Peruvian food is gaining popularity worldwide. From 2012 to 2019, the Andean country’s culinary feats earned Peru the honor of World’s Leading Culinary Destination, according to the World Travel Awards. This country’s offerings are being touted in cities from New York to London to Tokyo, and the list keeps growing.
It’s hard to say exactly what makes Peru’s cuisine so sought after and revered. It could be the diversity of ingredients from various regions – from coast to mountain to jungle. It could also stem from the indigenous way of life living off the fertile land for thousands of years. Or maybe it’s the blend of flavors brought here by generations of immigrants from around the world. Regardless, the combination is a delectable and palate-pleasing cuisine for the world to enjoy. Here is our list of the top 20 Peruvian foods you should try.
Table of Contents
- Ceviche (citrus cured raw fish)
- Lomo Saltado (beef stir-fry)
- Aji de Gallina (chicken stew in spicy sauce)
- Pollo a la Brasa (roasted chicken)
- Causa Rellena (layered potato salad)
- Cuy Chactado (fried guinea pig)
- Rocoto Relleno (stuffed spicy pepper)
- Seco de Carne (cilantro beef stew)
- Tiradito de Pescado (Peruvian sashimi)
- Anticuchos (grilled beef heart kebabs)
- Pachamanca (meats and vegetables slow-cooked underground)
- Arroz con Mariscos (seafood paella)
- Adobo (spicy marinated pork stew)
- Papa a la Huancaina (potato with a spicy cheese sauce)
- Leche de Tigre (ceviche marinade)
- Tequeños (fried cheese sticks)
- Jalea (fried fish and seafood)
- Alfajores (shortbread cookie sandwich)
- Mazamorra Morada and Arroz con Leche (mixed-fruit jelly with rice pudding)
- Picarones (pumpkin and sweet potato doughnuts)
- Bonus: Pisco Sour (national cocktail)
Last updated by Melissa Dreffs in September 2020.
The national dish of Peru, ceviche is generally considered the best Peruvian food worldwide. On the surface, it’s a simple recipe of raw fish marinated in citrus juice. However, the spices in the marinade and accompaniments make the dish complete.
Raw white fish, such as sea bass, is cured in lime juice and mixed with thinly sliced red onion, chili peppers, and salt. Peruvian corn known as choclo and slices of sweet potato accompany the dish for even more flavor. The dish is fresh and acidic, with a spicy kick. Vegetarians and vegans in Peru can also appreciate the rich flavor in a mushroom variation.
Not everyone can master it, but some of the best restaurants in Lima certainly have. No trip to Peru is complete without trying ceviche, so be sure to test it out while you’re here or in your favorite local Peruvian restaurant!
2. Lomo Saltado
Chifa is a popular Peruvian cuisine that combines local and Chinese ingredients and techniques. This style of cooking dates back to the early 1900s, when a wave of Chinese immigrants came to Peru. The most popular chifa dish, lomo saltado, is a hearty crowd-pleaser packed full of flavor.
Lomo saltado is a robust stir-fry concoction of beef, tomatoes, peppers, and onions cooked together in a pan with a soy sauce mixture. Most variations are served over French fries (or even add them to the stir fry) and are accompanied by white rice. Today, you can find this dish not only in chifa restaurants, but in many Peruvian restaurants across the country.
Check out an authentic lomo saltado recipe here!
3. Aji de Gallina
Consisting of tender chicken stewed in a rich yellow chili pepper sauce, this dish is a Creole classic. Gallina actually means hen in Spanish, but most chefs use chicken in this dish. Besides the chicken, a key ingredient is the aji amarillo, or yellow chili pepper. This pepper gives the sauce its yellow color and adds an incredible kick of spice. Other ingredients like cheese and salted crackers tone down the spice and create a thick, creamy sauce. Like many other Peruvian dishes, aji de gallina pairs with potatoes and/or white rice.
This dish is cheesy, nutty, spicy, and absolutely delicious. It takes a while to prepare, but the results are well worth it. Check out our favorite aji de gallina recipe here.
4. Pollo a la Brasa
Peruvian style roasted chicken, known as pollo a la brasa, is incredibly popular in Peru. Combined with fries, salad, and delicious aji amarillo sauce, a pollo a la brasa meal is a family favorite.
The key is marinating the chicken in soy sauce with red peppers, garlic, and cumin in order to give the meat and skin a smoky, salty taste. Chefs then cook the marinated chicken over hot coals and serve the chicken whole. The signature Peruvian recipe is used across the country, and it’s even starting to catch on outside of Peru as well.
5. Causa Rellena
A typical food in Peru, causa rellena is similar to a potato salad. Layers of spicy, citrusy mashed potatoes, avocado, and chicken or tuna are topped with hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, or sauces. The dish is served cold, making it a great option for warm summer days.
Chefs often get creative with the ingredients and toppings, but what makes a causa truly a causa is the layered presentation and use of Peruvian potatoes. Peru is home to thousands of potato varieties that come in all sorts of colors, shapes, sizes, and even flavors. How many will you try?
Check out this delicious causa rellena recipe and try making it at home!
6. Cuy Chactado
Cuy chactado is a fried guinea pig dish common in the Andes. While you might not be able (or willing) to try making this at home, many restaurants in Peru, especially in the Cusco region, serve this delicacy. For many Peruvians, guinea pigs are a luxury that they only have on birthdays or holidays.
Although guinea pig is not a common source of meat globally, Peruvians have eaten cuy for hundreds of years. High in protein and low in fat and cholesterol, guinea pig meat is generally considered a healthy meat. Could this be the next big thing to hit the western world? Only time will tell.
7. Rocoto Relleno
This dish made famous in Arequipa, Peru is not your average stuffed pepper. Instead of bell peppers, the Peruvian recipe calls for a spicy rocoto pepper, truly giving it an extra kick. Rocoto peppers are 4 to 40 times hotter than jalapeños, so only those with a high spice tolerance should give this dish a go.
Filled with cheese, ground beef, and vegetables, the stuffing is a delight that cuts through the spicy pepper on the outside. Learn more about the rocoto relleno and other top foods in Arequipa here.
8. Seco de Carne
A favorite in Peruvian kitchens, seco de carne is a hearty beef stew. However, several ingredients differentiate it from other beef stews you might be more accustomed to. A fermented corn beverage, chicha de jora, and cilantro are two key ingredients in this Peruvian stew. Andean people have used chicha de jora for hundreds of years. Used similarly to cooking wine, the liquid adds a unique acidic twist to the stew.
This stew paired with beans and white rice is a real crowd-pleaser. To make this at home, check out this seco de carne recipe, replacing some of the local ingredients with items found internationally.
9. Tiradito de Pescado
Nikkei cuisine combines two of the world’s best cuisines, Peruvian and Japanese, into one. Tiradito de pescado, or simply tiradito, is the flagship dish of Nikkei cuisine in Peru. Raw fish is sliced into very thin strips, like Japanese sashimi. The type of fish varies, but with Peru’s vast coastline, there is no shortage of fresh fish year round.
A spicy, citrusy sauce brings out the flavor of the fish. Lime and the Peruvian aji amarillo chili pepper combine with garlic and cilantro for a simple, light sauce. Perfect for a warm summer day, be sure to order tiradito when you visit Lima. Or, for a taste of Peruvian summer, try to make this tiradito recipe at home!
These skewered meat kebabs are a typical Peruvian street food. Traditionally made with marinated beef hearts, some chefs now use more conventional cuts of beef or chicken. However, the standard and what you can find on many street corners are beef heart anticuchos.
While the meat itself is tender and delicious, what makes this dish stand out is the marinade and serving sauces. The marinade uses many ingredients, but the main flavors are garlic, aji panca smoky chili pepper, cumin, and sometimes lime juice. There might be several options for sauces, but you cannot go wrong with a spicy rocoto sauce on top.
Not to be confused with Pachamama, or mother earth in Quechua, pachamanca is a traditional Peruvian dish commonly found in the Andes. A variety of meats and vegetables can be used, but the spices and cooking method are what make this dish unique. Peruvian spices and local herbs like huacatay, or black mint, first marinate the meat and vegetables. Then, the entire mixture is cooked underground, in an “earth oven” or “earth pot,” the literal translation of pachamanca from Quechua.
Following the traditional preparation, you must dig a hole in the ground and heat plenty of stones over a fire. The marinated meat and vegetables will cook in between layers of hot stones in the hole in the ground. A cloth covers the food and then grass and earth go on top, insulating and sealing the oven. The food then takes several hours to cook.
Today, you can also achieve the same flavors on a stovetop, but the traditional method is an unforgettable experience. Consider participating in a traditional pachamanca experience in the Sacred Valley of Peru.
12. Arroz con Mariscos
One of the top Peruvian seafood dishes, arroz con mariscos literally translates to rice with seafood. However, this translation does not do this dish justice. Similar to the Spanish paella, arroz con mariscos is a complex explosion of flavors. Combining two of Peru’s favorite things, rice and seafood, this dish is popular year-round.
Shrimp, scallop, and squid are the most common seafood in this dish, but some recipes use clam, mussel, or octopus. Seasoned rice, combined with peas, carrots, and red bell pepper, complements the seafood, and a pinch of parmesan cheese on top adds even more flavor.
Seafood lovers can make this dish at home or try it out at some of the top restaurants along Peru’s coast.
Another favorite from Arequipa, adobo is a spicy, marinated pork stew. Many people eat this dish for breakfast, typically on Sundays. Traditionally, the marinated pork cooks in a clay pot until it is tender. When visiting Arequipa, head to the top restaurants to try authentic Peruvian adobo at its source.
The word adobo essentially translates to marinade. Many countries like the Philippines, Mexico, and Puerto Rico also have dishes known as adobo. However, the meat and the ingredients used in the marinade vary between countries. In Peru, the meat is always pork and the marinade uses chicha de jora (a fermented corn beverage), aji panca (a smoky chili pepper), and achiote (annatto seeds).
Check out a Peruvian adobo recipe here.
14. Papa a la Huancaina
As you may have noticed, many Peruvian recipes call for aji amarillo, a yellow chili pepper. This pepper has a decent level of spice, but is not overpowering. From sauces to stews, this pepper is a key flavor in Peruvian cuisine. One of the best Peruvian potato dishes, papa a la huancaina, also uses this chili as a key ingredient.
Boiled potatoes are covered in an aji amarillo and cheese sauce known as huancaina. A rather simple dish to make, papa a la huancaina is a favorite summertime snack or side dish with ceviche. Try making this sauce yourself with this simple recipe. Pour it over boiled potatoes and enjoy!
15. Leche de Tigre
One of the best parts about ceviche is the rich marinade that gives the fish its intense flavor. So why not take that marinade and turn it into a snack of its own? Chefs add shrimp, fish, and baked corn kernels to a cocktail glass and top it off with the liquid ceviche marinade to make a dish known as leche de tigre.
Literally translating to “tiger’s milk,” leche de tigre is white, but it is not milk. The color and intense flavor comes from lime juice. Chopped chili peppers, red onion, and cilantro also add to the taste of this Peruvian food.
A popular hangover cure, learn more about leche de tigre here.
Tequeños are among the most popular Peruvian appetizers. Different from the original Venezuelan tequeños, the Peruvian version uses wonton wrappers as the shell and fresh white cheese as the filling. Dip these in guacamole or spicy aji sauce and you will not be disappointed!
The Peruvian version of fish and chips, jalea is one of Peru’s favorite seafood dishes. Try the jalea mixta for a variety of fried fish and seafood or jalea de pescado for just fried fish. Instead of potatoes, most jaleas include fried yuca, also known as cassava.
Jalea typically has salsa criolla on top, a mix of red onion, chili peppers, and cilantro in lime juice. The citrusy, fresh flavor pairs well with the deep-fried fish. Popular along the Peruvian coast, especially in the north, fish and seafood lovers can find this at many restaurants. Alternatively, try this recipe for a rich taste of Peruvian cooking at home.
Alfajores are a rich dessert with manjar blanco, a caramelized cream, stuffed between two shortbread cookies. A sprinkling of powdered sugar on top adds even more sweetness to this delightful cookie.
While alfajores are popular across Latin America, each country adds its own twist that differentiates theirs. Even different cities and regions produce their own cookie sandwich known as alfajor. Dipped in chocolate, topped with shredded coconut, fried, or with a drizzle of honey, there are plenty of variations to discover while exploring South America and especially Peru.
Read more about alfajores here and try making these cookies at home!
19. Mazamorra Morada and Arroz con Leche
Purple corn, a superfood, combines with quince, pineapple, apple skin, cinnamon, cloves, lime juice, and sugar to create a popular beverage known as chicha morada. This liquid is warmed up again, adding cornstarch, dried prunes, apricots, and/or cherries to turn the liquid into a fruit jelly known as mazamorra morada.
Street vendors and restaurants often pair the fruity flavor with a rich, creamy arroz con leche, or rice pudding. Besides white rice, Peruvian rice pudding includes condensed milk, egg yolks, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a little butter. While you can have just one or the other, the combination of mazamorra morada and arroz con leche creates a delectable, unique flavor.
Who knew that a pumpkin and sweet potato could make such a delicious dessert? This Peruvian doughnut is another street-vendor staple that dates far back in Peruvian history. Originally created as a cheaper version of a classic doughnut, picarones have distinguished themselves and garnered popularity of their own.
Do you have a sweet tooth? Discover 15 tasty Peruvian dessert recipes here.
Bonus: Pisco Sour
Finally, every good Peruvian meal should be topped off with a Pisco sour. Pisco, a Peruvian grape brandy, is the key ingredient in this tasty concoction. Mixed with lime juice, egg whites, bitters, and ice cubes, this is the national cocktail of Peru.
Served at all bars and nearly all restaurants, you will have plenty of chances to try this on your next trip. Alternatively, take a look at this Pisco sour recipe and try making it yourself. This rich cocktail is sure to impress!
There are so many more incredible Peruvian foods to discover, from cau cau to chaufa, and juane to papa rellena. Discover even more about food in Peru with our Peruvian food glossary, covering the common cuisines, local ingredients, and even more tasty dishes.
Ready to experience all that Peru has to offer and try these delicious Peruvian foods in their homeland? Chat with an expert Travel Advisor at Peru for Less and start planning your own dream vacation to Peru.
Diego is a Colombian-American who was raised in Morristown, NJ. He started writing short fiction when he was a teenager and has pursued creative writing as a hobby ever since. After working for multiple publications in the U.S., he moved to Peru in January 2012. Since then he’s lived and worked in Trujillo, Cusco and Lima.