Peru has some of the most flavorful food in the world, from meat to fish to quinoa, you’re going to want to try it all. Some staples include potatoes and meat, although most of the core native dishes can be adjusted to accommodate vegetarians. Here is our breakdown of some of the best items to order off a menu.
You might have tasted ceviche before, but not like you will in Peru. Ceviche is the national dish, and for good reason. This dish is packed with flavor and served incredibly fresh. Ceviche is typically served cold and can include fish such as seabass, shrimp, or whatever the catch of the day was. The fish is marinated in lime juice, onions, and hot chilis. Usually, this delicious seafood mix is served with a side of starchy boiled corn (choclo) and/or sweet potatoes (camote); perfect for dipping into the spicy, tangy deliciousness.
2. Ají de Gallina
This dish is a very common one to find on menus throughout Peru. It is shredded chicken prepared similar to that of curry, in a thick sauce made with cream, ground walnuts, cheese and aji amarillo (yellow chili pepper). The sauce is sweet and mild but very flavorful, especially with the slight hit of heat from the aji. The creamy chicken is paired with vegetables, rice, boiled potatoes, and black olives. It’s a delicious dish and worth trying as it is a Peruvian staple. (Insider tip: aji de gallina pairs well with a dry white wine!)
3. Lomo Saltado
Second in line in popularity, behind ceviche, is lomo saltado. A mix of Chineses stir-fry and classic Peruvian cuisine, this dish is one you’ll want to have over and over. Tender strips of beef or alpaca are marinated in soy sauce with onions, tomatoes, aji chilies, and other spices. Beef is more common although you can easily find the dish served with alpaca as well. We know what you’re thinking: not the adorable fluffy animals we hope to take pictures with! It is very common to eat alpaca in Peru, as it is one of the animals they have the most access to. In some areas it is cheaper than beef, making it more appealing to the locals. Alpaca is tender and savory like beef. Both ways are worth trying! The delicious meat and onion mixture is served with french fries and a mound of steaming white rice.
4. Quinoa Salad
Recently this superfood has become a craze among the health buffs. Although quinoa is presently a fad, it has been an important staple to that of the people of the Andean highlands for thousands of years. There are five different varieties of quinoa and nearly 2,000 species of it grown in Peru. Quinoa salad is a typical and delicious way to enjoy the nutrient-rich crop. Quinoa cooked and tossed with vegetables such as cucumber, tomato, onion, peppers, cheese, cilantro, and topped with lime juice. This salad is packed full of flavor and will please the whole family!
A Peruvian take on a classic, mashed potatoes. This native Quechan dish can be served in many different ways as a cake roll, a casserole, a terrine, or even individual portions. The mash includes yellow Peruvian potatoes combined with oil, lime, and spicy aji
amarillo sauce. It is a far cry away from the mashed potatoes your grandma serves at Thanksgiving but they are delicious! In between layers of the mash is a meat filling, most commonly tuna, chicken or salmon. Then comes the layer of hard-boiled eggs, avocado,
and olives, topped off with another layer of mash. Causa is always served cold and commonly comes as a starter or as a side dish.
A delicacy, commonly shared for important events such as birthdays or holidays, is cuy. Cuy, or what we consider guinea pig, is the second most popular source of meat in the Andes (behind alpaca). Although it might be difficult to imagine eating guinea pig, if you can get past the apprehension, the flavor is delightful. When cooked in the traditional Peruvian style, cuy is stuffed with locally sourced herbs and slow-roasted over an open wood fire. This method creates a melt-in-your-mouth tender dark meat with an incredible smokey flavor and crispy golden skin. Generally eaten with the hands and paired with potatoes and a side of aji sauce, cuy is a delicious dish worth trying if you’re brave enough!
a. Anticuchos, or grilled beef heart, might sound daunting to eat but trust us when we say it is delicious. The heart is leaner than filet mignon and has a bolder, beefier flavor to that of ribeye. Classified as offal, organ meats of animals makes anticuchos much more
affordable than that of other cuts of meat. The heart is typically cut into cubes, marinated, then grilled over charcoal.
8. Conchitas a la parmesana
The perfect appetizer for my fellow seafood lovers. Conchitas a la parmesana (translated to shells with parmesan) is broiled scallops with a parmesan gratin. This dish is uniquely Peruvian and would be difficult to find prepared anywhere else in the world.
9. Rocoto Relleno
Rocoto relleno is stuffed red aji rocoto peppers. To prepare, you take the chilies, hollow them out and stuff them with ground beef, garlic, onions, raisins, olives, herbs, and spices. Top it off with queso fresco and bake it in an egg-and-milk custard. Be warned that this is a spicy dish as rocoto peppers are ten times hotter than a jalapeno pepper. But if you enjoy a good kick, the pepper is beautifully balanced by the savory filling.
10. Choritos a la chalaca
Another incredible Peruvian seafood appetizer is choritos a la chalaca. The dish is steamed mussels that are chilled, served on the half shell and topped with a zesty relish of tomatoes, chilies, onions and more. The perfect way to begin a meal in this culinary-focused country. From zesty salads to fresh seafood and slow-cooked meats, there is something for everyone in Peruvian cuisine. Now that our stomachs are rumbling, it’s time to contact our team to book your culinary quest to Peru!
And as they say in Peru, “Buen provecho!”