In the towns and cities of the Andean mountains of Peru, unique dishes are prepared that deserve a special gastronomic tour for their exquisiteness and exoticism. Join us to discover the best typical dishes of the Peruvian highlands. This is our selection:
One of the most emblematic dishes of Peruvian mountain gastronomy and of the entire nation. It is a mixture of meats (beef, chicken, pork, sheep and guinea pig) that are seasoned with chincho and huacatay (Andean aromatic herbs), chili, pepper, cumin and other spices.
Cooking is done in an earthen oven with preheated stones, although most city dwellers prepare it in pots.
The word “pachamanca” derives from the Quechua words “pacha” (earth) and manka (pot), which means “earth pot”.
More than a meal, it is an ancestral gastronomic ceremony that brings together the members of a community. The agape is held on large tables or on blankets placed directly on the ground. The usual companions are potatoes, corn (corn), broad beans, sweet potatoes and yucca.
2. Guinea pig
Cuy meat (guinea pig, guinea pig, acure) has been consumed by Peruvians since pre-Inca times, when it was domesticated 2,500 years ago in the Department of Junín.
Currently, more than 60 million guinea pigs are cooked each year in Peru and their meat is highly valued by gourmets as a delicacy and by nutritionists for its low content of unhealthy fats and high proportion of proteins and healthy fats.
The guinea pig is the most popular food in the Peruvian highlands and its flavor is very similar to that of rabbit. The most common recipe is the guinea pig chactado, in which a whole specimen is fried and eaten on a plate or with the hands, as if it were a chicken thigh.
Another recipe is grilled guinea pig, which is accompanied by potatoes, corn and rice, served with a sauce based on Andean hot peppers.
3. Lamb head broth
Among the typical dishes of the Peruvian highlands and the entire country, this broth prepared with the head of the lamb stands out, substantial and with an intense flavor due to the large number of calories, vitamins, minerals and nutrients it contains. Preferably it should be the head of a young lamb, which is chopped and boiled for about two hours.
When the cooking water has absorbed all the flavor of the animal’s head, peeled white potatoes and rice are added and seasoned to taste. Towards the end of the process, a little mint and paico, an aromatic plant native to the Amazon, are added. The broth is accompanied by parboiled yucca and mote.
It is a powerful soup (whose main ingredient is wheat) prepared with legumes (bayo beans, chickpeas, peas and dried beans), pork skin, serrano ham, pork ribs, panca pepper, mint, onion, Andean aromatic herbs and cumin. .
Due to its forcefulness, it is eaten as a single dish and helps the body to cope with the cold in the heights of the Peruvian mountains.
The modern version of shámbar originated in the city of Trujillo during the Spanish conquest and is the result of the gastronomic fusion between Spain and the New World.
In the Department of La Libertad, of which Trujillo is the capital, there is a tradition of eating shámbar on Mondays. The custom is believed to have originated as a way to use up leftovers from weekend meals.
It is a dish originating from Arequipa, a mountain city in southern Peru, located at 2,335 meters above sea level.
From the second largest Peruvian city, ocopa moved to the coast and the jungle, and today it is a national dish that is prepared in all regions of the country. Each of these regions has contributed its particularities to the recipe.
The dish is similar to papas a la huancaína, an icon of Peruvian cuisine.
It is a dish of boiled potatoes, chopped hard-boiled eggs and, optionally, jug olives, in which the distinctive ingredient is a spicy sauce. This dressing is prepared with mirasol or cuzqueño chili (the most used in Peru), peanuts and huacatay herb, which gives it a greenish color. Other preparations have evaporated milk, fresh cheese, garlic and onion.
6. Ram on the stick
It is prepared with a whole eviscerated ram, spreading the piece with lemon and exposing it to the sun as a previous step. It is then seasoned with a mixture of ají panca, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin and chicha de jora (a pre-Hispanic drink that was sacred to the Incas and is made with malted corn). Once seasoned, it is left to macerate for a couple of hours.
Next, the mutton is inserted into a pointed stick and cooked over a wood ember for several hours (at least four), turning it occasionally so that it cooks evenly. It is accompanied with golden potatoes, rice and salad.
The inhabitants of Chanchamayo, a province of the Department of Junín, affirm that the recipe is from their territory.
7. Huancaine Potatoes
Huancayo is the capital of the Department of Junín, in the center-west of Peru, and the huancaína potatoes are the symbol of its cuisine.
It is affirmed that the recipe arose when the Lima – Jauja – Huancayo section of the Central Railway of Peru was being built during the first decade of the 20th century.
The Huancaine cooks who fed the workers prepared some potatoes bathed in a sauce of milk, cheese and peppers, creating the iconic recipe.
The original dish took advantage of the famous buttery cheese and the two varieties of potatoes that are produced in the Mantaro River valley.
To make the sauce, fresh cheese and the popular Peruvian yellow pepper are used, then vegetable oil and evaporated milk are added to give it a semi-liquid consistency. Sauce the slices of cooked potato and add sliced hard-boiled egg and botija olives.
8. Chupe verde or yaccochupe
Chupe is a Peruvian soup with many recipes, which have the potato as a common ingredient. It is prepared from shrimp, beef, lamb, chicken, hen, belly, jerky and fish.
You can also carry a large amount of vegetables (apart from potatoes) such as pumpkin, celery, beans, carrots, wheat, corn, oats, peppers and aromatic herbs. Other ingredients can be milk and grated cheese.
The chupes are typical of the mountains, where the cold causes the consumption of hot broths. The green or yaccochupe is typical of the Department of Junín and its characteristic color is given by the aromatic herbs used, such as huacatay, muña (mint from the Andes, pennyroyal from Quito) and paico (epazote).
In Peru, the chupe on Friday is popular, based on potatoes, shellfish, fish, milk and eggs.
9. Stuffed Rocoto
The rocoto is a fruit that looks like a small pepper, but is hotter than most chilies, widely used in Peruvian and Bolivian cuisine.
In Mexico it is called chile manzano, porón, cera and canario, and rattlesnake when dry. It is native to Peru, where 2,000-year-old dried berries have been found in funerary offerings.
It is part of many recipes of Peruvian gastronomy, such as ceviche and Arequipa’s stuffed rocoto, consumed throughout the country.
The fruit is stuffed with ground beef or pork, or a mixture of both, plus peas, olives, fresh cheese, chopped parsley, cumin, and other spices to taste. It is baked and served hot with baked potatoes or a potato cake.
10. Tripe or pawsca
It is another powerful broth that stands out among the typical dishes of the Peruvian highlands. It is also eaten in the Andean regions of Bolivia, Argentina and Chile with some variations in terms of ingredients.
The Peruvianpataca is prepared with tripe (tripe), beef legs, beef and cooked corn mote. In some places lamb’s head is added.
The word “patasca” comes from the Quechua “phatasqa”, which means “party”. The broth bears some resemblance to Mexican pozole.
Due to its energetic power, it is widely consumed in winter to counteract the mountain cold like any meal of the day, including breakfast.
It is a dish with pre-Hispanic roots, although its current version was achieved with cattle and sheep brought to the New World by the Spanish.
11. Pork crackling
Peruvian-style pork rinds are a must-have for Sunday breakfasts and are easy to successfully prepare if you follow the right steps.
It is not the usual chicharrón prepared only with the skin of the pig, but one made with pieces that have fat and meat. The first and foremost thing is to cook the pork covered with water, over medium heat, with salt to taste and aromatic herbs (mint) until the liquid evaporates.
After the water has been consumed, the remaining herbs are removed and the meat is left to fry in its own fat. If necessary, add a little butter or oil.
It is traditionally eaten with fried sweet potato and Peruvian Creole sauce, prepared with red onion cut into feathers, yellow peppers and lemon.
12. Mountain court
It is a typical side dish of the Andean mountains. The name comes from the Quechua word “kancha”. In Peru it is called cancha paccho, in Bolivia they call it roasted corn and chulpi in Ecuador.
It is eaten as a snack and as an accompaniment to ceviche, roast beef, pork rinds, and other dishes. It is also consumed alone as a snack to accompany a few drinks.
It is prepared by heating grains of yellow corn over low heat in a clay pot, with a little oil or butter and salt.
You have to stir constantly until the corn is browned on all sides. It is an untapped relative of popcorn, which Peruvians call canchita.
The oldest written record of cancha consumption in Peru and South America dates back to 1545, reported by Juan Ruiz de Arce, when he accompanied Pizarro in the conquest.
It is a soup that combines the most native flavors of the Peruvian highlands and one of the emblematic stews of the Andean area of the country. It is prepared based on Cuzqueño corn, considered the best for the recipe, beans, cheese, yellow pepper, potatoes, egg and huacatay herb. Its consumption increases at Easter because it does not contain meat.
It is also eaten on cold days and in the city of Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire located at 3,400 meters above sea level. The broth is a warm caress on cold nights. Apart from being tasty and easy to prepare, Lawa is a heavy and energizing dish, perfect for the climate of the mountains.
The people who know the most about potatoes are the Andeans, since the tuber was domesticated in the Altiplano 8,000 years ago.
Chuños are dehydrated potatoes to preserve them for a long time and there are two types, white and black, with their own dehydration methods.
For the white chuño, the potatoes are put for several days in the frozen waters of the mountain rivers and then they are dehydrated by drying them in the sun.
The black chuno is more laborious, but the result is more exotic flavors. The potatoes are left to freeze outdoors at night and the next day they are thawed in the sun and crushed to extract the liquid part. They are frozen again at night and the procedure is repeated until the tuber is totally dehydrated.
In chuño it is consumed as a substitute for bread and as an ingredient in soups and stews.
15. Charqui with olluquitos
The charqui or charque is the typical meat dehydrated in the sun in the Andean region, prepared by the pre-Hispanic aborigines with cuts of llama, alpaca and guanaco, and later with those of cattle and sheep brought by the Spanish.
In the mountains, it is common to eat jerky as the main ingredient in stews and soups or as a filling for tamales and empanadas.
The olluco is a plant from which its tubers and leaves are consumed. It is called melloco and papa lisa in Ecuador, chugua and ulluco in Colombia and ruba in Venezuela.
The yellow tubers are known as olluquitos and Peruvians prepare them with charqui, mainly sheep meat, in a delicious recipe that is typical of the mountains.
16. Cheese Ice Cream
This dessert is originally from the Arequipa area, but it is prepared in many places in Peru. Its ingredients are easy to get in any city and you will not have any difficulties in preparing it. It contains fresh milk, condensed milk, dry grated coconut, cinnamon sticks, cinnamon powder, cloves and vanilla essence.
Put the fresh milk, cloves, cinnamon sticks and grated coconut in a saucepan over medium heat and boil until the volume is reduced by approximately 20%, stirring frequently.
It is strained to separate the solid ingredients from the boiled milk and this is mixed with the condensed milk and vanilla essence, and then put in the freezer for two hours. When serving, sprinkle with cinnamon.
Humitas are a corn tamale or bun that is eaten throughout the Andean region, using the corn husk, called chala in Peru, for the wrapper.
The basic recipe is ground corn mixed with meat, raisins, cheese, aromatic herbs and spices. They can also carry chili and onion. They are made sweet and savory, sweetening the former with white sugar.
They are eaten in all the Andes (especially in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile) and the traditional preparation is to boil them in clay pots, although they can also be steamed, baked and microwaved. The name derives from the Quechua word “humint’a”.
18. Fried trout
It is a typical dish from Puno, provincial and departmental capital, located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, in southeastern Peru.
Since the main source of protein for the people of Puno is lake, fried fish, soups and stews form an important part of the daily diet. Rainbow and brown trout were successfully introduced into Lake Titicaca.
Fried trout is tasty and easy to prepare, and is a valuable source of protein and vitamins and minerals, particularly phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and iron.
The dressing is very simple, since it basically consists of salt, garlic and spices (pepper and cumin), and the fish is usually accompanied by parboiled or fried potatoes and salad.
19. Stewed Tongue
Stewed tongue or tongue stew is one of the most delicious typical dishes of the highlands of Peru. It is an easy recipe to make and it only requires following the preparation procedure and not omitting any important ingredients for it to turn out well.
It is prepared with beef tongue, tomatoes, carrots, onions, red wine, ground red pepper, bay leaf, salt and cumin as basic components.
The most important step is to boil the tongue until the skin can be easily peeled off with the help of a knife and dish towel. Once peeled and cleaned, it is boiled again until it softens. After cooling, it is cut into slices and stewed with the ingredients indicated above.
It is a delicacy that many people deprive themselves of by letting themselves be influenced by the bad appearance of raw language.
20. Flipped Quinoa Cream
Quinoa is an Andean species native to the Lake Titicaca area and was widely consumed by Andean indigenous people before the Spanish brought the main cereals.
Pedro de Valdivia, founder of important Chilean cities (Santiago, Concepción, Valdivia), was the first to report the consumption of quinoa when he accompanied Francisco Pizarro in the conquest of Peru.
Flipped cream is a delicious dessert that is prepared with cooked quinoa, evaporated milk, condensed milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla essence. It is served with melted sugar caramel and strawberries to decorate.
Typical desserts of the mountains
The purple mazamorra is a typical dessert of the mountains and all of Peru. It is prepared with purple corn and is found in street stalls in Peruvian cities. Zambito rice is another sweet consumed throughout the nation, especially in Lima, very similar to dulce de leche, with the difference that it has chancaca (piloncillo). The white delicacy, dulce de leche or arequipe, originally from the Peruvian city of Arequipa, is one of the most popular desserts in Peru and around the world.
Images of typical dishes of the mountains
Papas a la huancaína, a symbolic dish of the Peruvian and Serrano culinary art:
Pachamanca, traditional food of Peru:
Carnero al palo, another Peruvian gastronomic icon:
Typical dishes of the Central Sierra
The Central Sierra of Peru is a large space located in the middle of the Andes Mountains, with numerous rural towns and cities such as Huancayo and Ayacucho. The inhabitants of these mountains are great eaters of potatoes a la huancaína, pachamanca, red guinea pig, head broth and patachi. In the Province of Huamanga, whose capital is Ayacucho, they prepare a tasty stew of fruits, tubers, grains and cabbage. They also eat pushla, a soup made from roasted barley with potatoes, milk and eggs; and the hapchi, a sandy potato salad, fresh cheese and other ingredients.
Chicha de jora is popular throughout the Peruvian highlands and is consumed directly and as an ingredient in some typical dishes. It is a kind of craft beer made with malted corn (called jora) and fermented. In pre-Inca times it was a ceremonial drink and, currently, it is made in different alcoholic strengths, depending on the chichero recipe. Another traditional mountain drink is the calientito, which is prepared with a brandy, tea, lemon and sugar and is consumed hot on cold days.
Typical foods of the Sierra Sur
The Sierra Sur extends from the Cordillera de Vilcanota to the borders of Peru with Bolivia and Chile, comprising the entire region of the Peruvian Altiplano. Among its main cities are Arequipa, Cusco and Puno. In the cuisine of Arequipa, dishes such as occupa, Arequipa stuffed rocoto and the famous dulce de leche or arequipe stand out. In Cusco you have to try the lawa soup, the guinea pig chactado and the kapchi de habas. Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, offers excellent lake fish and typical recipes such as quinoa fish, alpaca pork rinds and Puno sancochado.
Recipes of typical dishes from the coast, mountains and jungle
Ceviche is abundantly eaten throughout Peru, especially on the coast and in the jungle, in the first region with seafood from the Pacific and in the Amazon with the enormous variety of fish from the Amazonian rivers and lagoons. On the coast, dishes such as tiradito (related to ceviche), shrimp chupe and fish sweat are popular. The Peruvians of the jungle are good eaters of river fish in countless recipes, land turtles and hearts of palm. Mountain gastronomy is inclined towards cattle (beef, pork, mutton), guinea pig, potato and corn.
Did you know any of these typical dishes from the mountains of Peru? Which do you think is more spectacular? Share the article with your friends so that they also know what to order when they go to the Peruvian highlands or to a restaurant with unique Inca cuisine.
- Also read our guide on the 20 typical dishes of the Peruvian Jungle that you have to try
- Click here to know the 40 typical Peruvian dishes that you must try
- We leave you our guide with the 12 tourist places in Peru most visited by foreigners