Peruvian cuisine is one of the most diverse in the world. Peru is considered to have the most traditional dishes in the world with 491.
This affluence comes from three sources :
- The geographical regions of the country
- The mix of ethnicities and cultures
- The adaptation of traditional cultures to modern cuisine
The four traditional staples of Peruvian cuisine are corn, potatoes and other tubers, the popular grains of the amaranth family (quinoa, cañiwa and kiwicha) and legumes (beans and lentils).
In this article I would like to give you an example of the most delicious and traditional Peruvian dishes, and some tips where you could try these delights in Cusco.
Churros are one of the most famous desserts in Peru, especially in Cusco. A delicious treat introduced from Spain, made with a doughnut type batter, deep fried and typically served with powdered sugar, cinnamon and sugar or dipped in chocolate. You can find these easily on most street corners. They are normally eaten for breakfast or as a snack, dipped in chocolate, with a cup coffee, hot chocolate or tea.
In our opinion, the best place to enjoy Churros is in a small store called Muchaway, on Pardo Avenue, (Number 510) In this shop you can find many different types of Churros and even choose your preferred filling or topping !
I have tried quite a few of them (fillings and toppings), and they were very tasty ! The aroma in the cafe is incredible and they have great ambient music. The toffee filling is thick, rich and pudding-like, and the churros are light and crisp on the outside and very soft ‘melt in the mouth’ on the inside.
Muchaway is open from 2:00 PM to 9:00 PM, and the prices vary between S/.2 and S/.5 (for the most gourmet churros).
This is another famous traditional dessert made in Peru made of fried dough and sometimes in the mix is the natural sweet potato ! Once again the origins of this dessert are from Spain. Picarones are always topped with an unprocessed sugar cane syrup, locally called «piloncillo or chancaca. This syrup mix usually has the added ingredients of cinnamon, cloves, and fig leaves.
The best place to try Picarones is located on Ruinas Street (number 200), on the corner of Tullumayu Street. There is a river flowing, of the same name, underneath this street, which even to this day, defines Cuzco’s city limits.
This is the most famous place in Cusco to enjoy picarones. They are very large, rich and freshly prepared with a sweet honey based sauce. For five soles you receive four picarones, and to be honest it is difficult to finish ! I advise you to share with your friends and to combine that with a chicha morada (purple corn drink). You can enjoy this dish between 4:00PM and 10:00PM.
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Anticucho’s are one of the most famous street foods in the highlands of Peru. Indeed, with the aroma that fills the streets when they are being prepared it is reminiscent of a barbecue, however Anticuchos vary in a couple of ways. At first glance they look like kebabs, as the meat is always on skewers and they always have a potato on then end of the stick. These kebabs tend to use the hearts of the cows, however occasionally you can find a chicken anticucho.
The word Anticucho comes from Quechua, the main indigenous language of Peru. One of the oldest typical dishes in the Andes they can be made of any type of meat, the most popular being beef heart (Corazon).
Arguably the best place to eat Anticuchos is the « Condorito on Cultura avenue and you can certainly find anticuchos in many restaurants however this is traditionally a street food and that’s the best place to try them !
This delicious dish is surprisingly nice ! The only difference between this and beef is in the texture. They tend to be a little more fibrous, but is surprisingly tender, as is the marinated chicken option. Tasting this popular Peruvian Street food is an experience and one you should try on your next trip to Peru.
If you would like to enjoy an authentic Peruvian dish, you should not miss the Cuy Chactado which is a fried cuy (a guinea pig). This is a traditional dish from the Andes for over 5,000 years. Cuy chactado was consumed by the nobles and was used not only in sacrificial ceremonies but also to foretell the future. However, now you could find Cuy chactado in all the most restaurants, even though this kind of dish is usually reserved for special occasions – birthdays, fiestas, and holidays.
The main ingredients of this dish are very nutritious in minerals and proteins it includes guinea pig, vegetable oil, cornmeal, garlic, pepper, salt and lime.
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Chicharrones are associated with a lot of events and traditional festivals throughout the year, for example Corpus Cristi, Inti Raymi ( fiesta of the sun) and the Qollor’iti pilgrimage in and around the Cusco region. It would be shameful not to try this very Cusqueñan dish, and would be an opportunity missed. The Chicharonnes (deep fried pork ) originated in Spain and spread to Latin American countries. This dish is generally served on a bed of typical accompaniments such as corn, red onion, mint and fried potatoes.
After trying several places to define which was the best restaurant to enjoy eating Chicharrones, I choose a small restaurant located on the Pulluchapata Street, 128 (Avenida El Sol), and every day it is full of local people. You could enjoy Chicharron for only S/.10, and also appreciate other Peruvian dishes such as Abodo (traditional soup with pork), or Escabeche de Gallina (chicken marinated in vinegar). The restaurant on San Andres is only open during lunchtime, 11:30AM to 5:00PM.