The Best Peruvian Foods to Try in Peru

The 15 Best Traditional Peruvian Foods You Have to Try in Peru

Peruvian food is a tempting buffet of contrasts. You’ll find hot and cold, acidic and starchy, delicate and robust, all on your plate at the same time. Thanks to the cuisine’s intense spices and bold flavors, it all balances out, and everything works together to create some seriously unique and delicious dishes!

Just like Peru is home to ancient wonders and remnants of millennia-old civilizations, it also has a rich culinary heritage. The ingredients and cooking methods that go into Peruvian cuisine originate in East Asia, Africa, and Europe. These influences help to create an eclectic gastronomy that’s unlike anywhere else in the world. 

We get that you’ve got a limited time to explore Peru, and you don’t want to waste your time eating anything that’s not delicious. To make sure you treat your taste buds to the yummy dishes they deserve, we’ve put together a list of the 15 best things to eat in Peru. To give you an extra helping hand, we’ve also included our favorite places in the country to try each Peruvian dish!

The Best Peruvian Foods to Try in Peru

1. Get Refreshed with Ceviche in Lima

Traditional Foods to try in Peru: Ceviche

Not only is ceviche Peru’s national dish, but it’s one of the most popular meals in the country. So much so that you’ll find restaurants serving up ceviche all around the world. Peru’s location makes it the ideal place for fresh ceviche. The icy Humboldt Current that flows just off the country’s coast is teeming with an abundance of fish and seafood. 

If you’ve never tried it before, ceviche is made of chunks of raw fish that have been left to marinate in lemon or lime juice. The acid from the citrus fruit “cooks” the fish, making it safe to eat while giving it a slightly chewy consistency and a delicate flavor. 

If you’re feeling brave, you can even drink the leftover citrus marinade. In Peru, it’s known as leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) and features in a number of dishes.

Where to eat ceviche in Lima

For the best ceviche in Peru, visit La Canta Rana in Lima. Hidden away on a side street in the bohemian part of town, this restaurant serves up ceviche that’s so good there are often big lines for a table.


2. Try Cuy Wherever You Can

Must Try Foods in Peru: Cuy

Cuy is one of the most traditional foods in Peru that’s best left to the bravest foodies. While guinea pigs may be popular pets throughout the US, they’re a popular menu item in Peru. You’ll see images and the real thing advertised in almost every Peruvian restaurant you come across.

This classic dish is made by deep-frying, baking, or grilling a guinea pig. The whole thing – head and all – is then served along with whichever side dishes you choose. As you’d imagine, there’s very little meat and quite a lot of bones. But if you can work your way through it, you’ll be treated to a pleasant, subtle flavor that’s similar to rabbit.

Cuy is such an important part of Peruvian cuisine that the cathedral in Cusco features a replica of Da Vinci’s Last Supper with a platter of cuy on the table!

Where to eat cuy in Peru

La Tranquera BBQ is an excellent place in Lima to try cuy. This place serves up every kind of grilled meat you can imagine, including guinea pig. It comes in very large portions (so make sure you go hungry!) along with delicious roasted potatoes.


3. Treat Yourself to Causa Rellena in Cusco

Best Foods to try in Peru: Causa Rellena

Potatoes are a big deal in Peru, and you’ll find them starring in loads of different dishes. One of the more unusual but tasty potato-based meals is causa rellena. This delicacy looks like an individual-sized colorful tower cake stuffed with vegetables, but it tastes phenomenal.

This popular Peruvian food is made by stacking rounds of yellow mashed potatoes with avocado and shredded chicken, tuna, or salmon. The next layer is usually a combination of avocado, hard-boiled eggs, and olives, before the final topping of another mashed potato round is added.

A lot of work goes into the mashed potatoes. To make them, local potatoes are combined with lime, oil, and a spicy yellow aji sauce. It tastes superb! This dish is traditionally served cold. Don’t be put off by the thought of cold mashed potatoes. The extra flavorings and spices make it work. If you’re looking for unique Peruvian food to try on your next trip, give causa rellena a try!

Where to eat causa rellena in Cusco

Morena Peruvian Kitchen in Cusco dishes up an amazing causa rellena. Here it’s served with potatoes, shredded chicken, homemade garlic mayonnaise, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, tomato, peppers, olives, and a cheesy sauce.

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4. Indugle in Papas A La Huancaína in Lima

Traditional Foods to try in Peru: Papas A La Huancaína

Papas a la huancaína is another one of the best traditional foods in Peru. It looks a little strange, but the most delicious comfort foods rarely look pretty. This local staple is made by topping thick slices of boiled yellow potatoes in a rich and creamy cheese sauce.

The sauce is made by mixing together queso fresco, yellow aji peppers, garlic, evaporated milk, and lime juice. The whole thing is then topped with a hard- or soft-boiled egg before being served.

Despite the simplicity of the dish, the flavor profile is superb. It’s got sharpness from the queso fresco, tanginess from the lime, earthiness from the potatoes, and a subtle spiciness from the peppers. It makes a great side dish or a filling appetizer.

Where to eat papas a la huancaína in Lima

El Bodegon de Miraflores is one of the best places in Lima to try papas a la huancaína. Here it’s served as an appetizer and the sauce is packed with flavor. There are loads of other great Peruvian dishes to try on the menu, too.


5. Sample Lomo Saltado in Nazca

Must Try Foods in Peru: Lomo Saltado

As one of the most famous foods in Peru, you’ve absolutely got to try lomo saltado when you’re in Peru. This local dish was brought to the country by Chinese immigrants centuries before Asian fusion cuisine became a thing. It’s similar to beef stir-fry but has a unique Peruvian twist as it uses local ingredients.

Lomo saltado is made by marinating tender strips of beef in soy sauce, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. The meat and veggies are quickly fried before being dished up and served with white rice or fries. The flavor is incredibly intense and rich, making a simple side dish the perfect accompaniment.

This traditional dish is almost always made using beef. But you’ll sometimes come across an innovative restaurant putting a creative twist on it and making it with alpaca meat!

Where to eat lomo saltado in Nazca

Mamashana Cafe Restaurante in Nazca is where we’ve had some of the finest lomo saltado in all of Peru. Here you’ll be treated to incredibly tender and juicy beef with onions, tomatoes, and aji peppers. The whole thing is cooked in a wok and served with rice and fries.


6. Snack on Chicharrón in Lima

Best Foods to try in Peru: Chicharrón

Chicharrón is one of the unhealthiest but most delicious dishes there is in Peru! A popular Peruvian food, chicharrón is similar to a pork rind, but it’s fresh, juicy, and incredibly moreish. The smell of chicharrónes cooking in pork fat will make you drool instantly.

Chicharrónes are often served as street food either on their own or as part of a sandwich with some potato slices and a salsa-like sauce. Locals typically eat the dish for breakfast, but you’ll find it available from many street food stalls and casual fast-food restaurants throughout the day.

Where to eat chicharrón in Lima

Lima is full of street food carts selling chicharrónes. Simply follow your nose and you’ll find one. Bonus points if the cart has a line – that’s when you know the chicharrón is good.

El Chinito in Lima is where we had some of the best chicharrónes. Here they’re served as part of a sandwich on a super-soft bun. If you fall in love with the stuff, you can even order up to 2.2 pounds of just chicharrón!

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7. Try Arroz Con Pato in Chiclayo

Best Foods to try in Peru: Arroz Con Pato

Arroz con pato (rice with duck) sounds like a super simple dish – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This popular Peruvian food is bursting with layers of flavor and all kinds of wonderful textures.

The white rice is enhanced with cilantro paste, dark beer, and various herbs to give it an intense earthy flavor. It acts as the bed for an amazing roasted duck leg or thigh with crispy brown skin. Some upmarket places even top their rice with delicious duck confit. 

Despite being rather fancy, arroz con pato is served at the dinner table in homes throughout the country. You’ll also find it in all kinds of restaurants, from cheap and cheerful places to fine dining spots.

Where to eat arroz con pato in Chiclayo

Restaurante Fiesta Gourmet in Chiclayo is one of the best places to try arroz con pato when you’re in the mood to treat yourself. This top-end eatery makes the dish with a special breed of duck which is slow cooked until the meat is wonderfully tender. It’s then placed on top of coriander-flavored Moro rice before being served. 


8. Indulge in Aji De Gallina in Lima

Unique Foods to try in Peru: Aji De Gallina

Aji de gallina, sometimes called “creamy chicken” in English, is a wonderfully mild and comforting dish. It’s a type of velvety stew made with slow-cooked chicken that’s shredded and then simmered in a rich sauce based on condensed milk, ground walnuts, and cheese. 

White bread is used to thicken the sauce, and yellow aji pepper creates the instantly-recognizable bright color. If your mission is to sample all of the most traditional foods in Peru, you’ll definitely want to add this indulgent dish to your foodie bucket list!

The thick, hearty stew is often placed on top of a combination of white rice, boiled potatoes, and black olives. The creaminess of the chicken, the gentle heat of the aji peppers, the starchiness of the rice and potatoes, and the bitterness of the olives all work together to create a remarkably well-rounded dish.

Where to eat aji de gallina in Lima

We’ve had some of the most delicious aji de gallina from El Rincón Que No Conoces in Lima. Every Thursday, the restaurant makes a decadent aji de gallina enhanced with parmesan, hard-boiled eggs, olives, and pecans. On Wednesdays, the restaurant also replaces the chicken with duck and serves pato al aji.


9. Taste Pollo A La Brasa in Cusco

What to eat in Peru: Pollo A La Brasa

Pollo a la brasa translates into English as “roasted chicken,” which may not sound that exciting. But Peruvian pollo a la brasa isn’t any old roasted chicken. This local delicacy is one of the best Peruvian dishes, and it’s so distinctive and flavorful that you’ll find it served all over the world.

The secret to Peruvian roasted chicken is to marinate the bird in a combination of soy sauce, red peppers, cumin, and garlic. This gives the skin and meat a sensational smoky, salty flavor. Throughout the rest of the world, you’ll find it served with fries. But in Peru, it’s usually accompanied by sweet fried yuca.

Where to eat pollo a la brasa in Cusco

If you’re in Cusco, you’ve got to try the pollo a la brasa from Los Toldos Chicken. Here they make their Peruvian chicken rotisserie-style and smoke it over eucalyptus leaves. You can order a whole, half, or even just a quarter of a chicken, making it a great place to stop, however hungry you are.

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10. Hunt Down Picarones in Miraflores

Best Foods to try in Peru: Picarones

If you need a boost of energy while sightseeing, be on the lookout for a street food stall that serves picarones – one of the best Peruvian desserts you simply have to try. This wonderfully sweet snack is a type of soft, deep-fried beignet that’s drenched in a sugary syrup. 

Instead of being made with flour and eggs like you’d expect them to be, this unique dish is made by combining sweet potatoes and local squash. The two veggies are boiled until they’re soft, and then they’re mashed together to make the beginnings of a silky batter. Flour, yeast, and sugar are added before the dough is left to rise. 

The best thing about picarones is that you get to watch people make them in front of you. It’s amazing to see the talented vendors quickly and easily form the donut and toss it into the bubbling oil until it becomes crispy and golden brown.

Where to eat picarones in Lima

You’ll get the best picarones from the street food stalls in Lima and the Miraflores area of Kennedy Park. Picarones Mary is our favorite. This simple kiosk in Lima’s Santiago de Surco district serves up the richest and sweetest picarones in all of Peru.


11. Test Your Limits with Anticuchos in Lima

Unique Foods to try in Peru: Anticuchos

Arguably one of the most famous foods in Peru, anticuchos are big chunks of marinated meat pierced onto skewers. They’re similar to shish kebabs and they’re served all over Peru. You’ll find them on the appetizer menu in gourmet restaurants as well as smothered in garlic sauce from street food stalls.

Pretty much any type of meat can be prepared this way – beef, lamb, pork, chicken, etc. But the most traditional and popular anticuchos are made with beef hearts and are known as anticuchos de corazón.

Don’t be deterred by the idea of eating beef hearts. They’re incredibly lean (even more so than filet mignon) and have a deeper, beefier flavor than regular steak. They taste amazing when they’re cooked over an open flame like they are for anticuchos!

Where to eat anticuchos in Lima

Tio Mario in Lima specializes in anticuchos, making it a must-visit during your trip. Here you’ll find all kinds of anticuchos, including the ubiquitous ones made with beef heart. The restaurant offers up plenty of other local dishes to try, too.


12. Sample Alpaca in Cusco

Must Try Foods in Peru: Alpaca

An alpaca is a type of South American creature that looks very similar to a llama. In the Northern Hemisphere, the animals produce luxurious wool to make fancy sweaters. But in the Southern Hemisphere, they’ve been an excellent source of meat for centuries.

Alpaca meat tastes similar to lean, grass-fed beef, but it’s a little grainer. Because it’s so low in fat, alpaca meat is also regularly used for making fantastic jerky. Jerky was actually invented by indigenous people in the Andes mountains, making Peru an excellent place to try it!

As well as jerky, there are many different ways to try alpaca. It can be served as a steak with various sides and starches, breaded and deep-fried with potato salad, or used to make anticuchos dressed in fresh lemon juice.

Where to eat alpaca in Cusco

Alpaca meat isn’t widely available. The best place to find it is in Cusco at Pachapapa. This quaint restaurant serves up delicate, smoky anticuchos made with alpaca meat. There’s also live music most nights. 

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13. Snack on Fried Yuca Everywhere

Best Foods to try in Peru: Fried Yuca

When it comes to Peruvian foods, fried yuca is one of the best appetizers or snacks you can order in Peru. The yuca root is similar to a regular potato, but it’s got a delicate nutty flavor and is slightly sweeter – although not as sweet as sweet potatoes. Fried yuca is a lot like regular fries, just with a bit more flavor. 

When you order fried yuca from a cafe or restaurant, it will usually be served with a selection of dipping sauces from the local area. You’ll be presented with a fantastic choice of cheesy, spicy, tangy, sweet, creamy, and mild sauces for dipping, so you’re guaranteed to find one you like!

Where to eat fried yuca in Peru

Fried yuca is a staple that you’ll see on almost every cafe and restaurant menu throughout the country. If you’re treating yourself to a meal at Panchita in Lima, we definitely recommend ordering it as a side dish. The yuca roots are really chunky and fried until they’re wonderfully crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.


14. Get Your Fill of Rocoto Relleno in Arequipa

Traditional Foods to try in Peru: Rocoto Relleno

One of the more famous foods in Peru, rocoto relleno (spicy stuffed peppers) is most commonly found in Arequipa, the second-largest city in Peru, but they’re so popular throughout the country that they appear in restaurants in many other towns and cities, too.

The peppers may look similar to standard red bell peppers, but they’re actually fiery capsicum pubescens. These are 10 times as hot as jalapeños when eaten raw but much more manageable when they’re cooked like they are for rocoto relleno.

Each pepper is stuffed with a mixture of spiced ground beef, onions, garlic, raisins, olives, herbs, and spices. The whole thing is topped with queso fresco before being baked in a milky egg sauce. The heat from the peppers is perfectly balanced out with the sweet-savory filling and queso fresco.

Where to eat rocoto relleno in Arequipa

If you’re in Arequipa, you’ve got to try rocoto relleno from Picantería La Capitana. This local restaurant serves a flavor-packed rocoto relleno bursting with melted cheese. It’s also got great prices, making it a fantastic choice if you’re on a budget.


15. Dine on Arroz Mariscos in Lima

Peru Foods to try list: Arroz Mariscos

If you’re a fan of seafood, you’ll fall in love with arroz mariscos, which is one of the most traditional foods in Peru. Similar to the paella you get throughout Spain, arroz mariscos is a combination of spiced rice and all kinds of wonderfully fresh seafood. 

The long-grain rice absorbs all the delicate flavors from the scallops, mussels, shrimp, squid, yellow aji pepper, and tomato paste, making it delicious on its own. The many different ingredients also create a world of textures – no two mouthfuls are ever the same!

To finish it off, arroz mariscos is topped with some grated parmesan cheese. It may sound a bit strange to top a dish like this off with Italian cheese, but it’s only a sprinkling and it just works! 

Where to eat arroz mariscos in Lima

Restaurante Moche is an excellent place to go if you’re in Lima. Here you’ll find all kinds of traditional local seafood dishes, including arroz mariscos, which contains more delicious seafood than you could ever eat. If you’ve got a fridge in your hotel room, it’s definitely worth asking for a doggy bag to take back with you!

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There you have it! The 15 best Peruvian dishes you have to try on your trip to Peru. Did we miss any traditional foods in Peru? 


Planning a trip to Peru? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!


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