Much of this European influence came from Spain
as the region became a Spanish colony and most settlers were from Spain. This led
to the introduction of Spanish-styled soups, stews, desserts, and other dishes.
Even today the heavy Spanish influence is impossible to miss, although most dishes
in Peru use local ingredients so they are quite different from
Despite adopting many local plants and animals for dishes, including the
European-inspired dishes, the Europeans also introduced many new plants
and animals to the region. Although hundreds of plants and animals were introduced
to the region by the Europeans, a few of the most important of these were wheat,
rice, pigs, chicken, and cattle. Others were also introduced and are now common
in Peru, although they differ in terms of popularity and importance, including onions,
cilantro, black pepper, limes, garlic, broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, olives,
bananas, apples, and oranges.
Even today the base of the people's diet is a combination of local ingredients
and European-introduced ingredients. The people maintain
a plant-based diet with potatoes, beans, and corn at the core, but rice is now very
common and most meats consumed are from the Europeans, including pork, chicken,
Since the late 1800s the diet has changed substantially for a number of reasons,
but primarily due to technological improvements. Better transportation and storage
techniques have allowed for the importation (and exportation) of foreign foods,
although few people can afford these foods outside the major cities. More importantly,
better preservation methods have increased the shelf life of foods and have given
the people foods that are not in season. Despite the technological changes, few
people have truly altered their diets in Peru.
In the capital of Lima, a more influential change in the diets of the people has
come with the more recent immigrants. Since the arrival of the Spanish
immigrants to Peru and into the 2000s the diversity of these immigrants has risen.
Today Lima is quite multi-cultural as Japanese,
Africans, and Chinese have immigrated and call the
capital home. These groups and others have opened ethnic restaurants in Lima as
well as in other large cities. Of these groups, the Chinese have made the strongest
culinary impact as Chinese restaurants are now common. These restaurants, called
chifa, are very popular among the immigrants and the local alike, although
the lack of Chinese vegetables means they are a true combination of Peruvian and
When & Where to Eat
Breakfast in Peru is based on bread or pastries and bakeries
tend to be busy from about 6:00 am until the end of the breakfast rush, which ends
at about 9:00. This meal is very small though as it wakes the people up, but does
little else. Coffee or tea is almost also consumed with bread or a tamale
as well. Breakfast is often served at home, but in some places coffee houses are
growing in popularity as there is typically a morning rush.
The Peruvians often have a snack mid-morning, but again this tends to be small as
they prepare for lunch, the largest meal of the day. Many shops close at about noon
for workers to return home for lunch, which can consist of a soup, meats, potatoes,
rice, beans, and other staple foods in Peru. Following this,
the largest meal of the day, many people will take a nap, called a siesta
prior to returning to work at 2:30-3:00 pm. In the cities and tourists locations
the long lunch and siesta has ended in favor of a solid workday. Some people in
these locations still go home for lunch, but it tends to be limited in time, while
others eat at work and some even go out to eat, although this is only common among
Much like the morning, the afternoon is often interrupted for a snack, generally
just coffee or tea, but bread is usually served as well. Sometimes people also grab
a snack from a street vendor, which is a great place to try a tamale and
other local foods, such as anticuchos, which are marinated beef hearts
served with vegetables as a shish kebob.
Dinner is usually late and tends to be smaller than lunch, although this is slowly
changing in places where people don't go home for lunch. Dinner is usually eaten
between 9:00-10:00 pm and is typically served in the home with family, but can also
be a good time to have a large gathering to celebrate or for a business meal. If
this meal is at home with family the amount of food served tends to remain very
small, but for large gatherings and business dinners it tends to take place in a
restaurant and the amount of food will likely surpass that of lunch.
Beans: beans are served with numerous dishes as a side
Corn: corn is used to make a number of dishes
Potatoes: a common side dish, usually potatoes are not served with
Rice: a common side dish that replaces quinoa, usually rice is
not served with other starches
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Ceviche: this fish dish is made from raw seafood marinated
in citrus juices, spices, and vegetables
Chupe de camarones: this soup is made from shrimp stock,
potatoes, milk, and chili peppers
Empanada: meat or fish with spices and vegetables enclosed
Jungle region: freshwater fish and seafood are common due to the
rivers, including the local fish paiche, which is very popular
Mountainous region: the diet is heavily based on potatoes, corn,
and meats including alpaca and guinea pig
Papas a la huancaína: sliced potatoes served with a spicy
cheese sauce and olives
Papa rellena: mashed potatoes wrapped around meat, hard
boiled eggs, olives, and spices, then deep fried
Tamale: many styles exist, but the most common in Peru
is corn meal stuffed with meat and cheese
If you are lucky enough to be invited to a Peruvian's home
be sure to come with a gift such as wine, chocolates, or a cake. Also dress nicely
if you are meeting locals in their home or are meeting business acquaintances. If
you are simply eating at a restaurant with friends the dress is a bit more casual,
but should still be nice clothing.
Most dining with Peruvians will take place in restaurants,
but no matter the location, be sure to arrive about 30 minutes late and up to an
hour late for a party. Be sure to greet everyone when you arrive; men generally
shake hands, while women may kiss each other on the check, but this varies based
upon the relationship. As you begin socializing avoid sensitive subjects like religion,
politics, money, or even business, although you may be at a business meal (let your
host bring up business prior to discussing this).
When you are directed to the table, let your host seat you as they may have a seat
for you; be aware that men and women generally sit on opposite sides of the table.
Stand beside your chair until your host sits, then let women sit first (in fact
men should stand whenever a woman enters or leaves the room). In a restaurant you
may be seated at the same table as other people; politely ignore them, although
some people may engage you in conversation if they notice you are foreign.
The host will often begin the drinking with a toast, generally just the word "salud"
and he or she will serve you, as a guest, first, but don't eat until your host
indicates you may begin with the words "buen provecho." If you
are drinking and wine is the beverage of choice, try to avoid pouring wine as there
are a number of rules when pouring, two of the most important being that you should
only pour wine with your right hand and always make sure when you pour it, the bottle
is facing forward.
As you are about to begin eating, place your napkin in your lap, keep your hands
on the table by resting your wrists on the table, and never place your elbows on
the table. Eating is done in the continental style, meaning the knife should remain
in your right hand and the fork in your left; get used to this style as everything
but bread and sandwiches are eaten with utensils, including fruits and pizza among
others. You should try everything offered and if you enjoy something compliment
the host and you will be quickly offered more, but if you are offered additional
food, initially turn it down then accept it after your host insists.
When you are done eating, place your fork and knife together with the tines down
pointing to the 10:00 position. Once everyone is done eating expect at least a half
hour of conversation either at the table or elsewhere. Your host will dictate the
location, but don't get up or excuse yourself until your host does and invites
you to do the same. The end of the meal may also be accompanied with a drink.
If you're eating at a restaurant, the host, or you if with other foreigners,
should call the server over by making eye contact and saying "mozo";
if you need the bill you must specifically ask for it. The host is expected to pay
for everyone present, but guests should offer to assist, something that will likely
be turned down. If you're the host, be ready to pay for the entire meal and
add a tip of about 10% for good service. Sometimes this is already included in the
bill as a service charge, but if not tip at your discretion as many locals don't
tip and you aren't expected to in local restaurants.
Celebrations & Events
During many celebrations or events, including many personal celebrations, a feast
called pachamanca is common in the mountains of Peru.
This feast demands a large audience and it consists of various meats, vegetables,
and spices cooked in an earthen oven with hot stones. This is traditionally only
found in the mountains during festivals or celebrations that demand a large crowd
or the entire town so it is rather rare. However, today some restaurants are serving
this food every day, most of which are found in Lima.
Of course if you don't know any Peruvians it's difficult to get invited
to a personal celebration so if you want to try the local foods attend the Mistura
Food Festival. This ten day event in Lima brings out street food vendors, restaurant
stands, and markets as both farmers' markets and chocolate markets are opened.
Peru boasts all the world's popular beverages from tea
and coffee to juices and soft drinks. Among the locals their favorites tend to be
soft drinks and a couple other drinks. Soft drinks are popular in Peru, but the
local varieties are more common as the lemon-flavored "Inca Kola" tends
to be the industry leader. "Leche de tigre" is a juice made from
the ingredients of ceviche, which includes fish and citrus fruits, typically
drank after eating ceviche. Another non-alcoholic drink found in Peru is
chicha morada, which a drink made from maize (corn), cloves, sugar, cinnamon,
Peru offers nearly every kind of alcoholic drink, but also
produces a great number of alcohols themselves. There are a few wines grown in the
country, but they are still growing in popularity and quality; imported wines are
also readily available. Beer is also very common; perhaps the most popular local
brews include "Pilsen," "Cristal," "Cuzquena," and
numerous regional beers. Peru really stands out in the form of liquors with pisco
being the national drink. This is essentially a brandy as it's distilled from
grapes, but is not a wine. Another local drink is chicha, which is a fermented
drink made from corn. It was invented by the Incans and was regularly used in religious
festivals, but today can only really be found in certain parts of the Andes.
Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink in Peru,
but check with locals for any particular regional differences, especially in more
rural areas. Also, many people may have troubles adjusting to the local tap water
as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to.