Traditional landscape in Peru, and traditional Peruvian food to discover
Peruvian food is the result of a unique blend of cultures.
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Peruvian Food: 10 Classic Dishes You Should Try

06/13/2023
8 minutes

For all but one year between 2012 and 2019, Peru was voted the Best Culinary Destination in South America by the World Travel Awards. Nobody who’s tried Peruvian food will be surprised by such high praise. Food in Peru is like nowhere else, with its unique blend of culinary influences from Europe, Africa and Asia.

1. Ceviche: Perhaps the Most Famous Peruvian Food

Probably Peru’s best known culinary export, ceviche is a must-try for anyone interested in Peruvian food. Although you might come across different versions around the world featuring octopus, shrimp or scallops, traditional ceviche is made with sea bass. The fish is marinated in lime juice, salt, onions, and chillies and served with boiled corn, sweet potato, and roasted corn kernels.

The origins of this quintessentially Peruvian dish are said to date back 2000 years, to the Moche civilization in Peru who ate raw fish fermented in banana and passion fruit juice. 

As well as being an international culinary sensation, ceviche is popular throughout Peru and its success and popularity abroad is a huge source of pride for Peruvians. 

In fact, ceviche was declared Cultural Heritage of Peru in 2004
and has its own National Day, held on 28 June every year.

For an amazing ceviche experience, why not try it in a Michelin-starred Peruvian restaurant?

Three bowls of seafood ceviche, one of the most famous Peruvian foods
Ceviche is a famous Peruvian food.

More Interesting Facts About This Famous Peruvian Food

  • Although it’s made with raw fish, the acidity in the lime juice breaks down the protein, meaning the fish is “cooked” but without heat. 
  • Because ceviche is not cooked with heat, it must be prepared and eaten fresh to avoid food poisoning.
  • Ceviche is an important part of Nikkei cuisine. Nikkei is the Japanese word for emigrant, and Peru is home to one of the largest ethnic Japanese populations on the continent. 
  • Ceviche can be eaten as a main course or a side dish.
  • The world’s largest ceviche was made in Manzanillo, Mexico, in 2017 and weighed 11,480 kg!

2. Tiradito: The Peruvian Food with a Japanese Twist

Much Peruvian food is the result of immigration. In the late 19th century, waves of Japanese immigrants began settling in Peru, bringing elements of their own local dishes with them. One of these is tiradito, a delicious combination of sashimi and local Peruvian ingredients that fuses Japanese and Peruvian cuisine to stunning effect. 

Although it has similarities to ceviche, such as the use of raw fish, these two popular Peruvian foods are not the same. Unlike ceviche, where the raw fish is marinated in lime juice, tiradito uses raw fish cut in long, thin strips like sashimi, which is then covered in a rich sauce. 

This sauce is usually made with Peruvian yellow aji pepper or rocoto red pepper, garlic, ginger, and lime juice. The long sashimi-style strips that feature in tiradito are another difference between it and ceviche, where the fish is cubed.

Plate of tiradito sliced fish and sauce, a famous Peruvian food
Peruvian food includes fish dishes like tiradito.

3. Cuy Al Horno: A Much-Loved Traditional Peruvian Speciality

You might be surprised to learn that one of the most traditional Peruvian foods is in fact an animal that is usually considered a pet in western countries. That’s because the Andean speciality cuy al horno is in fact a roasted guinea pig, to you and me. However, in Peru cuy are bred purely for food and used in this very popular dish.

So popular is this meat, it has been estimated that 65 million guinea pigs are eaten in Peru each year, and Cusco’s cathedral features a painting on this Peruvian delicacy

The meat is sometimes described as similar to chicken but more tender and with a fattier, smoky flavour. The traditional way of cooking this dish is to stuff the meat with herbs and bake it or spit-roast it over a wood fire. It’s often served with aji chilli sauce. 

Traditionally a dish that was reserved for special occasions,
you can find cuy al horno in most Peruvian restaurants these days.

4. Rocoto Relleno: The Peruvian Dish from Arequipa

The main ingredient of this classic Peruvian food is the rocoto pepper, not always easy to get hold of except in the Andes. It’s one of the most famous dishes in Peruvian cuisine and originated in the city of Arequipa in the Andes mountains.

The main ingredient—rocoto peppers—are ten times spicier than jalapeño peppers when raw. The rocoto peppers are stuffed with fried minced beef or hard-boiled egg, covered with melted cheese and then baked.

It’s one of the dishes Peruvians often say they miss the most when abroad.

Look for it on the menu the next time you go out to a Peruvian restaurant!

Large and small hot peppers, part of traditional Peruvian food
Rocoto peppers are used in many Peruvian foods.

5. Arroz con Pato: The Typical Peruvian Dish That Everyone Loves

Rice and duck dishes like arroz con pato are popular across northern Peru. This traditional Peruvian dish is made with Muscovy duck, a breed that was domesticated by pre-Inca civilizations and that tastes best when slow cooked. With the arrival of ingredients like coriander, onions, and rice in Peru, this dish gradually began to take shape, fusing the duck with exciting new flavours and ingredients. 

The dish varies across the country:

  • in Chiclayo to the north of Lima, the rice is cooked with coriander leaves and peas, which gives the rice a green hue and a highly fragrant flavour. 
  • Other variations include adding beer to the stock to create a deep, hearty taste. 
     

6. Lomo Saltado: The Peruvian Food That Brings East and West Together

Another example of how Peruvian food effortlessly fuses different cuisines to create mouth-watering dishes. Lomo saltado is a stir-fried beef dish that combines Chinese stir-frying techniques with Peruvian ingredients

Beef (or sometimes alpaca meat) is marinated in soy sauce and stir fried with onions, aji chillies, tomatoes and spices until the beef is tender and the tomatoes begin to form a thick gravy. True to its East-meets-West fusion roots, it’s then served with both french fries and white rice. 

Stir-fried beef with chips and onions, example of Peruvian food
Lomo saltado is a Peruvian food that fuses East and West.

7. Pollo a la Brasa: The Peruvian Food That’s a Huge Hit in the US

First developed in 1950 by Roger Schuler, Swiss resident of Lima, pollo a la brasa is Peruvian roast chicken. 

A truly Peruvian dish, it’s so popular that the Peruvian government
estimated that 371 million servings of pollo a la brasa were consumed in 2010 alone.

It’s now also taken the United States by storm, with Peruvian rotisserie take-aways to be found across the country. 

This mainstay of Peruvian cuisine is made by marinating a whole chicken in garlic, herbs, and spices before spit-roasting it over a wood fire. The result is chicken with crispy skin and a deliciously smoky, yet spicy flavour. It’s usually served with salad, french fries and ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, and aji sauce or huacatay (black mint) sauce.

8. Papas a la Huancaina: A Staple of Peruvian Cuisine and a Popular Appetizer

This dish is a much-loved Peruvian favourite and often served as an appetiser. Originating in the city of Huancayo, in Peru’s central highlands, it can be found on menus across the country. 

It combines two of the key themes in Peruvian food:
potatoes and creamy sauces.

As Coldplay might say, “it’s all yellow”: sliced yellow potatoes, yellow sauce, and sliced hard-boiled eggs with their yellow yolks. The sauce is a pureed mixture of soft, fresh queso fresco cheese, yellow aji pepper, garlic, evaporated milk, lime juice, and crackers, which add thickness. Served cold, it’s a popular holiday food and great for taking on picnics and hikes.

Potatoes in a fresh cheese sauce with egg yolk: combining Peruvian foods
If you like Peruvian food, try this popular appetiser.

9. Causa Rellena: The Dish Based on the Most Peruvian Ingredient of All

With over 4,000 varieties of Peruvian potatoes,
this vegetable is an important part of Peruvian heritage and Peruvian cuisine.

Potatoes have been grown in the Andes for at least 7,000 years and perhaps for even as long as 13,000 years. Its ability to grow in difficult climates makes the humble potato an ideal crop for the harsh conditions of the Andes

Causa rellena is a traditional Peruvian food made with mashed potatoes. The potato is shaped into discs that are sandwiched between a filling made from chicken or tuna, yellow aji peppers, avocado, mayonnaise and lime juice, making a kind of colourful potato casserole. It’s a native Quechuan dish that is popular across the country, in Lima it’s known as causa limeña.

You can try it for yourself without having to go all the way to Peru!
Check out causa rellena in an authentic Peruvian restaurant in London.

Potatoes with oil and cheese in bowls, traditional Peruvian food
Potatoes are an iconic part of Peruvian cuisine.

10. Alfajores: A Delicious Dessert to End Your Journey Through Peruvian Cuisine

Alfajores are a Peruvian dessert made with one of the continent’s
great contributions to all things sweet: dulce de leche!

This is a kind of caramel made by heating sweetened milk. Alfajores use dulce de leche as a filling between two shortbread-style biscuits. This deliciously tempting combination is then sprinkled with coconut. 

What’s not to like? Although it’s a much-loved Peruvian food, alfajores have their origins in North Africa. Following centuries of North African Islamic influence on Spanish cuisine, the conquistadores then brought desserts like alfajores to South America

Shortbread filled with dulce de leche, iconic Peruvian dessert
Peruvian food also includes delicious desserts like alfajores.

Peruvian food has so many influences and flavours that there’s something to suit most palates. From creamy chicken dishes to tangy, fruity seafood options, the fusion of cuisines and cultures means you won’t be disappointed. 

Why not choose a Peruvian restaurant the next time you go out for a meal? 

the best peruvian restaurants in London

More on Peruvian Foods

Typical Peruvian dishes are influenced by local ingredients, as well as others brought by immigrants from Europe, Asia, and Africa. The main ones are corn, potatoes, quinoa, beans, rice, and meat.

The best-known Peruvian food is ceviche. Sometimes called Peruvian sushi, it’s a dish made of raw fish–most commonly sea bass—marinated in lime juice, chillies, and onions. It’s deliciously refreshing, with a tangy flavour.

The three most popular Peruvian dishes are ceviche (the country’s national dish), aji de gallina empanadas (chicken pasties), and lomo saltado (beef stir fry).

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