I’m won’t sugarcoat it. After living in Colombia for six month this year, Peruvian food was more than a welcome surprise. Hell, it was a blessing.
A man can only eat so much got damn Bandeja Paisa before he wants more. Eggs, rice, and beans are fantastic, but sometimes you need a little flavor to savor.
Enter Peruvian Food.
While Peru isn’t far from Colombia and neighbors with Ecuador, the country’s cuisine is significantly different and considered some of the best in Latin America. The reason? Well, that’s a little difficult to explain.
See, outside of Mexico, there isn’t a country throughout the region that can compete with Peru in terms of culinary excellence. In fact, many other South American countries send chefs in training to Peru.
Why? Because Lima is considered a world-class culinary city.
After testing out the delicious cuisine throughout the city, I’m inclined to agree. Even the old Peruvian lady at my suspect breakfast spot whipped up the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had in my life.
Eggs! Scrambled freaking eggs. Peruvians take such pride in their delicious food that they even put effort into preparing the most basic of breakfast dishes.
If Peruvians put that much effort into scrambled eggs, just think how delicious their Ceviche, Lomo Saltado, and Aji de Gallina are.
What Makes Peruvian Food Unique?
To be honest, I’m not exactly sure. While I enjoy eating out and experiencing culture in a new country, I’m far from a foodie. So, I’m certainly no expert here, but I’ll do my best.
What makes Peruvian food unique? Well, here’s my take:
- Three Distinct Regions: Peruvian food comes from three unique regions within the country. You have the Pacific coast areas, jungle regions, and Andes Mountains. Each region traditionally has different cuisine. For example, ceviche traditionally comes from the coastal areas.
- Actual Spices & Flavors: Due to the Arabic influence on the Spanish during the time the Incas were being conquered (I could be way off here), Peruvian food tends to be chalk full of spices and flavor. This makes the food delicious, especially compared with bland offerings from the likes of Colombia or the Dominican Republic.
- Commitment to Cuisine: Peruvians take pride in their cuisine. Young girls are taught to cook from family members, chefs are constantly innovating, and many in the country have worked hard to make Peru a culinary destination. The “ingredients” are certainly there – and Peru is committed to culinary excellence in a way most other countries in Latin America just aren’t.
Popular Peruvian Cuisine
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. You’re heading to Peru and you want to know what foods to try. I’ve got you covered here. Below you’ll find a list of some traditional Peruvian foods that you must try:
Ceviche is the most popular Peruvian food for many a gringo. You can’t come to Peru and not give this delicious seafood dish a try. It’s truly amazing!
So, what is Ceviche? It’s fresh fish from the Pacific Ocean marinated in citrus juices that “cook” the fish with acid. The juices give the raw fish a unique flavor and consistency that many a traveler finds delicious.
~ Lomo Saltado
If Ceviche is the most popular dish in Peru, then Lomo Saltado is a close second. The dish is made with tender pieces of beef combined with tomatoes, onions, peppers, and some type of soy sauce.
It’s almost like a stir-fry hybrid. The key is to eat it at a great restaurant. If you go to a cheap place, the Lomo could be a little too chewy. For the best Lomo Saltado in Lima, check out Tanta in Larcomar.
~ Pollo Saltado
As the name would suggest, Pollo Saltado is the little brother of Lomo Saltado. The only difference is the plate is created with chicken instead of beef.
Personally, I found the Pollo Saltado better at cheap resturants, as chicken is a little harder to screw up than the beef used in Lomo Saltado.
~ Pollo a la Brasa
Pollo a la brasa, or Peruvian rotisserie chicken, is exceptionally popular in Lima, especially with the locals. It’s delicious, but certainly not one of my favorite Peruvian foods.
If you love rotisserie chicken, you won’t find much better than the Pollo a la Brasa served at Pardos around Lima.
Not. My. Favorite. Dish! However, if you want to try Peruvian food, then Anticucho is a classic. While a plethora of meats can be used, the traditional Anticucho is served with beef hearts.
So, try the traditional Anticucho first and eat your heart out. I wasn’t a fan, but many swear by the Anticucho from Tio Mario in Barranco.
Cuy isn’t “Cuy” in the Western world. In the US, we call “Cuy” by a different name, guinea pig. Don’t be concerned! Cuy is surprisingly good and something you’ll want to eat at least once on your Peru trip.
It kind of tastes like chicken, but it can look a little odd. I didn’t try it in Lima, as my Cuy experience was in Cusco.
~ Aji de Gallina
This stuff looks just plain weird, but damn is it good – especially when a little heavy on the chicken side. It looks like yellow mashed potatoes from afar, but it’s made up of yellow aji pepper, chicken, condensed milk, and some bread.
It forms a stew-like substance. Honestly, I thought I’d hate Aji de Gallina after looking at it, but it’s fantastic and highly recommended.
6 Restaurants in Lima, Peru I’d Go Back To
Again, I’m no foodie. Just a dude who has spent a little time in Lima and wanted to share his experiences. So, take my food recommendations with a grain of salt. Or a Pisco Sour or three 😉
Here are six restaurants in Lima, Peru that I’d go back to:
Come for the views, stay for the food. Javier’s is an over-touristy restaurant in Barranco. The spot offers stunning sea views, but I figured the food would suck. After all, it’s a tourist spot.
Then I looked around me after sitting down. Almost all the patrons were Peruvian. I knew the food was going to be good. And it definitely was! If you’re looking for a nice meal in barranco, try the Lomo Saltado or Ceviche from Javier’s.
~ Mercado Numero Uno Surquillo
If you want fresh, authentic seafood in Miraflores, then head here! Mercado Numero Uno Surquillo is on the outskirts of Miraflores and a little hard to find. You’ll probably need to ask somebody where it is or have the address pulled up on maps when you go.
But, it’s worth it! The Ceviche and Arroz con Mariscos are absolutely amazing. Highly recommended. The market has a local feel to it and the food is quite cheap, too.
If you’re looking for a nice restaurant w/ local Peruvian food in Larcomar, I’d recommend Tanta. I’ve been here a few times and I never regret it. Plus, it’s easy to find being in Larcomar and all.
Run by world-famous Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio, you won’t be disappointed by the quality of the food here. In fact, the best Lomo Saltado I tried in Peru was from Tanta. Highly recommended!
~ La Lucha
La Lucha is a staple of my diet when I’m in Lima. This sandwich shop is famous throughout Peru and many a Limeño will recommend traveling gringos check it out while in Miraflores.
La Lucha offers pork, chicken, and beef sandwiches. Personally, I always stick with the chicken, as it’s incredibly fresh and juicy. But you really can’t go wrong with a sandwich from these guys near Parque Kennedy or in Larcomar.
While I’m not a huge Pollo a la Brasa guy, you really can’t go wrong eating a Pardos. The chicken here is some of the best I’ve had in my travels and you can find them all over Peru. Worth trying out, as they have a nice Larcomar location, too.
~ Tio Mario
I wasn’t a fan of the Anticucho at Tio Mario in Barranco, but it’s worth trying once. Grab some beef hearts and see if you like it. The flavor is fine, but I couldn’t stand the texture. Even if you don’t love the food, the views over Barranco aren’t bad from Tio Mario.
A Gringo’s Guide to Peruvian Food
So, that’s it. A non-foodie’s guide to Peruvian food. If you’re a gringo looking to grub in Lima, use this guide as a primer for where to eat your first couple meals in Miraflores and what to try.
Then branch out! In a country filled with so much great food, you have a lot of options. I left a ton of stuff off this list. So ask around, get a local to take you, and try anything they put on your plate.