pork is typically served with bread, potato slices, and various types of sauces.
This recipe teaches you how to make the most delicious Peruvian pork rinds from home!
3. Leche de Tigre — Tiger’s Milk
Leche de tigre is as wild as its name would lead you to believe. It’s core ingredients are fish stock, citrus juices, onions, peppers, salt, and pepper. However, there are many new versions to this dish that included everything from ginger and peppers to celery and garlic.
This drink may seem a little fishy to you, but for Peruvians it’s actually a popular restorative drink. In other words, it gives strength to its drinker. Think about all the popular health or detox juice fads you’ve seen on commercials. This drink has the same idea but with an authentic Peruvian twist.
Leche de Tigre was most likely brought to Peru by the Moorish women from Grenada. Today, however, this drink has spread throughout the Americas and in Europe, with each country giving the drink a unique twist!
With so many different versions, things can get a little confusing. Luckily, this recipe makes it simple to create this unique drink.
4. Lomo Saltado — Stir-Fried Beef
Lomo Saltado is a common dish that Peruvians consume daily. It consists of deliciously marinated beef streeps with roasted onions, bell peppers, cilantro, and tomatoes. It’s also traditionally served with potato fries.
If this dish reminds you of Chinese take-out, you’re not too far off the mark. Lomo Saltado envelopes a part of Chinese cuisine mixed with Peruvian influence. It all goes back to Peru being a cultural mixing pot for food. The beef and vegetables come from Chinese gastronomy while the potato fries highlight the Peruvian influence.
If you’re new to Peruvian food, this familiar platter is a good first dish to try! Here is a delicious recipe to get you hooked.
5. Papa a la Huancaina — Huancayo-style potato
Papa a la Huancaina is a common Peruvian appetizer. Peru is not known for its meat-free options, so if you’re a vegetarian you’ll want to take advantage of this dish!
This platter is made up of boiled potatoes served with creamy and spicy yellow sauce made from chili peppers. This special sauce is called Huanacaina since it originated in Huancayo and it’s also where the dish gets its name from. To top it all off, add a hard-boiled egg sliced in half.
This simple, yet delicious dish is super easy to make. Give it a try with this recipe guide.
6. Ají de Gallina — Chicken Chili
Ají de gallina is a warm comfort type food that will leave you feeling full and satisfied. Picture together shredded chicken, creamy curry sauce, walnuts, cheese, and spicy aji amarillo sauce. The heat from the sauce contrasts with the rich and creamy cheese. The chicken and veggies are plated on top of a steaming bed of potatoes, rice, and olives. It’s influenced heavily by Asian cuisine but still has the authentic Peruvian twist.
This Peruvian food consists of common ingredients, meaning that it’s easy to make at home! The only hard part is finding the special aji amarillo sauce. Rather than going to your local grocery store, you’ll want to go to a Latin market or Hispanic bodega. There you should be able to find either fresh aji or a frozen or paste version, any type will do! If you can’t find ají amarillo in any form, replace it with habanero. Its fruity and spicy flavors will make a fantastic substitute. Don’t be afraid to make your own ají de gallina from home, just take a look at this easy-to-follow recipe!
7. Ceviche Peruano — Peruvian Ceviche
It’s impossible to talk about Peruvian food without mentioning the famous ceviche Peruano. This platter is the national dish of Peru! People flock here from all over the globe to try and get their hands on this fresh feast.
Ceviche Peruano consists of fresh fish and Peru’s native lemons. High lemon quality is essential to this recipe as its acid actually “cooks” the fish by killing all its harmful parasites and bacteria. That is how strong Peruvian lemons are!
The dish is also made up of ingredients like red onion, fresh cilantro, and chili peppers. As with most Peruvian foods, ceviche Peruano is often served with Peru’s native potatoes. This plate is the perfect combination of simple ingredients and bold flavor!
Check out this recipe to make Peru’s national dish in your own country.
8. Arroz con Pato — Rice with Duck
Every Peruvian family knows about arroz con pato and how to make it. This warm Peruvian food is also served at some of Peru’s finest restaurants.
The bed of rice is made with cooked cilantro paste, herbs, and dark beer creating a deep, earthy flavor. The duck (usually a thigh or leg) is lightly roasted and added on top of the hearty bed of rice. Check out this simple recipe to make your own roasted duck.
9. Anticuchos de Corazón — Anticuchos of Heart
Anticuchos de corazón is a perfect peruvian dish for the brave adventurer! Eating cow heart might sound weird, but this muscle actually has a bold delicious taste after being hit with open flames.
This dish originates back to pre-Columbian times and became popular in the 16th century. Spaniards gave their discarded entrails to African slaves. These Africans used the heart entrails to create this incredible and peculiar dish of flavor.
Cow hearts are cut into cubes and marinated in vinegar, cumin, aji, and garlic. They’re often skewed with sticks along with onion or potato and grilled over charcoal until medium rare. A little drizzle of fresh lime completes this popular appetizer and street food.
Today, you can find this style of cubed meat out of different cuts of beef or even chicken. These options might be a better choice if you want to keep your palette a little closer to home.
This authentic recipe uses cow hearts while this safer version uses chicken thigh instead.
10. Chupe de Camarones — Shrimp Soup
Chupe de camarones combines two core parts of Peruvian gastronomy: soup and seafood. It’s from the coast of Lima, Peru’s capital. Peruvian soups are popular for their fresh ingredients and cheap way to feed large families.
This soup’s tasty broth is seasoned with starchy vegetables and tomatoes with a hint of hot red peppers. It’s filled with corn, yuca, and potatoes along with fresh shrimp. You can also find versions that use chicken, lamb, shellfish, or vegetables in place of shrimp. This recipe details how to make this divine seafood stew at home using the traditional shrimp version.
11. Cuy al Horno — Baked Guinea Pig
Cuy al horno is another adventurous dish for those who love to try new things. You’ve probably heard of eating snails in France, chicken feet in China, but less familiar with baked guinea pig in Peru.
To create this dish, the guinea pig meat is first stuffed with fresh herbs and then baked slowly. Popular sides are roasted potatoes and vegetables. The guinea pig is roasted whole, making it hard to eat with utensils. If you want to blend in with the locals, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty! Dig into the dish with your hands and eat up.
You can feed 8 hungry people with this delicious cuy al horno recipe!
12. Rocoto Relleno — Stuffed Rocoto
When eating Peruvian food, be sure to taste rocoto relleno, one of it’s most delicious appetizers. If you’re a fan of spice, then this fiery dish is for you!
Rocoto, a type of hot Peruvian pepper, is filled to the brim with creamy cheese and minced meat. This creates a bright red and popping presentation showcasing it’s warm and delicious spicy mixture.
This recipe is an amazing guide to creating your own spicy peppers at home.
13. Pollo a la Brasa — Roasted Chicken
Pollo a la brasa can be found at a party for any occasion in Peru. It is essentially roasted chicken but accompanied with thick fresh fires, dipping sauces, and fresh salad. Your choice of mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, or aji chili sauce allow you to customize the taste to your liking. No matter what you did your pollo a la brasa in, this plate will leave you full and happy.
It’s possible to make your own home-cooked version in a standard oven, here is an example of how to do it.
It’s easy to discover the origins of this chicken dish as it was just created in the 1940s! Roger Schuler immigrated to Peru from Switzerland. Once here, he started farming chickens and ended up roasting some of them to sell at a low cost. People loved it and kept coming back for more! Schuler opened his own restaurant to fill the high demand. You can still eat at La granja azul (the blue farm) today!
14. Suspiro a la Limeña — Sigh of a Lima lady
Suspiro a la Limeña is a delicious Peruvian dessert. Amparo Ayarza created this dessert, but it was her husband, José Gálvez Barrenechea, who gave it its name! José Gálvez Barrenechea was a poet and gave it the poetic name “Sigh of a Lima lady” because of its soft and sweet taste.
Suspiro a la Limeña combines rich cream and sweet meringue. The base of the dish is a thick cream made up of milk, sugar, and vanilla. The top portion is a white meringue created by beating egg whites and combining them with a hot sugary syrup. Add a touch of cinnamon, and that’s it!
Make your own Lima lady sigh in just 23 minutes using this recipe!
15. Mazamorra Morada — Purple Pudding
Mazamorra morada is a delicious peruvian dessert best-served cold. Looking at this delectable dish you would never guess that it’s made from corn! Purple mazamorra gets its name from its color. The fruits used in this dessert make it a deep, rich purple.
Mazamorra morada is created using naturally grown produce like purple corn, cinnamon, clove, pineapple, peach, cherry, and apricot. It’s thickened with potato flour creating a pie filling like texture.
This recipe makes it easy to create your own purple Peruvian pudding (try saying that 3 times fast)!
Which Dish is Your Favorite?
Did this list of delectable Peruvian foods make you hungry for more? Tell us in the comments which mouth-watering dish you plan to try! Also let us know which country’s cuisine you want to see next so we can bring you even more delicious cultural experiences.
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