Peru is most known for its Incan ruins and the beauty of the Andes, but the country’s varied cuisine should also be a main attraction. Seafood plays an important role, but locals also eat plenty of beef, pork, chicken, and even guinea pig. Other staples include potatoes (regular and sweet), quinoa, corn, squash, avocado, peppers, passionfruit, papaya, and many other regional fruits and vegetables.
Click here to see the 8 Dishes to Try in Peru (Slideshow)
If visiting Peru, it’s also worth remembering, that different regions of the country all have their own typical cuisine. Each region offers different tastes, based on climate, available produce, and local culture. The mountainous regions rely on hearty soups to warm them on cold nights, while the coastal areas serve up the bounty of the oceans.
In the capital, Lima, ceviche — citrus marinated raw fish or seafood — is a popular dish that can be found on most restaurant menus. If visiting the Andean region of Peru, you might want to try a freshly caught trout, seasoned with salt and pepper, roasted whole, then served with a wedge of lime. Or maybe seek out some of Peru’s “fusion fare,” like chifa, the Peruvian take on Chinese food, which you can taste with dishes such as lomo saltado, in which strips of beef are stir-fried with soy sauce, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and served with rice and French fries.
Regardless of which part of Peru you visit, there will most certainly be a dish (or two) that you should try. To see seven must-eat dishes (and one drink) for your next trip to Peru, click through our slideshow.
12 Traditional Peruvian Foods You Must Try!
Peruvian food (or comida Peruana) is one of the most underrated cuisines in the world in my opinion. There is just so much to explore and try!
Rich in history and culture, authentic Peruvian dishes all have amazingly interesting backgrounds that make them what they are.
Throughout the 20th century, various different cultures brought over their cooking styles, which made Peruvian food the melting pot that it is today.
From the indigenous Inca&rsquos to the Spanish, Germans, Italians, Chinese, Japanese and West Africans. Peruvian food is one giant mixture of influences from different cultures.
All across Peru the styles of dishes change from region to region. Climate plays a big role as it determines what foods are available.
This list is an absolute must-try collection of dishes to eat when visiting Peru and exploring the famous cuisine.
There are so many to try but the below are the most famous, authentic, traditional Peruvian dishes that I recommend on your next trip to Peru.
Traditional Peruvian Dishes
1. Aji de Gallina (Peruvian Chicken Stew)
Aji de Gallina is a Peruvian stew made with chicken and cooked with yellow chili peppers, walnuts, garlic, turmeric, and other spices. The dish traditionally comes with half a hard-boiled egg.
The Aji de Gallina was believed to be introduced to Peru in the 16th century by the African slaves. Now it has become a staple dish in Peruvian cuisine.
At first glance, you might think this dish is packed with flavors. Actually, the taste is quite mild. The yellow chili peppers are not as spicy as you think they are. The flavors are just enough and not so salty that you have to drink glasses of water afterward.
Where can you find Aji de Gallina?
Most of the restaurants will have Aji de Gallina on their menu. But if you are trying to get it cheaply through “menu del dia” (menu of the day, usually with drinks and soup included), you may have to look around.
Generally, Cusco has some of the best Aji de Gallina. My favorite was from a restaurant in Cusco named Pachapapa!!
Address: Carmen Bajo 120, Cusco 08003, Peru
Hours:11 AM – 11 PM Daily
2. Alpaca Meat, An Exotic Traditional Peruvian Food
Yes! You can eat alpaca meat in Peru.
Those cute little animals running around the city of Cusco and in the Andean mountains are actually traditional Peruvian food. Some of you are probably thinking “alpacas are too cute to eat” but they are also extremely delicious. Sorry not sorry!
Like beef steaks, there are different parts of the alpaca that will have different tenderness and taste. A good alpaca meat/steak is tastier than some of the best steaks I have ever had!
Where can you find alpaca meat?
The only city in Peru that I encountered alpaca meat was in Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incas. Many restaurants will offer grilled alpaca (Alpaca a La Plancha) but those are usually bad cuts and aren’t as tasty. The best alpaca meat I had in Peru was at Pachapapa in Cusco.
The alpaca skewers at Pachapapa was nearly orgasmic!
Alpaca meat is a dish you MUST try in Peru when you visit Cusco!
Address: Carmen Bajo 120, Cusco 08003, Peru
Hours:11 AM – 11 PM Daily
3. Anticuchos, The Strange Peruvian Street Food
At first glance, Anticuchos looks like your typical shish kebab or just your regular skewers. While that is true, they are not your typical chicken or beef. Anticuchos are typically made with the heart or the liver of a cow.
I still remember ordering it for the first time and getting really excited for some beef skewers. But when I bit into it, I knew something was off completely. The tenderness and the taste were nothing like what I was expecting. It felt like I was eating street food in Southeast Asia again.
Even if you are not into that type of stuff, Anticucho is a Peruvian street food you must try. It originated from the Andes part of the region and has been a traditional food for a very long time.
Where can you find Anticuchos?
You can find Anticuchos easily on the street. Anticuchos are very common street food in Peru. Just make sure you pick the street cart with more people so you know the meats are a little fresher.
Make sure your meats are cooked thoroughly, or you might end up in the hospital with typhoid fever or salmonella!
4. Arroz Con Pato (Rice With Duck)
Arroz con Pato (Rice with Duck), is a traditional Peruvian dish from a city in Northern Peru called Chiclayo. Over time, this dish has become so popular that you can find it almost everywhere in Peru.
Ducks have always been a native species in Peru. With the arrival of new ingredients such as rice, onions, and cilantro, all of these ingredients are cooked with the duck to create a rich flavor.
The original Arroz con Pato can be easily found in Chiclayo, where the rice is green due to the spinach and cilantro they put in it.
Where can you find Arroz con Pato?
If you want to find the traditional Arroz con Pato, you will have to go to Chiclayo. The only problem is that Chiclayo is off the tourist path and there is not much to do there.
Lima, the gastronomical capital of Peru, has some amazing Arroz con Pato as well. If you decide to try Arroz con Pato in Lima, you have to go to Fiesta Restaurant Gourmet!
Address: Av. Reducto 1278, Miraflores 15074, Peru
Hours: 12:30 PM – 12 AM Daily EXCEPT Sunday. Sunday they are closed.
5. Caldo de Gallina (Hen Soup)
Caldo de Gallina, or Hen Soup, is one of the oldest traditional foods in Peru.
The traditional soup consists of hen (not chicken), noodles, eggs, different types of potatoes (Peru has over 3,000 types of potatoes), and Chinese onions. The hen is usually cooked in the soup for hours so the flavors of the hen can come out.
Keep in mind that you can also get Caldo de Pollo, which is chicken soup. You might think they are the same thing but it is not. Hens are kept in the wild and eat everything organic, chickens are not. As a result, the meat of the hens will be much tougher and tastier.
Where can you find Caldo de Gallina?
You can find Caldo de Gallina throughout the entire country. It is a very popular dish. However, my recommendation is to eat it in Cusco because Cusco is really cold. The warmth of the soup and the flavor of the hen will be the perfect dinner after doing the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu or other hikes in Peru.
6. Causa Rellena
The Causa Rellena is a unique traditional dish with lots of history from Peru. On the surface, it looks like a cake stuffed with vegetables, kind of like a healthy dessert that your parents tricked you into eating when you were a kid.
In reality, it is a dish made with two slices of fried potatoes with different kinds of ingredients stuffed in the middle. The filling in the middle can be a permutation of chicken, salad, or seafood.
In English, Causa Rellena translates to a stuffed cause. This translation literally does not make any sense unless you know the history behind it.
Back in the Pacific war, Peru was fighting Chile alongside Bolivia. When supplies and food came short during the war, the women would go around villages asking for whatever they could get.
With more than 3,000 types of potatoes in Peru, it wouldn’t surprise you that they were able to gather some potatoes and vegetables such as corn, cabbage, and carrots.
With all the ingredients, the women made what is today known as the Causa Rellena for the soldiers. And when the women were handing the “stuffed causes” to the tired soldiers, they would say “This is for the cause”. Hence, the name Causa Rellena was born.
Where can you find Causa Rellena?
Causa Rellena can be found throughout all of Peru, but Lima definitely has some of the best I have ever tried.
Punto Azul in the beautiful and safe neighborhood of Miraflores is the restaurant to go to if you are in Lima. Not only does Punto Azul have some killer Causa Rellenas, but it also has some of the best Peruvian ceviches!
Address: Calle San Martin 595, Miraflores 15074, Peru
Hours: Sunday: 11 AM – 5 PM | Monday: 6 PM – 12 AM | Tuesday to Saturday: 11 AM – 12 AM
7. Charqui (Dried Alpaca or Llama Jerky)
If you thought you were done with alpaca meat, then you are wrong. Charqui or Ch’arki in the indigenous language in Peru is alpaca, llama or a mixed jerky.
Do I need to say anymore? This is one of the most authentic Peruvian snacks to try! You can even take some with you back home or for your Machu Picchu hike!
Where can you find Charqui?
Charqui is going to be hard to find if you are not looking for it. It won’t be in restaurants, stores on anything like that. Your best bet is the mercados or markets around town. You can try finding it in the Mercado Central de San Pedro in Cusco.
Address: Tupac Amaru, Cusco 08003, Peru
Hours: 9 AM – 6 PM Daily
8. Chicharró n , A Delicious But Unhealthy Food You Must Try in Peru
Chicharrón is a classic dish made of fried pork belly or pork rinds. This is probably the dish you want to stay away from if you have any sort of heart problems. It is no joke how unhealthy but tasty this dish is.
In Peru, you can often find street carts selling Chicharrón, either just the meat or in a sandwich. You can usually tell when you start to smell it from a street away. When the pork is fried in its own fat, the smell will have you salivating before you even see it.
But in my opinion, chicharrón definitely smells better than it tastes. But don’t let that discourage you, you must try this food in Peru at least once.
Where can you find Chicharrón?
Typically the street carts will sell some decent quality Chicharrón. But if you are looking for some of the best ones I have ever tasted, you have to go to a place called El Chinito in Lima. They have some amazing Chicharrón (sandwiches).
Address: Av. Almte. Miguel Grau 150, Barranco 15063, Peru
Hours: 9 AM – 12 AM Tuesdays to Thursday | 9 AM – 3 AM Friday, Saturday | 9 AM – 1 AM Sunday | Closed Monday
9. Cuy (Guinea Pig), One of The Classic Peruvian Dishes
Cuy, or guinea pig, is probably the most famous Peruvian food. Unlike the name suggests, guinea pigs are not actually pigs. They are rodents like rats and hamsters.
Cuy has been a Peruvian delicacy way before the Incans or the Spanish came around. They were more than the typical livestock such as cows or pigs because they were much easier to breed and more nutritious.
Where can you find Cuy?
Cuy is one of the most popular dishes in the Andes. For that reason, the city of Cusco will have some of the best Cuys you will ever find. The best place I had it was at Pachapapa in Cusco. They also have some of the best Aji de Gallina and Alpaca meat.
Address: Carmen Bajo 120, Cusco 08003, Peru
Hours:11 AM – 11 PM Daily
10. Leche de Tigre (Tiger’s Milk)
Leche de Tigre, or tiger’s milk, is commonly confused as the leftover juice to Peruvian ceviche. However, that is not entirely accurate.
Leche de Tigre is prepared beforehand using a fish stock made with actual fish, a lot of lemon juice, salt, and pepper to give it some spice. The resulting juice itself is sometimes consumed straight or sometimes used as a sauce for ceviche or other kinds of seafood.
Many Peruvians believe that the Leche de Tigre is a restorative drink, a drink that will give strength back to the user. Some also believe that it is an aphrodisiac.
Where can you find Leche de Tigre?
Lima! Lima! Lima! You should only try Leche de Tigre from Lima. It has some of the freshest seafood in all of Peru. Go to Astrid & Gaston and you won’t be disappointed.
Address: Avenida Paz Soldan 290 Av. Paz Soldán 290, San Isidro, Lima, Lima 15073, Peru
Hours: 1 PM – 3 PM, 7 PM – 11 PM Monday to Saturday | 12:30 PM – 3:30 PM Sunday
11. Lomo Saltado, One of The Most Popular Foods in Peru
Lomo Saltado is a local Peruvian dish that many Peruvians enjoy daily. It is usually made with marinated beef strips, onions, peppers, cilantro, tomatoes, and other ingredients.
From the photo, it might look like the typical stir-fry beef that you get at a Chines takeout. In fact, there is some truth to that. Lomo Saltado originates from “chifa” traditions, or the Chinese part of Peruvian cuisine.
Unlike typical stir-fry which is just rice and beef with vegetables, Lomo Saltado comes with fries. The potato fries are the Peruvian influence on the Chinese stir-fry, hence the name “chifa”.
This is the dish you want to try if you are “playing it safe.”
Where can you find Lomo Saltado?
Literally everywhere!! Lomo Saltado is so popular that you will often find it as a menu of the day option.
12. Papa a la Huancaina, The Classic Peruvian Appetizer
Papa a la Huancaina is a popular Peruvian appetizer that originates from Lima. The potatoes are boiled and served with a creamy and spicy yellow sauce made from chili peppers. The yellow sauce is called Huancaina, hence the name Papa a la Huancaina.
It is also one of the few vegetarian Peruvian foods.
Where can you find Papa a la Huancaina?
Pretty much everywhere in Peru. They can be found easily as appetizers in restaurants that have a menu of the day!
13. Peruvian Ceviche, Peru’s National Food
Peruvian ceviche is the national dish of Peru. It is the one dish you must try when you visit this gastronomically diverse country. In fact, many travelers come from all over the world just to get their hands on some of the freshest Peruvian ceviches.
But what exactly is ceviche (sometimes called cebiche), and is it safe to eat? The answer is YES.
Ceviche’s most important ingredient is the fish, followed by the quality of the lemon. The lemon in Peru is unique to the region and much more suitable for making ceviche than any other lemons. The acidity of the lemon juice actually cooks the fish, killing all the harmful parasites and bacteria.
That is how strong Peruvian lemons are!
Combined with other fresh ingredients such as red onion and cilantro, the Peruvian ceviche gives off a flavor that is unique in its own ways. Traditionally, it is made with chili peppers to give it some spice, making the Peruvian ceviche much different than any other ceviche.
Where can you find Peruvian Ceviche?
Peruvian ceviche requires some of the freshest fish, so it would make sense that the coastal city of Lima has some of the best ceviches. Even though you can find ceviche in places like Cusco, the fish they use is trout.
Trout is not a fatty fish and contains many bones, making trout ceviche one of the worst dishes I have ever tried in Peru.
Trying Peruvian ceviche doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. There are many good and affordable places for Peruvian ceviche in Lima. My favorite place is definitely Punto Azul in Miraflores.
Address: Calle San Martin 595, Miraflores 15074, Peru
Hours: Sunday: 11 AM – 5 PM | Monday: 6 PM – 12 AM | Tuesday to Saturday: 11 AM – 12 AM
14. Pollo a la Brasa (Rotisserie Chicken)
Pollo a la Brasa (sometimes referred to as Peruvian chicken) is simply known as rotisserie chicken in the United States. It is a dish that originates from Peru and was only served in high-end restaurants back then. Nowadays, it is one of the cheapest and most consumed classic Peruvian dishes.
Where can you find Polla a la Brasa?
You can find Polla a la Brasa pretty much everywhere in Peru. They are so common that you will see them being roasted as you stroll down the streets of Lima or Cusco.
15. Roccoto Relleno, The Most Spicy Food in Peru
Rocoto Relleno, or stuffed pepper in English, might look like the typical stuffed pepper that you can find in other countries. But don’t be fooled by its innocent appearance.
Is Peruvian food spicy? A rocoto pepper is a least 10 times spicier than a jalapeño when raw. If you like spicy food, then this is the one food you must try in Peru. If you can’t handle it, my advice is to stay away from it.
Rocoto Relleno is stuffed with minced meat among other ingredients and then topped with melted cheese. The taste is great if you can handle the spiciness.
Where can you find Rocoto Relleno?
Rocoto Relleno is popular in the city of Arequipa, a city one-night bus away from Lima or Cusco. Arequipa has many local restaurants known as Picanterias. My favorite one to try Rocoto Relleno is Picantaria La Capitana.
Address: Calle Los Arces 209, Urbanización, Cayma 04014, Peru
Hours:12 PM – 5:30 PM Daily EXCEPT Thursday when it’s CLOSED
Tiraditos look like the Peruvian form of sashimi from Japan. In fact, tiraditos are what many considered to be a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian food.
It combines the sashimi from Japan and the tiradito sauce from Peru. The tiradito sauce is a spicy sauce usually made from a mixture of lemon juice, various seasonings, peppers, and sometimes even rocoto.
Like ceviche, the main ingredient is raw fish. The difference between the tiraditos and the ceviche is that ceviche is submerged in the sauce before it is served. Tiraditos are not.
The sauce of tiraditos is poured on top right before it is served, therefore the fish is still uncooked. You can taste the freshness of the fish much better in tiraditos than ceviches.
Where can you find Tiraditos?
The city of Lima has some of the best tiraditos due to its geographical location on the coast. Many seafood restaurants will serve a fairly decent tiradito but I had my favorite tiraditos at La Mar.
Address: Av. Mariscal La Mar 770, Miraflores 15074, Peru
Hours:12 PM – 5:30 PM Friday to Sunday | 12 PM – 5 PM Monday to Thursday
17. Trucha Frita (Fried Trout)
Trucha Frita (fried trout) is a typical cuisine in the Andes of Peru.
The Andes mountains provide freshwater resources where trouts can easily reproduce. Many cities up in the Andes (such as Puno) will have trout farms. If you are lucky enough, you can even catch your own trout at one of these trout farms and have it cooked in front of you.
Peru is one of the largest exporters of rainbow trouts. They have shipped trouts all over the world including the United States, Europe, and many other countries. Trouts in Peru are considered some of the best trouts in the entire world. So don’t forget to try this dish when you are in Peru.
Where can you find Trucha Frita?
Trucha Frita can be easily found throughout all of Peru, but I recommend eating at places closer to the Andes Mountains. Cities like Puno and Cusco will have some of the freshest truchas you will ever encounter.
Trucha Fritas are usually offered as one of the options for the menu of the day. These restaurants can be found easily throughout the cities.
What Does Cuy Taste Like?
Most people agree that cuy is actually delicious and tastes a little like chicken. This is probably why it&rsquos such a popular dish throughout South America.
According to Eatperu.com Cuy has a deeper, fattier flavor than chicken, with a gamier taste.
Interested in trying cuy yourself? We have two real authentic recipes for cuy: Cuy Al Horno and Cuy Chactado. Have a go and let us know what you think!
Lomo saltado is essentially a beef stir-fry with a Peruvian twist. This national favorite brings together chunks of tender steak, tomato, onion, and aji amarillo (a flavorsome Peruvian chile) that’s all flash-fried in soy sauce. Rather than served over rice, this stir fry comes with potato or cassava fries and a fried egg on top. The notable Chinese influence in Peruvian cuisine is evident in this dish, and it’s part of the Chinese-Peruvian food tradition known locally as chifa. Lomo saltado is a hearty lunchtime staple on many Peruvian tables. Look for it on cheap menu-of-the-day specials at restaurants across Peru.
Cuy - a Traditional Andean Entree
Travel in the highlands of Inca country, and you're likely to be offered cuy, a traditional Andean entree, on the menu.
Cuy, alternately called Cobayo or conejillo de indias is a guinea pig or cavy. The taste is compared to rabbit. Though difficult to accept for people in other countries who regard guinea pigs as pets, the cuy is a staple of Andean cuisine. They are called "cuy" for the sound they make cuy, cuy.
The cuy has a place in pre-Colombian Inca tradition. Consumed only by the nobility or used as a sacrifice and a means of foretelling the future via the entrails, there is a long history of the guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) in South America. Cuys are today raised commercially and form a nutritious part of the Andean diet. An important part of the Novoandina cuisine, cuys are prepared in various ways according to region, but in Peru, they are usually served with potatoes or rice and a savory, spicy sauce. In the Huancayo region, the cuy is preferred fried with a sauce of pepper and achiote. In Arequipa, it is prepared baked as cuy chaktado and in Cuzco, it is baked whole, as a small suckling pig, with a hot pepper in its mouth. In Huanuco, Tacna, and Cajamarca, the preference is also for fried cuy. Cuy is also popular in Bolivia, Argentina, and other South American countries where regional cuisine flavors the preparation.
Cuys are available in the markets, already skinned and cleaned, but many recipes begin with instructions to skin the cuy in hot water, then remove the internal organs and cleanse well in salted water. Following this, hang the cuy to drain and dry. Since cuys are small, recipes call for one per person, unless the meat is cut into smaller portions. Most often, the cuy is split apart and cooked whole, with the head still attached.
7. Sichuan hot pot
The best way to describe Sichuan hot pot? Fiery. Hot pot works like this: Bowls of deep, red, steaming, bubbling broth infused with whole dried Sichuan red chiles and peppercorns are heated by a hot plate. Raw dishes from tofu, to thin slices of beef, to vegetables like bean sprouts and bok choy are brought out to accompany the soupy mixture. Hot pot is a communal, self-service meal, and diners are required to dunk their sides of choice into the broth until each one is cooked through.
This is the type of heat that will make your eyes water, your mouth burn, and your forehead sweat, but it’s well worth fighting through the pain. If you need more evidence that Sichuan hot pot is the apex of spicy cuisine the world over, just watch Anthony Bourdain force his friend, French chef Eric Ripert, to eat so much of it he nearly passes out.
Gan guo is the “dry pot” version — a “numbing” mix of stir-fried spicy vegetables flavored with peppercorns and chili flakes — without the soup base.
Our 16 Favorite International Potato Recipes
With coronavirus making travel a tricky and even potentially dangerous prospect this year, we’re embracing the summer staycation. All week (and all summer) long, we’ll bring you transportive flavors and travel-inspired ideas from around the world, so you can take your tastebuds on a trip and give your mind a mini vacation while you’re still at home. Here, our favorite ways the world prepares potatoes.
Potatoes are famously versatile, and beloved around the globe in many different forms. Keto eaters will have to look away, but for the rest of us, these international potato recipes should provide some delicious dinner inspiration—not just on National Potato Day (mark your calendars for August 19), but all year round.
We didn’t include any all-American potato dishes on this list because, well, there are simply too many to choose from (and they get enough press as it is)—but suffice it to say, there are many more things to make from potatoes besides fries, tots, hash browns, baked potatoes, and pillowy mounds of mash.
Here are just some of the ways the rest of the world makes potatoes.
India: Aloo Gobi
Potato samosas are one of the best Indian ways to enjoy your spuds, but this warmly spiced dish is also tops (and doesn’t require any deep frying or dough making). The potatoes join forces with cauliflower for a great one-pan vegetarian dinner serve with rice, naan, or roti—and raita if you wish. Get our Aloo Gobi recipe.
15 Must Try Street Foods in Latin America
Before travelling to South America, I read at least half dozen reports advising against eating street food. This little snippet of information escaped my memory in just my second week of travelling. I found myself in the run-down and dusty village of Quijarro on the border of Brazil and Bolivia, and the smell of soup that steamed the air was just too tempting not to try – and it looked delicious too.
It was only when I was half way through slurping up hefty chunks of vegetables and chicken broth that the sound-bites of travel advice came flooding back to me – and I was suddenly concerned what water had been used. Ahead of a 16 hour train journey, known colloquially as “The Death Train,” I was naturally concerned for my guts and potentially embarrassing bowel movements. As it turned out, I had no need to worry – and neither do you! Eating street food in Latin America is mostly safe and a very enjoyable experience, not just for the delicious flavours, but because of the local people you meet along the way. So here are my top 15 best cheap street platters you should try whilst travelling around Latin America on a budget.
1. Carne y patata kebab – Peru
As night draws in on the streets of Peru, you will find indigenous women stood in a plume of smoke searing chunks of meat on an Andean hotplate. The meat is an Andean delicacy known as anticucho, and for 4 soles ($1.59), this is going to be the best value for money meal you will find anywhere in South America. Served on a kebab skewer, you get four chunks of cow´s heart and intestines with a baked potato pinned on top. You´ll probably need two to fill you, but once you’ve had one, you know you´ll get a second one just for the taste.
2. Pastel – Brazil
For R$2 ($1.09USD), you won´t find a cheaper meal in Brazil than pastel. Eating out is more expensive than you would imagine in the biggest country of Latin America, though in the south you do get portions that justify the cost. Street food, though, is affordable and there is plenty of it, though one of the best is undoubtedly pastel, a thin crispy pastry stuffed with an assortment of fillings. The most common flavours are melted cheese and meat with a boiled egg, although the shrimp (camarao) is also very tasty.
3. Chorizo – Argentina
In meat loving Argentina, there´s barely a fish in sight – especially on the street. But there is no shortage of meat snacks such as the Argentinean favourite, Chorizo, the King of Sausages. These thick pork sausages are a sense of national pride, and Argentineans recommend their prized asset to all-comers. Grilled on a parilla, a sort of barbecue griddle, they smell delicious and taste even better. You´ll know you´re in eating distance of one as you will be drawn to the mouth-watering smell of barbecued pig flesh and a plume of smoke billowing into the air like a burning thatched roof. For around $1.50 pesos (.35USD), depending on the city, it´s a great value for money meal, and you will be hooked on Argentina´s best loved street food.
4. Empanadas – Argentina
Whilst in Argentina, somebody told me they could live off empanadas. It´s a possibility that she did because once you´ve tried one, you´ll want another, and with a good variety of fillings to choose, from you can have a different one for every meal every day of the week. Similar to the Cornish Pasty you get in England, empanadas are a crusty pastry with either a cheese, meat, or vegetable filling, or most commonly a meat and vegetable filling. Prices vary from one stall to the next and they are sold in numerous places, not just street stalls and bakeries, but also newsagent type kiosks. You shouldn´t expect to pay more than $5 pesos for one, (US$1.15) though if you want more than just a light snack most people will need at least two or three. If there are a small group of you, look for places offering bargain deals for a selection of 12 to 18.
5. Tapioca omelette – Brazil
Tapioca is one of the most popular street foods in Brazil – a light, crispy pancake with a filling of your choice, either sweet or savoury. The starch snack is made from tapioca roots and filled with a variety of flavours. One of the most preferred ingredients amongst Brazilians is cheese and ham, and you will find these from just about any vendor. If you like seafood, try the shrimp (camarão), which is soaked in a delicious seafood sauce. Alternatively, for the sweet-toothed among you, the coconut and leite condensado (condensed milk) is a real lip smacker.
6. Platanos Fritos – El Salvador
You´ll find Platanos Fritos in most Latin American countries. It’s somewhat of a favourite street dessert that has spread far and wide, but in my experience the El Salvadorians take this tasty dish to another level. This delicious dessert is slowly-fried bananas with a light caramel coating that is scooped from sizzling pots of vegetable oil and topped with condensed milk. In some countries they can be a little crunchy, but in El Salvador the soft texture melts in your mouth and bursts with flavour. It´s a favourite at breakfast, but is eaten at all times of the day and can be found wherever there are street vendors selling fast foods.
7. Tacos – Mexico
Tacos in Mexico are not the mincemeat filled pancakes served in Western countries. First of all they come in two types and with a wide variety of fillings. The most common tacos that are found everywhere are small tortilla breads made from wheat. You wrap it into an oblong shape around the filling of your choice, such as chicken, beef, cheese, or vegetables, and eat it out of your hand. The other type is super taco’s, a sandwich style belly-buster the size of a small birthday cake. These come with a wide variety of filling choices and are packed full. The traditional tacos are priced individually at around 13 pesos ($1.03) though you will need two or three to satisfy your appetite. The super tortillas have at least four fillings and feel like a brick wrapped in paper. They cost between 30 and 36 pesos ($2.40-2.85) and will satisfy even the biggest of appetites.
8. Buñuelos – Guatemala
Guatemalan’s are generally sweet-toothed which is perhaps why you see so many of them with gold braces attached to their teeth – a sign of wealth in the Mayan culture. One of their favourite street dessert is Buñuelos, fried balls of dough that look a little like Chinese chicken balls you get with a sweet and sour. They are served hot, dowsed in syrup and are absolutely delicious. They are most popular around Christmas, but if you look hard enough you will find them at any time of year. They cost around Q10 (US$1.25) for three balls which is reasonable in any currency.
9. Baleada – Honduras
Indigenous to Honduras and one of the most common street foods you’ll find is the baleada, a white flour pancake-sized tortilla stuffed with re-fried beans, cream cheese, and sour cream, though you will find some vendors offer a variety of fillings, most usually scrambled egg which is typical for breakfast. At 7LPS (US$ .035) baleada is a very inexpensive snack, and two would constitute a meal.
10. Tlayudas con carne – Mexico
Walk into a Mexican food market or local cafe and you are likely to be spoiled for choice. Most people will naturally make a beeline for the tacos filled with cooked meat, but there is another option you really don´t want to miss out on – tlayudas con carne. Originating in Oaxaca in the southern Sierra Mountains, tlayudas are only found in a handful of cities and are served on a large, thin, crispy tortilla with a combination of cooked meat, cheese, or chicken together with salad and avocado topped with a light mayonnaise-style dressing. If you like you could add the spicy condiments to give it a kick, but you may lose the natural flavour and kill your taste buds for a week. As a general rule, you may not want to add the condiments the Mexicans present you in little pots as they are always very, very spicy and ultimately the only thing you taste.
11. Tamales – Ecuador
Tamales are another favourite dish that is found in most Latin American countries and is most commonly wrapped in corn leaf, but in Ecuador they wrap it up with a banana leaf, an ingenious choice as it infuses a sweet flavour into the meal regardless of the filling and acts as a handy little container that is easy to hold. The tamales themselves are a mixture of cornmeal, spinach and meat fried in spices and are a cheap and sumptuous little snack which will set you back about US$1.50 at most.
12. Carimañolas – Panama
A popular snack you´ll find just about everywhere in Panama is carimañolas – boiled yucca balls stuffed with ground beef and boiled eggs and deep-fried to give it a tasty, crisp finish. Carimoñolas are so popular with the Panamanians that not only are they available from just about every street vendor and fast-food kiosk, but most people cook them in their homes as well.
13. Arepas – Venezuela
Street foods are so popular in Venezuela people huddle around food carts munching on a quick snack on their way to and from work. One of the most popular and tasty snacks is the arepa, which can be filled with any number of fillings – scrambled eggs, grilled meat, chicken salad with avocados, ham and cheese, fish, or just plain old vegetables. You will find at least 30 options on some menus! The dough used to make arepas is ground from maize and patted into a flat loaf which is then baked and lightly grilled. It is then torn open and stuffed with filling much like a pita bread kebab in Europe. On the street arepas are between 15 and 17 VEF (around US$3.50), but you will also find specialty arepa houses which charge about US$7.
14. Papas con cuero – Colombia
One of the more unusual street foods you’ll find, not only in Colombia, but South America is papas con cuero. This is a somewhat bizarre choice of snack consisting of greasy pork rinds, a bit like spare ribs, served with chopped potatoes, and a lettuce and carrot salad. It doesn’t sound too appetizing, nor does the direct translation of potatoes with pork skins, but the Colombians love it, and for US$1 it´s worth giving it a whirl. It´s one of those dishes you have to try to know whether you like it or not, but its colourful display, at least in most places, might just be the temptation you need.
15. Charque de llama – Bolivia
Bolivia is not renowned for its quality of food, in fact the majority is pretty bland, the rest of it is sweet and dry. However, there are a few street foods that will not escape your attention and are found all throughout the country. The best snack I found is Charque de Llama, fried llama meat served with corn and cheese. In fact, llama and alpaca are very popular with Bolivians, so much so you can even get a llama curry in La Paz!
The key thing to remember when eating street food in South America is to steer clear of anything cooked in a sauce or that comes with a salad that might have been washed in water that is not suitable for a delicate western stomach. Buen Provecho!
Photo credits: Arepas, all others courtesy of the author and may not be used without permission.
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I came across this recipe when looking for a similar recipe I had tried with couscous, lentils and tomatoes, so have tweaked a little based on what I was trying to achieve. I add about 3 chopped and seeded tomatoes to the onions and harissa instead of the paste. Love the frying method, which is superior to the recipe I was trying to emulate which required flipping the whole pan of rice/lentils. Have made it many times since. Really great with the Morroccan Spiced Pork Tenderloin from this site.
We really enjoyed this recipe! I couldn't find the Peruvian sauce at the grocery store, so I minced a Serrano chili. I am sure it would have been even better with the paste. I will try to hunt that down for next time. I served this with the Peruvian chicken also on this site. I will make it again and again! Both were wonderful!
Yum! I served with fried egg. Didn't have aji amarillo, but I experimented with a cumin/cayenne/paprika/tumeric blend (not authentic, but a nice heat!). Its great because I had everything on hand.
I made this to go with the Ají de gallina recipe also found on Epicurious. Since I was able here in the Bay Area to find the ají de amarillo paste indicated, I made it more or less as the recipe suggests and have to say it was a real keeper. Yes, it is a bit of work, but worthwhile, I thought. I didn't follow the rice cooking instructions since they called for far more water than I normally use, but other than that I would say that the instructions were clear and everything worked fine. I served it with the chicken (which was a little redundant since it uses the same chili paste in a much larger quantity) which was great, and then the next day reheated it (in a good non-stick pan with a tiny bit of oil), frying it again as described, accompanied with some nice grilled sausages garnished with some chipotle pepper jelly. I would think it could go well with all kinds of dishes good flavor, great texture, very versatile. The many experiments with substitutes for the chili paste sound quite intriguing as well, though I recommend ordering some ají amarillo paste online just so you can taste the recipe as described and also experiment with the paste in the many other recipes for it online including the chicken mentioned above.
We made this for dinner and loved it. I think I prefer tacu tacu with lentils rather than beans. We used a homemade harissa paste because it was what we had on hand. We also mixed some panko in because we had considered making patties but, decided instead to stir fry it like a hash. It was amazing! will make again.
Made this recipe, as patties, recently for a client (I'm a Personal Chef). Like many others I substituted another pepper sauce because aji amarillo is very hard to find. I used equal amounts of rice and lentils in a rice cooker, then mashed the result to get it to stick together into patties for frying. An egg for binding might have worked bit better. Very tasty, the clients loved it, and will be making it agin
I couldn't find aji amarillo or aji mirasol paste but used rocoto hot pepper paste. I found this recipe extremely tasteless and won't make it again.
I was looking for a South American appetizer to make for a South American wine tasting. This is very delicious but I think I would change a few things. I would definitely not cut down on the salt as I took that advice and I had to add more salt later. 1/2 a teaspoon salt is enough for the rice but the lentils needed more salt so altogether it does need that extra 1/2 teaspoon. The onions sauteed with the aji amarillo paste were delicious but when I mixed it all in, the flavor was lost. I would double the onions and the paste for more flavor. The whole frying process was difficult for me. Maybe I wasn't doing it right. Maybe I would put less rice in the pan at the time so that I can get it more crispy. I think it may be good also without the frying at the end. It also took me at least an hour and a half.
Even though this dish is very mild (bland) I loved it! I didn't have any aji amarillo so I made a paste out of mini yellow and red bell peppers and a fresh jalapeno (maybe that's why it was so mild, I don't know how an aji amarillo tastes). I used brown rice instead of the white. The only thing I would change is to cut way down on the salt. I wish I would have made a double batch because it took me nearly an hour and a half to make.
So easy and will make again. I was skeptical about getting the jar of aji amrillo, but my dad and husband LOVED it and used extra on the peruvian grilled chicken and mixed in this dish. To make this really healthy, use brown rice. We will eat leftovers wrapped in the homemade tortilla recipe from this site that is AMAZING! :) Enjoy!
I made this on a night when I was short on time and my cupboards seemed bare - I had all the ingredients but the paste. I used New Mexico chile pepper (ground) instead. I loved it and so did my family. Will definitely add this to my rotation. I will be looking for the paste for next time to get the authentic flavor.
I just made this to serve with peruvian chicken I am roasting. This is delicious! I had to make my own aji amarillo paste, but well worth the effort.
This was wonderful! Thanks to the advice from other reviews, I made the rice and lentils a day earlier while making that day's dinner. That made it a fast, filling meal. I substituted tabasco for the chile paste because that's what I had on hand but was a little disappointed. I have added chile paste to my next grocery list. I finished the dish with a sprinkle of lime juice then topped it with diced tomatoes and feta. A little chopped parsley or spinach would have been good, too.
Excellent taste and texture, and filling and nutritious too! I served with an onion salsa --- thinly sliced onion, olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper and garlic.
I love this recipe. So simple and good. I served with aji de gallina, a recipe similar to the one on this site. Wow, super differend and delicious! Made the rice and lentils early in the day and I think that helps making things smooth. Double the recipe and glad I did.
Great vegetarian dish - i ate it with feta and tomatoes to give it more moisture. also didn't give it 4 forks because it took sort of a long time. but wonderful! mine didn't look at all like the picture though.
This was fantastic! I would recommend making the lentils and rice ahead of time so that final step (of frying it all together) doesn't take long. We mixed in scrambled eggs at the end. Mmmm. mmmm. good.
Definitely won't be the last time I make this recipe. Easier to make than it looks. The aji paste added a subtle but amazing taste. I will probably add more next time.
Loved it. I have been looking for this recipe ever since coming home from 18 months in Peru. I used brown rice cooked for 1 1/2 to 3 hours in organic chicken broth, for a more healthy version. Also soaked the lentils overnight in water to cover plus 2 T of whey. I think that using another kind of hot sauce in a pinch is a great idea, but to get the truly Peruvian taste of the dish you simply must have ají mirasol. Any good mexican supply should have it. Sometimes I have found the frozen ají peppers, which you can puree in the blender or food processor, and this makes a good substitute when you cannot find the bottled paste.
So simple, doesn't take too much active cooking time . but delicious! The crispy bits of lentil and rice are really what make it. Made it a couple times now, once for company, and it's been a hit each time. You can of course use any color of lentil to provide a different color scheme, though there will always be browned bits from the frying. If making with brown rice, use green lentils or some other color to keep it visually interesting. I would say this serves 4 - 6 if it's the primary accompaniment to the main dish. Because it's so good, I recommend doubling the recipe and refrigerate half to cook up fresh a day or two later (the frying step is fast, so make a big batch on the weekend and fry up what you want on a weeknight). Have never bothered looking for the aji paste it calls for, instead I substitute whatever hot sauce I have around, use more garlic, and definitely add some salt when mixing things together. You can also toss in other vegetables with the onions or later.
This is a very nice recipe. I did not give it four forks because it requires quite a lot of effort, but the result is a rather simple, staple dish. I simplified it a bit by reducing the last frying stage to three minutes without stirring, but still there was a lot to do. Even though I did not have ají amarillo and did not add any substitutes, it turned out very pleasant and balanced. I will definitely make it again.