When I travel, yeah, I want to see the sights and soak up the local culture... but I also want to try the food.
While there is a maximum number of churches I can see in one day, there is no limit on the number of cachangas I can consume!
One of the greatest things about Peru is the diversity of the country, which naturally lends itself to a diverse cuisine.
The food in Lima is different than the food in the rural Andean mountains. Many specialty dishes of a region cannot be found elsewhere in the country.
Below are my favorite Peruvian dishes to try when traveling through the country.
I've left out the obvious ones (eg: pisco, cuy, anticuchos) because you don't need my help to learn about cuy and pisco.
While you should be able to find most of these throughout Peru, some of them will be easier to find in the mountains versus Lima (and vice-versa).
If you try some of these treats while in Peru, please leave a comment with your favorite!
Without further ado....
20 Dishes You Need to Try When Traveling Through Peru:
From the Andes:
1. Huevos de codorniz con patatas (Quail eggs and potatoes)
This is a popular breakfast food that can found from street vendors in cities like Cusco or Urubamba. It's a little plastic bag with potatoes, quail eggs, and hot sauce - portable and filling!
2. Chuta bread (Oropesa bread)
If you're anything like me, you'll be intrigued by chuta the second you see it.
Chuta is a large, circular bread that's nearly the size of a tire. It can be found in the Andean mountains near Cusco. Travelers should look out for it from street vendors, or at the San Pedro Market.
3. Fresh quesillo cheese (queso fresco)
If you're dining out in Peru (which you totally should be), you've probably noticed a soft, tangy cheese appearing in many dishes. This is quesillo, a Peruvian fresh cheese.
Quesillo can be found around the country and is usually homemade. In addition to being used in many soups and dishes, it's delicious on its own. Enjoy it with chuta (see above) or chachanga (see below).
Find it in a food market by asking for "quesillo" or "queso fresco y salado."
4. Cachangas (fried bread)
From maca loafs to vegetable donuts, you're going to find a lot of "bread" in Peru. For a carboholic like myself, it's pretty much the best thing ever.
One type of bread that I encountered (and loved) were cachangas, aka disks of fried dough... need I say more? Be warned that once you start eating cachangas, it is very hard to stop. Try them with quesillo and boiled potatoes!
5. Muña tea
I'm enjoying a cup of muña tea as I write this post! Muña is a Peruvian herb found in the mountains. It smells like mint, looks like thyme, and has about a zillion medicinal properties. The Peruvians believe it cures everything from arthritis to altitude sickness.... and, as someone who just spent a week in the country... they know what they're talking about!
When you're hiking Machu Picchu, pick some wild muña to sniff - it will completely clear your respiratory tract!
I reccomend bringing home a few boxes of tea as gifts for friends/family. Be sure to shop for it in Cusco, as it is difficult to find once you're in Lima.
6. Quinoa soup
I ate quinoa soup throughout my trip to Peru. It's a refreshing dish to slurp on on a brisk night in the mountains.
You'll find quinoa soup at pretty much any Peruvian restaurant around Cusco. After a few days of traveling, my body craves a light meal because I ALWAYS overdo it my first few days and eat like a complete dumpster fire. Quinoa soup is a light and flavorful option!
Recipe for quinoa soup.
7. Pastel de choclo (corn cake)
Considering the prevalence of corn in the country, it shouldn't come as a surprise that sweet (and savory) corn cakes can be found in bakeries throughout Peru. The cake is often enjoyed as a treat with tea or coffee.
Find it in bakeries, or at food markets. Pastel de Choclo is popular throughout Latin American.
8. Sacha Inchi
Sacha Inchi, also known as the "Inca nut," is commonly hailed at the next big superfood. These "nuts" grow on pods on trees in the mountains of Peru. They are loaded with protein and healthy fatty acids.
It's possible to buy Sacha Inchi nuts/powder at markets in Peru for MUCH less than it's selling at Whole Foods. It's popular to throw in salads, smoothies, or fruit bowls.
9. Chicha Morada
The first time you see someone drinking a chicha morada, you'll probably think, "What is that flamboyant cocktail, and where can I get it?"
Chicha Morada is actually a non-alcoholic corn drink, but its intense purple color is striking.
The drink is made with purple corn, pineapple, and lots of spices. While it's traditionally booze-free, many bars offer their own spiked version (usually featuring pisco).
10. Choclo con queso (street corn)
A favorite Peruvian street snack is choclo con queso, or giant corn with cheese. This is as simple as it is delicious, and features an ear of corn topped a few slices of fresh cheese (quesillo). Many people add hot sauce.
Look out for local vendors walking around with giant ears of corn during breakfast/lunch time.
11. Trucha (Golden Trout)
Considering the prevalence of trout in the Andean mountains, you might be surprised to hear this fish is not native to the area, but was introduced to the lakes/rivers in 1939. Trout is farmed in the mountains of Peru and served throughout the region. From omelettes to filettes, there is no way you'll leave Peru without encountering trout.
Don't be alarmed when it looks like salmon.
12. Sopa Criolla
Another soup? Yep! Grab a loaf of delicious Peruvian bread and get ready to dunk!
Creole soup is heavier and more flavorful than quinoa soup. It contains beef and angel hair pasta, and is very comforting. With a cracked egg on top, it's certainly filling enough for a full meal!
Sopa Criolla recipe.
13. Picarones (Peruvian donuts)
Peruvian donuts? Do I really need to convince you about these ones? You'll find freshly-fried picarones on the streets of Lima, or on restaurant dessert menus. The dish was brought to the Americas by the Spanish.
Picarones are comprised of squash and sweet potato donuts, fried in oil, and served with syrup.
14. Heart of Palm Salad
I didn't have time to visit the Amazon and try the unique cuisine of that region, which is why I'm thrilled I got to eat at ámaZ in Lima, which features dishes from the Peruvian Amazon.
While there are many great items on the menu, the one that I can't stop thinking about is the Heart of Palm salad (featured above - the one that looks like noodles). It's light, tangy, and flavorful. This salad is a must order if you visit ámaZ!
Recipe for Heart of Palm salad.
15. Sanguches (sandwiches)
Pervu has a large sandwich culture, and La Lucha is a great spot to try chicharrón (pork shoulder), butifarra (sausage), and pavo (turkey) sandwiches.
This popular, fast-casual sandwich spot features a walk-up counter. The restaurant is open, brightly-lit, and always packed with locals and tourists. Grab a sandwich, potatoes and passionfruit juice and enjoy!
16. Leche de tigre
I'll admit - I was VERY disconcerted the first time I saw leche de tigre. "Tiger's milk" is the excess juices from making ceviche (see below). It contains limes, onion, chiles, salt, pepper, and fish juice.... and people drink it? Although I was very skeptical, I will admit - it ain't half bad.
17. Peruvian Fried Chicken
Prior to heading to Peru, roasted chicken was one local delicacy I'd eaten before (in Pittsburgh!)... and was looking forward to trying again in Peru!
A popular spot for chicken and other Peruvian classics (beef heart, anyone?) is Pardos. This chain has spots around Lima, so be sure to stop in and see what all the buzz is about!
18. Corn Nuts
I'm not sure you need to search for corn nuts so much as they will find you. These tiny, roasted corn kernels are a popular snack, and often served at bars/restaurants with drinks. If you end up enjoying them (they are very good!) grab a bag to take home with you!
For many people, ceviche and Peru are synonymous. The dish is popular throughout Latin America, and consists of raw seafood is cooked by the lime juice/citrus. With Peru's massive coastline, you'll be sure to find delicious and fresh ceviche around the country. It is typically enjoyed with a cold beer!
Last, but not least... local fruits! One of my favorite parts of visiting Peru was the vast collection of regional fruits. Below are a few of my favorites. Be sure to eat avocado whenever you can, and order ANY dessert with chocolate and lucuma - trust me!
*Always be smart when eating fruit on the street.* Only buy fruit with peels, and from stalls where locals are shopping. Be wary when drinking fresh fruit juice from street vendors, as you do not know how the juice was prepared.*
Be sure to bookmark this page so you have all your Peru food links in one place!
- Lima Easy (great site for ALL TYPES of Peru advice!)
- 8 Savory Street Food Snacks in Peru
- Essential Peru: 10 Must-Eat Dishes to Seek Out
- 20 Peruvian Foods You Need In Your Life (can you tell this link is Buzzfeed? lol)
- How Food Became Religion in Peru’s Capital City (love this article!)
- Top 10: Things to Eat in Peru
What were your favorite foods to try in Peru? Leave them in the comments below!
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