Peru is a diverse country, and authentic Peruvian food reflects the diversity, rich history, and unique culture of this amazing country. From the coastline to the highlands of Peru, you’ll find incredibly delicious Peruvian dishes that can’t be found anywhere else on the planet.
We’ve compiled the top 15 Peruvian dishes that we think represent the Peruvian food that we ate while we were here. We think you need to add to your Peruvian food list as you’re traveling around the country.
Travelling around the Sacred Valley: Is the Cusco Tourist Ticket worth the 130 soles?
Here is our list of the best authentic Peruvian cuisine:
1. Quinoa Dishes
Long before the Westerners discovered quinoa as a trendy fad for eating delicious and healthy, the Andean cultures in Peru were growing and eating quinoa as an essential part of their daily diet.
You can find great quinoa dishes prepared in regular Lima restaurants, as well as everywhere in Peru. One of the best quinoa meals we had was in a soup prepared by a woman at San Blas Market in Cusco.
Try to get the quinoa soup if you can find one on a restaurant menu. It is savory, delicious and satisfying – not to mention the great nutrition in quinoa.
2. Chifa (Chinese Peruvian Food)
Everywhere you go in Peru, you will find many Chinese restaurants. They’re usually adorned with red Chinese lanterns and characters, along with the Spanish word, “Chifa.”
Welcome to the world of Chinese food in Peru!
Chifa is a uniquely Peruvian dish. It is a Peruvian Chinese culinary tradition that was brought to Peru by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century. Chifa dishes use the same techniques that you can find in China. The difference is that they use many Peruvian ingredients and flavors to match the local palate.
As a result, Chifa is a popular Peru food that locals love. Want to get a simple, inexpensive meal in Peru? Go to a Chifa restaurant and order Chaufa. Chaufa is fried rice, mixed with eggs, vegetables, chicken, beef or seafood. You’ll get an entire plateful piled high and it is tasty.
To experience the best Chinese influence in Peru, head to the Barrio Chino Lima (Chinatown in Lima). You’ll see the typical Chinatown gate to mark the neighborhood, as well as the specialty stores and Chinese food restaurants and street vendors that sell Chifa dishes.
Lima Secret Food Tour: One of the best places to experience Peruvian Food is in Lima. Take a 3.5-hour tour to discover Lima’s local cuisine with a guide.
3. Lomo Saltado
If you have a craving for Peruvian salty beef strips, perhaps sautéed with soy sauce, onion, and several other vegetables, then what you’re craving is Lomo Saltado!
It is savory and one of the best Peruvian dishes. If you ask a local, this is probably one of the more authentic Peruvian dishes they’ll recommend that you try.
Lomo Saltado is usually served with a mixture of vegetables, french fries, and gravy along with a side of rice.
Ceviche is Peru’s national dish. And while you can get it just about anywhere in Peru, we highly recommend that you eat it in places like Lima, Trujillo, and other places close to the sea. After all, the closer it is to the ocean, the fresher it’s going to be!
Ceviche traditionally uses sea bass, but it’s often made with sole and flounder. In Paracas, we even found a vegetarian ceviche with mushrooms!
Vegetarian ceviche uses the same preparation as the regular ceviche. Instead of using raw fish, they use thick slices of button mushrooms cured with lime juice, served with onions, gigantic corn and, in our case, a slice of sweet potato.
It was very delicious!
This traditional Peruvian dish comes from a long tradition of creole dishes in Peru. It’s a Quechua word that roughly translates to “to combine one thing with another.” It’s believed that this dish was created by African slaves and has, ever since, been part of modern and authentic Peruvian cuisine.
Tacu-tacu consists of mixed rice, beans, meat (usually bacon) and spices. After mixing it, they transform into a thick pancake dish that is deliciously savory.
It comes with fried eggs, rice, or lomo saltado (see above dish). You can eat it just like that. In our case though, our Paracas Tacu-tacu was cooked on a hot rock and came with a seafood sauce. Yum.
6. Ají de Gallina (Chicken Stew)
Aji de Gallina is one of several Peruvian comfort foods. Of course, being a comfort food also means it’s one of the favorite dishes in Peru. It is basically a chicken and potato stew, along with aji peppers (yellow chili), garlic, and turmeric.
A unique mix of Spanish, Quechua ingredients and African influence, Ají de Gallina is the perfect Peruvian Creole dish.
Ají de Gallina’s roots come from the 16th-century slave trade when African slaves were forcibly brought to Peru by the Spanish. Along with them, the tradition of spicy cooking using leftover chicken and potatoes became one of Peru’s most unique dishes.
7. Rocoto Relleno (Arequipa Stuffed Peppers)
Rocoto Relleno is a proud Arequipa tradition. Arequipa is Peru’s second-largest city, and its true Spanish roots and traditions have transformed Arequipa into a unique culinary bubble inside the larger Peruvian food culture.
Instead of sweet Spanish peppers, Rocoto Relleno uses rocoto peppers. After boiling them in water or vinegar to remove the heat from the peppers, minced meat, along with onions or sometimes eggs, is stuffed inside the peppers, and topped with melted cheese.
Rocoto Relleno is one of the most famous Peruvian dishes, and you can find many Arequipa picanterias (food stalls) selling the dish. For the most authentic experience, head to Mercado San Camilo and eat shoulder-to-shoulder with locals at one of the market’s food stalls.
8. Papas Rellenas (Stuffed Potatoes)
Oh man, are these ever good! Papas Rellenas literally means “stuffed potatoes” and they are sort of similar to other countries’ croquettes. Papas Rellanas came here with the late 19th century French, who brought in the tradition of this savory side dish to Peru.
This South American dish is different than French. In Peruvian Papas Rellenas, “dough” from baked potatoes are stuffed with beef, onions and sometimes whole olives then deep-fried.
Typically, Papa Rellena from Peru comes with a creole salsa or an aji (Peruvian pepper) sauce.
9. Causa Rellena
You probably notice by now that many Peruvian cuisines include potatoes in their ingredients. That’s because there are about 2,000 varieties of potatoes in Peru. Causa Rellena is one of the most unique Peruvian potato dishes because it involves lime or citrus.
Layers of mashed yellow potatoes, filled with avocado, tomato, onion, aji yellow chili, lime juice, pepper, celery, mayonnaise, and chicken (or tuna). It’s a cold dish, which they garnish with hard-boiled eggs and black olives.
10. Alpaca meat
Alpaca is an animal native to Peru, and it is in the same family as the llama. Alpacas are domestic animals and farmers raise them for both their wool and meat.
Alpaca meat is widely available throughout Peru. You can find many authentic Peruvian foods that include alpaca meat: Stew, meat on a stick, and even Alpaca steak.
Alpaca meat is tender. It’s also supposed to be low cholesterol and high in protein. Many visitors might consider it to be a bit exotic. Many others might steer away from it – especially after seeing many Peruvian women holding baby alpacas for photos with tourists. It’s becoming more and more common to find alpaca meat outside Peru and South America.
Almost every culture has it: meat on a stick, grilled on an open flame by the side of the street. And yes, Peru is no exception to the rule. Anticuchos are one of the most popular and inexpensive types of meat dishes that originated in the Andes region before the arrival of the Spanish.
You can find these Peruvian meat skewers, usually with a chunk of boiled potatoes on the end of the stick, grilled in an anticucheras, or street food stall.
Although anticuchos can be any type of meat, the most popular is beef heart. It is called anticuchos de corazón. Typically, they marinate the meat in herbs and sauces, such as aji peppers, vinegar, and garlic.
12. Chicharrón (pork skin and fat)
You can find chicharrón dishes in almost all Spanish-speaking countries. In Peru, chicharrón is usually pork that has been boiled until all of the liquid is gone. Then, the meat basically cooks in its own fat.
You can find Peruvian chicarrones dishes in many different shapes and forms. Sometimes, it comes on a plate with white rice. Another delicious dish is chicharron sandwiches in buns with thick brown sauce.
They even have a heap of bite-sized chicarrones as street food. It’s the perfect Peruvian snack food. No matter how you serve it, chicharron in Peru is a comfort and savory dish for locals.
13. Trucha Frita (Fried Trout)
Although it is not a native species of Peru, the North American trout came to Peru in the 1930s to supply Peruvians with easy to raise and nutritious source of protein. In other words, an invasive species that had a little help “invading.”
Fast forward nearly a century later and trout is an integral part of Peruvian cuisine. You can find many trout dishes throughout Peru, ranging from the trucha cerviche to pan-fried trout with rice.
Trucha frita is a popular Peruvian dish, especially in the Lake Titicaca region. You’ll find many restaurants that sell the dish in Puno, as well as on the island of Taquile. Even in the markets of Cusco, it’s quite popular (and cheap!)
Cusco Cooking: A hands-on introduction to Peruvian cuisine with an expert chef. Stroll through San Pedro market where and discover local the fruits and ingredients you will use. Sample your delicious creations for lunch with tasty Pisco Sours.
14. Pato con arroz (duck with rice)
If you happen to make your way up to Northern Peru (i.e.. north of Lima), you’re in luck! Northern Peru is the least touristy region of Peru. In fact, less than 10% of foreign visitors ever make it up here.
In Trujillo, the third-largest city in Peru, try arroz con pato – duck with rice. It’s a typical Trujillo dish that comes with green rice. The green comes from coriander and the duck meat is quite tender. More expensive places might serve a duck breast. Typically though, you’re getting a thigh or wing.
15. Cuy al Horno (Baked Guinea Pig)
And we save the most iconic Peruvian dish for last. We left it till late to give you a chance to put the kids to bed(!!)
Guinea pig is a pet in most of Western culture. The thought of eating your pet is not too appealing for most visitors. But, if you can set your reservations about that aside, then I think this is an essential Peruvian dish you need to try. You know – if you are up for it.
In Peru, guinea pigs are raised for their meat. They are cheap, plentiful, cute, and brown up nicely! The most common way to prepare Cuy, or guinea pig, is to cook them in the oven.
In Spanish, the dish is called Cuy al Horno, and Tipon, a small town outside of Cusco with amazing Inca ruins, is one of the best places to get cuy in Peru.
One of the world’s best restaurants: In Lima, we spent a night eating at one of the best restaurants in the world. It was our most expensive meal ever (by far), but it was so worth it!
Enjoy authentic Peruvian food on your visit
When you visit Peru, we recommend adding as much of this delicious Peruvian food as possible to a do it yourself Peruvian food tour. The great thing about it is that it’s not hard to find most of these dishes. Simply head to a local market and you’ll find restaurants in the back serving most of them.
Although they are good, those restaurants usually serve them using cheaper ingredients. If you can, find a restaurant that specializes in each and give them a try.
You’ll be glad you did!
Looking for a Cool Day Trip? Try Peru’s second most popular destination. Take a day trip to Rainbow Mountain from Cusco
Heading to Cusco?
Well, you’re not alone. Most people are!
We came to Cusco using Peru Hop. Whether you’re an experienced traveler or a novice, we highly recommend Peru Hop. They make the journey from Lima to Cusco both fun and super easy.
You can read about our trip from Lima to Cusco on Peru Hop right here.
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Halef moved from Indonesia to the US nearly two decades ago to go to college here. He hasn’t looked back. He’s been to over forty countries and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. He’s a Landscape Architect in Atlanta, GA.