Updated October 18th, 2020.
Peruvian food has travelled far and wide over recent years and for good reason. Put simply, Peru is a foodies paradise!
Whilst world-class chefs have helped Peru carve out space in the gastronomy scene, it is the unique landscape and climate in the country which has put Peru on the map. Different ecosystems allow for a variety of fresh produce to be grown which has hugely shaped the dishes which the country has become known for.
Boasting one of the most exciting cuisines in the world, perhaps the best news for backpackers is that Peruvian food is cheap and not restricted to fancy restaurants. In fact, there are so many choices of delicious dishes in Peru, that you could try something new every day of your trip!
From incredible seafood to inventive potato dishes to the fascinating fusion of Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and Andean cuisines – you won’t believe the explosion of flavours and colours on your plate. We suggest you try EVERY one of these foods on this list as well as finding some new gastronomical delights of your own!
23 Incredible Peruvian Foods
This is probably the most famous Peruvian dish in the world and the one which is most popular all over South America. Although Peru has long claimed this dish as its own, the origins of ceviche are actually disputed, with some saying it comes from Ecuador. Ceviche (also sometimes spelt cebiche) is traditionally made with fresh, raw seafood, either prawns, squid or white fish. The fish is cured by marinating it in lime juice and spiced with ají and chilli peppers.
Ceviche in Peru is traditionally served with diced red onions, coriander and crunchy corn. Some travellers may be worried about trying this raw fish dish anywhere but a decent restaurant, however, the truth is that due to the fast turnover of ingredients in busy South American street food carts – this could be the freshest and most delicious you’ll eat!
To ensure the seafood is at its freshest, coastal towns are recommended places to enjoy ceviche. Lima is particularly known for this dish, check out Restaurant Sonia to sample some of the best around!
2. Palta Rellena
Why don’t they stuff avocados more? It’s delicious! Avocados are the most popular fruit in Peru and many other parts of South America. They grow in abundance here, so much so that it is estimated that by the end of 2020, Peru will be the second-largest avocado exporter in the world, after Mexico.
Cheap, ripe and delicious – avocados can be used in salads, smoothies and also stuffed with delicious ingredients! The most popular stuffed avocado ‘entrada’ (appetizer) across Peru is a type of chicken mayonnaise salad served in an avocado sprinkled with parmesan cheese.
This dish is also enjoyed in Chile, however, it is known as palta a la reina there. Many restaurants will serve this dish, just ask to see the menu in advance or ask.
3. Fusion sushi
Japanese restaurants are a favourite in Peru, but as with every other style of food that has entered the country, Peru has made it their own!
Also known as Nikkei cuisine or Japanese-Peruvian cuisine, this delicious fusion of flavours is one you’ll be sure to remember! Whilst this type of cuisine is about far more than just sushi, the sushi is arguably some of the best you will find anywhere.
The locally sourced ingredients and fresh seafood available along Peru’s coastline make for a myriad of interesting dishes, the best of which you can see below!
Although there are variations of this dish all over South America, the Peruvian version is one of the most popular. Humitas are formed from dough made from a combination of corn, lard, salt and white cheese (found all over Peru). They are then wrapped with corn husks before being boiled or steamed.
Traditionally, they are served as a snack (often alongside a strong South American coffee!) or sometimes as an appetiser with Peru’s favourite condiment ají sauce.
Sold in their corn husk wrapping, these tasty packages are perfect for backpackers on the move. Pick them up from street vendors in any major city and many smaller towns.
5. Papa a la Huancaina
Calling all vegetarians – this is the Peruvian food you’ve been looking for! Sliced potatoes covered with a tangy, cheesy, delicious sauce served with boiled eggs, black olives and lettuce leaves. Sounds pretty good, right?
You’ll see Papa a la Huancaina listed as an entrada (a.k.a. an appetizer) on set menus all over the country. The dish originates from Lima, however, it gets its name from Huancayo, a city in the Peruvian Andes.
The sauce is made from queso fresco (fresh cream cheese), oil, aji amarillo (yellow pepper) evaporated milk and salt – a unique taste that will have you craving it again and again! This dish is served cold and is an absolute must-try for anyone visiting Peru.
Readily available all over Peru, keep an eye on the almuerzo set menus as Papa a la Huancaina often makes an appearance!
6. Tacu Tacu
This traditional Peruvian dish is essentially refried beans and rice. It was designed to be a leftover dish, kind of like bubble and squeak. The bean-rice paste should have a soft interior yet be crispy on the outside. Whilst it comes in many variations, Tacu Tacu is often served with a cheap cut of meat, namely beef or pork. A fried egg is used to top the dish.
The name Tacu Tacu is said to come from the Quechua Taka-Taka, meaning ‘mashed’. It originated in Lima and was believed to have been first cooked by the African slaves who had been brought in to work in the cotton plantations.
Tacu Tacu is served in many cevicherias and also at traditional creole restaurants. Rincón que no Conoces in Lima is particularly known for its Tacu Tacu.
7. Caldo de Gallina
Also known as Peruvian Hen Soup, this comforting chicken broth is served with vegetables, noodles and hard-boiled eggs. Unlike many other types of chicken soup around the world, Caldo de Gallina serves up whole pieces of chicken instead of shredded meat. It is often served with lime and ají.
Traditionally, this soup was given to women who had just given birth and also to the sick. It has a really rich flavour which makes it the perfect comfort food when you’re feeling under the weather (or just have a hangover)!
Caldo de Gallina is easy to find across the whole country but I always think it is better to eat a warming dish like this in a colder climate. Therefore, Andean cities and towns are the best places to enjoy this soup. If you’re in Cusco, head to San Pedro market for some of the best Caldo de Gallina around!
8. Trucha Frita
If you are visiting Lake Titicaca, close to Puno, you must try the fried trout. It is nothing short of a taste sensation! Served alongside (yep, you guessed it), chips and rice, this dish is a favourite staple of those living in the Andes. This is because of the abundance of freshwater lakes in which the trout thrives.
Depending on where you are, it may even be possible to catch your own trout at one of the many trout farms. Lucre, a small town close to Cusco, is famous for being a great place to do this.
For a sweet Peruvian snack, pick up some picarones from a local street vendor. These deep-fried treats are essentially the Peruvian answer to doughnuts and offer the perfect burst of energy when you’re feeling tired after a long day exploring.
Made from sweet potato and squash, they are deep-fried before being covered in Chancaca syrup (a sweet sauce made from sugarcane).
Locals have been making and selling picarones for over 200 years. They were thought to have originated shortly after buñuelos (fried dough balls) came on the scene as locals strived to recreate the dish using cheaper ingredients, thus picarones were born.
Tiradito is a traditional Peruvian dish made with raw fish (not the same as ceviche due to the way the fish is cut) and served in a spicy sauce. Its Japanese influence is easy to see as the fish is cut in the shape of sashimi. This dish can be served with sweet potato, boiled corn and salad.
Check out Japanese fusion restaurants in Lima and Cusco for a unique twist on traditional Peruvian cuisine!
11. Rocoto Relleno
Ready for a fire in your mouth? Then you’re in the right place! Rocoto relleno, otherwise known as stuffed pepper, might sound harmless on the surface but it is a lot spicier than its appearance would let you believe! In fact, it is said the rocoto pepper is ten times spicier than a jalapeño – I can feel my mouth burning already!
These peppers are stuffed with mincemeat and topped with cheese and then baked whole. Most commonly eaten in Arequipa, this is probably the best place to try the dish. Look out for picanterias in the city, which are lunchtime restaurants serving traditional food.
If you can handle the spice, the dish is flavoursome and warming (literally). Be warned though, if you’re not used to spicy foods you might end up spending a fair bit of time in the baño the next morning!
12. Ají de Gallina
The Peruvian version of Spanish creamed chicken, Ají de Gallina (literally meaning ‘chilli pepper chicken’) is a fusion dish of Spanish origin. Spicy and made with Peruvian aji amarillo yellow peppers and soft shredded chicken flavoured with cheese, walnuts, turmeric, garlic and chilli peppers, the dish is traditionally served with boiled eggs and black olives.
This Peruvian dish is thought to have made its first appearance in the 16th century. It is said to have been introduced by African slaves who were brought to the country by the Spanish.
Ají de Gallina is a popular dish for winter and is served in restaurants across the country.
13. Quinoa Soup
This super-grain, regarded as one of the healthiest foods in the world, can usually only be found at middle-class farm stores in Europe and the USA. Yet in Peru, quinoa is a staple of the diet that is used in a variety of dishes. Originating in the Andean region of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia, the name derives from the Spanish spelling of the name ‘kinwa’.
Although quinoa is in loads of Peruvian foods (think drinks, snacks, salads, risottos), it also great in soup. Warming, hearty and ridiculously good for you, there is nothing not to like about this traditional dish. Quinoa is great for travellers with coeliac disease as it is naturally gluten-free.
Often served as an appetiser on set menus, it is also easy to find quinoa soup in traditional Peruvian markets. It is also commonly cooked at home, making it a staple food often provided at traditional homestays.
Did you know that Lima has the oldest (and largest) China Town in the world? With 4% of the population of Chinese origin and around 20% believed to have Chinese heritage, Chinese food influences Peruvian cuisine enormously. And the result? Cheap, delicious Chifas (Chinese restaurants) on every corner…
They serve all of your favourites, including the legendary chaufita, also known as fried rice. Look out for the menu del dia which usually includes a main of chaufita or tallarin (noodles), as well as wanton soup to start. These are a great (and cheap way) to get a taste of your favourite comfort food!
For all you adventurous foodies, (and those who’ve never had a guinea pig as a pet!) cuy is a popular meat eaten mainly in the Andean regions of Peru. Roasted or barbecued on a spit and served whole – the meat, which tastes similar to rabbit and other game, can be very boney. It is an expensive delicacy (by local standards) usually eaten on special occasions.
Guinea pig is undoubtedly one of the most popular foods in Peru, however many travellers feel torn about munching down on these little fluffballs. If you’re still sitting on the fence unsure about whether the give cuy a try, check out this post showing two very different backpacker opinions about eating guinea pig in Peru.
When it comes to eating cuy, you get what you pay for. Whilst this dish can be found on local markets, it is recommended you head to a more upmarket restaurant for a quality taste of this dish. Kusikuy in Cusco is a popular option for travellers looking to try cuy.
16. Papas Rellenas
Did you know that Peru invented the potato? (How do you invent a vegetable – right? No, we don’t know either!) Apparently, the Europeans brought it over from Peru in the 18th century to cultivate in western soils after discovering the potato in Peru – and there are over 4,000 different varieties!
Therefore, it’s no wonder that the Peruvians have mastered so many great potato dishes. Papas Rellenas are a hugely popular snack which are essentially a type of croquette. The dish is made of mashed potato that is then stuffed with anything from vegetables to minced beef and then fried.
Most commonly you will buy papa rellenas from street vendors although they are sometimes served in restaurants. They are a budget backpacker’s dream, costing around 3 soles for one!
17. Chupe de Camarones
Peruvian shrimp chowder is a hugely popular dish consisting of a seafood mix (usually shrimp), chillis, cumin, cream, tomatoes, onion, garlic and broad beans. It is served with a poached egg.
Chupe de Camarones is usually enjoyed throughout the winter months as either a starter or main course. It is the perfect food to warm you up on a chilly evening in the mountains! This is partly thanks to the rocoto chillis which are used – they have a kick!
This hearty chowder was first thought to have been consumed in Arequipa and although Limeños have claimed it as their own, Arequipa is still said to be the best place to try it.
18. Pollo a la Brasa
If you’re surprised to see what is essentially rotisserie chicken on this list, I can’t say I blame you. It isn’t exactly the first thing to jump to mind when you think of authentic Peruvian cuisine!
However, this chicken dish has taken the country by storm and chicken restaurants have popped up all over Peru. Originating in 1950s Lima, this dish has become ever more popular with each decade that has passed. Chances are you’ll smell the barbecued chicken before you see it, just follow your nose!
The chicken is traditionally served with French fries, rice, a side salad and usually a mayonnaise-based sauce. As is the case with any good Peruvian meal, ají is also provided. Pollo a la Brasa is often cheap and served with one of the most popular Peruvian drinks, Inca Cola.
19. Choclo con queso
This traditional Peruvian snack is commonly found on street stalls. Literally translating to corn with cheese, the corn used has large kernels and a chewy texture.
Fresh Peruvian cheese is then served with the corn which provides an interesting mix of flavour. The cheese is often salty which is a direct contrast to the sweet nutty flavour of the corn.
Pick up a choclo con queso for as little as one sol in any of the main Peruvian cities.
Introducing one of South America’s most amazing animals, the alpaca! I know, I know, they are literally the cutest camelid out there and I already feel guilty for including them on this list! But if you can see past their long eyelashes and cute little smiles, alpacas are bloody delicious.
Alpaca meat has long been a traditional food in Peru and this doesn’t look to stop anytime soon. In the days of the Incas, there were no cattle so it was the meat of llamas, alpacas and guinea pigs that were most consumed.
Alpaca meat comes with a surprising number of health benefits too. An alpaca steak has half the saturated fat of beef, way less cholesterol and low-fat content. It is one of the healthiest meats you can find.
Much like with cuy, the key to enjoying alpaca is trying it in a place where they know how to cook it well. If you’re in Cusco, make sure you check out Restaurant Sumaqcha for a taste of this tender meat.
Also called causa rellena, this traditional Peruvian dish is a favourite among travellers and locals alike. It has a long-standing history, which is evident from its name, translating to ‘the cause’.
During the war with Chile over 100 years ago, food supplies ran dry and all that remained were Peru’s potatoes (all 4,000 of them…). The wives of the Peruvian soldiers were resourceful and mashed the potatoes, accompanying them with anything else they could get. The cold mash potato salad was said to be ‘for the cause’.
Today this classic dish is a favourite in the country with the Causa Limeña being the most famous variation. This version of the food uses potato, avocado, tomato and tuna. It is usually served cold with olives and boiled eggs. As you’ve probably guessed from the name, it is best to try this version in Lima. A great place to enjoy causa is in Juanito de Barranco restaurant.
22. Lomo Saltado
It’s stir fry – Peruvian style! You’ll see this dish on set menus all over Peru. It’s basically a mix of marinated strips of beef, red peppers, tomatoes and onions which have been stir-fried together. And if you’re not already drooling, wait till I tell you that they throw in french fries too! Que rico!
The sauce is made with vinegar, soy sauce, spices, red onions and parsley and has certainly derived from Chinese style cooking in Peru. Served with white rice, it’s the perfect fill-me-up Peruvian comfort food that can be found all over the country. It can also be eaten with chicken, look out for pollo saltado on menus.
This dish is readily available all over the country, making frequent appearances on the almuerzo boards. If you’re headed to Nasca, make sure you make a stop at Mamashana Cafe Restaurant as their Lomo Saltado is perfection on a plate!
23. Anticuchos de Corazón
Let’s tackle the elephant in the room first. You may have guessed from the name that these popular meat skewers are made from beef heart. Whilst the idea of eating heart isn’t all that appealing, after a couple of cheeky Cusqueñas, we guarantee you’ll be lured in by the aroma!
Marinated in a variety of spices including cumin, garlic and ají, these skewers are then grilled over an open fire. They are super tender and great to eat after a few too many drinks… not that we’d know anything about that…
To try these delicious Peruvian kebabs, head to any Plaza de Armas where it is almost a guarantee that you will find someone selling them. They are a great budget-friendly snack and cost just a couple of soles each – bargain!
Have we missed your favourite Peruvian food from our list? Let us know in our epic Facebook community!