So you are going to Peru, but can’t eat gluten? No problem, we got your back. Whether you have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or simply feel better not eating wheat, barley and rye, you can still have a delicious experience.
Peru is one of the food capitals of the world, and that goes for foodies with all kinds of dietary restrictions. For your reference, here are helpful insights if you are traveling gluten-free in Peru.
- To Order or Not to Order – That is the Question
- To Order
- Not to Order
- How to Order
- Gluten-Free Restaurants
- Gluten-Free Bakeries
- Gluten-Free Markets
To order or not to order – that is the question
It is difficult enough trying to translate the menu, now you have to figure out whether or not you can actually eat the thing. Unfortunately, some of the most popular plates in Peru are not gluten-free. They may appear to be, but sometimes have hidden ingredients that contain the “g” word. Here is a quick guide to help you decipher which of Peru’s top dishes are gluten-free*:
Let’s start with the good news! Here are some dishes that are typically gluten-free in Peru:
This is essentially a stuffed bell pepper, Arequipa style. The pepper is filled with chopped meat, eggs, queso fresco (fresh white cheese), potatoes and a variety of herbs and spices. Some serious comfort food, without the gluten.
Causa is typically served as a cold appetizer, and consists of layers of mashed potato, tuna, avocado, egg and/or shrimp. This is a delicious way to start your gluten-free meal.
You are in luck, because ceviche, the national dish of Peru, is gluten-free. This beloved classic dates back thousands of years and traditionally consists of chunks of raw white fish marinated in lime, red onion, salt and hot pepper. Usual accompaniments are sweet potato, chifles, cancha and Peruvian corn.
Another raw fish dish, this time showcasing Japanese influence on Peruvian cuisine. The fish is cut sashimi-style, and bathed in a spicy aji amarillo sauce (Peruvian yellow pepper).
Pachamanca is more than a dish. It is a way of life in the central Peruvian andes. Pachamanca literally means “earth pot” in Quechua, due to the method of preparing the food by way of burying in a hole in the earth and cooking with hot stones. The meal consists of a succulent selection of meat – like lamb, mutton and alpaca – plus potato, green lima beans, sweet potato and a variety of herbs.
Many of the top desserts in Peru are gluten-free*!
Suspiro de limeña.
This creamy dessert finds its origins in Lima. It is comprised of manjar, a pudding similar to caramel, topped with meringue and finished off with cinnamon. A decedent gluten-free option that literally translates to sigh of the lady from Lima.
This fruity dessert is reminiscent of a blueberry pie filling. It is made with Peruvian purple corn, pineapple, apple, lime and dried fruit and the texture is like a cross between pudding and jello.
Lucuma ice cream.
Lucuma is a native fruit of Peru, with flavor notes of caramel, maple and sweet potato. Absolutely delicious in ice cream form.
This is the ice cream of the Arequipa region. Queso helado translates to cheese ice cream. Give it a try, and you’ll see why it is so beloved!
This cloud-like dessert can be likened to a caramel custard. The name translates to upside down cream, and consists of a base of eggs, evaporated and condensed milk, and vanilla. Topped with a caramel sauce.
NOT TO ORDER
On to the not-so-good news. Here are the dishes that typically do contain gluten, even if just in frustratingly trace amounts:
Papa a la Huancaina.
The creamy sauce that smothers this popular potato appetizer contains soda crackers (you may know them as saltines, and they are not gluten-free). Though it looks like a harmless cheesy sauce, the crackers are traditionally blended right into the sauce mix. This makes it very hard to order gluten-free because the sauce is typically made by the batch.
Aji de gallina.
For similar reasons as the above, this traditional chicken dish, topped with a creamy aji amarillo (yellow pepper) sauce, is not gluten free. The sauce is also traditionally made with white bread or soda crackers.
This is a popular dish made with sliced beef, onion, tomato and french fries. The problem? A dash of soy sauce. As you probably know, soy sauce is not gluten free, as it contains wheat.
Arroz chaufa is Peruvian Chinese-style fried rice. Like lomo saltado, it is made with soy sauce.
Pollo a la brasa.
In pollerias (chicken restaurants) all over Peru, you can find pollo a la brasa, which is very much like rotisserie chicken. Unfortunately, it is often braised in soy sauce as well.
Arroz con pollo.
Careful with this rice and chicken dish. It is sometimes prepared with beer. Beer often contains both malted barley and wheat, both of which contain gluten.
While many of the most popular Peruvian desserts are gluten free, here are two that are not. Of course, as always, the typical cakes and muffins and cookies are also not gluten-free by default.
Picarones are deep fried doughnuts. The dough is made from flour, mashed sweet potato and squash, and the finished product is topped off with a sugar syrup flavored with orange peel, cinnamon and pineapple.
This is a sweet, handmade cookie sandwich. The crumbly butter cookies are filled with manjar (similar to caramel) and dusted with coconut. Though you can’t have the whole cookie, you can still have the manjar filling, and many would argue that is the best part anyway. It is sold by the jar in many shops.
Other items to be cautious of:
Any creamy “aji” sauce, ocopa sauce, emoliente (contains barley), chicha de jora (contains barley), sudado (may contain barley), soap patasca (contains wheat), jalea (usually contains breading or flour), papa rellena (often rolled in flour).
*Though we are going by traditional preparation, ask anyway. Recipes may vary so your safest bet is to check with your server.
How to Order
It can be difficult to explain that you can’t eat gluten. The server might not understand, or simply not know. With the language barrier, this can be even more of a challenge to communicate.
Thanks to the team of the Gluten Free Passport blog, here is a super helpful travel translation card that you can use.
Also, here is a gluten-free health certificate from Celiac Travel that you can provide your server:
If you’re gluten-free in Peru, it may be a tad difficult to find options. While there aren’t many dedicated gluten free restaurants, here are some that are; or ones that at least that have an abundance of clearly-marked options.
Calle Schell 630, Miraflores, Lima
This restaurant is 100 percent gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan. It is centrally located in Miraflores, and has a beautiful and spacious front patio with nature-inspired decor, featuring hanging plants and wood accents. The menu has breakfast items, like avocado toast, pancakes and açaí bowls; appetizers, like papa a la huancaína and tomato soup; a variety of artisanal pizzas; and main plates, like tacos, lasagna, lomo saltado and lentil burgers. Leave room for a yummy dessert, like chocolate volcano cake, cheesecake or brownie sundae.
Multiple Locations, including Calle Independencia 596, Miraflores, Lima
Though not 100 percent gluten free nor raw, this vegan restaurant has an abundance of gluten-free meals and desserts on the menu. The gluten-free items (majority of the menu) are clearly marked, and include options from morning to night. For breakfast, try waffles and choose your 2 favorite toppings. At lunch time, enjoy a garden pizza with a tomato and flax crust or a Cesar salad complete with croutons, coconut bacon and almond-based parmesan. For dinner enjoy pad Thai or a scrumptious serving of sweet potato gnocchi. Finish off with cheesecake or volcano cake.
Av. Mariscal La Mar 955, Miraflores, Lima
This health food restaurant boasts spacious, modern interiors with natural accents. There are many satisfying gluten-free options on the menu, clearly labeled. Superfood waffles, cauliflower wings, spring rolls, chicken vegetable sandwich, vegan lasagna, mushroom risotto and salmon are among the guest favorites. The dessert department is definitely not lacking either, and includes brownie parfaits, cookie dough cakes, caramel cheesecakes and crepes.
Triunfo 356, Cusco
This restaurant works closely with local farmers and providers, holding a very community-based approach to dining. With the centerpiece being the rich Peruvian ingredients, you can taste the care and love put into every meal. Gluten-free options include, for example, Cusquenian adobo tacos to start and grilled trout with garden quinoa or herb-marinated alpaca with mashed potatoes as a main. The pastas and lomos are not gluten free. Ask your knowledgable server for more details, and they’ll be happy to provide them.
Carmen Bajo 169, Cusco
If you’re craving excellent gluten free pizza, this is your spot. There is an entire page of celiac-friendly pizza options. The corn-based crust is praiseworthy, with many visitors saying its the best they’ve ever had. The cozy interiors with Peru-inspired decor make for the perfect spot for a relaxing dinner with loved ones. Regular and vegan pizza options also available.
Calle Plateros 344, Cusco
If you want a proper Peru food experience without worrying about the gluten content, visit PER.UK. A laid back restaurant with Andean flair, this restaurant clearly marks its abundant gluten-free options. Here you can start with anticuchos (traditional beef heart skewers), chicken causa or stuffed peppers. For your main, dig into a pepper steak with creamy huancaina risotto, blue alpaca or Andean ceviche. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try their cuy dish (grilled guinea pig). Finish off with a pineapple carpaccio dessert.
Jr. Batallon Callao Sur 168, Santiago de Surco, Lima
This 100% gluten-free bakery offers a range of satisfying celiac-friendly desserts and some savory options as well. It is not centrally located in the touristy districts of Lima, so your best bet is to take an official taxi or Uber there. Options include paninis, cinnamon rolls, waffles, cakes, tartlets and more. Paleo and low-sugar options also available.
Jr. Colina 109, Barranco, Lima
This charming cafe is located in the bohemian district of Barranco. If you are missing some of your gluten-free favorites while in Peru, you’ll find them here. You can enjoy danishes, tarts, cakes, sandwiches, pizzas, quiches and a variety of breads. Enjoy the neighborhood feel and handmade organic delights. This spot is located just 6 minutes by foot from the main plaza of barranco.
Jr. Gonzales Prada 338, Miraflores, Lima
This 100 percent vegan bakery has plenty of clearly-marked, gluten-free options. Selections include a variety of cheesecakes, like chocolate, caramel and strawberry; a snickers pie; ice cream chocolate chip cookie sandwiches; and chocolate truffles. This inspiring little locale with blue walls and books to leaf through is located 10 minutes walking from Miraflores’ popular Kennedy Park.
Herrajes 146, Cusco
If you want a cute cafe with a neighborhood feel and great coffee on those colonial streets of Cusco, this is your spot. The best part is you can pair your morning caffeinated beverage with a gluten-free treat, like sweet banana bread. If you’d rather stop in for a casual lunch, enjoy a panini on gluten free bread and a delicious, energizing smoothie.
Av San Martin, Barranco, Lima
This lively fair takes place every single Sunday alongside Parque de los Heroes in Barranco. The street is bursting with fresh, organic produce, dairy products, eggs, superfood products, ready-made meals, desserts and more. You can find a vast variety of gluten free products in the mix. Go on a lazy Sunday and explore the items, and you’ll discover breads, desserts and more. Also try to join one of the rotating workshops of the day, which can range from yoga to composting tips to how to make gluten free desserts and much more, just check out the daily schedule.
Parque Reducto No. 2 Av. Benavides y Via Expresa Miraflores, Lima
The Saturday Bioferia in Miraflores takes place just outside the lush Parque Reducto No. 2. It has lots of produce, handmade desserts, grab-and-go meals and much more. Browsing the selections and you will find tons of gluten-free items to enjoy. After you find your desserts or savory items of choice, you can relax in the park, or even join one of the weekly tai chi or yoga classes. Great choice for a Saturday, locals style.
Calle Los Antares 361, Santiago de Surco, Lima
Want to buy all the gluten-free products you need without the risk of cross-contamination? La Casa Del Celiaco is a great option. It is not too centrally located, so you may want to take a secure cab or Uber, however, once you’re there, you’ll find a wonderland of homemade breads, cookies, tarts, churros, pastries and cakes. There are also flours if you want to make something yourself at home.
Every day more and more gluten free options are springing up in Peru. Whether at a typical restaurant or one specifically catered to diners with celiac disease, you will never go hungry if you follow the tips and guidelines above.
Want help organizing your gluten-free adventure? Contact a travel advisor today to start planning!
Gina loves the hidden turquoise rivers of the Andes, the magical pink dolphins of the Amazon, and the lush ocean-view parks of Lima. She finds Peru to be the most inspiring country in the world, and has been exploring and writing about this sacred place since 2014.