Essential Peruvian Food: 13 Must-Eat Dishes You Need To Try In Your Lifetime
When most of us think of Peru, our minds often go to ancient ruins high up in the Andes Mountains, or to the lush jungles and Indigenous cultures of the Peruvian Amazon. But if you’re primed on the country’s cuisine, you may also think about the country’s dizzying array of potatoes (the potato originated here!) or its most iconic dish – ceviche.
Peru is often referred to as the crown jewel of Latin American cuisine – home to a variety of dishes and flavors that don’t exist anywhere else on Earth. Few other cuisines make such wide use of Indigenous ingredients and cooking methods, while also embracing those from Europe, Africa, and East Asia.
Many of the nation’s culinary traditions are finally getting the international recognition that it deserves. In fact, this year a Peruvian woman, Pía Léon, was named the world’s best female chef.
So what are some of the most iconic Peruvian dishes you need to try?
The national dish and one of the most popular foods in Peru (or even in the world!), ceviche can cause instant obsession. Countries around Latin America (from Ecuador to Mexico) have their own takes on the classic, but in Peru, it’s almost always a sea bass marinated in lime juice, onion, salt, and aji for a few minutes.
Lomo Saltado is a favorite among not just the locals but also nearly all travelers coming into Peru. Let’s go over what it is. As with several dishes originating in Peru, Lomo Saltado is very much influenced by cultures that came to Peru early on such as the Chinese.
There are different versions of this traditional Peruvian food because ingredients are replaced depending on someone’s taste. But at its base, it’s a beef stir-fry served with vegetables and a delicious sauce that can only be achieved once you mix everything correctly.
Aji de Gallina
Imagine a shredded chicken prepared curry-style in a thick sauce made with cream, ground walnuts, cheese, and aji amarillo. That’s exactly what aji de gallina is and it’s delicious. It usually comes served on a bed of rice, boiled potatoes, and black olives.
Arroz con Pato
The dish is so popular, it’s found on nearly every Peruvian family table as well as at the finest restaurants in Lima, and like much of Peruvian cooking, it’s been adapted into countless variations.
Papas a la Huancaina
This popular side dish consists of sliced yellow potatoes are drenched in a purée of queso fresco, aji amarillo, garlic, evaporated milk, lime juice and—you guessed it—saltine crackers. It’s not the most beautiful dish but it packs a mouthful of flavors!
This iconic Peruvian dish has its roots deep in Indigenous Quechan culture but it’s gone onto the world stage taking on many different forms. At its core it’s a potato casserole: mashed yellow Peruvian potatoes blended with lime, oil and spicy aji amarillo sauce. Shredded tuna, salmon, or chicken are mixed with mayo, followed by layers of avocado, hardboiled eggs, and olives. That surface is topped again with more potato mix, and so on, making as many lasagna-like layers as one dares
Leche de Tigre
Often thought of as just the preparation method for a good ceviche, la leche de tigre is so much more. This dish can stand on its own as a dish prepared with fresh fish, a cold fish stock, plenty of Peruvian limes, salt and pepper. The leche de tigre can be served as is and drank straight from a large glass or eaten from a small bowl. And it’s also often considered an aphrodisiac due to all the fish and shellfish involved in the preparation.
One of Peru’s most popular sources of meat (other than Alpaca) is the guinea pig – which many (outside of Peru) consider more as a pet than a meal. Nevertheless, it’s a popular dish throughout the country – although originating from the Andes.
Don’t let “heart” put you off. The heart is a muscle, after all, leaner than filet mignon, bolder in flavor than a ribeye, and delicious when cooked over open flames. It’s usually cut into small cubes and served on skewers.
This is easily one of the most popular snacks in Peru – and it’s very similar to beef jerky here in the U.S. It’s a traditional snack also made from the cute and fluffy Alpaca (is there anything this animal can’t do?!). It’s a type of jerky made from the indigenous Alpaca or Llama or on some occasions a mix of both.
Caldo De Gallina
Although the origins of this dish are somewhat unknown – most believe it came to be with Chinese workers who merged it with Peruvian traditions. This very traditional dish is specifically made with gallina (a hen) because of its distinct flavor profile. There is also the addition of noodles, usually, a thick noodle is used.
Lucuma is a subtropical tree fruit native to Peru that looks similar to a mango. Although it can be eaten raw, it is more often used as a flavoring in ice cream, juice, and many types of desserts.
Picarones are kind of like Peruvian donuts, but they are so much more and much tastier. These round fried pastries are made from the “Zapallo Macre” a type of Peruvian squash and sweet potato mixture. The dough itself is very sweet and up to this point rather healthy if you think about it.
But then we throw on sugar and cinnamon and top them with a syrup made from “chancaca” a type of blackstrap molasses, cinnamon, orange zest, figs, and pineapple. The result is a sweet traditional Peruvian dessert you really must try.
Do you have a favorite Peruvian food? Did we forget any iconic dishes from the country? Let us know in the comments!
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