Peru is said to have some of the best food in South America. Declared the “World’s Leading Culinary Destination” by the World Travel Awards, Peruvian dishes have recently gained in popularity and spread around the world.
Peru covers many diverse regions, from mountains to tropical forests, creating a vibrant variety of incredible Peruvian dishes that are each delicious in their own right. However, know that many regional dishes cannot often be found elsewhere in the country, and, for example, food in Lima is quite different than the food in the rural Andes. Here are the top Peruvian dishes you have to try:
What it is: Chopped raw fish marinated in lime and peppers
For most people, ceviche is one of the most well known Peruvian dishes. Eaten since ancient times, it consists of raw fresh fish which is marinated lime juice and then mixed with ají peppers, onions and spices. It is often served with yuca or sweet potato along with an ice-cold beer. The leftover marinade from Ceviche (called leche de tigre, or “tiger’s milk”) is also served as a drink.
What it is: Cookies filled with dulce de leche
Shortbread cookies, made with butter and cornstarch, are sandwiched together with the caramel-like dulce de leche. They are then rolled in sugar, shredded coconut, or chocolate. Alfajores are found across South America, though they originated in Spain.
What it is: Stir-fried beef with onions, peppers
This classic Peruvian dish is the result of the mixing of Chinese and Peruvian flavours (known as chifa) after Chinese immigration during the 19th century. Found in the Andes, it is a stir-fry of chopped beef, onions, tomato, and ají peppers flavoured with soy sauce and served with fried potatoes and rice.
What it is: Crunchy toasted corn
These roasted salty corn kernels are a popular snack throughout Peru and are often served at restaurants much like bread, or at bars with drinks.
5Pollo a la Brasa
What it is: Roast rotisserie chicken served with a side of French fries
A whole rotisserie chicken is marinated in soy sauce with red peppers, garlic, and cumin and spit-roast over a naked charcoal flame. The resulting juicy, succulent dish is served with chunky French fries across the country, from street food joints to more upscale restaurants.
What it is: A sweet cocktail made with Pisco and egg whites
Pisco, a fermented Peruvian grape juice brandy, was developed by 16th-century Spanish settlers in Peru and Chile. A yellowish colour, it has an almost non-alcoholic flavour that might deceive first-time drinkers. It is famously used in Pisco Sours, cocktails that are prepared with egg white, lime juice, simple syrup, and bitters.
7Aji de Gallina
What it is: Potatoes and eggs covered in a creamy chicken stew
This hearty dish is popular in the colder Andean regions and is made with Peru’s famous ají peppers. Slices of chicken are stewed in a yellow sauce (made with evaporated milk, aji peppers, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, and cheese). This is then served with olives and slices of potatoes and boiled eggs.
What it is: A caramel-y pudding topped with meringue
Literally translating to “sigh from Lima,” this custardy treat is one of the most delicious Peruvian dishes. A silky dulce de leche based pudding, manjar blanco, is topped with meringue infused with Port wine, and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon. It is also called suspiro a la limeña.
9Choclo Con Queso
What it is: Corn on the cob served with fresh cheese
Another popular Peruvian dish, choclo con queso is found at most street food markets. Both simple and delicious, it consists of a corn of the cob topped with a few slices of fresh cheese (quesillo) and hot sauce. Quesillo is a soft, tangy Peruvian fresh cheese that can be found around the country and is usually homemade. It is used in many soups and dishes and is also delicious on its own, or with Chuta which is a large, circular bread also seen at street markets.
What it is: Tea brewed with leaves from the Coca plant
Coca tea is extremely popular in the Andes, as it alleviates altitude sickness and helps with digestion. The leaves are a mild stimulant much like coffee and you can see natives and visitors alike sipping it throughout the day. (Coca leaves are also used to synthesize cocaine but are quite harmless in their natural form. Just don’t try to take them back home).
11Pastel de Choclo
What it is: Corn and beef casserole.
Choclo is a giant Peruvian corn that thrives in high altitudes and is widely used throughout the country. One of the most popular uses is in corn cakes and casseroles, which are found in bakeries, or at food markets. Pastel de choclo is a casserole that is usually filled with beef and onion and topped with a layer of creamed corn. It is also very popular in Chile.
12Sopa de Quinoa
What it is: Quinoa soup
Quinoa has recently become one of the most popular health foods across the world. However, this edible seed remains a traditional staple in Peru. Light and flavourful, Quinoa soup is made with a variety of ingredients, though they often include squash, beans, potatoes, and chicken.
What it is: A sweet, flavoured soda.
This popular Peruvian soda is instantly recognisable by its bright yellow-green colour. Created in 1935 by British immigrant Joseph Robinson Lindley, it is made using lemon verbena. Its sweet flavour somewhat resembles bubble-gum.
14Papas a la Huancaina
What it is: Sliced potatoes covered in spicy cheese sauce.
This dish is usually served as an appetizer or as street food. Thickly cut baked potatoes are covered in a thick spicy ají cheese sauce, which is made with ají peppers, queso fresco, garlic, and evaporated milk.
What it is: Potato fritters covered in syrup
These Peruvian doughnuts consist of deep-fried sweet potatoes with aniseed and cinnamon, which are then smothered in sugar cane syrup. While squash or pumpkin may be used, potatoes are the most common, especially as Peru has literally thousands of varieties of potato.
16Choritos a la Chalaca
What it is: Steamed mussels covered with vegetables
Choritos a la chalaca are an extremely popular appetizer in the coastal restaurants of Peru. Originating in the port city of Callao, this dish consists of mussels filled with onions, tomatoes, and corn kernels, cooked with the lime juice. It is somewhat similar to ceviche.
What it is: A purple corn drink
Chicha Morada is (usually) a non-alcoholic corn drink, famous for its intense purple colour. It is made using purple corn (or corn culli), pineapple, and lots of spices. It is also used to make chicha de jora, a fermented beer that is also popular throughout Peru.
What it is: Meaty beef skewers
A popular street food, these beef skewers are marinated in vinegar, peppers, garlic, cumin, and olive oil before being grilled. Traditionally, cow’s heart is used (anticuchos de corazon) creating a delicious tender yet chewy snack that is served with chilli sauce.
What it is: Mashed potatoes layered with seafood and veggies
Causa is a layered mashed potato cake (seasoned with lime juice and chilli) which can be filled with various ingredients. The most common are seafood, avocado, chicken salad, aji yellow peppers or eggs. It is usually made with yellow potatoes (papa amarilla). It is somewhat similar to a sandwich, though Peru also has the Sanguche de chicharron, a sandwich packed full of pork crackling and doused in a special sauce consisting of lime juice, yellow chilli and red onions.
What it is: Tea brewed with a Peruvian herb
Muña is a Peruvian herb that is found in the mountains that looks a bit like thyme and smells like mint. It is said to have tons of medicinal properties, being used to repel insects, preserve food, and cure altitude sickness. The tea is also said to be a good digestive.
What it is: Peppers stuffed with meat
Rocoto peppers look like regular bell peppers but are actually extremely spicy, much spicier than jalapeños. This dish, which is extremely popular in the city of Arequipa, consists of minced meat, onions, spices, and hard-boiled eggs stuffed inside the Rocoto pepper which is then baked.
What it is: The many delicious fruits native to Peru
Peru is famous for its many colourful local fruits, each as wonderful (and sometimes bizarre) as the next. Try the caramel flavoured lucuma, crunchy granadilla, fresh avocados, or the chirimoya, which tastes like a blend of mango and banana. They can be found at most street markets – just be sure to buy them with the peel, and from stalls frequented by locals. Also, be wary of drinking fresh fruit juice from street vendors.
What it is: Roasted guinea pig
Cuy (or guinea pig) is considered a delicacy of the Andean region. It is enjoyed both in the countryside and at luxury restaurants and is often compared to chicken or rabbit. Cuy is often roasted whole and served with hot pepper sauce, so maybe give it a miss if you’ve got a pet guinea pig back at home.