Like many cuisines around the world, Peruvian food and cuisine have also been heavily influenced by its colonizers and immigrants from Europe (Spanish, Italian, and German), Asia, and West Africa.
It carries glimpses of its indigenous past when cultural and traditional practices were a way of life. Traditional food from Peru comprises three categories, largely classified by the seaside, mountain, and rainforest.
These categories are vastly different but are uniquely Peruvian. Here are 15 dishes that are truly representative of Peruvian cuisine.
Ceviche is the national dish of Peru and it comprises cubes of raw fish or shellfish flavoured with ingredients such as salt, onions, chili peppers, and lime juice.
Because the dish is not cooked, it must be prepared and eaten fresh to avoid the risk of food poisoning. Traditionally, Ceviche is served on a bed of lettuce with corn, sweet potato, and boiled yuca.
Popcorns made from large corn kernels toasted in salt and oil are usually served as well. The history of Ceviche goes as far back as two thousand years ago and its popularity has spread across many regions, making it a delicacy in the United States, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico.
Lomo Saltado is a traditional stir-fry dish that combines marinated sirloin strips with onions, tomatoes and French fries, served with rice. The dish originated from the Chinese culture during the 19th century when there was an influx of Chinese immigrants in Peru.
Eventually, Chinese cooking techniques began to influence Peruvian cuisine hence dishes like Lomo Saltado were created and gained popularity as mainstream Peruvian food.
Today, Lomo Saltado can be found in most Peruvian menus and different variations are also available using different meat. For example, when the beef is replaced with chicken, the dish is known as Pollo Saltado.
Cuy al Horno
Cuy al Horno is a dish of baked guinea pigs, a very traditional dish in Peru that is widely served in the Andean region (Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru) where guinea pigs have been raised for eating.
It is interesting to note that during the old days, guinea pigs were reared for their meat, it was not until the Spanish shipped the guinea pigs to Europe that they were eventually kept as pets.
In Peru, Cuy al Horno is a dish of guinea pig stuffed with herbs before baking over a spit. This pricey delicacy is usually served during special occasions such as festive occasions and birthdays.
Rocoto Relleno is one of the most popular appetizers from the Peruvian region of Arequipe. It is a dish of stuffed peppers that comprises Rocoto chili peppers stuffed with ground beef, pork, onions, and hard-boiled eggs that are seasoned with cumin, chili paste, salt, and ground pepper.
The stuffed peppers are then topped with melted cheese before being oven baked. Rocoto Relleno is derived from Spanish cuisine, however, sweet peppers that were used in the Spanish recipe were not available in Peru, hence Rocoto peppers were used as a substitute.
Today, Rocoto Relleno is considered one of the most famous dishes of Peru that is served all over the world.
Aji de Gallina
Ají de Gallina is a chicken stew that is regarded as the comfort food of Peru. The traditional dish comprises chicken, bread, eggs, yellow chili peppers, walnuts, and spices.
The ingredients are simmered together to create the delicious stew that is usually garnished with black olives and potatoes and served with rice. This dish was introduced to Peru in the 16th century by African slaves who collected leftover chicken from the rich to make a bigger meal with chili and bread.
Over time, the dish was improvised to suit the taste of Peruvian. Today, there are different variations of Aji de Gallina that replaces chicken with turkey or tuna.
Pollo a la Brasa
Pollo a la Brasa is such a popular dish in Peru that there is a national day in July that is dedicated to it! This well-loved Peruvian roasted chicken which originated from the city of Lima in the 1950s is also popular in many countries such as Colombia, Brazil and the United States.
Pollo a la Brasa, also known as blackened chicken, rotisserie chicken, or charcoal chicken around the world. The traditional Pollo a la Brasa is prepared with a rotisserie over wood coals which gives it a smoky flavor and crispy skin.
This chicken dish is often served with French fries, creamy mayonnaise sauces, and salsa known as Ají.
Pachamanca is an ancient Peruvian dish made by cooking marinated pieces of meat (usually lamb), herbs, chilis, beans, and a variety of Peruvian potatoes with a hot stone oven in the ground known as Huatia.
The word “Pachamanca” simply means earth pot, which clearly spells the importance of the cooking technique used for this dish. Meats such as lamb, mutton, alpaca, pork, chicken, and guinea pig are commonly used to prepare this dish.
Pachamanca is a dish that is often served during special occasions and important ceremonies, and it can also be found in traditional Peruvian restaurants throughout the country.
Tacaho con Cecina
The Tacacho con Cecina is an Amazonia dish prepared with roasted green bananas that are peeled and mashed with a large wooden mortar. The crushed mixture is then blended with lard, salt and pieces of beef jerky or chorizo known as Cecina. This dish is a traditional Peruvian meal that is typically served for breakfast and it is a must-try if you are in Lima, Madre de Dios, San Martín, and Iquitos.
Juane is a traditional meal that originated from the Peruvian jungles. It is usually consumed on June 24, the feast of St. John the Baptist (San Juan). Interestingly, Juanes are exchanged between family and friends during festivities.
Communities will often get together for the preparation of this unique dish as well. This traditional Amazonian boiled dish is prepared with rice, chicken meat, eggs and olives all wrapped in Macaw flower leaves.
In some parts of the jungle, Juane is also prepared with yuca root, paiche (the biggest fish in the Amazon), and fried plantains.
Kamulu Wantan is a Chinese-Peruvian dish that was introduced to the Peruvian community during the first Chinese colony in the 19th century. The sweet and sour stir-fry dish consists of pork, chicken, onions and peppers.
Sometimes seafood such as shrimps is also used to create this delightful dish that is topped with a flavourful tamarind sauce. Kamulu Wantan is sometimes served with fried wontons, another Chinese dumpling dish.
Carapulcra con Sopa Seca
Carapulcra con Sopa Seca is a soup-stew of peanuts, chicken, Ají Panca (Peruvian red pepper paste), and potatoes served with Sopa Seca, a noodle dish with heavy seasoning.
This dish is a fusion between Peruvian and Italian cuisine, and it is widely available in the Southern coastal towns of Peru. Carapulcra con Sopa Seca can always be spotted at family events, weddings and local special occasions.
Choritos a la Chalaca
Choritos a la Chalaca is Callao-Style mussel dish that is served as a seafood appetizer. Originating from the city of Callao, this dish consists of fresh steamed mussels topped with spicy salsa.
The salsa is made with tomatoes, corn, Rocoto peppers, onions, lime juice, olive oil, and parsley. There is no need to use cutleries when eating this juicy dish, just use your hands, it is extra delicious that way!
Anticuchos is a Peruvian street food that is a meat dish of small pieces of skewered and grilled meat served with corn or boiled potatoes. The first Anticuchos recipe dates back to the 16th century when marinated llama meat was cooked over a fire.
Eventually, the recipe was modified to use beef skewered on sugar cane stalks. The meat is traditionally marinated in red wine vinegar and spices such as garlic, cumin, and Aji pepper for a more intense flavour.
While beef is often used for the dish, Anticuchos that are made from beef hearts are still the most popular in Peru.
Tiradito is a dish of raw fish, cut to the shape of Sashimi. Tiradito seems to originate from the Japanese immigrants who started migrating to Peru in the late 1800s.
Tiradito is usually thinly sliced and combined with chopped vegetables, and coriander, and drizzled with lemon juice just before serving. Sometimes sweet potato and boiled corn are served together with Tiraditos as well.
Besides raw fish, the main ingredient can also be replaced with lightly seared scallops.
Causa Rellena is a dish of mashed yellow potatoes with tuna or chicken, seasoned with lime and hot pepper paste, then served on a bed of lettuce.
The dish was created during the Pacific War when food was scarce, and Peruvian women had to collect potatoes to create Causa Rellena for soldiers who were defending their homes, hence the dish was named Causa Rellena because Causa means “giver of life”.
Causa Rellena is usually served cold, topped with extravagant garnishes and sauces for a colourful presentation.