Peru’s cuisine is as diverse as its landscape. From the Andes Mountains to the Amazon Jungle, its fertile land provides the perfect place for cultivating its many staples like potatoes (there are over 3,000 varieties found in Peru!), quinoa and corn. You’ll find different specialties in the different regions of Peru, with influences from Spanish, Asian and even African cultures.
If you don’t think you’ve ever tried Peruvian cuisine, you might be wrong, as many of its ancient recipes have made their way to Australia, particularly in the last few years.
In this list, we’ve put together 5 of the must-try foods when visiting Peru but trust us when we say there are plenty more!
Cebiche (or ceviche as it is often known in Australia) is a seafood dish which has started popping up everywhere in Australia in recent times. This coastal dish is made by steeping freshly caught seafood in lemon or lime juice with a variety of spices and seasonings, with the acidity essentially ‘cooking’ the fish. Usually accompanied by side dishes like potato, avocado or plantain, its delightfully refreshing on the palate.
This one might raise a few eyebrows in Australia, but cuy or guinea pig has been a delicacy enjoyed in Andean Peru since pre-Inca times.
Often cooked over a fire or deep fried, served with potatoes and salsa, it is seen as a special occasion dish. Low in fat but high in protein, it’s actually quite a healthy meat and has a flavour comparable to chicken, just a bit darker and more ‘gamey’.
3. Arroz Con Pollo
Arroz con Pollo is a favourite throughout Latin America, but the Peruvians have certainly put their own spin on it. Similar to a Paella, its main ingredients are rice, chicken and vegetables. In the north of the country, you’ll often find it cooked with chicha (a Peruvian corn beer) and yellow squash, whereas in Lima you can have it ‘verde’ – green thanks to the extra coriander, or ‘amarillo’ – yellow thanks to the added annatto powder. Why not taste all the different varieties to see which is your favourite?
4. Picarones (dessert)
Craving a sweet treat while you’re in Peru? Try picarones! These circular snacks might look like donuts, but in reality they are quite different as their main ingredients are actually pumpkin and sweet potato. Deep fried and coated in a bittersweet syrup, it’s the perfect Peruvian street food delight.
5. Suspiro Limeño
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this is the dish for you! First created in Lima, the literal translation of the name is ‘Sigh of a Lima Lady’ as it is said to be as soft and sweet as the sigh of a woman. The main layer of the dessert is manjar blanco, the Peruvian equivalent of dulche de leche or caramel. This is then topped with a light meringue, created using egg whites and port wine syrup for some extra kick. With a sprinkle of cinnamon on the top, it’s the best way to end any Peruvian meal.
Other notable mentions
Sampling the local cuisine is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture, and of course there are many other dishes to try that we haven’t covered here. Some notable mentions include Lomo Saltado which is a type of stirfry, Causa Limeña which is a versatile potato dish, and Mazamorra Morada, a type of pudding made with dried fruits, sweet potato starch and sugar.
While this might be a food article, we couldn’t finish without recommending you wash down any meal with a refreshing Pisco sour – the country’s national drink.
The Peru Tourism website is a great resource for anyone considering a trip to this vibrant South American nation.