Must Eats in Peru - Peruvian Dishes you have to try
My favorite Peruvian Dishes
Peruvian Dishes you have to try - Eating my Way around Peru
The best food in the entire world! According to the Peruvians ;) Having lived there for an entire year, I have to say, I agree (Sorry, Mom). Peru does have some incredibly delicious dishes - and even more so when they are cooked by a real Peruvian Mom or abuela. Here are my absolute favorites and must-try's when in Perú! Keep in mind, I spent most of my time in the coastal area, so most dishes are from there - the highlands and the jungle again have their very own variety of delicious foods that I have yet to explore!
Before exploring the variety of Peruvian dishes, you need to know that Peppers (Aji Amarillo & Rocoto), Lime & Red Onion are everything. Almost all Peruvian dishes are somewhat based on these four ingredients that give them their delicious taste! Here are my favorite Appetizers, Snacks, Main Dishes, and Desserts for you to try on your next trip to Peru (or your local Peruvian restaurant):
Appetizers & Snacks
Papa a la Huancaina
My absolute favorite appetizer: thickly sliced potatoes (what else ;) ) in a spicy sauce that's made with aji amarillo, fresh cheese, garlic and evaporated milk - it's absolutely addictive!
Made from mashed potatoes, layered and available with a variety of fillings, whether it be tuna, avocado, chicken or veggies. Super creamy and due to the potatoes quite filling.
Again, a very traditional dish that people enjoy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner - a corn mass that's stuffed with pork or chicken and wrapped in banana leaves. It's a flavor I'd definitely never experienced before.
Often given for free as an appetizer all over Peru and the Peruvian version of Popcorn. Best when served hot!
Papa rellena is one of those dishes that you can eat hot or cold, day or night and best of all, you can also fill it with whatever you want! It's basically a potato turned puree turned back into a potato (through frying it) that's now filled with minced beef! Tastes great at street food vendors but also as appetizers in traditional restaurants.
What is "Ceviche"? Sea Brass, marinated in lime juice with onion, salt and Aji (hot peppers), sides usually include sweet potato, canchitas, and choclo.
Ceviche is Peru's national dish. While other countries claim they invented it, the Peruvians are sure that their ceviche is the best. I generally don't like fish too much, but dear goood, I love myself a good Ceviche! The leftover marinade is referred to as "Leche de Tigre" (Tigers Milk) and lots of Peruvian's actually drink it - apparently, it's the best hangover cure out there!
Where to eat "Ceviche" in Peru? The best Ceviche I've tried was also the cheapest: at the markets that are all over the cities!
What is "cuy"? Guinea Pig!
Most tourists (myself included) consider it a rather exotic dish, but in Perú it's a very traditional dinner. It's usually served fried as a whole which makes for a very interesting looking dinner. I'd say it tastes a lot like chicken ;) It's usually rather expensive and rather difficult for the newbie-cuy-eater to eat, but it's definitely an experience!
Where to eat "Cuy" in Peru? You'll find a good Cuy all over Perú - If you're in Lima, there's a variety of Restaurants, mostly in Miraflores and Barranco that serve it but the Cuzco region is most famous for it!
What are "Anticuchos"? Seasoned Beef Heart
Anticuchos are the quintessential Street Food and while the idea of eating "Heart" might turn off some visitors, it really is delicious! Just give it a try and remember - the heart is just a muscle like any other part of a cow we eat ;) This is one thing to keep in mind as well: the Peruvians don't waste any part of an animal, whether it be cow or chicken - all parts are used and eaten!
Where to eat "Anticuchos" in Peru? Anticuchos are best eaten at one of the Streetfood carts - ask the locals if you're not sure which one to trust!
Aji de Gallina
What is "Aji de Gallina"? A crossover between chicken with sauce and a chicken stew with the most delicious sauce
Aji de Gallina is shredded chicken with the key ingredient being the sweet and spicy sauce made from aji amarillo - the yellow peppers pictured above. It is generally served with a hard boiled egg, rice and black olives
Where to eat "Aji de Gallina" in Peru? Most restaurants that serve traditionally Peruvian dishes will have it and I've never tried one that I didn't love!
What is "Pachamanca"? This Andean dish is a mixture of heavily spiced meat and vegetables buried underground with hot stones.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a Pachamanca with a good friend and her family - it's commonly made for celebrations and shared with a big group of people. Pachamanca means "Earth Oven" and the process is as follows:
First, a hole is dug that is then filled with stones that have been heated over a fire to form an oven. Then this hole is filled with a variety of meats and vegetables such as pork, cuy, lamb, goat, lima beans, potatoes, bananas, choclo, yucca, etc. the layers are separated with banana leaves and again, hot stones. The hole is then covered up and left closed for some hours while the food cooks, As soon as the underground oven is opened, the food has a rich, smokey, flavor, the meat is super tender and everything is ready to be eaten!
The Incas believed that cooking the food underground offered respect to Pachamama, the Incan “Mother Earth”, as the food was returned to the earth before being eaten.
Where to eat "Pachamanca" in Peru? I was lucky enough to be invited to watch the process and eat it with a Peruvian family - however, there are also a variety of restaurants where you can get it! Check out Tripadvisor for recommendations ;)
What is "Lomo Saltado"? Strips of beef stir-fried with tomatoes, onions, peppers, french fries, and rice
Lomo saltado is one of those dishes that perfectly shows the influence of Chinese culinary tradition on Peruvian cuisine. In the mid to late 19th century, chinese immigrants created "Chifa" - A combination of Chinese and Peruvian food that is considered just as Peruvian as food from the Andes. Another (delicious) example would be Arroz Chaufa, a fried rice.
Where to eat "Lomo Saltado" in Peru? They'll have Lomo saltado in almost every Peruvian restaurant around! Just pick one that looks good to you and give it a go!
Peruvians have a serious sweet tooth and their desserts are no less sweet - while at first, you'll not be able to finish the sweet sweet desserts, you'll get used to them surprisingly fast, ending up asking for a second piece of Tres Leches Cake or another portion of Picarones!
Tres leches cake is extremely sweet and quite a heavy dessert, but it's SO delicious and addicting! It's a sponge cake that is soaked in (as the name says) three types of milk: sweetened condensed milk evaporated milk and whole milk. Almost any bakery will have it and you won't regret trying it! Even though, if you're just arriving in Peru, maybe share it with someone ;)
Another runner-up for the sweetest desserts I've ever tried and named after the Sigh of a Girl from Lima. It's a scrumptious dessert made from manjar blanco (caramel), egg yolks and meringue. Mostly available in Lima and there in almost every restaurant or bakery.
Picarones are doughnut-like rings that are fried up right in front of you by the street food vendors. Made from sweet potatoes and pumpkin and then drizzled with syrup. You'll find this deliciousness closeby any market or touristy area and I swear, any other doughnut you're eating after this will be pure disappointment ;)
Originally from Spain, Churros are a potato based pastry, squeezed through a large star tip into hot oil and then fried. The best ones you can get in Lima are sold in the Centro de Lima, in the street behind the dome where they are filled with vanilla cream or chocolate cream or caramel - my absolute favorites!